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New IPCC special report on 1.5 degrees

12th Oct 2018

On Monday of this week, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change published its Special Report on 'Global warming of 1.5 degrees C'. 

Today’s IPCC report recognises the rapid technical progress, but unless governments do much more to drive cuts in emissions, its scenarios will rapidly diverge from reality and part of the battle to tackle climate change will be lost.

What does this mean for farmers?

Taking climate change seriously as a business and working out what that means for your farm is one of the few positive actions that we as farmers can do and which collectively will make an impact.

Here at FCCT we are keen to help farmers understand the impact of climate change and how to reduce on-farm emissions. It doesn't have to be massive, high cost big changes, but knowing where your emissions are coming from and options for reducing them is the first step. The calculator and the Toolkit are online and freely available, and we are here to help! Get in touch.

The wider report

The blog below comes from Mike Thompson, head of Carbon budgets at the Committee on Climate Change, who work with the UK government to look at targets and progress towards reducing emissions. You can read his full blog here

The plummeting costs of wind and solar power and of batteries – along with the benefits they bring for other priorities like local air quality and energy sovereignty – are a game-changer when it comes to the global fight against climate change. Power generation is a major source of CO2 emissions globally, while cleaner, low-carbon electricity coupled with energy storage brings the potential also to shift other polluting sectors of the economy away from fossil fuels. This promise is the source for the closest thing to optimism in today’s IPCC report, which states: “The energy system transition that would be required to limit global warming to 1.5°C is underway in many sectors and regions around the world”.

That is a big change from 2008 and today’s IPCC report addresses another. In 2008, the world had no agreed goal to aim for in terms of limiting increases in global average temperature. Now we have the international consensus of the 2015 Paris Agreement, and its headline goal to ensure temperature rise stays well below 2°C and to pursue efforts towards 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.

At the time, not much was known about how 1.5°C could be delivered (just two pathways had been published) – or what level of climate damage might be avoided by doing so. In 2016 we advised that the UK should focus on cutting emissions now, maintain options to go further and then return to review longer-term emissions targets once more evidence became available.

Today’s IPCC report doesn’t make for comfortable reading – limiting warming to beneath 1.5°C will be very, very difficult whilst it is clear that the climate damages at 2°C of warming (never mind the 3°C that current global ambition is on track for) will be a lot worse than those at 1.5°C. However, we have a much clearer understanding of how such an ambitious and rapid transition in the world’s economy could be achieved (now from dozens of detailed IPCC scenarios) – and the report is clear that technically it is still possible, with “transformative systemic change”.

Perhaps most uncomfortable is the short window for ramping up global effort – a key demand of the Paris Agreement. The IPCC’s report is confident in stating that the 2030 emissions reduction effort pledged in Paris “would not limit global warming to 1.5°C, even if supplemented by very challenging increases in the scale and ambition of emissions reductions after 2030.” We already have 1°C of warming, and if the world doesn’t start doing a lot more a lot quicker, then the window for meeting 1.5°C will close too. It will then be time to tear up this report and say goodbye to coral reefs and say hello to a lot more heatwaves, flooding, water shortages and falling crop yields. The UK will be affected by these climate change impacts directly, as well as indirectly from those occurring globally.