NEWS BRIEFING: IPCC Special Report Global Warming of 1.5C

Embargoed until: Publicly released:
*BRIEFING RECORDING NOW AVAILABLE* The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is releasing its Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C in Incheon South Korea, on Monday 8th October.

Journal/conference: IPCC Press Conference

Organisation/s: The Australian National University, The University of Queensland, Curtin University, Murdoch University, The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)

Media Briefing/Press Conference

From: Australian Science Media Centre


  • Dr Jatin Kala is a Lecturer and ARC DECRA Fellow at Murdoch University. Jatin is a Lead Author of Chapter 1 (Framing and Context). His expertise is in regional climate, extreme weather, and atmospheric dynamics.
  • Professor Ove Hoegh Guldberg is Director of The University of Queensland’s Global Change Institute and a member of The Great Barrier Reef Taskforce on water quality. Ove is Coordinating Lead Author of the Summary for Policymakers of Chapter 3 (Impacts of 1.5C global warming on natural and human systems).His expertise is in oceans, coral reefs, ecosystems and people.
  • Professor Peter Newman is John Curtin Distinguished Professor of Sustainability, Curtin University Sustainability Policy (CUSP) Institute. Peter is a Lead author of Chapter 4 (Strengthening and implementing the global response to the threat of climate change). His expertise is in renewable energy, transport and city planning
  • Professor Mark Howden is Director of the Climate Change Institute at the Australian National University. Mark is a Review Editor of Chapter 4 and Vice Chair of working group II. His expertise includes food security, agriculture, climate risk management and greenhouse gas inventories
  • Associate Professor Bronwyn Hayward is Director of the Sustainable Citizenship and Civic Imagination Research Group: Hei Puāwaitanga, and Associate Dean of Postgraduate Research at the University of Canterbury, New Zealand. Bronwyn is the Lead Author of the Summary for Policymakers of Chapter 5 (Sustainable development, poverty eradication and reducing inequalities). Her expertise is in sustainability, cities and youth.


Date: Sun 7th Oct 2017

Start Time: 19:00 AEDT

Duration: Approx 1 hour, 25 minutes

Venue: Online


  • Australian Science Media Centre
    Web page
    Link to briefing recording - playback

Expert Reaction

These comments have been collated by the Science Media Centre to provide a variety of expert perspectives on this issue. Feel free to use these quotes in your stories. Views expressed are the personal opinions of the experts named. They do not represent the views of the SMC or any other organisation unless specifically stated.

Dr Paul Read is Senior Research Fellow at the Monash Sustainability Institute at Monash University and a Co-Director of the National Centre for Research in Bushfire and Arson

The IPCC has underlined the seriousness of the situation and the need to eliminate coal by 2050. I think it's also important to highlight their point yet again that the longer we wait to make changes in the way we use energy the harder it becomes for future generations to adapt. We can adapt more readily right now than future generations can because they will have to adapt faster - and we know from recessions and depressions that rapid adaptations have their own effects on human mortality quite apart from the life-threatening effects of climate change itself.  

Economically, we must continue to work on, but cannot rely on, technologies as yet undeveloped.  Politically, climate change is very much an inter-generational issue that all countries need to address on behalf of those younger people and children who have the least power at present, yet the most to lose in the future.  I still think some form of Contraction and Convergence is needed, where populations per country have an equal emissions budget.  When this was first suggested by Aubrey Meyer to the UK government of the time it could have conceivably worked. This was supported by Ross Garnaut but his vision was demolished by a sledging campaign run by the then opposition.  Since then the worst offenders in terms of nations have continued to obfuscate and manipulate their Paris Agreement targets, including Australia under Abbott at the time.  Equally, those with smaller emissions per capita but larger populations have undertaken similar 'small print' manipulations.  On the other side, we also have the argument around adjusting budgets by historical emissions, and C&C itself might cause unintended consequences unless sovereign nations also move towards more internal equity, which is hardly happening. Rather it's getting worse per Oxfam analyses. If equity wasn't modulated to produce fairer economic and public health outcomes, we could have populations increasing to maximise budgets serving a smaller and smaller cohort, artificially creating more emissions, more misery and more inequity.  

