1.5°C Global Warming Limit could be breached by 2026 | World Meteorological Organization (WMO)
Global Hot Issues
17 May 2022Share on
The temperature target, enshrined in the Paris Agreement, aims to “limit global warming to well below 2°, preferably to 1.5°C, compared to pre-industrial levels.” 1.5°C is the difference between the Earth’s average temperature in the late 1800s and average temperatures today. Crossing this limit would cause irreversible damage to the planet’s fragile ecosystems and unleash harsh impacts on human, plant and animal life. World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has predicted that there is a 48% chance that global near-surface temperatures may exceed 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels in the next 5 years! That is by 2026.
“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,” according to report lead author Leon Hermanson. As of 2021, the world had warmed by 1.1°C compared to the pre-industrial period, according to the Sixth Assessment Report published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The probability of breaching 1.5°C was close to zero back in 2015 when the Paris Agreement was adopted, but it has risen steadily since then to 50 percent now, according to the WMO. This has been attributed to the rising accumulation of greenhouse gases (GHG) in the atmosphere, caused entirely by human activities like the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation. Atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations reached 419 parts per million this month, according to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Mauna Loa Observatory. The level deemed ‘safe’ by scientists was 350 ppm, which was last observed in the late 1980s. Additionally, arctic warming is disproportionately high. The Arctic temperature anomaly, compared to the 1991-2020 average, is predicted to be more than three times as large as the global mean anomaly when averaged over the next five northern hemisphere extended winters.” The impacts of Arctic warming are already being observed. The recent heatwave across India and Pakistan was partially attributed to the warming Arctic interacting with a persistent La Nina pressure pattern. This caused temperatures to soar unseasonably early in the year in more than 15 Indian states. For the rest of 2022 however, the report states that “Alaska, Western Canada and India are likely to be cooler”.
Down to Earth is Science and Environment fortnightly published by the Society for Environmental Communication, New Delhi. We publish news and analysis on issues that deal with sustainable development, which we scan through the eyes of science and environment.