High chance of hitting 1.5°C tipping point during next five years, warns WMO

Last year was one of the three warmest years on record; the six years since 2015 have been the warmest on record and 2011-2020 was the warmest decade on record
Representational Image. (File photo)
Representational Image. (File photo)
Published on May 27, 2021 10:12 AM IST
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ByJayashree Nandi

There is a 40% chance of the annual average global temperature reaching 1.5 degrees Celsius (°C) temporarily in at least one of the next five years, according to the World Meteorological Organization.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) had warned that a 1.5°C warming will mark a menacing milestone in the warming of the planet. The IPCC special report released in 2018 found that limiting global warming to 1.5°C would require “rapid and far -reaching” transitions in all sectors. Global net human-caused carbon dioxide (CO 2) emissions would need to fall by about 45% from 2010 levels by 2030, reaching ‘net zero’ around 2050.

The goal of the 2015 Paris Agreement is to keep global temperature rise this century well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5°C.

On Thursday, WMO said there is a 90% likelihood of at least one year between 2021-2025 becoming the warmest on record, which would beat 2016 at being the warmest so far, according to the Global Annual to Decadal Climate Update, produced by the United Kingdom’s Met Office and WMO lead centre.

Over 2021-2025, high latitude regions and the Sahel are likely to be wetter and there is an increased chance of more tropical cyclones in the Atlantic compared to the recent past (1981-2010 average).

“These are more than just statistics,” said WMO Secretary-General Prof. Petteri Taalas. “Increasing temperatures mean more melting ice, higher sea levels, more heatwaves and other extreme weather, and greater impacts on food security, health, the environment and sustainable development,” he said.

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“This study shows – with a high level of scientific skill – that we are getting measurably and inexorably closer to the lower target of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. It is yet another wakeup call that the world needs to fast-track commitments to slash greenhouse gas emissions and achieve carbon neutrality,” Taalas added.

The global average temperature was about 1.2°C above pre-industrial levels despite the cooling effect of La Nina in 2020, WMO had said in its State of the Global Climate 2020 report.

Last year was one of the three warmest years on record; the six years since 2015 have been the warmest on record and 2011-2020 was the warmest decade on record, the report highlighted adding that decrease in the annual growth rate of CO2 concentration due to the Covid-19 lockdown will be practically indistinguishable.

Temperatures reached 38°C at Verkhoyansk, Russian Federation on June 20, 2019, the highest recorded temperature anywhere north of the Arctic Circle. The Arctic minimum sea-ice extent in September 2020 was the second lowest on record.

The Global Annual to Decadal Climate Update confirms that in the coming five years, the annual mean global temperature is likely to be at least 1°C – within the range 0.9°C – 1.8°C over pre-industrial levels.

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