There is an increasing chance that annual global temperatures could exceed 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels over the next five years, new climate predictions from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) say.
Under the 2015 Paris climate accord, countries committed to reduce their carbon output and halt global warming below 2 degrees Celsius — and if possible, below 1.5 degrees Celsius — by the end of the century to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.
But according to the WMO report, there is around a 20% chance that one of the next five years will be at least 1.5 degrees Celsius warmer than pre-industrial levels, with the chance “increasing with time.”
Annual global temperature is likely to be at least 1 degrees Celsius warmer than pre-industrial levels, and the last five years has been the warmest on record, the assessment — based on modeling and the expertise of climate scientists — found.
In 2020, the Arctic is likely to have warmed by more than twice the global mean, and many parts of South America, southern Africa and Australia are likely to be dryer than in the recent past, the WMO said.
There is a 70% chance that one or more months during the next five years will be at least 1.5 degrees Celsius warmer than pre-industrial levels, the WMO assessment said.
In the coming five years, almost all regions are likely to be warmer than the recent past, scientists warned.
Over 2020-2024, eastern parts of South America are likely to be dryer, high latitude regions and the Sahel are likely to be wetter, and the northern North Atlantic region could have stronger westerly winds, which could lead to more storms in western Europe.
“This study shows — with a high level of scientific skill — the enormous challenge ahead in meeting the Paris Agreement on Climate Change target of keeping a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius,” WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said in a statement.
The forecast takes into account natural variations as well as human influence on the climate, but does not take into consideration the changes in greenhouse gas emissions as a result of Covid-19 lockdowns across the globe.
“Due to the very long lifetime of CO2 in the atmosphere, the impact of the drop in emissions this year is not expected to lead to a reduction of CO2 atmospheric concentrations which are driving global temperature increases,” Taalas said.
“WMO has repeatedly stressed that the industrial and economic slowdown from Covid-19 is not a substitute for sustained and coordinated climate action.”
He acknowledged the international health and economic crisis brought about by the pandemic, but said a failure to tackle climate change “may threaten human well-being, ecosystems and economies for centuries.”
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concluded in a landmark report that we only have until 2030 to drastically reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and prevent the planet from reaching the crucial threshold of 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
Experts have repeatedly warned that exceeding the threshold will contribute to more heatwaves and hot summers, greater sea level rise, worse droughts and rainfall extremes, wildfires, floods and food shortages for millions of people.