A new report suggests we are more than likely to surpass 1.5 degrees of warming

New report, published last week by the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), found that global temperatures are now “more likely than not” to breach 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming.

It has been estimated that there is now a 66% chance we will pass the 1.5°C global warming between now and 2027. Last year this had increased to 50%, with this year’s increase scientists believe that it is “more likely than not” that we will exceed 1.5C. Hitting the 1.5°C thresholds would mean the world is 1.5°C warmer than pre-industrial levels, around the second half of the 19th Century.

In 2016, the warmest year on record, global temperatures were 1.28C above the pre-industrial figure. The next several years are predicted to exceed this, firstly due to the increasing temperatures due to continued anthropogenic pressures associated with climate change, and secondly, due to the weather patterns linked to an El Niño event.

What is an El Niño event?

The last three years have predominantly been La Niña years, which has likely damped the effects of climate change. However, the next several years could see this reverse to El Niño conditions. An El Niño event refer to conditions in which there are unusually warm surface waters in the eastern Pacific Ocean. This impacts ocean currents and significantly changes weather patternsand global temperatures.

An El Niño event is forecast to develop in the coming months, after the La Niña ended in March 2023. Typically, the effects of an El Niño increases global temperatures following the year it develops, in this instance 2024. Whilst this can be predicted, the full magnitude of the event cannot be predicted, or when subsequent events will occur. Due to this, WMO Secretary-General, Prof. Petteri Taalas warned, “it could be in three or four years from now we get to two and a half degree El Niño and that might be the one that does it,” in terms of pushing us over the 1.5°C threshold.

What does this mean for 1.5°C?

The WMO found a 98% chance that one of the next five years will be the hottest on record, previously this was in 2016, which saw global temperatures 1.3C above preindustrial levels.

Just a year of warming at 1.5°C would offer an insight into the future if this threshold were to be maintained for years to come. Breaching this threshold for even just one year would indicate that global warming is speeding up rather than slowing down. Long-term, this would result in catastrophic weather conditions – and if emissions are not cut sharply thereafter, potentially exceeding the 2015 Paris Agreement. This does not mean that the world would remain at this level forever, but it would offer a worrying glimpse of what crossing this temperature long-term, would mean for the planet.

To read the full report from the WMO, visit; https://public.wmo.int/en/media/press-release/global-temperatures-set-reach-new-records-next-five-years

About the author:

Georgina Murrin is a Sustainability Analyst in Itriom’s London Office.

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