Scientists Share Why Keeping Warming Under 1.5 Degrees Celsius Is Crucial
With the possible prospect of the world warming dangerously and uncontrollably, half of one degree Celsius may sound like a negligible temperature change unlikely to make much difference to life on Earth.
But scientists say 0.5 C could make a crucial difference in some regions—particularly in developing countries in the tropics—that are already at great risk from climate change. The consequences could include higher sea level rise and extended heatwaves, threatening most tropical coral reefs.
Bill Hare, CEO of Climate Analytics and a member of the research team that has produced the cautionary report, said: “Our study shows that tropical regions—mostly developing countries that are already highly vulnerable to climate change—face the biggest rise in impacts between 1.5 C and 2 C.
“Our results add to a growing body of evidence showing that climate risks occur at lower levels than previously thought. They provide scientific evidence to support the call by vulnerable countries, such as the Least Developed Countries and Small Island Developing States, that a 1.5 C warming limit would substantially reduce the impacts of climate change.”
The Paris agreement on climate change being signed today in New York was concluded at last December’s UN climate conference. It aims to keep global average temperatures “well below” the 2 C previously agreed—and to pursue efforts to limit the increase to 1.5 C.
But the report by European researchers—published in Earth System Dynamics, an open access journal of the European Geosciences Union (EGU)—says they have found that there would be substantially different impacts for the two targets by 2100. They say the extra 0.5 C would mean a global sea-level rise of 10 centimeters, longer heatwaves and would put virtually all tropical coral reefs at risk.
“We found significant differences for all the impacts we considered,” said the study’s lead author, Carl-Friedrich Schleussner, a physicist at Climate Analytics.
“We analyzed the climate models used in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Fifth Assessment Report, focusing on the projected impacts at 1.5 C and 2 C warming at the regional level. We considered 11 different indicators, including extreme weather events, water availability, crop yields, coral reef degradation and sea-level rise.”
The team, including researchers from Germany, Switzerland, Austria and the Netherlands, identified a number of hotspots around the globe where projected climate impacts at 2 C are significantly more severe than at 1.5 C.
One of these is the Mediterranean region, already experiencing climate change-induced drying. With a global temperature increase of 1.5 C, the availability of fresh water in the region would be about 10 percent lower than in the late 20th century. But in a 2 C world, the researchers project that this reduction would double to about 20 percent.
In tropical regions, the half-a-degree difference in global temperature could damage crop yields, particularly in Central America and West Africa. On average, local tropical maize and wheat yields would fall twice as much with a 2 C temperature increase as with 1.5 C.
By 2100, tropical regions would also experience warm spells lasting up to 50 percent longer in a 2 C world than at 1.5 C. “For heat-related extremes, the additional 0.5 C increase marks the difference between events at the upper limit of present-day natural variability and a new climate regime, particularly in tropical regions,” Schleussner said.
The extra warming would also affect tropical coral reefs. Limiting warming to 1.5 C would provide a window of opportunity for some reefs to adapt to climate change, but a 2 C increase by 2100 would put virtually all of them at risk of severe degradation from coral bleaching.
Australian researchers say 93 percent of the Great Barrier Reef, off the coast of Queensland, is affected to some degree by bleaching. They say large-scale bleaching has also been found off Australia’s west coast.
In the EGU study, the researchers say they expect sea level to rise by about 50 cm by 2100 in a 2 C warmer world, 10 cm more than for 1.5 C warming. These levels are appreciably lower than some scientists expect.
“Sea level rise will slow down during the 21st century only under a 1.5 C scenario,” Dr. Schleussner warns.
One of his co-authors, Jacob Schewe, a climate physicist at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, Germany, says it is necessary to account for natural variability, model uncertainties and other factors that could obscure the picture.
“We did that in our study,” he said. “And by focusing on key indicators at the regional level, we clearly show that there are significant differences in impacts between 1.5 C and 2 C.”
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Wisdom the mōlī, or Laysan albatross, is the oldest wild bird known to science at the age of at least 70. She is also, as of February 1, a new mother.
