Scientists warn G7 economic costs of breaching 1.5-degree mark


A group of world-leading climate scientists is calling upon global leaders to factor in the economic, environmental and humanitarian costs of failing to keep global warming below 1.5 degree Celsius this century, in a move led by experts from UCL, the University of Exeter and International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD).

As the leaders of seven of the world’s wealthiest nations meet in Cornwall,UK, for the G7 summit, the scientists have launched a 1.5 Degree Charter to highlight how breaching the target outlined in the Paris Agreement will cost far more than paying poorer nations to help global efforts to reach it.

It is hoped governments, businesses and the public will get behind the Charter to influence the conversation on climate finance and steer key decisions made at the next UN climate summit, COP26, in Glasgow in November.

Those most vulnerable to the impacts of the climate crisis predominantly live in the global South, but they have contributed the least to greenhouse gas emissions.

The Charter argues that, to sufficiently reduce emissions, it will require richer countries to pay reparations to poorer countries. The amounts must reflect fairly the former’s responsibility for the crisis and the latter’s vulnerability to it.

The aim of the Charter therefore is to act as a catalyst to encourage wealthy nations to support those less wealthy to not only decarbonise but also ensure they can afford to put in place measures to protect their homes, jobs and lands from climate related impacts like extreme weather, poor health, job losses and food insecurity.

To support the Charter, the academics involved are developing a global research project to fully identify and compare the cost of exceeding a 1.5 degrees Celsius temperature rise versus the costs already anticipated of the decarbonisation required to meet the 1.5-degree target.

The 1.5 Degree Charter calls upon the governments in particular to recognise the human and economic cost of exceeding 1.5 degrees Celsius and that this cost will be borne disproportionately around the world and by future generations.

It calls to act on their commitment to limit global heating to 1.5 degrees and encourage the development of climate finance mechanisms that link the cost of delaying climate action with the cost of decarbonisation.

Simon Lewis, Professor of Global Change Science at UCL, said: “This is about finding solutions to the climate crisis that embody fairness and build trust.

“Lower income countries did not create this problem, yet they are already paying for it with their livelihoods and increasingly their lives. It’s up to those who have contributed the most to the problem to address that injustice and build trust going forward.

“Solving the climate crisis means acknowledging the damage already caused and making new alternative plans and choices to reverse that tide.”

Mark Maslin, Professor of Earth System Science at UCL, said: “The science is clear — going beyond 1.5 degrees Celsius will increase human misery around the world and put a huge financial burden on all of us.”

“Our Charter calls upon the governments of the world to invest in dealing with climate change now, which will not only increase people’s health and well-being now but will save trillions of dollars.”

Tim Lenton, Director of the Global Systems Institute at the University of Exeter, said: “Global warming above 1.5 degrees markedly increases the risk of crossing climate tipping points which will do greatest harm to the world’s poorest.”

The scientists and academics involved in creating the Charter hope that governments and organisations around the world will back it and use it as a tool to inform public and policy debates on climate finance.

The ultimate aim is to create an international climate justice research network, connecting institutions in the global north and south, addressing the limitations of current climate finance strategies and collaborating to replace them with fair, workable alternatives, before it is too late.