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September 2021

Climate change is becoming more and more directly noticeable in our everyday life, especially in the form of extreme weather events such as the heat waves of last summer or the heavy rain events in the Eifel this year. The latest report by the independent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) shows that such events will be the rule rather than the exception in the future. It is currently assumed that the global temperature rise can, in the best case, be limited to 1.5 degrees Celsius. An increase of 2.0 degrees Celsius is often considered a worst-case scenario. But how realistic is that anyway? And what happens if we also exceed 2 degrees Celsius? A new publication by scientists from the iFZ and the University of Cambridge (UK) shows that there is a research gap here and that more drastic scenarios of global warming receive too little attention in science.

Dr. Florian Jehn demonstrates the size of the temperature range that is considered in the various IPCC scenarios (Photo: F. Jehn)

“The current scientific discourse on climate change focuses on the temperature range that we would like to achieve. We were able to show this by systematically evaluating the reports from the IPCC using text analysis ”, says the lead scientist of the study, Dr. Florian Jehn (JLU/iFZ Landscape, Water and Biogeochemical Cycles Group). “It turned out that almost all the scenarios examined assume a warming of plus 1.5 degrees Celsius to plus 2 degrees Celsius. There is little research for temperature ranges above this. However, current projections show that a warming of the earth by 3 degrees Celsius is quite likely. ”There are also scenarios that even predict a warming of 4 or 5 degrees Celsius or even more. That is why it is important to deal with extreme climate scenarios in research in order to be prepared for the future.

Florian U Jehn, Marie Schneider, Jason R Wang, Luke Kemp and Lutz Breuer: Betting on the best case: higher end warming is underrepresented in research. Environ. Res. Lett. 16 (2021) 084036, DOI: 10.1088/1748-9326/ac13ef

For more information:
Dr. Florian Jehn, Prof. Dr. Lutz Breuer, Landscape, Water and Biogeochemical Cycles