Can we still limit global warming to 1.5 °C by 2100?

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Fig. 1: Annual global temperatures from 1850 to 2017 shown in warming stripes. The color scale represents the change in global temperatures covering 1.35°C. Source:
And, do we rely too much on so-called ‘silver bullet’-solutions in the known scenarios? These are two of the central questions of a recent publication by Waszawski et al. published in Environmental Research Letters. Among the coauthors are Earth League Fellows Tim Lenton, Daniela Jacob, Nebojsa Nakicenovic, Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, and Kazuhiko Takeuchi, as well as Earth League co-chairs Peter Schlosser and Johan Rockström. The study that is based on the results of the 2019 Annual Earth League Workshop (“Towards a 1.5 °C world: Challenges and Solutions”) investigated 50 of the SR1.5 scenarios (the currently known scenarios with which global warming can be limited to 1.5°C with low or no overshoot) of the IPCC with regard to their feasibility and limits. Available technologies and other options to reduce CO2 (‘levers’) were investigated for their feasibility by determining within which boundaries they could be used at a ‘reasonable’ (most desirable), ‘challenging’ or ‘speculative’ level when they would be deployed at such a large scale as implied by the scenarios. None of the scenarios were able to limit global warming to 1.5 °C as stated in the Paris Agreement when all levers were only used within ‘reasonable’ boundaries. When at least one of the five levers was allowed to be used within ‘challenging’ boundaries, less than half of the scenarios were able to limit global warming. Additionally, most of the scenarios used geological CO2 storage methods beyond what is currently acknowledged to be feasible (‘silver bullet’-solution). Continue reading

Nobel Prize Summit ‘Our Planet, Our Future’: Registration Now Open

From Al Gore and Xiye Bastida to the Dalai Lama and Jennifer Doudna – these and many more renowned leaders will take part in the first Nobel Prize Summit, “Our Planet, Our Future”. The Summit will bring together Nobel Prize laureates and other committed minds in the sciences, policy, business, the youth movement, and the arts to explore actions that can be achieved this decade to put the world on a path to a more sustainable, more prosperous future for all. Registration is now open for the April 26-28 virtual summit, which is free and open to the public.

“In our Anthropocene Epoch, humankind has become the single most important force acting on the planet, and our own encroachments on nature are the underlying cause for today’s global crises,” said Johan Rockström, director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK). “But we are at the dawn of what could be a transformative decade, and it is not too late to overcome these challenges and create a new vision for our common journey on Earth.”

The virtual summit will draw upon lessons learned in the global response to the COVID-19 pandemic to mobilize action on:

  • fighting climate change and biodiversity loss
  • reducing inequality
  • advancing technologies with the power to transform the way we live and work Join the conversation at #NobelPrizeSummit.

The virtual summit will take place April 26-28. Registration is free, but space is limited. Click here for more information or to register.

The Earth League, UNFCCC launch 10 New Insights of Climate Science

Unaccounted emissions from permafrost, threats to the land sink, impacts on mental health and freshwater, COVID-19 outcomes, and rights-based litigation to address climate change. These are some of the most recent findings in climate change science summarized in the 10 New Insights in Climate Science 2020. This interdisciplinary report was launched in a virtual event featuring Patricia Espinosa, the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), held on 27 January 2021 at 16:00 GMT. It accompanies a paper simultaneously released in the journal Global Sustainability. The project was made possible through a partnership with Future Earth and the World Climate Research Programme. Access the full report and other materials here, including this infographic.

Media Resources

New Year Brings News About Our Fellows

Dr. Peng Gong began as Vice President for Academic Development of the University of Hong Kong, in January 2021, formerly Chair of the Department of Earth System Science at Tsinghua University. Read more in the HKU Press Release.

Dr. Pavel Kabat will become the next Secretary-General of The International Human Frontier Science Program Organization (HFSPO), based in Strasbourg, France. Professor Kabat will transition from his position as Chief Scientist and Research Director of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) of the United Nations, in Geneva. Read the HFSPO Press Release.

