Australia’s leading scientists in a report by the Australian Academy of Science stated that the Paris climate agreement limiting global heating to 1.5C was now “virtually impossible”.
The AAS sets out its calculation in its report. Under the heading “the emergency of immediate action”, it says the world has warmed by an average 1.1C since the late 1800s, and the amount the world can still emit if it is going to limit warming to 1.5C is between 40bn and 135bn tonnes of carbon. It argues that this allows about only three or four more years of emissions at current levels, and makes a 1.5C target virtually impossible to achieve.
Several prominent climate scientists dispute this finding accusing it of being too simplistic a conclusion. Prof Michael Mann, the director of the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University, says this is “entirely doable” and “simply a matter of political willpower...There’s nothing about the physics that says it isn’t possible.”
The Academy’s conclusion is however supported by others.
Prof Mark Howden, director of Australian National University’s Institute for Climate Energy and Disaster Solutions, a vice-chair of the IPCC and an author of the academy report, says its finding on 1.5C is consistent with peer-reviewed evidence. He points to a February study in the journal Communications Earth & Environment that found most countries were not on track to meet the targets they had pledged under the Paris agreement, and the probability of keeping heating below even 2C was only 5%.
Dr Glen Peters, a research director at Norway’s Centre for International Climate Research, who says it “should be applauded for being frank”. Peters says while it is true there is scientific literature to support the idea that 1.5C is still possible, and there are plenty of people who argue it is “necessary to say 1.5C is possible to keep the hope alive”, it should not be ignored that countries are still building fossil fuel power plants with a lifespan of 50 years.
“The world is just nowhere near doing what is required for 1.5C,” Peters says. “Saying anything other than 1.5C is virtually impossible is irresponsible and misleading.”
And this is where the World Socialist Movement agrees and many experts hold a naive faith and simplistic trust in politics and governments doing what is required and implementing the policies that are needed.