“Cooperation between Earth System Models and Integrated Assessment Models as done in CRESCENDO will help us to implement the Paris climate targets. It will provide insights on the efforts needed to implement these targets as well as the benefits”. This statement from Colin Jones, CRESCENDO Project Coordinator, was one of the most important take-home messages from our first policy event hosted by Seb Dance MEP at the European Parliament, on the 28th of February, organized with the invaluable help from colleagues at the White Rose Brussels Office. Seb is a London MEP in the European Parliament and a member of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety. The event was attended by around 40 people, including Members of the European Parliament (MEPs), European Commission officers, international networks, research agencies, business consultancies and a group of European students. The event was chaired by Asher Minns (University of East Anglia), CRESCENDO Science Communication lead and FUTURE EARTH Europe Head of Communications, who from the beginning resolved to make the attendees very much part of a successful briefing and ensured top tips, transparent knowledge and clear messages were delivered to the audience.

The event entitled “Realizing the 2015 Paris Agreement – Pathways to and benefits of limiting global warming to 1.5°C” presented some of the science and policy insights from CRESCENDO’s leading Earth system scientists pertinent to realizing the 2015 Paris Agreement. These insights are now published as a policy leaflet, launched at the event, in seven EU languages (click on the language to download the document in English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish and Swedish).

The 2015 Paris Agreement to limit global warming to well below 2°C compared to pre-industrial temperatures and develop pathways to limit long-term warming to 1.5°C has further focused the science community on the urgent need to better understand and predict the policy and societal outcomes associated with global change. Underpinning both global and regional climate change projections are Earth System Models (ESMs) which offer robust science support for mitigation policy, impact assessment and informed adaption.

Together with Colin Jones (University of Leeds), three researchers talked about different aspects of how CRESCENDO can support policy making to help realize the Paris Agreement. For any temperature target, there is a read off the compatible budget (cumulative total anthropogenic CO2 emissions). Chris D Jones (Met Office Hadley Centre) described how given a total CO2-only quota of 3670 GtCO2 to meet the 2°C target, the remaining budget is 816 GtCO2 for 2°C, or 370 GtCO2 for 1.5°C target (see figure below extracted from Chris’ presentation). However, differences between models lead to uncertainties in remaining carbon budgets. CRESCENDO scientists are combining improved modeling techniques, new observations and novel analysis methodologies to reduce uncertainty in the amount of carbon that humanity can emit in the future while still remaining within the Paris targets.

Detlef van Vuuren (PBL Netherlands) stressed how “even though carbon budgets are very tight, the Paris climate targets are still achievable, but will be much more difficult to realize if suitable policies are not implemented very soon” (see figure below extracted from Detlef’s presentation). He also highlighted how a rapid phase out of unabated fossil fuel emissions combined with large scale deployment of negative carbon emission technologies (such as bio-energy with carbon capture and storage and afforestation) will be required if global warming is to be constrained below 1.5°C. Without large-scale and successful deployment of such negative carbon emissions, even the target of remaining below 2°C will require unprecedented emission reductions over the coming 10-30 years.

Sonia Seneviratne (ETH Zurich) stressed how limiting global warming to 1.5°C compared to 2°C offers major potential benefits across a range of regional impacts. Regional warming of extremes can be much larger than the global temperature warming, for example 50% stronger warming in Mediterranean, and 3x stronger warming in the Arctic (see figure below extracted from Sonia’s presentation). As land temperatures warm more rapidly than ocean temperatures and extreme warm periods warm faster than average temperatures, the risk of significant increases in the occurrence and severity of heat waves and drought across areas such as the Mediterranean region of Southern Europe and North Africa. Extremes that are most likely to display are: (i) Temperature extremes: Very likely (increased occurrence/increased temperature of hot extremes, decreased occurrence/ increased temperature of cold extremes); (ii) Heavy precipitation events:  Likely (more regions will increase); (iii) Drought: Medium confidence (robust changes in the Mediterranean region); (iv) Extreme sea level and coastal impacts: Likely increase; (v) Floods: Low confidence (medium confidence related to heavy precipitation events); and (vi) Tropical cyclones: Low confidence based on observations but likely changes for some aspects of projections (precipitation, winds). Based on recent emissions the Earth is on course to exceed 1.5°C global warming in the next 10-30 years. These extremes will be greatly reduced if global mean warming is limited to 1.5°C instead of 2°C as impacts of greenhouse gas forcing are already observable and a change of 0.5°-1°C global warming can make a difference.

Besides CRESCENDO scientists, the Directorate-General for Research & Innovation (EC DG RTD) and the International Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) were also represented at the meeting. Diogo De Gusmão-Sørensen presented the European policy view on climate science, research and innovation, highlighting the need to advance the science with a firm focus on solutions and the critical role of international collaboration in both the science and policy of global change. Wilfran Moufouma-Okia presented plans for the IPCC Special Report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C, scheduled for publication in 2018, to which CRESCENDO scientists will contribute.

This event is part of the CRESCENDO’s communication strategy designed to ensure knowledge developed in the project is communicated to key stakeholder communities in an engaging and understandable form. European and national policy makers are one of these target stakeholder groups.Presentations from speakers can be downloaded here.

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