One thing I would like the IPCC to analyse in more detail is an argument we put forward in 2013 that fair and equitable distribution of carbon emissions needs to be enacted in a way that minimises loss of life expectancy both now and for our next generations. It's possible the deadline for this is much earlier in the mid 2020's. We're retesting it with more exact data.  Right now, I'd like to see solar energy, for one example, installed worldwide by some brilliant entrepreneur using a business model where people do not pay upfront for the equipment - totally free and immediately working - but rather pay some portion of their energy savings back to the installers.  This has a precedent with IT, for example, where you sell the service surrounding the physical box, not the box itself.  That would be much more profitable and make solar energy immediately free to all. This would save lives and help pensioners and families.  Some will attack this as naive but I know business people who are more than creative enough to make such things work with government support.  


What's stopping us?  Ignorance, greed and vested interests.  Maybe the vested interests could lead the way if they truly think they're worth their ridiculous pay-packets. I felt a bit more confident with Mr Turnbull in office but perhaps Mr Morrison or Mr Shorten will do what's needed in a way that still protects our sovereignty and our children. 


Last updated: 09 Oct 2018 9:34am
Declared conflicts of interest:
None declared.
Professor Peter Newman AO is the John Curtin Distinguished Professor of Sustainability at Curtin University. He is the Coordinating Lead Author on Transport for the IPCC.

The need for enhancing the removal of greenhouse gases (GHG) from the world’s economic systems is apparent in the other chapters of the IPCC Special Report. Our chapter, ‘Strengthening and implementing the global response to the threat of climate change’, shows the trends that are happening rapidly in line with the necessary transformation of the global economy, as well as those trends that must change or improve.

Here is how the five major systems of activity are doing on GHG removal:

  • Energy systems are rapidly disrupting due to the exponential growth in solar, wind and batteries (66 per cent, 30 per cent, 50 per cent between 2010-2016, figures from the International Renewable Energy Agency). These now need to be mainstreamed into grids everywhere.
  • Urban systems are demonstrating how to do zero carbon development without harming the economy (like White Gum Valley in Perth where solar, batteries and blockchain enable shared renewable energy to make affordable housing cheaper for living). These trends now need mainstreaming into all urban development, including in slum housing regeneration where local shared solar can fit the local community governance).
  • Transport systems are being disrupted by electric vehicles in all modes, which are growing at 40 per cent per year, but the same oil-free option is not being taken by freight, aviation and shipping, which are well behind where they need to be. Biofuels may be the best option for these modes.
  • Industrial systems are very slow to shift their fuels, especially those industries that need a carbon source as well as a heat source like steel and cement making. Demonstrations need to be rapidly scaled up. Carbon sequestration in industry and LNG processing are not progressing fast enough.
  • Land systems are going backwards as they are still removing carbon instead of embedding it in plants and soils. Agriculture, forestry, coastal management and even cities (using biophilic design of buildings, urban agriculture in peri-urban and regional areas) need to become carbon sinks. Where it is happening, the economy has not suffered.

All these changes can happen with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) including the need for resilience through adaptation strategies.

As an illustration of the potential transformations seen as necessary, there has been a recent study done on Australia that shows what is needed to meet a reduction of 26-28 per cent of GHG by 2030 (relative to levels in 2005) to reach its Paris commitments. Australia has achieved 11 per cent so far, based on positive trends in electricity and land. The electricity trend in Australia reflects the global trend showing all the disruptive benefits of solar and wind. Australian industry and transport are poor in their GHG performance and need to demonstrate greater leadership. Land is the big success story in Australia where reforestation is locking away carbon. The potential is to go beyond the Paris commitments and reach the 1.50C goal without causing damage to the economy and helping to achieve the SDG’s.

Last updated: 08 Oct 2018 11:10am
Declared conflicts of interest:
None declared.
Dr Jatin Kala is a Lecturer and ARC DECRA Fellow at Murdoch University. Jatin is a Lead Author of Chapter 1 (Framing and Context).

1.5 refers to an increase in the global temperature, averaged over the land and ocean. At this level of warming, many regions will be experiencing substantially higher levels of warming, especially over land. The report highlights the urgent need for rapid reductions in greenhouse gas emissions over the next 10 t 20 years, to avoid the impacts of 1.5C global warming. The time for action is right now.

