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Behind the numbers: Just a few degrees warmer?

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SocietyBehind the Numbers

1, 5 or 2 degrees? The difference is small; the consequences catastrophic. At COP21, the representatives from small island states, emergent economies and developing countries in the equatorial zones are sounding the alarm. If the Earth warms by 2 degrees in the next 85 years, they will have to be more than a bit worried about the future left for their children and grandchildren.

Vanuatu, Tuvalu, and the Marshall Islands. The images of these Pacific archipelagos adorn the catalogues of travel agencies across the globe, with their gold sandy beaches and their wild countryside. It makes you want to travel their immediately. And yet climate change menaces these paradise destinations. In the following decades, rising sea levels could erase certain areas of these archipelagos from the map. It is time to act.

Since 1850, the Earth has warmed 0.9 degrees. When the Copenhagen climate conference took place in 2009, it was established by the international community that this increase in temperature must be limited to 2 degrees maximum by 2100. According to scientific prognoses, a global increase of 2 degrees in average temperatures could have catastrophic repercussions on the climate. This is what small island states firmly oppose, along with emergent economies and countries in development in the equatorial zones. Angola in particular – a hot enough country in anyone’s book – is pleading for a limit of 1.5 degrees.

The negotiations in Paris last until the 12th of December. Since it began, Germany has become the first industrialised country to declare itself in favour of the 1.5 degree objective, rather than retaining the 2 degrees Copenhagen target in the expected climate agreement. However, to attain this, all countries must join forces. Even those who prosper thanks to the fossil fuel economy. Is there hope for this after COP21?


This article is part of our Behind the Numbers series, illustrating newsworthy stats with artistic design and a brief analysis.

Translated from Zahltag: Die Erwärmung der Erde