Professor Ottmar Edenhofer will now advise the Vatican’s “Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development.” The Director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) and Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change (MCC) was appointed by Pope Francis, who created the institution just a few years ago. Read this announcement from PIK.

Foreign Policy Virtual Dialogues in partnership with ASU’s Global Futures Laboratory

Global Lessons for a More Resilient Future: The Surprising Links Between the Coronavirus, Climate Change, and Inclusive Governance

This panel from June 30, 2020 included Earth League co-chairs Peter Schlosser and Johan Rockstrom who presented a diverse range of perspectives and fascinating insights on the urgent challenges we face — and key steps to address them:

  • The hope that we have to have now is that the investments that are being made on a massive scale [to combat COVID-19] will be used to drive a reemergence from that shock that is better than the starting point. From that perspective, there is a chance for us to pivot in a fairly short period of time. The key question is, will people make the right choices? -Peter Schlosser
  • Human pressures on the planet are rising to a point where we no longer can exclude crossing irreversible tipping points, like triggering collapse of forests, uncontrolled permafrost thawing and accelerated ice melt. The COVID19 pandemic is but a manifestation of this new reality. Building a resilient future to reduce risks of catastrophic shocks in the future requires that we take a systems approach of prosperity and equity within the safe operating space of a stable Earth. Science is today able to provide the targets for this space, to guide our ability to navigate the future. -Johan Rockström

Empowering Leaders for a Global Future: Transforming education to meet 21st century challenges & opportunities

This panel from Dec. 10, 2020 was a thought-provoking conversation about re-imagining education to harness today’s resources and meet tomorrow’s challenges, including EL’s Peter Schlosser:

  • “In the future, we’ll have a different way of looking at education in a globally connected context, because we do need to understand how the world works as a whole, where we have different cultures leading to different knowledge systems, how we have to combine these knowledge systems …so that we get the right outlook for understanding how we got to where we are, where we made choices that were not good for the planet, and how we can make better choices in the future.”

The Earth League is grieving for Mario Molina

The members of the Earth League are grieving for Professor Mario Molina, who unexpectedly passed away on 7 October 2020 at the age of 77. Professor Molina, Nobel Laureate in Chemistry and member of the Earth League since its inception, was one of the greatest intellectuals of our time. As an outstanding scientist, he made seminal contributions to the field of atmospheric sciences. Yet his influence expanded well beyond his pioneering work targeted at understanding the critical elements and processes of the Earth System: Throughout his life and career, Mario was an outstanding humanist seeking to improve the social conditions – especially of the weakest and of those whose voices are frequently not heard. The “Centro Mario Molina” in Mexico City, which he founded in 2004, has become an international role model for transdisciplinary work in the spirit of sustainable development.

His inspiration as a researcher, activist, personality, and friend will be greatly missed – by us and by many people across the globe. Learn more about Dr. Molina’s impact on the world with this obituary from the New York Times and this retrospective in Science.

10 New Insights on Climate Science 2019 UNFCCC Press event at the COP25 in Madrid, December 6

The 10 New Insights in Climate Science 2019 (full report) intends to take up the latest and most essential scientific findings published in an extraordinary year – the climate science year in review. United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference’s Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa officially received “10 New Insights in Climate Science” as it is launched in Madrid, Spain. The document was jointly produced by Future Earth and the Earth League.

Earth League postdocs published in PNAS

Climate change can be limited if a rapid and deep decarbonization is achieved. Technological innovation allone will not ensure this crucial transformation; the social dimension needs to be considered with the same emphasis. Ilona Otto, Jonathan Donges, Roger Cremades and Avit Bhowmik investigated how social tipping elements and mechanisms could contribute to the realization of the targets of the Paris Agreement.

Leena Srivastava new Deputy Director General for Science at IIASA

Earth League member Leena Srivastava assumed her new role as Deputy Director General for Science at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA). Before, she was a Vice Chancellor at the TERI School of Advanced Studies, New Delhi, since 2012. The new member of IIASA’s leading team will ensure the excellence in research at this highly interdisciplinary institute also for the future.