Why is the 1.5°C objective so important for Italy?

2015 has been a very important year in regards to the fight against climate change, a sort of year zero. In November of this year, indeed, the United Nations Climate Change Conference, known also as COP21 or Conference of the Parties, was held in Paris and during this conference the Paris Agreement was negotiated. The aim of this agreement is to limit global warming in order to avoid the dangerous and irreversible consequences that an exaggerate increase in the temperature of the planet would bring to both environment and humanity. The practical goal that has been fixed by governments is to keep the global temperature rise below 2 Celsius degrees (°C) with respect to the pre-industrial levels, possibly staying below 1.5°C, because this would allow to reduce significantly most of the risks and impacts due to climate change.

But why is this agreement so important? Why should we limit temperature rise to 1.5°C? The answer is given to us by science. First of all, it is important to remember that the temperature rise of our planet is not a physiological increase, but instead is caused by human activity, in particular by excessive emissions of gases such as  which produce the so-called greenhouse effect. This increase in global temperature is not without consequences: the scientific community warns us that, if this threshold were surpassed, several undesirable and irreversible changes would occur to our planet, causing important and harmful repercussions on ecosystems’ equilibrium, on our economies and generally on our lives. This is the main reason why we should speed the transition towards a zero-emissions economy, as well as the change of our lifestyles and, more widely, of our relationship with the environment. Every country should engage to boost such a change as fast as it can, because if we fail this time, we will not have the chance to remedy. Indeed, sadly, most of these consequences are irreversible and we all will be affected by them: in such an interdependent and globalized world it is simply impossible to think that problems in a country will not affect the other countries. Foodstuffs’ crisis, for instance, easily spreads over borders and could cause migrations and instability at a global level.

Italy, however, has several other specific reasons to be worried about the achievement of the 1.5°C objective. Indeed Italy and the others Mediterranean countries are among the most exposed to global warming related risks, WWF’s word. As reported in one of its studies, the temperature rise – that in Mediterranean areas has begun to show itself early – involves an increase in deaths due to cardiovascular diseases, especially among old people (which represent a large and increasing share in Italy’s population). Together with temperatures, also ozone and pollutant levels increase, as well pollens, dusts and allergens, thus increasing a larger incidence of respiratory diseases and asthma. Nevertheless, the health-related problems are just the beginning of the list of undesirable consequences deriving from the temperature rise: the number of fires will grow, while part of the Alpine grazing will disappear together with some mountain herbage species. According to forecasts, the total quantity of rainfall in Italy will decrease, involving a lowering in the level of aquatic groundwater – thus striking the agricultural sector, definitely an important sector for Italians – and desertification in some zones of the southern part of the country. Rainfall, as well as reduced in quantity, will be shorter in terms of time but more intense, thus increasing hydro-geological risk. As if it were not enough, there is the problem of the increasing sea level, that threatens part of the Italian coast. According to a study conducted by the Columbia University of New York, indeed, Italy could lose, within the end of the century, the 8% of its coast, an area equal to 8500 square kilometres. Among the zones at risk of flood there is also Venice, one of the world’s most beautiful cities, symbol of the elegance and of the magic of Italian landscape.

Therefore, Italy should be strongly committed in a change towards a more planet-respectful – and eventually self-respectful – society. Analyzing the consequences we would be forced to deal with, but also considering the moral duty to leave a liveable planet for future generations, one hope arises within us. The hope that, from today and forever, Italy will be one of the leaders in contrasting climate change, starting right now helping to keep the temperature rise below 1.5°C.

Federico Pinato

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