Last updated: 08 Oct 2018 11:09am
Declared conflicts of interest:
None declared.
Dr Sarah Perkins-Kirkpatrick, DECRA research fellow at the Climate Change Research Centre on the changing nature of heatwaves.

The difference between worlds that are 1.5°C and 2°C warmer than pre-industrial levels by 2100 is measurable and significant. A 1.5°C world is, by far, better off.

This is in terms of extreme events, the impacts they cause and the overall adaptation required. There would be 10cm less in sea level rise, meaning less salt water intrusion for low lying islands and less loss of available land.

At 2°C warming, virtually all coral reefs would cease to exist, whereas at 1.5°C, there is a good chance of saving 10-30 per cent of current coral ecosystems.

The frequency and duration of extreme temperature events would be less at 1.5°C warming, and also 1°C cooler. 

The incidence of marine heatwaves would be less at 1.5°C compared to 2°C, allowing for greater ocean diversity, and less impacts on fisheries and aquaculture.

The amount of rainfall occurring during tropical cyclones would also be less, thus reducing flooding impacts when these events do occur.

There is also a good chance that drought severity will be less in a 1.5°C world, having ramifications for water availability and food security.

Overall, adverse impacts on human health at 1.5°C compared to 2°C would also be reduced, particularly in terms of impacts from vector-borne diseases, heatwaves and ozone pollution. The rate of warming to either threshold is also important; the slower the planet warms, the more likely it is for systems to adapt.

It is important to remember we have already warmed by 1°C above pre-industrial conditions. Therefore, limiting global warming to 1.5°C by the end of 2100 will required rapid and unparalleled action.

This includes no reliance on fossil fuels at all in 30 years time, and also negative emissions – that is, removing carbon dioxide that is currently in the atmosphere.

We also need to limit our remaining carbon emissions budget as much as possible to ensure 1.5°C is reached, maintained and not overshot.

This report states that these achievements are not impossible but are certainly unprecedented, and would require current existing technologies to scale up.

Moreover, international cooperation is absolutely imperative to limit emissions and therefore global warming and its impacts, as well as coordinating effective and widespread adaptation and mitigation.

The next few years will be critical in the evolution of these efforts.

Last updated: 08 Oct 2018 11:06am
Declared conflicts of interest:
None declared.
Dr Sophie Lewis is a Research Fellow and Senior Lecturer at UNSW Canberra

The IPCC’s latest special report assesses the impacts of 1.5°C of global warming above pre-industrial levels.

At the current rate, we are likely to reach this level of warming in the coming decades.

The report determines that there are large differences in extreme weather and climate events associated with 1.5°Cof warming, and higher levels of warming such as 2°C.

These extremes include the risks and severity of drought, heavy rainfall and temperature extremes.

The risks of extremes increases for many regions with higher warming. For many locations, limiting warming to 1.5°C would significantly reduce both the frequency and severity of extremes and their impacts.

The special report also highlights the reduced risks to coral reef ecosystems with limiting global warming to 1.5°C compared to 2°C.  

Overall, limiting global warming has benefits for reducing the severity and frequency of extremes, including in Australia.

Last updated: 08 Oct 2018 11:04am
Declared conflicts of interest:
None declared.
Pep Canadell, CSIRO Research Scientist, and Executive Director of the Global Carbon Project

The IPCC 1.5°C special report is probably the last reminder than there are no insolvable biophysical or technical impediments to meet the lowest temperature targets in the Paris agreement.

The report shows that we can step up to the challenge, but the summary for policymakers missed the mark in showing the urgency to act by focusing on what needs to be achieved by 2040-2050 and 2100, a time frame that doesn’t speak to governments and society in general.

One needs to read the detail in the report and associated literature to understand what goes into the socio-economic scenarios that meet the 1.5°C target: the almost immediate establishment of a global carbon market, carbon pricing across all sectors of the economy, massive energy efficiency gains, significant consumer changes in diets, actions to reduce peak global population, and the immediate and growing deployment of options for the direct removal of CO2 from the atmosphere, including the pervasive need for carbon capture and storage in most cases.

