The Two Degree Limit

by Andy May, July 19, 2022 in WUWT

For decades We have been told that we must not let global warming exceed two degrees Celsius above the “pre-industrial” global average temperature. Recently the IPCC lowered this limit to 1.5°C. In the latest IPCC report, called AR6, pre-industrial is defined as before 1750, but they use global temperatures from 1850-1900 as representative of the period because global average surface temperatures are not available for 1750.[1] The U.S., Europe, and much of Asia were industrialized by 1900, so their numbers are clearly not representative of the period of interest, unless temperatures remained constant from 1750 to 1900, which is unlikely.

Why the focus on 2°? In a 2014 comment in Nature, David Victor and Charles Kennel tell us that there is little scientific basis for the 2°C figure, but it was a simple focal point and it “sounded bold and perhaps feasible.” (Victor & Kennel, 2014). Then they admit the goal is “effectively unachievable.”

What is the “pre-industrial?” Did it have an ideal climate that we wish to return to? The year 1750 was in the coldest and most miserable part of the Little Ice Age (LIA). The LIA was the coldest period in the Holocene Epoch, or since the last glacial period ended about 12,000 years ago, at least in much of the Northern Hemisphere.