2℃ of warming. What then?

The effects of 2°C of warming would be much more serious than 1.5°C [1]. Storms and droughts would be worse [1]. Extreme heatwaves would affect 420 million MORE people than at 1.5°C, causing poverty from food shortages, and deaths from heat stress [1]. Greater sea level rise would mean 10 million MORE people would be affected by flooding than at 1.5°C [1].

By 2050, at least 570 cities and 800 million people would be exposed to storm surges due to rising sea levels (with 2°C of warming) [10,11]. With 1.5°C of warming, coastal flooding is expected to affect South Asia the worst (especially Pakistan, India and China), but with 2°C of warming this problem will spread to sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, and East Asia [6]. The poorest people will be the worst affected [6].

Nature would also suffer catastrophic losses: coral reefs would likely die out completely [1]. Insects would also be particularly badly affected, with 18% of insect species predicted to lose over half of their range [6]. Since insects are at the bottom of many food chains, this could cause the collapse of entire ecosystems [6]. The situation is made even worse by other threats to nature, like deforestation, hunting, and fishing [8].

Fires in the Amazon rainforest might double by 2050 with 2°C of warming [9].

With the “Paris Agreement”, most countries in the world agreed to aim to keep global warming below 2°C [2]. But sadly, given current progress, it is still likely that temperatures this high or higher will be reached this century [1], because major countries are far behind their climate goals [3].

Remember, 2°C is just the average warming. Oceans warm slower and land warms faster [5]. Some parts of the planet would warm by 4-6°C [7]! Adapting to this change will be very hard, but 2°C might not even be the end. In our next post, we will look at 4°C warming which, with business-as-usual, we will have as early as 2100 [6].


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