1.5 to stay alive

PARIS – The developing and least developed nations are fighting for their right to life with a new global warming ceiling target of 1.5 degrees Celsius.

In the Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF) held on Monday this week, the Philippines, along with 19 other countries, called for a more ambitious target of 1.5 degrees warming instead of 2 degrees.

Some 106 out of 195 countries are in favor of this target.

It was at the Conference of Parties (COP) 15 in Copenhagen that it was decided to have a 2 degree Celsius target of warming in order to avert further climate change. However, there has since been scientific evidence that even the 2 degrees of warming would be catastrophic.

A study by a team of 17 climate scientists, led by James Hansen, a former director of NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, indicated that even 2 degrees of warming is “highly dangerous” and could cause sea level rise of “at least several meters” this century, leaving most of the world’s coastal cities uninhabitable.

The world has warmed by 0.8 degrees since the pre-industrial period.

This means that the climate change impact experienced today, such as super typhoon Haiyan (local name Yolanda), Hurricane Patricia, extreme heat waves and droughts, all occurred with less than one degree of warming. What more with 2 degrees of warming?

Will we still survive?
Just this November, new scientific data showed that the world is to enter “unchartered territory” as earth is expected to warm by 1 degree Celsius by the end of 2015.

2015 is also possibly on track to be recorded as the hottest year on record.

According to the World Meteorological Organization, carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, the main driver of climate change, is estimated to be up 43% since pre-industrial times because of the continued burning of fossil fuels.

For the Philippines and many other countries, setting a target of 1.5 degrees is about our basic human right — the right to life, to survival.

President Aquino, in his speech at the CVF, said: “But building back better has become less and less of a guarantee, given that the new normal might still be replaced by an even newer normal that is going to be even more destructive, if we fail to act in concert.”

“The parties must set the limit to global warming at 1.5 degrees centigrade to safeguard communities and the environment,” added Emmanuel de Guzman, head of the Philippine delegation in COP21 Paris.

In fact, there are already climate change impacts local inhabitants can no longer adapt to. Kiribati, for example, a small island nation in the Pacific, just bought land in Fiji because they would need to relocate all of their people as sea level rise threatens to wipe their land out of the map. The islands are expected to become uninhabitable in about 30 years, with sea levels rising half an inch every year.

Currently, country commitments through the Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) to mitigate carbon emissions are not enough to achieve 2 degrees, let alone 1.5.

According to the United Nations analysis of INDC, the current country pledges translate to a world warming by 3 degrees Celsius.

This means that there is a lot of work to be done, especially by rich nations who have committed far less than what they have to.

While some countries would say that 1.5 is too ambitious and cannot be done, developing and least developed countries like the Philippines say 1.5 is what we need to stay alive.


This article was originally published in Interaksyon.