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.
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.