If you’ve been following climate science for the last few years, and especially the Paris climate talks late last year, then you’re no doubt aware of the goal to keep global temperature rise at around 1.5 C. That rise is compared to global, preindustrial temperatures, considered by most climate scientists to be the standard for the recent epoch of the Earth’s history.
The argument goes that, if global temperatures rise more than that, we’re in serious trouble, and so we need to keep temperature change in check, which is going to be pretty hard, all things considered. It’s a goal that much of the world has agreed to though, so there is some hope.
Unfortunately, global temperatures have been rising already, and even if we can rein it in, and keep the change to 1.5 C or less, we’re still going to be facing higher temperatures around the world. Because land-based temperatures rise at a faster rate than global averages, and because different regions have different effects on weather, some parts of the world will be getting warmer faster.
For example, by 2030, parts of the Mediterranean, Brazil, and the United States could see an overall increase of 2 C by 2030, even though, if things stay as they are, global averages aren’t expected to rise that much until the 2040s. It’s even worse in the Arctic, where temperatures could rise by as much as 4.4 C. And that’s if we keep change down to 1.5 C.
Under a scenario where global averages go up by 2 C, we’re looking at an increase of anywhere from 5.5 to 8 C in the Arctic. That’s bad because higher temperatures in Canada, Northern Europe, Russia, and other countries with Arctic holdings means more melting ice, which means higher sea levels and the release of additional greenhouse gasses held in permafrost or under the ice.