Hamburg Findings – Reducing to 1.5°C Global Warming Limit Not Plausible

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Climate adaptation University of Hamburg Report finds Consumers and Corporations blocks pathway to decarbonisation goals

Findings of the Hamburg Climate Futures Outlook released on 1 February 2023 show no plausible pathway towards limiting global warming to 1.5°C.

The report assessed to what extent social changes are already in place while examining specific physical processes frequently discussed as tipping points.

An interdisciplinary team of researchers assessed the plausibility of attaining the Paris Agreement goals to keep global warming well below 2°C or, if possible, to 1.5°C based on present knowledge of social drivers (social changes already taking place) and physical processes such as UN climate governance, transnational initiatives, climate-related regulations, climate protest and social movements, climate litigation, corporate responses, fossil fuel divestments, consumption patterns, media, and knowledge production.

Researchers found that none is currently sufficient to make the drastic carbon emissions cuts required by 2050.

Please read the “Summary of social plausibility assessments” for more details. We have provided a link to the document in the “Sources” section at the bottom of this page.

Climate, Climatic Change, and Society (CLICCS) speaker, Prof. Anita Engles, mentioned, “Actually when it comes to climate protection, some things have now been set in motion. But if you look at the development of social processes in detail, keeping global warming under 1.5 degrees still isn’t plausible.”

According to the “Hamburg Climate Futures Outlook,” consumption patterns and corporate responses are slowing urgently needed climate protection measures.

Key factors like UN climate policy, legislation, climate protests, and divestment from fossil fuels support efforts to meet the climate goals.

As the analysis shows, however, this positive dynamic alone won’t suffice to stay within the 1.5-degree limit. “The deep decarbonisation required is simply progressing too slowly,” says Engels (1.5-degree goal, 2023).

The study also covers the impacts of Covid-19 and the Russian invasion of Ukraine. While it is not yet possible to assess the implications of these two significant events, concerns over energy security and economic stability have made it difficult to shape or move public discourse towards decarbonisation.

The interdisciplinary team of researchers addressed ten critical drivers of social change.

Through the help of a global database and computer modelling, researchers find that the seven social drivers are moving tentatively to support deep decarbonisation by 2050, namely: climate protests and social movements, climate litigation, fossil-fuel divestment, UN climate governance, transnational initiatives, climate-related regulations, knowledge production.

However, the authors say two social drivers – corporate responses and consumption patterns- are going in the opposite direction, inhibiting and undermining the pathway toward decarbonisation. These two social drivers are also intricately linked.

Regarding corporate responses, the report notes that “if consumption patterns move towards decarbonisation, corporations will follow because of their profit-seeking motivation”. But from the consumers’ side, the study states, “implementation of climate-friendly infrastructure, increased energy efficiency, replacement of fossil fuels by renewable energy supply, some behavioural changes, increasing lifetime of products, tackling social inequalities” are robust conditions to achieve decarbonisation goals.

Regarding the media’s impact on driving decarbonisation actions, researchers find its effect uncertain or ambivalent.

According to the report, “trends toward transformative journalism and newly established formats and websites” act as enabling conditions to support decarbonisation. In contrast, the report also said that the “conservative political leaning of some media organisations, the challenges science journalism faces, competition by sources of information not constraint by journalistic norms and values” act as constraining conditions.

Access the full report, “Hamburg Climate Futures Outlook ’23“, through the link provided in the “Source” section below.


Summary of social plausibility assessments. (2023). CLICCS. Retrieved from

1.5-degree goal not plausible: Social change more important than physical tipping points. (2023, February 1). Science Daily. Retrieved from

Hamburg Climate Futures Outlook. (2023). CLICCS. Retrieved from

1.5-degree goal not plausible: social change more important than physical tipping points. (2023 1 February). EurekAlert. Retrieved from

Business and consumers hamper climate fight: Report. (2023, 2 February). CNA. Retrieved from

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