1.5°C or 2°C: a conduit’s view from the science-policy interface at COP20 in Lima, Peru

Petra Tschakert

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An average global 2degreesC warming compared to pre-industrial times is commonly understood as the most important target in climate policy negotiations. It is a temperature target indicative of a fiercely debated threshold between what some consider acceptable warming and warming that implies dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system and hence to be avoided. Although this 2degreesC target has been officially endorsed as scientifically sound and justified in the Copenhagen Report issued by the 15th Conference of the Parties (COP) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 2009, the large majority of countries (over two-thirds) that have signed and ratified the UNFCCC strongly object to this target as the core of the long-term goal of keeping temperatures below a certain danger level. Instead, they promote a 1.5degreesC target as a more adequate limit for dangerous interference. At COP16 in Cancun, parties to the convention recognized the need to consider strengthening the long-term global goal in the so-called 2013-2015 Review, given improved scientific knowledge, including the possible adoption of the 1.5degreesC target. In this perspective piece, I examine the discussions of a structured expert dialogue (SED) between selected Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) authors, myself included, and parties to the convention to assess the adequacy of the long-term goal. I pay particular attention to the uneven geographies and power differentials that lay behind the ongoing political debate regarding an adequate target for protecting ecosystems, food security, and sustainable development.
Original languageEnglish
Article number3
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages1
JournalClimate Change Responses
Publication statusPublished - 27 Dec 2015
Externally publishedYes


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