Where does the 1.5°C target come from?
From what I heard, the 1.5°C target was something that came into the Paris process quite late, as a serious consideration. It seemed to have come like a train at the end of the talks.
From what I’ve heard, some of the people who proposed it were even surprised at how quickly it was taken up.
It’s clear that 1.5°C is an aspiration goal. From a health point of view, the less climate change we get, the better we are. The impacts just increase with how much climate change that happen. The closer we get to 1.5°C, the better.
Researchers have never presented a scientific rationale for “why it has to be 2 degrees or why it has to be 1.5 degrees” – it’s like a speed limit; you know that the faster you drive, the more likely you will hit people and have accidents. The 2°C or 1.5°C targets are political negotiations about how much risk you are willing to take, not scientific rationales.
If we can stop at 1.5°C, that will be fantastic! From a health point of view, the health advantages of stopping warming at 1.5°C rather than 2°C – although we haven’t formally done the analysis – are pretty clear. An aggressive 1.5°C target is good because it gives you the opportunity to get more of the health co-benefits from mitigation.
We need a new kind of research looking at new ways to reach the political climate goal, whatever it is, rather than new climate scenarios. We need research that looks at the co-benefits between climate change action and health action. How you get there, what kinds of measure you use, is also important and part of a strong argument.