Earth Today | Much rides on IPCC special report on 1.5°C temperature rise
Delivery of the special report on the impacts of global warming at 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels is deemed more important now than ever, as countries continue to ratify the Paris Agreement, which charts the course for climate security the world over.
The agreement which Jamaica recently joined 144 other countries in ratifying was hammered out in France in 2015 and has as its goal "to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change, in the context of sustainable development and efforts to eradicate poverty".
It is to do this, "including by holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels".
"There is a particular interest in what the world will look like at 1.5°C and how it will be different from a world at two degrees. The Paris Agreement is really a two-degrees agreement with aspirations for a 1.5, but the small islands and the Caribbean are adamant that 1.5 must be the target," Professor Michael Taylor told The Gleaner.
Taylor, a physicist and head of the Climate Studies Group, Mona, is one of the 86 authors and review editors from 39 countries selected from 560 nominations received by the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) to undertake work on the special report.
"The 1.5 has been the essence of what small island states have been calling for as a kind of threshold of viability going into the future. Above 1.5 degrees, (it is believed) lives would be so significantly impacted that there is a question around our ability to thrive or develop. So small islands have a special interest in it because it will be the report that evaluates whether the case they are making is a good case," Taylor explained.
"And the case they are making is not just for them, but a global case. It is a very significant report ... the backbone of the aspirational goal of the Paris Agreement. This is the report that will establish the scientific basis for what the world at 1.5 looks like versus a world at two degrees. It has significant implications for greenhouse gas emission levels and policies that govern those emission levels," Taylor said further.
The IPCC was invited to "assesses the scientific, technical and socio-economic information relevant for understanding the risk of human-induced climate change" in the decision on the adoption of the Paris Agreement at the 21st Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change held in 2015.
The IPCC decided to accept that invitation at its 43rd session, held in Nairobi, Kenya, from April 11 to April 13, 2016.
"The scoping meeting that prepared the draft outline for the special report was held on 15-18 August 2016 in Geneva, Switzerland. During its 44th session (Bangkok, Thailand, 17-20 October 2016), the panel approved the outline of global warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius," revealed the IPCC website.
Taylor is one of three designated leading authors for chapter three which looks at the impacts of 1.5°C global warming on natural and human systems.
Quizzed as to the adequacy of available research for review on the subject, the scientist said:
"Once they announced the special report last year, a number of groups around the world galvanised, and so there are a number of papers that have been coming out.
"Even within the Caribbean, we have a Caribbean group of scientists who are making a special effort to publish on this subject," Taylor noted.
"Even just beginning to survey the scene with our first meeting, we are beginning to see that there are a number of sources. Whether it will be enough, we don't know yet, but we will report on what we have," he added.