'We're on a pathway to at least 2.5 degrees' - leading UK scientist

In a candid interview with the BBC, Professor Sir Bob Watson, renowned British climate scientist and former head of the UN climate science body – IPCC, has issued a stark warning that the global effort to limit global warming to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels will likely fall short. The target agreed upon during the 2015 UN conference in Paris, has been a central focus in tackling climate change worldwide. However, with governments slow to curb emissions, Professor Watson expresses his pessimism about achieving even a 2C limit. This comes amidst a summer marked by extreme heat events in Europe, China, and the US.
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"I think most people fear that if we give up on the 1.5 [Celsius limit] which I do not believe we will achieve, in fact I'm very pessimistic about achieving even 2C, that if we allow the target to become looser and looser, higher and higher, governments will do even less in the future."
Professor Sir Bob Watson, an esteemed figure in the field of climate science, currently holds the title of Emeritus Professor at the UK's Tyndall Centre for Climate Research. Throughout his illustrious career, he has contributed to significant climate research and held prominent positions at organizations like the UN, NASA, the UK's Department of Environment, and the US White House.

Full Interview via BBC Sounds 👇

Despite numerous warnings from climate scientists, governments have been slow in cutting their countries' greenhouse gas emissions, making the attainment of the 1.5C target increasingly difficult. Professor Watson highlights the urgency of reducing greenhouse gases to have any chance of staying within the 1.5C or 2C pathway. He stresses that current emissions must be reduced by at least 50% by 2030, a goal that remains elusive due to emissions continuing to rise.
"I think 1.5 is probably out of reach even if we accelerate quickly now, but we could bring it back if we start to bring down the cost of negative emissions and get better at negative emissions. Negative emissions means direct air capture of carbon dioxide."
Failing to limit global warming to 1.5C will have severe consequences, as warned by the UN climate body (IPCC). This includes exposing millions more people to potentially devastating climate events. Additionally, the IPCC outlines the benefits of staying below the 1.5C threshold, such as preventing the loss of homes to rising sea levels for 10 million people, reducing water insecurity for 50% of the population, and curbing coral reef loss from 99% to 70%.
Climate Action Tracker projects that global temperatures will rise to 2.7C based on current government commitments to cutting greenhouse gas emissions. While not a direct measure of the world's temperature, this indicator shows the extent of the Earth's warming or cooling compared to the long-term global average, with even slight changes having significant impacts on the planet.
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Professor Watson emphasizes that setting targets alone is insufficient and calls on governments to take concrete actions to reduce emissions. He points out that even countries with ambitious targets, like the United Kingdom, lack the necessary policies and financing to achieve their goals. The urgency of the situation is underscored by the UK's watchdog on climate change, which expressed concern over the government's slow progress on climate issues and its backing of new oil and coal projects.
"The big issue is we need to reduce greenhouse gases now to even be on the pathway to be close to 1.5C or 2C. We need to reduce current emissions by at least 50% by 2030. The trouble is the emissions are still going up, they are not going down"
As extreme heat events sweep across different regions, Professor Sir Bob Watson's sombre assessment that the world is likely to miss the 1.5C global warming target adds to the growing concern about climate change. Urgent and comprehensive actions are needed to curtail greenhouse gas emissions, with the global community facing critical choices in their efforts to combat the escalating climate crisis.
"We need to try and hold governments to start to act sensibly now and reduce emissions, but even governments with a really good target like the United Kingdom don't have the policies in place, don't have the financing in place to reach those goals."
  • Sarah Chabane

    46 w

    Pretty scary

    • Lucinda Ramsay

      46 w

      Really frightening. I hope the governments get "a fire lit under their asses" and get in gear!

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