As world leaders gather at COP28, the annual climate change negotiations held in Dubai this year, one number will be front and center: 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit). That’s the amount countries have agreed to limit warming to by the end of the century.
Currently, the world is on track for just under 3 degrees Celsius of warming (more than 5 degrees Fahrenheit) by the end of the century. While a few degrees of difference may seem small, climate research shows that every tenth of a degree can have a profound effect when it comes to the dangers posed by extreme weather.
“We’re not destined for some catastrophic climate,” says Deepti Singh, who is an assistant professor at Washington State University. “We know that we can have a future that is more equitable and less volatile if we limit the warming through our actions today.”
1. At 1.5 degrees of warming worldwide, the U.S. will heat up even faster
When scientists use numbers like 1.5 degrees Celsius to measure climate change, it represents an average of all the annual temperatures worldwide. That average masks the fact that some parts of the planet are heating up faster than others.
“The U.S. has already warmed at a rate that’s higher than the global average,” says Singh. “We’re warming at a rate that’s 60% higher than that.”
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