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‘Impossible Not to Feel Hopeless’ – Guardian Survey of IPCC Scientists Reveals 1.5C Goal Out of Reac

Of the 380 IPCC climate scientists interviewed by the Guardian, 77% think humanity is headed for at least 2.5C of global warming.

Hopeless, broken, terrified, worried. Recent climate trends have given rise to a general sense of pessimism about the future of our planet among the world’s leading climate scientists.

An exclusive survey of nearly half of all lead authors and review editors of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports since 2018 conducted by the Guardian revealed that the 1.5C goal is increasingly out of reach. 

The 1.5C target was chosen by the 195 signatories of the 2015 Paris Agreement and has since been guiding international climate negotiations and decarbonization strategies. the IPCC says containing global warming below the 1.5C (2.7F) threshold is “vital.” Beyond it, experts say, there is a high chance that most tipping points will be crossed, leading to more severe, and in some cases irreversible, impacts of climate change, including intensified heatwaves, extreme weather events, sea level rise, ecosystem disruption, and increased risks to human health and well-being. 

IPCC scientists are among the most authoritative and knowledgeable people when it comes to climate change. The UN body has so far published six assessments of the scientific basis of climate change, its impacts and future risks, and options for adaptation and mitigation, acting as a crucial facilitator of climate change research and governance on both the national and international stages.

Of the 380 authors and editors interviewed by the Guardian, 132 (34.7%) expect global temperatures to rise by 2.5C this century, while 100 (26.3%) predict at least 3C of warming. In total, 358 respondents, more than 94%, think humanity will breach the 1.5C threshold.

Among them is Ruth Cerezo-Mota, an expert in climate modelling at the National Autonomous University of Mexico. The scientist talked about her battle with depression, a consequence of being confronted with the grim reality of the imminent consequences of rising temperatures on human lives. For her, a 3C scenario is a “hopeful and conservative” estimate.

“There is not any clear sign from any government that we are actually going to stay under 1.5C,” she told the Guardian.

Speaking with Earth.Org last month, Johan Rockström, Director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, said no credible study shows us that we can achieve the 9% yearly emissions reduction needed between now and 2030 and the only chance we have at achieving that is by “doing everything right on nature, phase out fossil fuels, and get serious on carbon dioxide removal.” 

“The reason why [scientists] are using stronger and stronger language… is that we’re running out of time, not that the evidence is changing so much,” the Earth scientist said.

So far, the world has warmed by 1.1C compared to pre-industrial times, though IPCC data suggests that 20-40% of the global human population live in regions that, by the decade 2006–2015, had already experienced warming of more than 1.5C in at least one season. According to the UN body, every 0.5C (0.9F) of global warming will cause discernible increases in the frequency and severity of heat extremes, heavy rainfall events, and regional droughts.

2023 was the hottest year on record, supercharged by the El Niño weather pattern, which pushed temperatures off the charts around the world. Despite it gradually weakening, global temperatures have continued to rise this year, with April becoming the latest and 11th consecutive month to break records.

Vested Interests and Lobbying

Among the reasons behind humanity’s failure to tackle the climate crisis, almost three-quarters of the survey’s respondents cited a lack of political will, with 60% also blaming vested corporate interests, particularly the fossil fuel industry.

International climate summits such as the UN Conference of the Parties (COP) have often come under scrutiny for giving powerful stakeholders and lobbyists from polluting industries, from Big Oil to plastic manufacturers, a place at the negotiating table. For example, last year’s COP28 was hosted by the United Arab Emirates, one of the world’s richest petro-states in the world, and saw the presence of at least 2,456 oil and gas lobbyists. An investigation by the Centre for Climate Reporting (CCR) and the BBC also revealed that the COP28 presidency was planning to use meetings with foreign countries to push for oil and gas deals

The upcoming UN summit, COP29, is not off to a good start either. The November conference will be hosted by Azerbaijan, a highly fossil fuel-dependent state and the oldest oil-producing region in the world. Azeri President Ilham Aliyev came under fire last month for comments he made at a pre-COP summit in Germany, where he described fossil fuels as a “gift of God” and said his country will increase its gas production and continue exporting its gas supplies to the EU “for many more years.”

IPCC scientists also told the Guardian that failing to address climate injustices and provide financial support for the clean transition in poorer nations, historically the most vulnerable to climate change, will inevitably slow down global decarbonization efforts.

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