Overturning 1.5°C: Calling for the Science Turn in Rights-based Climate Litigation

In 2015, politically appointed negotiators from nearly 200 countries met in Paris. Their goal: prevent dangerous human interference with the climate system within a timeframe that allows humanity to survive. These representatives signed the Paris Agreement, recognizing that an effective response to the threat of climate change must be based on the best available science. Then, contradicting this commitment, they embedded pseudo-scientific temperature targets limiting global heating to 1.5°C to 2.0°C into the Agreement.

Eight years later, the global community - from lawyers to journalists, politicians to human rights defenders - still recite this inaccurate claim: “Holding warming to 1.5°C will avoid catastrophic climate change.” This is false. Today, with an average global temperature increase already at ~1.1°C to 1.3°C, torrential rainstorms, floods, wildfires, and heatwaves are killing people and displacing communities worldwide. Even the UN’s own scientific body, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, has expressly stated that 1.5°C is “not safe.”

This series explores how heating up to, and remaining at, the Paris target of 1.5°C violates the most basic of human rights, leaving billions in the crosshairs of climate disaster. This series further makes a clarion call for overturning 1.5°C as the proxy legal standard for climate advocacy and instead, urgently initiating a corrective turn to science.