World’s top climate scientists expect global heating to blast past 1.5C target

Planet is headed for at least 2.5C of heating with disastrous results for humanity, poll of hundreds of scientists finds

By Damian Carrington
May 8, 2024

Hundreds of the world’s leading climate scientists expect global temperatures to rise to at least 2.5C (4.5F) above preindustrial levels this century, blasting past internationally agreed targets and causing catastrophic consequences for humanity and the planet, an exclusive Guardian survey has revealed.

Almost 80% of the respondents, all from the authoritative Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), foresee at least 2.5C of global heating, while almost half anticipate at least 3C (5.4F). Only 6% thought the internationally agreed 1.5C (2.7F) limit would be met.

Many of the scientists envisage a “semi-dystopian” future, with famines, conflicts and mass migration, driven by heatwaves, wildfires, floods and storms of an intensity and frequency far beyond those that have already struck.

Numerous experts said they had been left feeling hopeless, infuriated and scared by the failure of governments to act despite the clear scientific evidence provided.

“I think we are headed for major societal disruption within the next five years,” said Gretta Pecl, at the University of Tasmania. “[Authorities] will be overwhelmed by extreme event after extreme event, food production will be disrupted. I could not feel greater despair over the future.”

But many said the climate fight must continue, however high global temperature rose, because every fraction of a degree avoided would reduce human suffering.

Peter Cox, at the University of Exeter, UK, said: “Climate change will not suddenly become dangerous at 1.5C – it already is. And it will not be ‘game over’ if we pass 2C, which we might well do.”

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The Guardian approached every contactable lead author or review editor of IPCC reports since 2018. Almost half replied, 380 of 843. The IPCC’s reports are the gold standard assessments of climate change, approved by all governments and produced by experts in physical and social sciences. The results show that many of the most knowledgeable people on the planet expect climate havoc to unfold in the coming decades.

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