Climate Change

High road to Dubai COP28: Scientists join group in saying 1.5°C warming limit too high

20-nation group point to global impacts on world’s ice sheets, glaciers and cryosphere 

By DTE Staff
Published: Wednesday 07 June 2023
Growing evidence from Antarctica, for example, points to thresholds closer to 1.5°C, especially in more vulnerable West Antarctica. Photo: iStock__

A group of scientists have joined an unusual new grouping of countries urging “2 degrees Celsius is too high” based on the most recent science of the world’s ice. Countries are gathered in Bonn, Germany right now to finalise the first evaluation of Paris climate agreement pledges. 

The 20-nation Ambition on Melting Ice (AMI) met with other interested governments and stakeholders in Bonn on June 2, intergovernmental institution International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) said in a press release. 

The AMI and scientists expressed alarm that both observations and projections are pointing to devastating and, most of all, permanent impacts from global ice melt, even if temperature rise is kept well below 2°C.

The original Paris Agreement goal of 2°C is unacceptable, the group further indicated. Even the lower 1.5°C limit could be too high.

Growing evidence from Antarctica, for example, points to thresholds closer to 1.5°C, especially in more vulnerable West Antarctica, the AMI said in a press release. The group comprises countries highly vulnerable to sea-level rise from melting glaciers and ice sheets.

The AMI high-level group on sea-level rise and mountain water resources was founded by 20 government ministers on November 16, 2022 at COP27 in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt. The group pointed to fresh research on global impacts from the world’s ice sheets, glaciers and permafrost. 

Countries part of the AMI are: Chile (Co-chair), Iceland (Co-chair), Peru, Czech Republic, Nepal, Finland, Senegal, Kyrgyz Republic, Samoa, Monaco, Georgia, Liberia, Switzerland, Tanzania, New Zealand, Sweden, Vanuatu, Norway, Austria and Mexico.

“The latest science over the last two to three years tells us the threshold beyond which ice loss from the Antarctic will become irreversible over centuries to millennia is much lower than we thought,” said Chris Stokes, a glaciologist at Durham University who spoke at the event in Bonn.

“Knowing what we know today, 2°C should not even be on the table,” said negotiator Carlos Fuller from the Caribbean nation of Belize, who attended the “cryosphere” (snow and ice) workshop. “Indeed, even 1.5°C may be too high,” he added. 

A recent study published in journal Nature confirmed these fears. "We conclude that stabilising at or below a safe Earth system boundary of 1.5°C warming avoids the most severe climate impacts on humans and other species, reinforcing the 1.5 °C guardrail set in the Paris Agreement on Climate Change," it said. 

Up to 3.5 billion people live in regions highly vulnerable to even moderate sea- level rise from ice sheets, or at least seasonally dependent on water from glaciers and snow, according to United Nations body Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). 

The scientists at the meet noted that real-time field observations of the Greenland ice sheet and mountain glacier loss are running above the upper range of the latest IPCC projections, known as AR6.

The cryosphere is a term for Earth’s frozen regions covered in snow or ice, either seasonally or throughout the year. Retreating glaciers, melting polar ice sheets on Antarctica and Greenland, thawing permafrost, disappearing sea ice and rapidly acidifying polar oceans all pose a devastating threat to communities on a global scale.

The AMI high-level group on its website underscored that only limiting global warming to 1.5°C through immediate emissions cuts can slow cryosphere loss in time and limit the resulting widespread loss and damage that ultimately will affect every country on Earth.

ICIMOD, research body Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research and policy expert network International Cryosphere Climate Initiative will hold a United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change side event on “Loss of Mountain Water Resources and Sea-level Rise: Why even 1.5°C is Too High for 3.5 Billion” on June 8, 2023. 

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