A new report by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has argued that there is a 50/50 chance for the average global temperature to surpass the critical threshold of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels for at least one of the next five years. The experts have also determined that there is a 93 percent chance that at least one year between 2022 and 2026 will become the warmest on record, surpassing 2016 from the top ranking.
In 2015, the chance of global temperatures rising above the 1.5°C threshold was close to zero, but the odds steadily increased over the next few years. For the 2022-2026 period, that probability has reached nearly 50 percent. Such rapid heating will most likely have a devastating impact on a variety of terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, and will cause substantial ice loss in the Arctic, which, in its turn, will lead to accelerated sea level rise and massive floods in the world’s coastal regions.
“This study shows – with a high level of scientific skill – that we are getting measurably closer to temporarily reaching the lower target of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. The 1.5°C figure is not some random statistic. It is rather an indicator of the point at which climate impacts will become increasingly harmful for people and indeed the entire planet,” said Professor Petteri Taalas, the WMO Secretary-General.
“For as long as we continue to emit greenhouse gases, temperatures will continue to rise. And alongside that, our oceans will continue to become warmer and more acidic, sea ice and glaciers will continue to melt, sea levels will continue to rise, and our weather will become more extreme. Arctic warming is disproportionately high and what happens in the Arctic affects all of us.”
While a single year in which temperatures will exceed the 1.5°C does not necessarily mean that the Paris Agreement targets are breached, it does reveal that we are getting closer to a situation where this threshold could be exceeded for an extended period, leading to catastrophic climatic events.
According to Andrew King, a climate scientist at the University of Melbourne, this report highlights how fast humans are warming the planet. “Our greenhouse gas emissions are still at near-record highs and until we get emissions down to net-zero, we’re going to continue to see global warming,” he said. “If we fail to take that action, we will have much worse heatwaves and bushfire conditions as well as coral reefs that have been decimated beyond recognition.”
The full report can be downloaded from here.