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How 1.5C will change your world

The United Nations aspires to limit global warming to 1.5C but that's easier said than done.

United Nations representatives gathering in Marrakech for their annual meeting on climate change have something to be cheerful about for once - or they did until the election of Donald Trump as the next US President.

It comes just days after their 2015 Paris Agreement came into force. The UN agreed to limit climate change to 2°C by 2050 and aims for an even more ambitious 1.5°C. It gained enough government ratifications in October –  achieved with unprecedented speed for a process expected to take years.

At last, something seemed to be going right with global negotiations to tackle climate change. UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon said: “This is a momentous occasion. What once seemed unthinkable is now unstoppable.” That was before the US elected a President skeptical about such climate agreements. But let’s still hope the world can pull it off.  

If they can keep the US on board, the two problems then facing the world’s nations now are how to ensure global warming stays within that 1.5°C limit, and how to cope with the dramatic changes brought about by what seems like a small rise to the public on a cold winter’s day but is in fact huge in environmental, ecological and even geological terms.

Last week the 35th International Geological Congress in South Africa said warmer temperatures are contributing to permanent changes in the Earth’s rocks and announced that the world had entered a new geological epoch named the Anthropocene.

How will nations cope? Unevenly is the answer. The world’s wealthiest countries contribute far more than their fair share to global warming but it’s the poorest ones that will feel it worst. Hillary Clarke looks at what 1.5°C will mean for Africa and its peoples and how they may be able to leapfrog technology generations to mitigate the effects. Crispin Andrews looks at what 1.5°C will mean for wildlife migration patterns and how technology could help conservation experts protect the increasing number of endangered species before many disappear forever. Rebecca Pool looks at the crucial differences between the effects of 1.5° and 2°C rises and what has to be done to meet those limits.

Following the good news about the Paris Agreement, the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate said global spending on infrastructure will need to double to $90tn (£70tn) in the next 15 years. “Investing in sustainable infrastructure is the wisest decision we can take for our future,” said former Mexican President Felipe Calderon, who leads the commission.

The report called for a rapid phase-out of fossil fuel subsidies, which it estimated at $550bn in 2014. There are some who believe the world can move to 100 per cent renewable energy. We examine how they think the UK and the world can achieve that. For the UK, it would mean some solar, a lot of wind turbines and an awful lot of storage.

1.5°C will change all our lives in ways that are hard to predict, but we use recent studies on everything from spiders to sex, to identify a dozen likely developments, good and bad.


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