Expert comment: 1.5c global warming limit prediction
17 May 2023
Leading climate policy experts from the University of Reading have commented on new research that suggests a key global temperature limit will be surpassed in the coming years.
The World Meteorological Organisation today (17 May) revealed there is a 66% chance the world will surpass the 1.5c global warming limit between now and 2027.
Under the 2015 Paris Agreement, leaders from all over the world agreed to find ways to keep global warming below this threshold.
Professor Chris Hilson, Director of the University of Reading’s Centre for Climate and Justice, has called on today’s policymakers to ‘double down’ on efforts to ensure both emission reduction and climate adaptation measures are pursued in the years to come.
He said: “News of the likely breach of the 1.5c limit needs to be carefully handled because it’s a depressing piece of news. Some will take this to mean it is too late to do anything to prevent significant warming and will instead look to abandon efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions, preferring to focus on adaptation instead.
“But that would take us hurtling towards the 2.0c limit, a breach of which would be an even greater calamity. The point is that every fractional degree of warming we can prevent through mitigation policy measures is worth doing. So keeping within 1.6c matters - it’s not like a situation where the dyke has been breached and we should all now simply give up.
“We need to double-down on mitigation and plan for adaptation – they are not mutually exclusive. But policymakers should still be laser-focused on mitigation. In the run-up to COP28 in Dubai at the end of 2023, we really need to call time on the exploration of new oil and gas fields and new coal mines.
“Existing coal-fired power plants must be quickly phased out, with clear deadlines. Gas-fired power stations should only be used as backup for when renewables have ‘intermittency’ issues when the wind or sun are insufficient on particular days.
“Energy supply is only one half of the mitigation picture as we also need to reduce demand. That means homes and business premises need to become much more energy efficient and better insulated. Governments worldwide have been far too slow in tackling rising energy demand effectively.”
Dr Jorge Guira, of the University of Reading’s School of Law, said: “There's no magic silver bullet to address the strong possibility of a 1.5c average temperature rise by 2027. What has taken generations to build up cannot be realistically eliminated in the next four years. The Paris Agreement and the COP process have achieved much in developing legal avenues for climate action, but with leaders having varying degrees of will to act and there being a lack of incentives to transform energy means global collaboration efforts remain fragmented.
“If you look at the top ten emitters of carbon, some nations like the US are making strides in reducing pollution through direct financial support as well as indirectly, with rules like EPA emissions controls. But other states, such as China and India, will take longer to land carbon-cutting policies - but they are getting there. In other positive developments, there is growing financing for new cleantech innovation, and new rules are beginning to take shape to facilitate or compel banks and major companies to disclose how their activities have an impact on the environment.”