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Differential climate impacts for policy-relevant limits to global warming: the case of 1.5 degrees C and 2 degrees C

  • Robust appraisals of climate impacts at different levels of global-mean temperature increase are vital to guide assessments of dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system. The 2015 Paris Agreement includes a two-headed temperature goal: "holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 degrees C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees C". Despite the prominence of these two temperature limits, a comprehensive overview of the differences in climate impacts at these levels is still missing. Here we provide an assessment of key impacts of climate change at warming levels of 1.5 degrees C and 2 degrees C, including extreme weather events, water availability, agricultural yields, sea-level rise and risk of coral reef loss. Our results reveal substantial differences in impacts between a 1.5 degrees C and 2 degrees C warming that are highly relevant for the assessment of dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system. ForRobust appraisals of climate impacts at different levels of global-mean temperature increase are vital to guide assessments of dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system. The 2015 Paris Agreement includes a two-headed temperature goal: "holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 degrees C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees C". Despite the prominence of these two temperature limits, a comprehensive overview of the differences in climate impacts at these levels is still missing. Here we provide an assessment of key impacts of climate change at warming levels of 1.5 degrees C and 2 degrees C, including extreme weather events, water availability, agricultural yields, sea-level rise and risk of coral reef loss. Our results reveal substantial differences in impacts between a 1.5 degrees C and 2 degrees C warming that are highly relevant for the assessment of dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system. For heat-related extremes, the additional 0.5 degrees C increase in global-mean temperature marks the difference between events at the upper limit of present-day natural variability and a new climate regime, particularly in tropical regions. Similarly, this warming difference is likely to be decisive for the future of tropical coral reefs. In a scenario with an end-of-century warming of 2 degrees C, virtually all tropical coral reefs are projected to be at risk of severe degradation due to temperature-induced bleaching from 2050 onwards. This fraction is reduced to about 90% in 2050 and projected to decline to 70% by 2100 for a 1.5 degrees C scenario. Analyses of precipitation-related impacts reveal distinct regional differences and hot-spots of change emerge. Regional reduction in median water availability for the Mediterranean is found to nearly double from 9% to 17% between 1.5 degrees C and 2 degrees C, and the projected lengthening of regional dry spells increases from 7 to 11%. Projections for agricultural yields differ between crop types as well as world regions. While some (in particular high-latitude) regions may benefit, tropical regions like West Africa, South-East Asia, as well as Central and northern South America are projected to face substantial local yield reductions, particularly for wheat and maize. Best estimate sea-level rise projections based on two illustrative scenarios indicate a 50cm rise by 2100 relative to year 2000-levels for a 2 degrees C scenario, and about 10 cm lower levels for a 1.5 degrees C scenario. In a 1.5 degrees C scenario, the rate of sea-level rise in 2100 would be reduced by about 30% compared to a 2 degrees C scenario. Our findings highlight the importance of regional differentiation to assess both future climate risks and different vulnerabilities to incremental increases in global-mean temperature. The article provides a consistent and comprehensive assessment of existing projections and a good basis for future work on refining our understanding of the difference between impacts at 1.5 degrees C and 2 degrees C warming.show moreshow less

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Metadaten
Author:Carl-Friedrich Schleussner, Tabea K. Lissner, Erich M. Fischer, Jan Wohland, Mahe Perrette, Antonius Golly, Joeri Rogelj, Katelin Childers, Jacob Schewe, Katja Frieler, Matthias Mengel, William Hare, Michiel Schaeffer
DOI:https://doi.org/10.5194/esd-7-327-2016
ISSN:2190-4979
ISSN:2190-4987
Parent Title (English):Earth system dynamics
Publisher:Copernicus
Place of publication:Göttingen
Document Type:Article
Language:English
Year of first Publication:2016
Year of Completion:2016
Release Date:2020/03/22
Volume:7
Pagenumber:25
First Page:327
Last Page:351
Funder:German Federal Ministry of Education and Research [01LS1201A]; German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety [11-II-093-Global-A SIDS and LDCs, SAW-2013-PIK-5]; EU FP7 project HELIX [FP7-603864-2]; German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) [01LS1201A1]
Organizational units:Mathematisch-Naturwissenschaftliche Fakultät / Institut für Erd- und Umweltwissenschaften
Peer Review:Referiert