How would just one degree of temperature rise affect our planet?
Although it may seem insignificant, it would have wide-ranging repercussions and affect critical aspects of our environment. Here we’ll explain how rising temperatures are having an impact on our planet’s ecosystems, people, and stability, and we’ll tell you how you can make a contribution to reducing the consequences of climate change.
Climate change is an undeniable reality, and one that is transforming our planet with unprecedented speed. One of the most worrying scenarios involves rising global temperatures during the upcoming years, primarily due to the effects of greenhouse gases. These effects are being increased by combustion of hydrocarbons and other materials that came into widespread use during the process of industrialization.
So how can we minimize the effects of these greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere? What measures can we take? And most importantly, how can we put those measures into action?
To answer these questions, a good place to start is with the Paris Agreement, which was signed in 2015. Its aim is to limit global warming to significantly less than 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial temperatures, and preferably to less than 1.5 degrees. This was the first agreement signed by 196 parties that have come together in pursuit of a common goal, by committing to ambitious efforts to fight climate change.
A temperature rise of just one degree Celsius may not seem very significant at first, but it has wide-ranging repercussions, with an impact on critical aspects of our ecosystem.
In this article, we will learn about the consequences of this temperature rise for some crucial aspects of our environment such as sea level, ice in the Arctic region, extreme heat waves, ecosystems, and agriculture.
Rising sea levels
A global temperature increase of just one degree Celsius would have a direct impact on sea levels, and it has been estimated that it would cause those levels to rise by 10 to 20 centimeters by the end of this century. The resulting loss of cultivated land and coastal ecosystems would have devastating consequences for entire communities. In order to confront this challenge, adaptation is essential, along with implementation of mitigation measures.
Rising sea levels would lead to mass migration of coastal populations and would threaten the integrity of critical infrastructure.
Loss of Arctic ice
The Arctic is one of the regions that is most sensitive to climate change. However, the impact of accelerated melting of ice in the Arctic would not just affect sea levels. It would also have other effects in relation to loss of the polar ice cap, which would in turn affect regulation of the climate, global ocean currents, species such as the polar bear, and human communities that rely upon Arctic ecosystems.
Ice in the polar regions also plays a fundamental role in regulating temperatures, because of its ability to reflect a high percentage of the solar radiation that reaches our planet. What happens when that ice has less surface area? It can only reflect a much lower amount of solar radiation, absorbing more of it instead and causing a generalized increase in the planet’s temperature.
Extreme heat waves
A temperature rise of just one degree Celsius would also intensify extreme heat waves, which would become more frequent and last longer. This would in turn increase the risk of heat-related illnesses, which especially affect members of the most vulnerable populations.
In terms of ecosystems, forests for example would face an additional risk in the form of more intense and frequent wildfires, which would drastically alter the composition and structure of terrestrial ecosystems.
Impact on agriculture and food security
Changes to the existing rainfall and temperature patterns would alter our ability to use certain areas for growing particular crop plants, bringing with it the need to make significant adaptations to our agricultural practices. In addition, extreme climate phenomena, such as droughts and floods, would occur more frequently. All of this would have a negative impact on food production, and as a result, many parts of the world would experience higher levels of food insecurity, caused by a scarcity of certain basic foods.
The time to act is now
It is important not to underestimate the effects of a global temperature rise of just one degree Celsius. Those effects would be profound and widespread, affecting not only ecosystems, but also the stability of our planet and all of us who live on it.
Fortunately, we can still implement significant measures to mitigate these impacts. For example, some of the actions we can take to limit global warming, and therefore avoid the consequences of climate change, include an immediate large-scale reduction of greenhouse gases, transitioning towards renewable energy sources, adopting sustainable agricultural practices, and protecting critical ecosystems.
At MAPFRE, we believe that decarbonization of the economy is not just essential for our planet, but also for everyone who depends upon the current model. This is why we have also made a commitment to advising and assisting our customers in their efforts to make progress towards more environmentally sustainable activities.
We have ambitious commitments, such as those for reducing our operational footprint by 50% for 2030, and for achieving carbon neutrality in our main countries for 2024, and in all countries for 2030. For this purpose, we have an Environmental Footprint Plan that is focused on reducing our energy consumption, purchasing energy from renewable sources, offering remote work options for our employees, increasing the number of eco-friendly vehicles in our fleets, reducing the need for business travel, and decreasing our paper and water consumption.
We have also implemented two other significant approaches that involve our underwriting and investment practices. Specifically, we have made a public commitment to refrain from insuring or investing in any companies in the coal, natural gas, or petroleum industries, unless they are implementing an energy transition plan that allows global warming to be limited to a level of approximately 1.5 degrees Celsius.