The newly appointed head of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Jim Skea, spoke to two major German news outlets over the weekend, soon after his appointment to the role.
Speaking to weekly magazine Der Spiegel, in an interview first published on Saturday, Skea warned against laying too much value on the international community’s current nominal target of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius compared the pre-industrial era.
“We should not despair and fall into a state of shock” if global temperatures were to increase by this amount, he said.
In a separate discussion with German news agency DPA, Skea expanded on why.
“If you constantly communicate the message that we are all doomed to extinction, then that paralyzes people and prevents them from taking the necessary steps to get a grip on climate change,” he said.
“The world won’t end if it warms by more than 1.5 degrees,” Skea told Der Spiegel. “It will however be a more dangerous world.”
Surpassing that mark would lead to many problems and social tensions, he said, but still that would not constitute an existential threat to humanity.
The international community’s stated target is currently to limit global warming to the 1.5 degrees Celsius target, even though UN estimates suggest that the current commitments made by countries are actually likely to fall far short of their nominal goal.
The UN estimates that within roughly a decade, the target is liable to be breached.
What else did Skea say?
James “Jim” Skea is a physics graduate born in Dundee in Scotland who did his doctoral thesis in energy research and has worked at Imperial College London since 2009.
The 69-year-old, who has been involved with the IPCC since its foundation in the 1990s, was named its new chairman on Wednesday.
He told Der Spiegel that there remained good reasons to be optimistic in the battle against climate change.
“Every measure we take to weaken climate change helps,” he said, adding that measures were also becoming “ever more cost-effective.”
Skea said that one short-term focus should remain expanding renewable electricity to reduce emissions from fossil fuel electricity generation and from internal combustion engine vehicles.