The planet is increasingly likely to breach the 1.5C global warming threshold in the next five years as greenhouse gas emissions show no signs of slowing down.
There is a fifty-fifty chance that the world will warm by more than 1.5C above pre-industrial levels over the next five years, according to the alarming new research highlighting the current rapid rate of global temperature increase.
The annual climate update produced by the The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the UK Met Office revealed that there is a 93% chance that at least one of the years between 2022 and 2026 will be the warmest on record and a 48% likelihood the planet will cross the 1.5C global warming threshold set out in the Paris Agreement.
In 2015, that likelihood of passing the temperature limit was close to zero. This rose up to 10% between 2017-2021. But now, that probability has jumped up to nearly 50%.
“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 1.5C 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 WMO Secretary-General Professor Petteri Taalas.
“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 level 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.”
According to the latest measurements, the planet has already warmed by 1.1C. Global greenhouse gas emissions have returned to pre-pandemic levels amid the economic rebound. In fact, greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere reached a historic high despite pandemic lockdowns and travel restrictions.
Global energy security has also been threatened by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, driving many countries to burn more coal to reduce dependence on Russian gas supplies. But many others, including the EU, have fast-tracked their renewable energy transition.
At the COP26 climate summit last November, governments renewed their commitment to keeping the 1.5C goal alive, where more than 80% of the world’s nations have announced net zero targets. Yet little progress or action have been made over the past months.
The findings also say that the difference in temperatures from the long-term average will be three times as large in the Arctic, which experienced unprecedented high temperatures in March, over the next five years. Southwestern Europe, southwestern North America, and the Amazon will likely see much drier conditions while northern Europe, Alaska and northern Siberia will experience increased rainfall.
EO’s Position: The report clearly shows that the world is rapidly losing sight of being able to stay under the 1.5C limit of global temperature rise. We need to phase out fossil fuels immediately and scale up renewable energy generation to avoid the catastrophic impacts of climate change. With COP27 2022 coming up in November, governments must take steps to update their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) to stall global warming.