• Did I miss the memo on dropping the 1.5 °C target?

    Graphic: EC Diseño.

    Two months ago, I attended a talk by former US president Barack Obama in Berlin. One sentence, which he said in parentheses, struck me: “Don’t give up. We may not succeed in achieving the limit of 1.5 degrees of global warming. But whether it will be 2.5 or three degrees does make a difference.”

    According to scientists, a rise of global temperatures of just 1.5 degrees would make vast areas of the planet uninhabitable. Obama was talking about three degrees. So are we already saying goodbye to the 1.5 target? But nobody reacted to Obama’s words, neither the audience nor the moderator. Have we become complacent about our failure to achieve this? Was I the only one worried about that?

    According to the renowned climate scientist Stefan Rahmstorf, Germany might heat up by six degrees if the global average warms up by three degrees. This is a horror scenario. The Berlin air is already difficult for the lungs to digest due to the lack of rain.

    But there’s hardly a debate about this in Germany. Politicians tell us: “Well, we are aiming for 1.5 degrees”, but only very few are talking about the obvious: that by continuing in this way, we will certainly not make it.

    Instead, the public debate goes something like this: Isn’t it inconvenient to change our heating systems? Isn’t it annoying to be asked to drive less? Aren’t climate activists who hold up traffic counterproductive, because they stop us from talking about climate change, and change the conversation to one about blocked streets? As if more people would talk seriously about climate protection if there were no traffic jams…

    I long for a debate on these questions: Do we want to stick to the 1.5 degree limit? Do we realise what is at stake if we don’t? And if we do want to stick to it: What do we need to do to win this race? Today, insisting on these questions is often seen as ideological, not practical.

    This article is part of the "Heating the debate" edition
    Did I miss the memo on dropping the 1.5 °C target?
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