Negative emissions need to be used not as an excuse to defer action now, but as a need that has emerged largely from the slow climate change action over the past two decades.

Importantly, all actions required are win-wins for society and cost less than the excess climate change damage.

Last updated: 08 Oct 2018 11:04am
Declared conflicts of interest:
None declared.
Dr Andrew King is Climate Extremes Research Fellow at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science, University of Melbourne.

The IPCC has delivered its special report on 1.5°C and it makes for worrying reading. The window on keeping global warming below 1.5°C is closing rapidly and the current emissions pledges made by signatories to the Paris Agreement do not add up to us achieving that goal.

This is concerning because we know there are so many more problems if we exceed 1.5°C global warming, including more heatwaves and hot summers, greater sea level rise, and, for many parts of the world, worse droughts and rainfall extremes.

Our analysis for Australia shows that, at 2°C global warming, we'll have hot summers, like we saw in 2013/14 (dubbed 'The Angry Summer'), and extreme marine heat, similar to the 2016 event associated with the worst mass coral bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef, occurring in most years.

These are events that are extreme in today's climate but would be cooler than normal if we reach 2°C of global warming.

There would be large and perceptible benefits to Australia and the rest of the world if global warming is kept to the 1.5°C Paris limit, but stronger action to curb greenhouse gas emissions is required if that is to be achieved.

Last updated: 08 Oct 2018 11:03am
Declared conflicts of interest:
None declared.
Professor David Karoly is Leader of the Earth Systems and Climate Change Hub at the National Environmental Science Program, CSIRO

This IPCC Special Report is the first comprehensive assessment of climate change science, impacts, adaptation and mitigation since the IPCC Fifth Assessment was completed in 2014. It was specifically requested by the United Nations following the Paris Conference of the UNFCCC in December 2015 to assess the benefits and costs and possible pathways to limiting global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.
Key conclusions of the report include:

  • Human activities have already caused global warming of about 1.0°C above pre-industrial levels
  • Global warming is likely to reach 1.5°C between 2030 and 2052 if warming continues at the current rate
  • Climate change-related impacts on natural systems and human systems are greater for 1.5°C of global warming than at present, even higher for 2.0°C and higher again for the projected warming, even if all current commitments under the 2015 Paris Agreement are met by all countries
  • Pathways limiting global warming to 1.5°C with limited overshoot require about 45 per cent reductions of global net human-related greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 relative to 2010 levels, require rapid and deep emission reductions in all sectors, and require large carbon dioxide removal from the atmosphere.  

Of specific relevance to Australia, the Report concludes that there are robust increases in climate change-related risks including increases in hot extremes in most inhabited regions, increases in heavy rainfall in many regions and increases in the probability of drought in regions such as southern Australia. 
It also concludes that “countries in the Southern Hemisphere subtropics” (like Australia) “are projected to experience the largest impacts on economic growth due to climate change should global warming increase”.
The Report identifies a number of key reasons for concern, including for unique and threatened species. In particular, warm water corals, such as in the Great Barrier Reef, have been assessed to be at severe and widespread risk even for global warming of 1.5°C and associated ocean acidification.
In order to meet the objectives of the Paris Agreement of limiting global warming to well below two degrees, all countries need to strengthen their commitments for emissions reductions and increase their efforts for carbon dioxide removals from the atmosphere.

Last updated: 08 Oct 2018 10:58am
Declared conflicts of interest:
None declared.
Will Steffen is a Councillor at the Climate Council of Australia

The IPCC special report clearly shows the huge cost we've already paid for past inaction on climate change.

Even with a generous carbon budget, meeting the Paris 1.5°C target will require very rapid and deep reductions in greenhouse gas emissions across all sectors, in turn requiring a fundamental transformation of our economic and technological systems.

Business-as-usual, or minor modifications of it, will be totally inadequate to meet this challenge.

And even if we do manage to cap temperature rise to 1.5°C, we will lose 70-90 per cent of remaining coral reefs, thus eliminating the Great Barrier Reef as we know it.

We are indeed suffering a very heavy cost for past decades of inaction on climate change.

Last updated: 08 Oct 2018 10:56am
Declared conflicts of interest:
None declared.

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