• 2 April 2018

The Paris Agreement goals are still achievable, but require immediate action from the international community before it is to late


1.5 degrees conference participants
Partipants from the ECI's 1.5°C conference in 2015

Ahead of the Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a Themed Issue on this topic has been commissioned by the Royal Society, entitled “The Paris Agreement: Understanding the physical and social challenges for a warming world of 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels”.

The Issue, to be published in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A, consists of 20 cross-disciplinary papers giving the most up-to-date science on the achievability and consequences of the Paris goals; including papers contributed from the fields of climate science, law, governance, economics, philosophy, and engineering.

The Special Issue is the culmination of an international conference hosted by Oxford University’s Environmental Change Institute in September 2016, ‘1.5 Degrees: meeting the challenges of the Paris Agreement’, which explored the challenges for science and society.

“The Paris Agreement laid down a very specific challenge to the academic community, to assess the impacts of 1.5 degrees of warming and associated emission pathways, and it is heartening to see how many groups have stepped up.” said co-author and guest editor, Professor Myles Allen

The papers are broadly grouped to explore the feasibility of the Paris Agreement goals; the trade-offs for stabilizing climate at 1.5°C; and the lessons learned. A few highlights include:

  • Millar and Friedlingstein provide a best estimate of 920GtCO2 for the remaining carbon budget – the amount of greenhouse gas emissions that can be emitted in order to have a 50% chance of emissions remaining below 1.5°C. They suggest this is statically achievable but that strategies to reduce carbon emissions need to hedge against the possibility that their estimates are too low and any action required may need to go further.
  • The transition to a carbon-free system needs to expand beyond the current focus on technical solutions, to include social change at all levels, bringing in citizens, business models and governance (Eyre et al). Large-scale removal of carbon dioxide will be required but it will need to be made commercially viable through policy intervention and industrial mobilization on a scale far greater than currently evident (Haszeldine).
  • Strong policy measures to keep within 1.5°C will be essential to share the burden of inequality (Shu). Small island states are already committed to feel the effects of sea level-rise to at least 2300, for example, which at best, will only be slowed if climate is stabilized at 1.5°C (Nicholls). Long-term adaptation remains essential for small island states, cities and other vulnerable populations to adapt.

Lead guest editor, Dr Dann Mitchell, who is also a contributing author to the IPCC special report, says “The papers in this Issue demonstrate that it is a statistical possibility for warming to be limited to 1.5C in the context of sustainable and equitable development, but it remains to be seen whether the likelihood of avoiding negative impacts by stabilizing the climate will be sufficient to motivate action on the scale and pace required to meet the Paris goals.”

"The Paris Agreement laid down a very specific challenge to the academic community, to assess the impacts of 1.5 degrees of warming and associated emission pathways, and it is heartening to see how many groups have stepped up." Professor Myles Allen

Related Information

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Public Launch | The Paris climate deal: origins, ambitions and implications
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1.5 Degrees International Conference Playlist
Video Interviews
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