Select the search type
  • Site
  • Web


Published on Friday, July 14, 2017

A Half-Degree Is More Than You Think


A Half-Degree Is More Than You Think

The December 2015 Paris Climate Change Agreement set out that the 196 signatories would not let the global temperature rise more than 1.5 to 2 degrees Celsius from pre-industrial levels in order to combat climate change. 1.5 to 2 degrees doesn’t sound like much but in actuality, a global rise of a few degrees would be catastrophic for our planet. But what is the difference between keeping the temperature at a 1.5 degree increase or keeping it at a 2 degree increase? Does 0.5 degree Celsius (0.9 degree Fahrenheit) really make a difference?

The Study

The European Geosciences Union released a study in April of 2016 to look at the differences between a 1.5 degree temperature increase and a 2 degree temperature increase. Overall, the study found that going from 1.5 to 2, an increase of one third, will result in a third stronger impact across the world. For example, heat waves would last a third longer, rainstorms would be a third more intense and sea levels would increase by a third.

Dave Schimel, a supervisor with JPL Carbon Cycle and Ecosystems group, explains why a half degree could be more catastrophic than it sounds. He said, “Most of that temperature change may occur during a small fraction of the year, when it actually represents conditions that could be 5 or 10 degrees warmer than pre-industrial temperatures instead of just 1.5 or 2 degrees warmer.”

Temperature Impact On Our Waters

The study revealed that with a 1.5 degree increase, tropical coral reefs may stand a chance at surviving. They could adapt to new water temperatures and regrow portions that have died due to coral bleaching. But with a 2 degree increase, this regrowth and recovery is impossible. By 2100, tropical coral reefs will be completely extinct. Michelle Gierach of JPL explained, “Reef-building corals are extremely vulnerable to warming. Prolonged warming harms warm-water corals not only through bleaching, but also through making them more susceptible to disease.”

With a 1.5 increase, areas in the Mediterranean will have to survive with 9% less fresh water. But at a 2 degree increase, the Mediterranean sees an 18% decrease in fresh water.

When it comes to rising sea levels, Felix Landerer, who studies sea level and ice at JPL, explains just how dangerous a 2 degree increase could be. He said, “I would frame the discussion in the context that in recent studies—in particular of ocean-ice interactions—there is growing concern that the ice sheets are very sensitive to the surrounding ocean warming. At two degrees (of temperature increase), you might have crossed a threshold for significantly more sea-level rise than indicated [in the current study]. The air temperatures level off, you (hypothetically) stabilize them, but you have committed to sea-level rise over multiple centuries. So it's good to stay away from two degrees. That's an experiment you don't want to run. Because that experiment would potentially wipe Florida off the map.”

Temperature Impact On Agriculture

With a 1.5 degree increase, global production of wheat and soy may actually increase thanks to the warmer temperature being favorable for farming and fertilization. However, if that increase rises to 2 degrees, the advantage for soy crops drops by 700% and is non-existent for wheat.

In many places around the world, wheat and soy plants are already near their thermal limit. In addition, the increase in temperature may also increase the spread of pests and pathogens. Therefore, even the 1.5 increase could be very dangerous, but nothing compared to the 2 degree increase.

Schimel from JPL explains the effects of the temperature rise on crops such as corn. He said, “If you get really high temperatures or very dry conditions during critical parts of the development of the crop, it produces essentially no grain. For example, above certain temperature thresholds, corn doesn't die but it doesn't grow seed. It doesn't grow a corn cob. And other crops are similar to that, where the development of the actual food part of the crop is dramatically inhibited above critical temperatures. [The fertilization effect from carbon dioxide] does help a bit, but it doesn't make the underlying problem go away. And by the way, if the plant was growing really fast when it died, it still died.”


Rate this article:
No rating
Comments ()Number of views (411)

Author: AThompson

Categories: Blogs, Research, Animals & Wildlife, Climate & Weather



Search Jobs


«January 2018»

Climate Change & The Poor: A Toxic Relationship

The impacts of climate change are undoubtedly affecting the world on a global scale. However, its effects are far more pronounced among the poor.

Read more

Pre-Historic Ticks

Ticks are some of the most aggravating parasites today but they've been around for millions of years - even long enough to feed on the blood of dinosaurs.

