World could see 1.5°C of warming in next five years, warns UN agency

United Nations, May 10, 2022: The World Meteorological Organization (WMO), a Geneva-based UN agency, has warned that there is a 50:50 chance of the annual average global temperature temporarily reaching 1.5 °C above the pre-industrial level for at least one of the next five years, and pleaded for rapid cuts in greenhouse gas emissions.

The Global Annual to Decadal Climate Update also reveals a 93 percent likelihood of at least one year between 2022 to 2026 becoming the warmest on record, thus knocking 2016 from the top spot.

The chance of the five-year average for this period being higher than the last five years, 2017-2021, is also 93 percent.

The 1.5 °C target is the goal of the Paris Agreement, which calls for countries to take concerted climate action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in order to limit global warming.

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, Petteri Taalas, the WMO Secretary-General, said in a statement.

The 1.5°C figure is not some random statistic, he added, but rather an indicator of the point at which climate impacts will become increasingly harmful for people and indeed the entire planet.

The chance of temporarily exceeding the 1.5°C thresholds has risen steadily since 2015, according to the report, which was produced by the United Kingdom Met Office, the WMO lead center for climate update predictions.

Back then, it was close to zero, but the probability increased to 10 percent over the past five years, and to nearly 50 percent for the period from 2022 to 2026. Taalas warned that as long as countries 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, he said. The Paris Agreement outlines long-term goals that guide governments toward limiting the global temperature increase to well below 2 °C while pursuing efforts to limit the increase even further to 1.5 °C.

The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change further states that climate-related risks are higher for global warming of 1.5 °C than at present but lower than at 2 °C. Our latest climate predictions show that continued global temperature rise will continue, with an even chance that one of the years between 2022 and 2026 will exceed 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels, said Dr. Leon Hermanson of the UK Met Office, who led the report.

A single year of exceedance above 1.5 °C does not mean we have breached the iconic threshold of the Paris Agreement, but it does reveal that we are edging ever closer to a situation where 1.5 °C could be exceeded for an extended period.

Last year, the global average temperature was 1.1 °C above the pre-industrial baseline, according to the provisional WMO report on the State of the Global Climate. The final report for 2021 will be released on 18 May.

WMO said back-to-back La Nia events at the start and end of 2021 had a cooling effect on global temperatures. However, this is only temporary and does not reverse the long-term global warming trend.

Any development of an El Nino event would immediately fuel temperatures, the agency said, as happened in 2016, the warmest year on record.

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