Scientists have issued a stark warning that the world is on track to breach the critical 1.5°C temperature threshold within the next five years, leading to unprecedented consequences. Research conducted by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) indicates that although the breach is expected to be temporary, it represents a significant acceleration of human-induced climate impacts and will plunge the planet into uncharted territory.
Countries agreed to keep global temperatures well below 2C above pre-industrial levels and work towards a target of 1.5°C under the 2015 Paris climate agreement. The scientific community has warned that going beyond this limit will result in a chain reaction of more negative and perhaps permanent repercussions.
Professor Petteri Taalas, Secretary-General of the WMO, clarified that the report does not imply a permanent breach of the 1.5°C limit specified in the Paris agreement. Rather, it highlights the increasing frequency of temporary breaches. The global average surface temperatures have never before surpassed the 1.5°C threshold, with the highest recorded average reaching 1.28°C above pre-industrial levels.
The recently published report predicts a 66% likelihood of surpassing the 1.5°C threshold in at least one year between 2023 and 2027. Heatwaves experienced in various regions worldwide over the past year are likely just the beginning, as the combined effects of climate breakdown and an upcoming El Niño weather system contribute to intense heatwaves across the globe.
El Niño, a cyclic weather phenomenon in the Pacific, has dampened temperature increases through the La Niña phase in recent years. As La Niña ends and a new El Niño emerges, there is a 98% likelihood that one of the next five years will set a new record as the hottest on record.
Professor Taalas emphasized the far-reaching implications of a warming El Niño, stating that it will intersect with human-induced climate change, pushing global temperatures into uncharted territory. The resulting effects will have profound impacts on health, food security, water management, and the environment. Preparedness is essential.
Notably, the Arctic is warming more quickly, which affects global weather patterns, such as the jet stream, and has recently disturbed weather systems all around the northern hemisphere. In the paper, possible effects are also highlighted, including decreased rainfall in the Amazon, Central America, Australia, and Indonesia. The Amazon's susceptibility to a dangerous cycle of heat and deforestation, which might turn the area from a rainforest into a savannah and rob the globe of an essential carbon sink, is of special worry.
The WMO report forecasts above-average rainfall for northern Europe, Alaska, northern Siberia, and the Sahel over the next five years. Each year from 2023 to 2027, global near-surface temperatures are projected to range between 1.1°C and 1.8°C above the pre-industrial average (1850-1900).
As governments prepare for the upcoming COP28 UN climate summit in November, the global stocktake will assess progress towards the Paris agreement's goals. However, indications suggest that the world is far from achieving the necessary emissions reductions of 43% this decade to have a reasonable chance of limiting temperature rises to 1.5°C.
Urgent and substantial action is required at the global level to curb greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate the escalating climate crisis. The findings of this report serve as a stark reminder of the pressing need for collective efforts to address climate change and safeguard our planet's future.