Environmental Change Institute, University of Oxford

  • 6 April 2016

Resolving the scientific uncertainties around the COP 21 Paris climate target

Photo: Resolving the scientific uncertainties around the COP 21 Paris climate target

ECI's 1.5 degrees conference to contribute to IPCC Special Report announced today

The ECI's international conference '1.5 degrees: Meeting the challenges of the Paris Agreement' will contribute to the Special Report by the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) announced at a news conference in Kenya at 12:30 Nairobi time (10:30 GMT) today.

Commissioned by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) after the COP-21 meeting in December, the IPCC Special Report will gather evidence on the impacts of global warming of 1.5ºC above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways.

"The IPCC has agreed to report on the science of a 1.5°C target, but given the previous focus was on 2°C, scientists will come to Oxford to help close this gap in the scientific evidence. Understanding what needs to be done to limit global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels is hard enough; understanding how that can be achieved and indeed whether it is worth achieving opens huge questions for societies globally."

Professor Jim Hall, ECI Director

The 1.5°C target, which came out of the Paris Climate Conference of over 160 nations in December was much more ambitious than many expected.

'There is no doubt limiting warming to 1.5°C will be a significant challenge,' said Myles Allen, Professor of Geosystem Science at ECI. 'In a nutshell, it means we have to reduce emissions twice as fast as we would have done to limit warming to 2°C — and that was already looking challenging. Inevitably, people are already starting to ask if it is worth it. These are big tough questions, and we haven't much time to answer them, so the academic community needs to step up.'

The conference, which will be held later this year in September (20-22), aims to understand the impacts of warming of 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels and assess the feasibility of meeting the challenges in the Paris Climate Agreement. It will review the arguments behind the 1.5°C goal, examine how the goal is to be interpreted and options for achieving it.

Some IPCC studies suggest 1.5°C will be feasible if the world develops low-cost technologies later this century to extract greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. Scientist Scientist Corinne Le Quere, from the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at the University of East Anglia, said: 'Keeping global temperature rise to 1.5°C would be tough, if possible at all. Yet dealing with climate change above 1.5°C would also be tough and have widespread consequences for society, ecosystems and infrastructure.

'The 1.5 degrees conference will bring together researchers working on impacts and researchers working on mitigation to develop new thinking on how to balance the risks, opportunities and trade-offs of various warming levels, and inform the IPCC special report with the best available science.'

For more information and to sign up for the 1.5 conference mailing list, go to 1point5degrees.org.uk. Registration to present at and attend the conference will open on Monday 18 April 2016.

The ECI conference will be launched with partner organisations: the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, IIASA, CICERO, the Met Office, ICCCAD, University of Cape Town and the Priestley International Centre for Climate. It will bring together climate experts, researchers, policymakers, businesses and members of civil society from around the world.

1.5 degrees speakers already announced:

  • Dr Saleemul Huq (International Centre for Climate Change & Development)
  • Professor Henry Shue (Centre for International Studies, Oxford University)
  • Professor Sonia Seneviratne (Institute for Atmospheric and Climate Science, ETH Zurich)
  • Stephane Hallegatte (Climate Change Group, World Bank)
  • Prof Lavanya Rajamani (Centre for Policy Research in New Delhi)
  • Dr Debra Roberts (Environmental Planning and Climate Protection Department, South Africa)
  • Pilita Clark (Environment Correspondent at Financial Times)
  • Prof Nebojsa Nakicenovic (International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis)
  • Prof Michael Oppenheimer (Princeton University)
  • Prof Richard Washington (Oxford University)
  • Prof Benito Müller (Faculty of Philosophy and Environmental Change Institute, Oxford)
  • Prof Michael Grubb (Institute for Sustainable Resources, University College London)
  • Prof Stuart Haszeldine (University of Edinburgh)
  • Dr Nick Eyre (Lower Carbon Futures, Oxford University)
  • Prof Richard Betts (Climate Impacts, Met Office Hadley Centre)
  • Prof Harald Winkler (Energy Research Centre at the University of Cape Town)

"The decision to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C will require contributions from and strong interactions between different disciplines and different perspectives. At the 1.5 degrees conference, I am looking forward to hearing the thoughts, ideas and perspectives from a wide range of scientists and researchers. This input will provide a broader and deeper understanding of what is needed in terms of research, collaboration and action to keep within 1.5°C."

Jan Fuglestvedt, Research Director at 1.5 Degrees conference partner, CICERO


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