Oct 5, 2018

The stark reality of the IPCC's 1.5-degree climate report

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

On Sunday evening eastern time, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is scheduled to release its special report on the risks and benefits of limiting global warming to 1.5°C, or 2.7°F, above preindustrial levels.

Why it matters: The report is expected to contain sobering findings about how difficult it will be to meet the 1.5-degree target, which is an aspirational goal contained in the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. Every country in the world — except the U.S. — intends to honor the 2015 agreement, and the report will help inform negotiators in the next round of climate talks, set for December.

By the numbers:

  • We are currently on track for global warming of between 2.7 to 3.7°C by 2100, according to Kelly Levin, a scientist with the nonpartisan World Resources Institute.
  • To meet the 1.5-degree target, we'd need to reach net zero emissions by mid-century, and negative emissions thereafter, using carbon removal technologies.
  • Emissions in 2030 would also need to be about 50% less than 2010 levels.

Yes, but: Current emissions projections show the world is on track to increase emissions through 2030.

Between the lines: Some climate scientists are making clear that the 1.5-degree target, which is seen as low-lying island nations' best hope for long-term survival, is effectively out of reach. For example, the report is expected to call for a scaling up of carbon removal technologies, such as direct air capture, in order to reach negative emissions as soon as possible.

That alone will be a heavy lift, since these technologies are currently in their infancy.

"Overall, the idea that we can limit warming to 1.5°C is so ridiculous that it doesn't seem to even merit thinking about it," said Andrew Dessler, a climate scientist at Texas A&M University.

"It is technically feasible for me to fly to the moon in the next 10 years, but it is clearly not feasible in a broader sense. With 1.5°C it is potentially feasible from a technical perspective, but unless the political, social and technical aspects of feasibility are aligned, it is not going to happen."
— Glen Peters, research director at the Center for International Climate Research in Norway

Tom Damassa, climate program director at Oxfam America, told Axios that even 1.5 degrees of warming will cause hardships for millions.

We're already seeing widespread changes due to the nearly 1-degree of warming experienced so far. "1.5 [degrees] was never going to be some sort of magical threshold. I hope what the report makes clear is there is no safe level of climate change,” Damassa said.

Go deeper

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 5:30 p.m. ET: 5,375,648 — Total deaths: 343,721 — Total recoveries — 2,149,412Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 5:30 p.m. ET: 1,639,872 — Total deaths: 97,599 — Total recoveries: 361,239 — Total tested: 13,784,786Map.
  3. World: White House announces travel restrictions on Brazil, coronavirus hotspot in Southern Hemisphere Over 100 coronavirus cases in Germany tied to single day of church services — Boris Johnson backs top aide amid reports that he broke U.K. lockdown while exhibiting symptoms.
  4. Public health: Officials are urging Americans to wear masks headed into Memorial Day weekend Report finds "little evidence" coronavirus under control in most statesHurricanes, wildfires, the flu could strain COVID-19 response
  5. Economy: White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett says it's possible the unemployment rate could still be in double digits by November's election — Public employees brace for layoffs.
  6. Federal government: Trump attacks a Columbia University study that suggests earlier lockdown could have saved 36,000 American lives.
  7. What should I do? Hydroxychloroquine questions answeredTraveling, asthma, dishes, disinfectants and being contagiousMasks, lending books and self-isolatingExercise, laundry, what counts as soap — Pets, moving and personal healthAnswers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingHow to minimize your risk.
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it, the right mask to wear.

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Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

White House announces new coronavirus travel restrictions on Brazil

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro with Trump, March 19, 2019. Photo: Jim Lo Scalzo-Pool via Getty Images

The White House announced that beginning at 11:59 pm ET on Thursday, President Trump would suspend entry of non-U.S. citizens who have been in Brazil in the past 14 days in an effort to stop the imported spread of the coronavirus.

Why it matters: Brazil has reported nearly 350,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus — the second-most in the world behind the U.S. — and has emerged as a Southern Hemisphere hotspot as other heavily affected countries in Asia and Europe have managed to get their outbreaks under control.

Trumpworld's plan to brand Biden

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photos: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images, Mandel Ngan/AFP

Trump's advisers relish the contrast between his public appearances and Joe Biden's lack thereof. The former vice president, following the guidance of public experts, has eschewed public events and stayed home for months now. Trump, meanwhile, is out and about — masks be damned.

What we're hearing: Watch for plenty more mask-free outings from Trump, hyping the reopening of the economy and avoiding discussions of social distancing and death counts.