Read more

'The Cove' Nine Years Later

You may remember the uproar surrounding The Cove almost a decade ago. Today, the fishing community at the heart of the film has finally spoken up. 

Read more

Saving A Life

Watch this amazing footage of the rescue of a drowned puppy and the ingenuity, persistence, and passion of the man who saved it.

Read more

Winter Enviro-friendly Tips

This is the time of year for family, food, and holiday cheer. But it's also the season that produces the most waste. Here's how to get green over the holidays.

Read more

A Mesmerizing Flock

Have a look at this visually hypnotizing footage of one of nature's most arresting phenomenons - the flight of the flock of starlings. A gorgeous sight to behold!

Read more

The Controversy of Fracking

Fracking is in fact dangerous. Recent study proves that infants in areas surrounding fracking sites may suffer from permanent health effects and growth problems.

Read more

An Unobstructed Look Inside The Environmental Protection Agency

The EPA has long stood as one of the most powerful defenders of the health and safety of the environment and safety standards. A lot has changed. 

Read more

Master of Deception

Few living species can match the powers of deception and stealth quite like the amazing Zodrian spider - known for wearing the carcasses of their victims.

Read more

The Digital Impact: Bitcoin's Carbon Footprint

Bitcoin is becoming one of the most quickly growing cryptocurrencies today. But this new form of payment is more costly for the environment than you may think. 

Read more

Animals That Fit On Your Finger

There are few things as adorable and heartwarming as pint-sized pets. Here are just some of the most popular ones available today.

Read more

Amazing Fungus Breaks Down Plastic Within a Few Weeks

No doubt about it, plastics are amazing. But they're also particularly bad for the environment as they're tough to break down. A new study has a solution - fungus. 

Read more

Curious Bear Finds The Camera

Getting that perfect wildlife shot can be tough. That's why the BBC Earth team developed innovative spy cameras to catch each amazing moment, like the skiing cam. 

Read more

Baby Sea Turtle Treadmills

Light pollution has become a serious problem of modern living. And for turtles, it's even worse. That's why scientists devised this unique and adorable experiment. 

Read more

Consider This Before Your Next Virtual Shopping Trip

Online shopping has long been held in high regard as the more eco-friendly way to purchase. But e-commerce may actually be worse for our environment than you think.

Read more

Traffic Stopped by Silverback Gorillas

Silverback gorillas are amazing and beautiful creatures to be sure. Watch as a troop is filmed literally stopping traffic crossing a crowded road. 

Read more

China's Ivory Trade Ban: What It Means Going Forward

Elephant numbers have long been on the decline due to poaching for their tusks. But China's new ivory trade ban aims to curb that trend and protect these animals.

Read more

Hungry Deer Meets Delicious Snowman

Tis the season for snowmen to start popping up on front lawns. But don't leave carrots out for too long or you might get a hungry wildlife visitor.

Read more

The Future of Power: Solar Windows

While solar technology is advancing at a breakneck pace, one innovation in the industry is set to change the way we collect power forever - solar windows. 

Read more

Literally Swimming in Drugs

It's a tragedy that animals are trapped in our trash. But it's astounding that one turtle in particular was found wrapped up in over $53 million worth of cocaine.

Read more

Whose Responsible for Your Dirty Water?

Clean drinking water is supposed to be a right of every citizen in the nation. However, this right is often violated - and it isn't getting any better.

Read more

Global Warming & Cold Spells: What's the Connection?

When faced with bitter-cold weather, some people tend to think global warming isn't real. But in fact, global warming just may be the culprit behind dropping temps.

Read more

Spiders: Ancient & Amazing

Spiders have been producing silk for literally hundreds of millions of years. Take a look at just why these creatures and the silk they produce are so amazing. 

Read more

The Threat of Ocean Deoxygenation

We often hear of the widespread effects of pollution on the ocean and the life it holds. But there's another threat beneath the surface - ocean deoxygenation.

Read more

The Sun: An Introduction

The Sun is literally the source of life for everything on the planet earth. But what is that giant ball of light in the sky really? How does it work?

Read more


    Help Us Go Green
    Help Us Go Green