Climate change and its impacts have been a popular topic for the last decade. What was once labeled “global warming” and is now known as “climate change” poses a danger to the earth and all the humans who inhabit it. Climate change scientists continually warn that if action is not taken now, global climate will increase by 1.5° C, negatively impacting the environment (Buis, 2019). The threat of the dangers associated with the worldwide temperature rising by 1.5° C looms over humanity, but what exactly will this entail? This article will explain the future outcomes of the impact that a 1.5° C climate increase would have and what can be done to try to stop this disastrous issue from occurring.
Multiple nations have championed the notion of the 1.5° C and are in international agreements. This idea was adopted on a partial global scale in 2008 by the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS). It understood the implications of the damage that a 2° C would do to the islands and then vowed to keep it under 1.5° C (Webster, 2015). This proposed limit was put forth by Tuvalu in Copenhagen in 2009 with support from AOSIS and some African countries (Webster, 2015). Despite some pushback from more prominent contributors to the rising climate like China and India, a 2° C limit became the central goal for countries by the Copenhagen Accord. However, countries are encouraged to keep it below 1.5° C (Webster, 2015). This 1.5° C limit was pushed by the Paris Agreement, with 197 parties agreeing to do their part in ensuring that the global climate does not increase (Denchak, 2021).
However, it seems like many countries are not doing their part to maintain the limit. More prominent countries like China, the United States, Canada, and others appear to be lackluster with their progress (Wallach, 2021). Even though some have vowed to be carbon neutral by 2050, it seems like they still need to mean it (Wallach, 2021). This could be because they are not seeing the direct impacts of climate change. Whereas smaller islands are consciously aware of the threat that a rising climate will have on every aspect of their economy, environment, and overall quality of life for all residents, bigger countries like the United States and Canada can choose to be oblivious to the impacts of climate change (United Nations Caribbean, 2022).
But what would happen if the world gets 1.5° C warmer? Or if the earth continued past the threshold and the temperature increased 3°C or more?
Impact on Canada
Due to Canada’s varying climates and landscapes, the impact of a warmer climate can differ. An increase in the temperature could lead to an increase in the severity and quantity of wildfires in Canada, similar to the wildfire that just happened in Calgary (Beauchemin, 2023). The melting of glaciers would directly impact the territories (Northwest Territories, Nunavut, and Yukon). The warming climate will lead to the ice caps melting, which makes the permafrost warm and thaw, leading to ground instability; rising sea levels, which will increase flooding and damage the coastline; and affect the groundwater levels, decreasing the amount of freshwater that can be consumed (Natural Resources Canada, 2019). Other than the North and Prairie Provinces, other parts of Canada can expect to experience extreme weather events like harsher winters, worse summers, heat pollution, and inconsistent precipitation (Natural Resources Canada, 2023). Canadians can also expect to struggle to find products both produced locally and from out of the country. Climate change will also lead to a change in the taste of fruits, vegetables, and even some meats (Casey, 2015).
Impact on Animals
The change in climate will be disastrous for biodiversity. As already visible in the fading of the coral reef in Australia, an increased temperature will lead to outbreaks of infectious diseases, mass coral bleaching, a reduction in reef-building and reef-associated organisms, and the potential eradication of the coral reef (NOAA, 2023). The warming climate will create more wildfires, which endanger animals living in wildfire risk areas by damaging their habitats, and food sources and causing breathing problems and burns for the animals (IFAW, 2021). Melting ice caps will threaten the lives of arctic animals like polar bears, walruses, and seals as their landscape and food sources are threatened (Marine Mammal Commission, 2022).
Impact on Humans
For humans, an increased temperature will have a direct impact. One of the most obvious effects will be hotter temperatures all year round, negatively affecting the temperatures and seasons we have become accustomed to. This will also impact infrastructure and buildings in many places; for example, in England, older buildings were constructed to conserve heat, and air conditioning is rare (Barry, 2022). The increased heat will alter pavement, softening and weakening the roads, contributing to more vehicular and biker accidents (Barrow et al., 2021). Increased heat also influences public transportation as a whole, with trains and buses being unable to operate (Tota-Maharaj, 2022). The health of humans will also be affected. More heat-related illnesses and casualties will stem from heat stroke and dehydration. Fruits and vegetables that people rely on for nutritious vitamins and minerals like vitamin C and magnesium will become scarce as the ecosystems needed for these fruits and vegetables to grow struggle to survive (Owens, 2021).
