Unseen Global Warming: The 1.5°C Threshold Exceeded in 2023

Visual representation of global temperature changes from 1850 to 2022, highlighting the impact of global warming.

Unseen Global Warming: The 1.5°C Threshold Exceeded in 2023

The New Climate Reality

In an alarming development, the year 2023 has marked a significant milestone in the history of climate change, with global temperatures exceeding the 1.5°C warming threshold over a 12-month period for the first time on record. According to the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service, this period has witnessed the highest global temperature average ever recorded, underscoring the rapid acceleration of global warming. [1] [2]

Extreme Weather Events: A Call to Action

In 2023, alongside surpassing the critical 1.5°C global warming threshold, the world grappled with devastating extreme weather events. Europe experienced deadly heatwaves, with a significant toll on human life, emphasizing the urgent need for climate resilience. If 2022, with over 70,000 deaths in Europe alone, is an indication, we can expect even more shocking numbers. These events serve as a stark reminder of the immediate effects of climate change, urging for rapid adaptation and mitigation efforts. The building industry, by adopting sustainable practices like the Passivhaus standard, plays a crucial role in reducing CO2 emissions and enhancing adaptability to such extreme conditions. [3] [4]



In 2022, a study by the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal) reported an estimated 70,066 heat-related deaths in Europe, indicating a significant rise from previous estimates. This research, which utilized data across 147 European regions, highlighted the challenges in accurately assessing heat-related mortality due to the use of aggregated data. [8]



A brave firefighter combating a forest fire, symbolizing the fight against climate change and its impacts.

The Role of the Building Industry

The International Energy Agency (IEA) and the World Green Building Council (WorldGBC) highlight the significant role of the building industry in contributing to global CO2 emissions, accounting for about 39%. Operational emissions from energy used in buildings for heating, cooling, and lighting constitute 28% of this figure, while the remaining 11% is attributed to embodied carbon from materials and construction processes. This reliance on energy-intensive materials and methods underscores the industry’s importance as a critical area for climate action. [5] [6]

Without the building industry shifting to a CO2 neutral industry, we will not be able to stop climate change. Not only because of its 39% of the global CO2 emissions but also because of the peak load in the electrical grid. We need buildings that are more inert to external conditions and don’t need a constant battle against an uncomfortable indoor environment. The Passivhaus Standard is a great first step to a carbon-neutral industry. [7]

Passivhaus: A Pathway to Mitigation and Adaptation

In the face of these challenges, the Passivhaus standard emerges as a beacon of hope. Originating in Germany, the Passivhaus concept is designed to drastically reduce the need for heating and cooling in buildings, thereby cutting operational emissions significantly. By emphasizing superinsulation, airtightness, and energy recovery, buildings constructed to this standard require up to 90% less energy for heating and cooling than conventional structures.

These Passivhaus buildings are far more inert to external conditions, and conditioning can happen at any time, which can strongly reduce peak load in the electrical grid.

Moreover, Passivhaus buildings offer a sustainable solution to adapting to extreme weather conditions. Their design principles not only minimize energy consumption but also ensure a stable indoor climate, providing comfort during heatwaves and cold spells alike. This approach not only contributes to mitigating global warming by reducing greenhouse gas emissions but also enhances liveability in the face of increasing climate volatility.

 

 

NOAA's graph showing temperature changes from 1901 to 2023, highlighting the ongoing global warming trend.

Conclusion

The breach of the 1.5°C threshold in 2023 serves as a clarion call for urgent action against global warming. With extreme weather events laying bare the vulnerabilities of our societies, the need for sustainable practices has never been more evident. The building industry, as a significant contributor to CO2 emissions, is in a unique position to drive change. Adopting standards like Passivhaus not only addresses the root causes of climate change but also offers a resilient strategy for adapting to its impacts, making it an essential component of the global response to a warming world.

References

[1]

A. JAZEERA, “First time world exceeds 1.5C warming limit over 12-month period,” [Online]. Available: https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2024/2/8/first-time-world-exceeds-1-5c-warming-limit-over-12-month-period

[2]

K. MACNAMARA, “World sees first 12 months above 1.5C warming level: climate monitor,” [Online]. Available: https://phys.org/news/2024-02-world-months-15c-climate.html.

[3]

R. Cross, “Europe heatwave 2023: extreme heat spirals into wildfires,” [Online]. Available: https://www.redcross.org.uk/stories/disasters-and-emergencies/world/europe-heatwave-2023.

[4]

R. Hart, “Extreme Heat Killed Over 70,000 In Europe Last Year, Study Finds. This Year Is On Track To Be Even Worse,” [Online]. Available: https://www.forbes.com/sites/roberthart/2023/11/21/extreme-heat-killed-over-70000-in-europe-last-year-study-finds-this-year-is-on-track-to-be-even-worse/?sh=612e26c67929.

[5]

I. E. A. (IEA). [Online]. Available: www.iea.org.

[6]

W. G. B. C. (WorldGBC). [Online]. Available: www.worldgbc.org.

[7]

W. Feist, “Passive House – the next decade,” [Online]. Available: https://passipedia.org/basics/passive_house_-_assuring_a_sustainable_energy_supply/passive_house_the_next_decade?s[]=grid.

[8]

J. Ballester, “The effect of temporal data aggregation to assess the impact of changing temperatures in Europe: an epidemiological modelling study,” 20 11 2023. [Online]. Available: https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanepe/article/PIIS2666-7762(23)00198-9/fulltext.

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