Experts Warn of Possible 'Taste' of Crossing Climate Threshold

There's a 48% chance temps will reach 1.5 degrees C above preindustrial levels before 2026
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted May 10, 2022 11:00 AM CDT
We're Dangerously Close to Breaching Key Warming Limit
A worker quenches his thirst as a heat wave continues to lash New Delhi, India, on Monday.   (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)

(Newser) – The 2015 Paris Agreement lays out the goal to try to limit global warming to a long-term average of 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above preindustrial levels. But there's already a 48% chance that we'll temporarily breach that limit in one of the next five years, according to a new report from the World Meteorological Organization and UK's national meteorological service, per the BBC. A new hottest year on record is likely to be set in a coming El Nino year. It's a sign "that we are getting uncomfortably close to this target," Steven Sherwood of the Australian Research Council tells Politico, though "to actually exceed the target we'd have to be above 1.5 degrees even in a 'normal' year, and that is much less likely."

Global temperatures are now at a long-term average of 1.1 degrees Celsius (1.9 degrees Fahrenheit) above preindustrial levels. "Loss and damage associated with, or exacerbated by, climate change is already occurring, some of it likely irreversible for the foreseeable future," Maxx Dilley, director of climate at the WMO, tells Reuters. And with current policies aiding temperature rise, the chance of breaching the 1.5-degree limit in a year has been climbing steadily, from 20% in 2020, to 40% in 2021, and now to 48%. There's only a 10% chance that global temperatures will exceed the 1.5-degree limit every year between 2022 and 2026, according to the report released Tuesday.

Still, we could get "a taste of what crossing that long-term threshold would be like," per Reuters. "For as long as we continue to emit greenhouse gases, temperatures will continue to rise," Petteri Taalas of the WMO tells the BBC. "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." Basically, "we're getting closer to this first threshold that was set in the Paris Agreement" as a limit for catastrophic climate change "and we need to continue doing everything we can to cut the use of fossil fuels," the report's lead author, Dr. Leon Hermanson of the UK Met Office, tells the BBC. (UN experts say the time to act is "now or never.")

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