<div id="dadb2" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="aa2ad8cb566c9b4b6d2df2693669f6f9"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1357796504740761602" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">🚨Cute baby alert! Wisdom's chick has hatched!!! 🐣😍 Wisdom, a mōlī (Laysan albatross) and world’s oldest known, ban… https://t.co/Nco050ztBA</div> — USFWS Pacific Region (@USFWS Pacific Region)<a href="https://twitter.com/USFWSPacific/statuses/1357796504740761602">1612558888.0</a></blockquote></div>
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While traditional investment in the ocean technology sector has been tentative, growth in Israeli maritime innovations has been exponential in the last few years, and environmental concern has come to the forefront.
theDOCK aims to innovate the Israeli maritime sector. Pexels<p>The UN hopes that new investments in ocean science and technology will help turn the tide for the oceans. As such, this year kicked off the <a href="https://www.oceandecade.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030)</a> to galvanize massive support for the blue economy.</p><p>According to the World Bank, the blue economy is the "sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods, and jobs while preserving the health of ocean ecosystem," <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0160412019338255#b0245" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Science Direct</a> reported. It represents this new sector for investments and innovations that work in tandem with the oceans rather than in exploitation of them.</p><p>As recently as Aug. 2020, <a href="https://www.reutersevents.com/sustainability/esg-investors-slow-make-waves-25tn-ocean-economy" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Reuters</a> noted that ESG Investors, those looking to invest in opportunities that have a positive impact in environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues, have been interested in "blue finance" but slow to invest.</p><p>"It is a hugely under-invested economic opportunity that is crucial to the way we have to address living on one planet," Simon Dent, director of blue investments at Mirova Natural Capital, told Reuters.</p><p>Even with slow investment, the blue economy is still expected to expand at twice the rate of the mainstream economy by 2030, Reuters reported. It already contributes $2.5tn a year in economic output, the report noted.</p><p>Current, upward <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/-innovation-blue-economy-2646147405.html" target="_self">shifts in blue economy investments are being driven by innovation</a>, a trend the UN hopes will continue globally for the benefit of all oceans and people.</p><p>In Israel, this push has successfully translated into investment in and innovation of global ports, shipping, logistics and offshore sectors. The "Startup Nation," as Israel is often called, has seen its maritime tech ecosystem grow "significantly" in recent years and expects that growth to "accelerate dramatically," <a href="https://itrade.gov.il/belgium-english/how-israel-is-becoming-a-port-of-call-for-maritime-innovation/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">iTrade</a> reported.</p><p>Driving this wave of momentum has been rising Israeli venture capital hub <a href="https://www.thedockinnovation.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">theDOCK</a>. Founded by Israeli Navy veterans in 2017, theDOCK works with early-stage companies in the maritime space to bring their solutions to market. The hub's pioneering efforts ignited Israel's maritime technology sector, and now, with their new fund, theDOCK is motivating these high-tech solutions to also address ESG criteria.</p><p>"While ESG has always been on theDOCK's agenda, this theme has become even more of a priority," Nir Gartzman, theDOCK's managing partner, told EcoWatch. "80 percent of the startups in our portfolio (for theDOCK's Navigator II fund) will have a primary or secondary contribution to environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria."</p><p>In a company presentation, theDOCK called contribution to the ESG agenda a "hot discussion topic" for traditional players in the space and their boards, many of whom are looking to adopt new technologies with a positive impact on the planet. The focus is on reducing carbon emissions and protecting the environment, the presentation outlines. As such, theDOCK also explicitly screens candidate investments by ESG criteria as well.</p><p>Within the maritime space, environmental innovations could include measures like increased fuel and energy efficiency, better monitoring of potential pollution sources, improved waste and air emissions management and processing of marine debris/trash into reusable materials, theDOCK's presentation noted.</p>
theDOCK team includes (left to right) Michal Hendel-Sufa, Head of Alliances, Noa Schuman, CMO, Nir Gartzman, Co-Founder & Managing Partner, and Hannan Carmeli, Co-Founder & Managing Partner. Dudu Koren<p>theDOCK's own portfolio includes companies like Orca AI, which uses an intelligent collision avoidance system to reduce the probability of oil or fuel spills, AiDock, which eliminates the use of paper by automating the customs clearance process, and DockTech, which uses depth "crowdsourcing" data to map riverbeds in real-time and optimize cargo loading, thereby reducing trips and fuel usage while also avoiding groundings.</p><p>"Oceans are a big opportunity primarily because they are just that – big!" theDOCK's Chief Marketing Officer Noa Schuman summarized. "As such, the magnitude of their criticality to the global ecosystem, the magnitude of pollution risk and the steps needed to overcome those challenges – are all huge."</p><p>There is hope that this wave of interest and investment in environmentally-positive maritime technologies will accelerate the blue economy and ESG investing even further, in Israel and beyond.</p>
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