Note to CNN – the Futile Battle Against 1.5°C of Warming Was Lost Even Before it Started

A January 18th story by CNN reporter Laura Paddison titled “The 1.5-degree climate goal may be ‘deader than a doornail,’ and scientists are bitterly divided over it,” claims that we are approaching the point of overshooting this limit. What CNN doesn’t seem to understand is that the limit was reached years ago and is clearly shown in real world data, and thus their story is false.

The story begins with this:

For years, the fight against climate change has been symbolized by one number: 1.5.

Ever since countries agreed in 2015 to an ambition of restricting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, the number has become synonymous with staving off catastrophic climate change.

But what if the battle to keep global warming from overshooting this limit has already been lost?

Here’s the problem, that 1.5°C target isn’t based on science or how the natural world works. It was simply a goal set by the 2015 Paris IPCC conference based on what they thought could be done to limit the temperature. As we have seen time and time again with politicians and bureaucrats, the threshold they set was not rooted in science, but simply what sells to the public.

Of course, at the time they were not paying attention to temperature history and assumed that was actually a real and obtainable goal. Now the father of global warming James Hansen, formerly of NASA says the goal is impossible. Unfortunately, even he isn’t paying attention to the actual data of temperature history.

Paddison adds these quotes from Hansen:

It was the renowned climate scientist James Hansen whose comments fueled the debate. In November, he declared the 1.5 degree-limit “deader than a doornail,” saying it was a shortcoming of the scientific community “to not make clear to the political leaders what the situation is.”

The rate of global warming is accelerating, he said at a news conference in November, and the world is certain to blow past 1.5 degrees of warming. “Anybody who understands the physics knows that.”

Meanwhile the story also quotes famed “temperature hockey stick” inventor, Michael Mann:

“I’ve got three degrees in physics, and I can tell you that Jim is wrong,” said Michael Mann, a leading climate scientist at the University of Pennsylvania, referring to Hansen. The problem isn’t physics, it’s politics, he told CNN. “And political obstacles can be overcome.”

Fortunately, any layman with the ability to use his or her eyes can determine that what Mann says is false, and they don’t need “three degrees in physics” to see it.

As we have written before on Climate Realism, real-world data shows that we’ve already passed that 1.5° C so-called limit and surpassed it by as much as 0.5°C. This is clearly evident when you look at the longest running set of temperature data in the world from Europe.

Below in Figure 2 is the Berkeley Earth average surface temperature record for Europe since about 1780. Europe is a good location to analyze, because some of the longest continuous temperature records are from Europe. It shows that not just 1.5°C, but 2.0°C of warming has already occurred.

Figure 2. (click to enlarge) Berkeley Earth average European temperature showing a 2.0°C rise since about 1820. Source: Annotated by Anthony Watts

Note that in figure 2, temperature rose by 1.5°C even before the year 2000 and then hit the 2.0°C value somewhere around 2005 to 2007. This was well before politicians had set their sights on the futile 1.5°C limit in 2015.

Despite this, CNN writer Paddington opines, “Between 1.5 and 2 degrees lies disaster: The risk of triggering a slew of climate tipping points, including ice sheet melting and mass coral reef death, and the lives and livelihoods of millions of people.”

Even though Europe has already experienced 2°C rise in temperature since 1820, nothing catastrophic has happened. The media has written about expected disasters from a 1.5°C temperature rise while ignoring the fact we’ve already exceeded a 1.5°C temperature rise. For example, one media story claimed “…Death, Destruction and Damage”. Meanwhile, other real-world data shows that while there seems to be an increase in alarming claims about what will happen with a mildly warmer world, the actual data shows that damages from global disasters is actually significantly down over the last 100 years.

Inconveniently for CNN, human mortality attributable to disasters, including floods, droughts, storms, wildfires, and extreme temperatures has declined by more than 99 percent over the last 100 years. In the 1920s, death related to weather-related disasters averaged approximately 485,000 each year. By 2020 the average number of deaths attributable to extreme weather events had fallen 7,790. See Figure 2, below.

Figure 2. The graph demonstrates a vast improvement in human mortality related to all extreme weather events over a 100-year span from 1920 to 2021. Source: Dr. Bjorn Lomborg, data from International Disaster Database published in ScienceDirect.

You would think that professional reporters such as CNN supposedly employs would be able to find such easily obtainable data and advise the readers of the good news. Unfortunately it seems that CNN has fallen into the same trap as so many other media outlets where they push doom and gloom over factual good news. They are right about one thing, and that is that the 1.5°C temperature limit is indeed “deader than a doornail,” when in fact it wasn’t even a live goal to begin with.

Anthony Watts
Anthony Watts
Anthony Watts is a senior fellow for environment and climate at The Heartland Institute. Watts has been in the weather business both in front of, and behind the camera as an on-air television meteorologist since 1978, and currently does daily radio forecasts. He has created weather graphics presentation systems for television, specialized weather instrumentation, as well as co-authored peer-reviewed papers on climate issues. He operates the most viewed website in the world on climate, the award-winning website

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  1. The arbitrary 1.5C is a made up criteria that means nothing! Total bogus nonsense just to sound credible! It’s based on skewed computer models and that the entire Earth is at an average temperature which is patently absurd when winter is always around in the northern then the southern hemisphere so it’s never heating up! What a baloney sandwich 🥪 the 1.5C limit before we melt out of existence and the Earth Firsters keep making things up as they go along!


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