The UN predicts a 2 in 3 chance of reaching the point of climate danger soon

There is a two in three chance that the world will temporarily reach internationally accepted levels within the next five years global temperature threshold to limit the worst effects of climate change, a new report from the World Meteorological Organization predicts.

It would likely only be a fleeting and less worrying flirtation with the agreed climate hazard, the United Nations Weather Agency said on Wednesday. Scientists predict that a temporary El Niño heat flare will cause human-caused warming from burning coal, oil and gas to rise to a new level and then fall off again.

The Paris Climate Agreement 2015 Set 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) as the global guard rail for atmospheric warming, with countries committing to try to avoid such severe long-term warming whenever possible. Scientist a United Nations special report from 2018 said exceeding that point would mean drastic and dangerous changes with more death, destruction and damage to global ecosystems.

“That probably won’t be the case this year. “Perhaps next year or the year after that the average annual temperature will be 1.5 degrees Celsius,” said the report’s lead author Leon Hermanson, a climate scientist at the UK Met Office.

However, climate scientists said what is likely to happen in the next five years is not the same as a failure of the global target.

“This report does not mean that we will permanently exceed the 1.5°C figure set by the Paris Agreement, which refers to long-term warming over many years. However, the WMO is sounding the alarm that we will temporarily and increasingly frequently exceed 1.5°C,” WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said in a statement.

“A single year doesn’t really mean anything,” Hermanson said. Scientists typically use 30-year averages.

The 66 percent probability that a single year will reach this threshold within five years has increased 48% in the last year, 40% the year before, 20% in 2020 and 10% about a decade ago. The WMO report is based on calculations from 11 different climate science centers around the world.

Due to man-made climate change, the world has been approaching the 1.5-degree mark for years. The transient warming of this year’s expected El Niño — a phenomenon that begins with warming parts of the central Pacific Ocean and then spreads across the globe — makes it “possible for us to get a full decade ahead of the El Niño by a single year.” “The long-term average warming caused by human emissions of greenhouse gases does this,” said climate scientist Zeke Hausfather of technology company Stripe and Berkeley Earth, who was not involved in the WMO report.

“We do not expect the longer-term average to exceed 1.5°C before the early to mid-2030s,” Hausfather said in an email.

But every year it’s about 1.5.

“We look at this report more as a barometer of how close we’re getting to the threshold, because the closer you get to the threshold, the more noise bumping up and down will accidentally push you over the threshold,” Hermanson said in an interview . And he said the more random bumps there are across the mark, the closer the world is actually getting to the threshold.

The key to this is the El Niño cycle. The world is recovering from a record-breaking triple dip La Nina – El Nino’s cool cousin three years in a row Curbing the rise in human-caused warming – and it’s in progress on the verge of an El Niño which some scientists predict will be strong.

La Nina has somewhat flattened the trend in human-caused warming, leaving the world at the annual temperature mark since 2016, the last outsized El Nino, Hermanson said.

And that means a 98 percent chance of breaking the annual global temperature record set in 2016 by 2027, the report says. There is also a 98% chance that the next five years will be the hottest five years on record, the report says.

Because of the shift from La Nina to El Nino, “where there was flood before, there will be drought, and where there was before drought, there could be flood,” Hermanson said.

The report warned that the Amazon will be unusually dry for much of the next five years, while Africa’s Sahel — the transition zone between the Sahara to the north and the savannas to the south — will be wetter.

That’s “one of the positive outcomes of this forecast,” Hermanson said. “It’s not just doom and gloom and heat waves.”

University of Pennsylvania climate scientist Michael Mann said reports like this put too much emphasis on global surface temperature, which varies with the El Niño cycle, even if it increases over the long term. The real concern is the deep waters of the oceans. absorbing an overwhelming majority of human-caused global warmingThis led to a steady increase in the heat content of the oceans and regular new records.

Mann said it is wrong to think the world will cross the threshold at any time because “a concerted effort to reduce carbon emissions can still avoid crossing that threshold,” Mann said. “That’s what we have to focus on.”

Follow AP’s climate and environmental reporting at

Follow Seth Borenstein on Twitter at @borenbears

The Associated Press’s climate and environmental reporting is supported by several private foundations. Learn more about AP’s climate initiative Here. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

Related Articles

Back to top button