Dozens of countries are demanding that the long-standing goal of limiting global warming to 2C be discarded – and replaced with a far more ambitious target of 1.5C.
The idea is rapidly gaining momentum at the UN climate change summit in Paris this week as ministers from around the world are persuaded that a 2C rise would spell disaster for many countries in low-lying or hot regions – most of them developing nations with little money to limit the damage.
The call comes a month after scientists revealed that the world has already warmed by 1C since pre-industrial times. This means that time is rapidly running out if the temperature increase is to be limited to 2C, let alone 1.5C.
Research carried out in preparation for the Paris summit concluded that 1.5C of warming was vastly preferable to 2C. At the same time, a significant number of scientists believe the 1.5C target is still just about achievable with radical action, lending credibility to calls for a tougher target.
“There is no question that 1.5C would be hard to achieve but it is the right target for the world to aim for,” Thoriq Ibrahim, Environment Minister for the Maldives, told The Independent.
“Already at 1C above preindustrial levels we are experiencing life-altering changes, such as severe erosion, deadly cyclones, and record tides: 1.5C is the scientifically understood safe level for warming,” added Mr Ibrahim.
He is also chairman of the 44-nation Alliance of Small Island States which stretches across much of the world and includes Cuba, the Bahamas, Jamaica and Singapore.
Low-lying and hot regions are not the only areas which would be threatened even if global warming were limited to less than 2C but more than 1.5C. This is because the temperature increases associated with climate change will be uneven, with the biggest rises set to be in the Arctic.
“We’re pushing for 1.5C or even less. A lot of our residents depend on seals, caribou and Arctic char for their livelihoods,” Peter Taptuna, the premier of Nunavut, a semi-autonomous Inuit province in Arctic Canada, told The Independent.
“Already we’re seeing droughts that are affecting spawning grounds for Arctic char and a drastic decline in caribou numbers, and climate change is a factor. In some areas we’re getting summer droughts and in the winter time a lack of snowfall. And in some parts of the north we’ve lost roads and we’ve lost schools as they sink into melting permafrost,” he added.
Climate change around the world - in pictures
Climate change around the world - in pictures
Calved icebergs from the nearby Twin Glaciers are seen floating on the water in Qaqortoq, Greenland
2/17 Coastal systems and low-lying areas
Flood damaged streets in Queens, New York where the historic boardwalk was washed away due to Hurricane Sandy in 2012. The report predicts that by the end of the century “hundreds of millions of people will be affected by coastal flooding and displaced due to land loss”
3/17 Food security
Widespread drought devastated a corn crop on a farm near Bruceville, Indiana in 2012. The report forecasts that climate change will reduce median yields by up to 2 per cent per decade for the rest of the century
4/17 The global economy
The Evening Standard headline board showing the words 'Black Friday Shares Crash' in London in October 2008 in London. The report warns a global mean temperature increase of 2.5C above pre-industrial levels may lead to global aggregate economic losses of between 0.2 and 2.0 per cent
5/17 Human health
A child suffering from malnutrition and diarrhoea is seen at the Banadir hospital in the Somalian capital of Mogadishu in 2009. Climate change will lead to increases in ill-health in many regions, with examples including an increased likelihood of under-nutrition.
6/17 Human security
A Muslim migrant holds his son as they are detained at the Immigration Police Office on the Thai-Malaysian border in March 2014. The report states that climate change over the 21st century will have a significant impact on forms of migration that compromise human security
7/17 Freshwater resources
A villager walks through a parched paddy in Tianlin county, China in 2012. The report finds that climate change will “reduce renewable surface water and groundwater resources significantly in most dry subtropical regions"
8/17 Unique landscapes
Machair, a grassy coastal habitat found only in north-west Scotland and the west coast of Ireland, is one of the several elements of the UK’s “cultural heritage” that is at risk from climate change
A boat navigates among calved icebergs from the nearby Twin Glaciers in Qaqortoq, Greenland. Boats are a crucial mode of transportation in the country that has few roads. As cities like Miami, New York and other vulnerable spots around the world strategize about how to respond to climate change, many Greenlanders simply do what theyve always done: adapt. 'Were used to change, said Greenlander Pilu Neilsen. 'We learn to adapt to whatever comes. If all the glaciers melt, well just get more land
The Svalbard Global Seed Vault is seen after being inaugurated in Longyearbyen, Norway. The 'doomsday' seed vault built to protect millions of food crops from climate change, wars and natural disasters opened deep within an Arctic mountain in the remote Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard
A technician preparing to drain a vast underground lake at the Tete Rousse glacier on the Mont Blanc Alpine mountain, to avert a potentially disatrous flood. Some 65,000 cubic metres (2.3 million cubic feet) of water have gathered in a cavity, dangerously raising the pressure beneath the mountain, a favourite spot for holiday makers in Saint-Gervais-les-Bains
Oroumieh, one of the biggest saltwater lakes on Earth, has shrunk more than 80 percent to 1,000 square kilometers in the past decade. It shrinks mainly because of climate change, expanded irrigation for surrounding farms and the damming of rivers that feed the body of water
Cracked mud is picture at sunrise in the dried shores of Lake Gruyere affected by continous drought near the western Switzerland village of Avry-devant-Pont. A leading climate scientist warned that Europe should take action over increasing drought and floods, stressing that some climate change trends were clear despite variations in predictions
Cattle graze on grassland that remains dry and brown at the height of the rainy season in south of Bakersfield, California. Its third straight year of unprecedented drought, California is experiencing its driest year on record, dating back 119 years, and dating back as far as 500 years, according to some scientists who study tree rings
An aerial view shows tents of flood-displaced people surrounded by water in southern Sehwan town. United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) executive secretary Christiana Figueres met with people displaced by last year's devastating floods. Catastrophic monsoon rains that swept through the country in 2010 and affected some 20 million people, destroyed 1.7 million homes and damaged 5.4 million acres of arable land
An aerial view of flooding in North Wagga Wagga. Climate change is amplifying risks from drought, floods, storm and rising seas, threatening all countries but small island states, poor nations and arid regions in particular, UN experts warned
Damages caused by a landslide on the Pan-American highway near La Moramulca, 55 Km south of Tegucigalpa. International highways have been washed out, villages isolated and thousands of families have lost homes and crops in a region that the United Nations has classified as one of the most affected by climate change
Dr Carl-Friedrich Schleussner, a scientist who worked on the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) research, said there is just time to hit a 1.5C target.
“The window for limiting warming to 1.5C is still open, but closing fast. And 2Cis simply not safe. The impacts, such as extreme heat and long-term sea-level rise, would be substantially reduced under 1.5C,” Dr Schleussner said.
About 100 countries, including France and Germany, have declared their support for a 1.5C target in recent days. A spokesman for the Department of Energy and Climate Change said yesterday that the UK was “open to a reference to a 1.5C goal in the final deal”.
But many of the countries who produce or burn large quantities of fossil fuels are against reducing the target, with Saudi Arabia and Venezuela strongly opposed.
Meanwhile, India’s Environment Minister, Shri Prakash Javadekar, said he had no problem with a 1.5C target so long as the rich, developed countries make the additional emissions cuts that would be required to meet it.Reuse content