What Can Be Done?
So what can be done to stop the world from hitting the 1.5° C increase? In a previous article, I mentioned ways individuals could have an impact, like buying more sustainable products, using less electricity whenever possible, composting, and other methods. People can also protest and boycott companies responsible for high carbon emissions. Voting for politicians who vow to fight climate change is another way people can have an impact.
Barrow, E., Bleau, N., Booker, J., Livingston, T., Matthews, L., O’Sullivan, S., Patt, A., & Tyler, K. (2021, July 7). Pavement and extreme temperatures in the City of Toronto. Climate Data Canada. https://climatedata.ca/case-study/pavement-and-extreme-temperatures-in-the-city-of-toronto/
Barry, E. (2022, July 20). Air-conditioning is rare in the U.k. could heat waves change that? Time. https://time.com/6199029/air-conditioning-uk-heat-waves/
Beauchemin, A. (2023, May 17). What does a 1.5 C increase in global temperatures mean for Canada? CBC News. https://www.cbc.ca/news/science/wmo-report-1-5-degrees-what-about-canada-1.6847161
Buis, A. (2019, June 19). A degree of concern: Why global temperatures matter. Climate Change: Vital Signs of the Planet. https://climate.nasa.gov/news/2865/a-degree-of-concern-why-global-temperatures-matter/
Casey, M. (2015, March 26). Climate change could make your food taste worse. CBS News. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/climate-change-less-tasty-food-fewer-choices/
Denchak, M. (2021, February 19). Paris climate agreement: Everything you need to know. Nrdc.org. https://www.nrdc.org/stories/paris-climate-agreement-everything-you-need-know
IFAW. (2021, October 7). How wildfires impact wildlife. IFAW. https://www.ifaw.org/journal/wildfires-impact-wildlife
Marine Mammal Commission. (2022). Climate change and the Arctic. Marine Mammal Commission. https://www.mmc.gov/priority-topics/arctic/climate-change/
Natural Resources Canada. (2019, April 1). Melting glaciers, rising sea levels, thawing permafrost and unpredictable groundwater levels: The unsettling effects of climate change. Canada.Ca. https://natural-resources.canada.ca/simply-science/melting-glaciers-rising-sea-levels-thawing-permafrost-and-unpredictable-groundwater-l/21842
Natural Resources Canada. (2023, May 17). Climate change adaptation in Canada. Canada.Ca. https://natural-resources.canada.ca/climate-change/what-adaptation/10025
NOAA. (2023). How does climate change affect coral reefs? https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/coralreef-climate.html
Owens, C. (2021, October 20). How changing climates are affecting global fruit production. Food Manufacturing. https://www.foodmanufacturing.com/supply-chain/news/21784437/how-changing-climates-are-affecting-global-fruit-production
Tota-Maharaj, K. (2022, July 20). The U.K.’s infrastructure wasn’t designed for this brutal heat. Here’s where it’s most likely to fail. Fastcompany.com. https://www.fastcompany.com/90770619/the-uks-infrastructure-wasnt-designed-for-this-brutal-heat-heres-where-its-most-likely-to-fail
United Nations Caribbean. (2022). Small islands are increasingly affected by climate change: IPCC report. United Nations in the Caribbean. https://caribbean.un.org/en/173533-small-islands-are-increasingly-affected-climate-change-ipcc-report
Wallach, O. (2021, June 8). Race to net zero: Carbon neutral goals by country. Visual Capitalist. https://www.visualcapitalist.com/sp/race-to-net-zero-carbon-neutral-goals-by-country/
Webster, R. (2015, October 12). A brief history of the 1.5C target. Climatechangenews.com. https://www.climatechangenews.com/2015/12/10/a-brief-history-of-the-1-5c-target/
- Impact of a 1.5° C Increase - May 26, 2023
- Food Preservation - May 19, 2023
- Individual Impact on Climate Change - May 12, 2023