Why 1.5°C? | WWF New Zealand

WE CAN STILL LIMIT WARMING TO 1.5°C

The difference between 1.5°C and 2°C matters. When our government signed the Paris Agreement, Aotearoa New Zealand committed to take real efforts to limit warming to 1.5°C.

© Wim van Passel / WWF

Half a degree makes a big difference

Our Pacific neighbours have long called for the world's governments to limit warming to 1.5˚C, not 2˚C. For low-lying atoll nations, like many of our neighbours, that half a degree difference could make the difference national survival and forced migration.

Warming of 2˚C not 1.5˚C would lead to severe climate impacts worldwide. Scientists warn allowing 2˚C of warming would lead to:

  • more extreme heatwaves

  • drops in tropical crop yields

  • increased coral bleaching

  • worse ocean acidification

  • more water shortages

  • significantly more global sea level rise

At 2015's crucial Paris conference, the world's governments - including ours - acknowledged the growing threat of climate change and agreed to work towards keeping warming to 1.5°C.

Since then, scientists have repeatedly confirmed that real, technically feasible pathways still exist to limit warming to 1.5°C.

Climate change is the biggest issue facing the planet. People, species, and our precious environment are all at risk.

Our carbon pollution will have impacts all over the world - including here in Aotearoa New Zealand. Climate change is bigger than politics. This affects everyone.

But we know the solutions. Together, a 100% renewable energy future is 100% possible. The transition is already underway.

 

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Climate change is caused by human activities. When we burn fossil fuels, we release carbon pollution into the air. Forests help to absorb this carbon dioxide, so deforestation also contributes to the planet's warming.

However, carbon dioxide isn't the only greenhouse gas. Other gases, like methane and nitrous oxide also trap heat in the atmosphere. Animal agriculture is a big emitter of these gases.

New Zealanders produce a lot of greenhouse gases compared to the rest of the world. Though we're a small country, so our absolute total emissions are small, our emissions per person are big. Per person, we're one of the thirty biggest emitters worldwide - and agriculture is responsible for around half of those emissions.

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Climate change is already affecting New Zealand. Our people and ecosystems are already feeling the heat.

Already, the national average temperature has risen by 0.9˚C since 1900. South Island glaciers are retreating, and we're recording fewer frosts. New Zealand ports have measured an average 16cm of sea level rise over the last 100 years. And businesses and people are already paying more for insurance to deal with extreme weather, like floods and droughts.

We can expect a lot more to come. Climate change will almost certainly cause more droughts, particularly in Northland and the East Cape. It will mean increased rainfall in other areas, particularly the West Coast, and an increased risk of flooding. Coastal areas will face greater erosion, and possible inundation. 
 

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People around the world are already feeling the impacts of climate change. Water supplies are shrinking, crop yields are dropping, forests are burning, and our oceans are becoming more acidic. This has huge implications for our livelihoods and human security.

Fragile ecosystems, like coral reefs, are also already succumbing to climate change impacts. Melting glaciers, rising sea levels, and new and more frequent weather extremes will leave no continent untouched. 

If we let the warming continue unchecked, we run a real risk of hitting catastrophic tipping points. That's where the warming triggers positive feedback loops that lead to even more warming.
 

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The good news is: we have the solutions. Real, technically feasible, affordable alternatives to fossil fuels exist now. To keep warming below 1.5˚C, we need to make the switch from fossil fuels to 100% renewable energy and bring our carbon pollution down to net zero by 2050.

Thing is, this won't just stop climate change. Switching from dirty fossil fuels to clean renewable energy will be better for people, communities and businesses all over the world.

And the change is already underway. Renewable energy technologies like wind and solar are getting cheaper and cheaper, and rolling out worldwide faster and faster. We can do this.
 

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