What will happen to us if we don't meet the 1.5-degree target of the Paris climate agreement?

In the Paris Climate Agreement of 2015, we humans agreed as a global community to limit global warming to a maximum of 1.5 degrees. What does that mean and what happens if we heat up our planet by more than 1.5 degrees?

Why are all the trees dying in the Harz Mountains in the middle of Germany?

Anyone who goes hiking in the Harz Mountains is shocked to discover that all the spruce forests are dying. 20,000 hectares of spruce forest have died in the Harz district - most of the trees in the Harz National Park, which straddles the states of Lower Saxony and Saxony-Anhalt. 4 out of 5 trees are already dead. One of the main causes of the massive forest dieback in the Harz: climate change. Heat waves and water shortages are increasingly causing problems for the forests. The climate crisis is moving closer to our doorstep.

klimakrise und baumsterben im harz
One of the main reasons why the spruces in the Harz Mountains are dying: the climate crisisImage: imago images/Christian Grube.

Why do we have a global warming or climate crisis today?

We have been burning fossil fuels such as coal and oil for decades. This is how we generate electricity. At the same time, we are cutting down huge areas of forest around the world. As a result, we are emitting gigantic amounts of carbon dioxide CO2. This has been proven beyond doubt by science. This CO2 heats up our atmosphere. This is what we call the greenhouse effect. How the greenhouse effect works, you can read here. This greenhouse effect is now causing our temperature on earth to rise sharply. The climate crisis has a big impact on us humans. Heat waves, droughts and floods are just a few extreme weather events that are coming our way.

What will happen to us humans if we heat up our earth by more than 1.5 degrees?

Scientists have developed various scenarios that describe what will happen if we exceed the 1.5 degree target. In the following graphic, you can take a closer look at these scenarios.

1.5 Degree Target not reached
This is what happens to us humans when we exceed the 1.5 degree targetImage: Gregor Aisch.
  1. Our Earth is warming by 1.5 degrees
    This is a scenario that could occur as early as 2026 if we continue to emit as much CO2 as we do now. Extreme weather events will then increase. Our harvests will then be poorer. This increases the risk of food shortages.

  2. Our earth is warming up by 2 degrees
    With 2 degrees of global warming, we are increasingly plagued by heat waves. At the same time, we will have to live with many regions being flooded more frequently.

  3. Our Earth is warming by 3 degrees
    That is the scenario we are likely to face if we do not reduce our CO2 emissions now. At 3 degrees global warming, we set in motion an uncontrollable climate spiral, the consequences of which are difficult to assess. Famines are likely for billions of people. This increases the risk of wars.

  4. Our Earth is warming by 4 degrees
    If we emit even more CO2 than we do now, we will reach a global warming of 4 degrees Celsius. Most ecosystems will collapse. There will be severe heat waves in summer. Many cities are flooded.

  5. Our earth warms up around 5 degrees
    If we reach 5 degrees of global warming, we have a greenhouse earth. The largest part of our planet becomes uninhabitable. The total number of all earth inhabitants:inside could fall on 1 billion humans.

Will you live to see global warming of more than 1.5 degrees?

Perhaps you are wondering whether you will live to see the climate crisis. The following graphic tries to answer this question vividly.

climate crisis 1.5 degree target
How many more degrees of global warming will you see?Image: taz.

What can we do now to still stop global warming at 1.5 degrees?

We must quickly reduce our CO2 emissions. To do this, we as citizens must succeed in convincing industry to dare to do more to protect the climate. At ForTomorrow, we therefore buy and cancel CO2 rights from the industry. Coal power plants, for example, will then be legally obliged to reduce their CO2 emissions immediately. We also plant sustainable, climate-resilient mixed forests in Germany. Here you can learn more about how you can save the climate in Europe with ForTomorrow.