“The 1.5 degree target is still achievable,” Fink told Funke Media Group newspapers (Friday editions). “But it is becoming increasingly unlikely. Personally, given the trend in global emissions, I don't think it's realistic anymore.” He said news that the 12 months between February 2023 and January 2024 were more than 1.5°C above the pre-industrial average was a “warning sign”.
“It's also not so clearly unexpected,” Fink says. “Despite the El Niño phenomenon, no one expected the year to be this warm at the beginning of 2023.” However, the 1.5 degree threshold as stipulated in the Paris Agreement has not been exceeded yet. Science assumes that average temperatures will regularly be above 1.5 degrees in the late 2020s and early 2030s. “Determining when the threshold is permanently crossed is controversial,” Fink explained. “But current data suggest that predictions of an earlier date may come true.” Johanna Beer, a climate modeling expert from the University of Hamburg, told the Funke newspapers that the data from the Copernicus climate service was within what the climate models indicated. “So this was expected in principle,” she said. “But expected doesn't mean it's harmless.” The 1.5 degree threshold will not be derived from an inherent, scientifically defined threshold in the climate system. “The system is gradually changing,” she added. The fact that the threshold is a political decision does not mean that it should not be taken seriously. “Politicians and society are not exempt from continuing to work to ensure we comply with this,” Beyer said. It is possible that the so-called “pivotal elements” of the Earth system could become unstable below the 2°C threshold: for example, there is a risk of complete and irreversible loss of the Greenland ice sheet. According to the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, this would cause global sea levels to rise by up to seven meters over several centuries. Another three meters could lead to an inversion of the West Antarctic ice sheet, the critical threshold for which is also estimated at about 1.5 degrees.
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