A new report from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) released on 27 May predicts that the world is poised to break a crucial heat barrier by 2025. The WMO Global Annual to Decadal Climate Update, a report produced by United Kingdom’s Met Office, states that there’s a 40% chance that at least one of the next five years is going to be 1.5 degree Celsius hotter than pre-industrial times (1850-1900). What this means is that it’s getting harder to achieve the best case scenario of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement: to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degree Celsius by 2100.
There is about a 40% chance of annual average global temperature temporarily reaching 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels in at least one of the next 5 years – and these odds are ⬆️with time, according to new predictions led by @metoffice #ClimateActionhttps://t.co/pl4ciBiGQZ pic.twitter.com/ApYG7tZxxa— World Meteorological Organization (@WMO) May 27, 2021
The WMO report, which focuses on 2021 as well as the years 2021-2025, also predicts that there’s a 90% chance that at least one of the next five years will be the hottest on record. Currently, the hottest year on record is 2016, and 2020 and 2019 are the joint second hottest years on record. As it is, the current average global temperature is 1.2 degree Celsius hotter than pre-industrial times, as confirmed by a WMO report in April. The new report says that the next five years will see average global temperatures to be between .9 to 1.8 degree Celsius hotter than pre-industrial times. An earlier independent study published in December last year had predicted that the world could reach the 1.5 degree Celsius mark by 2027. The WMO report now confirms that we’ll reach there much earlier.
The WMO report marks an important and scary moment in the global effort to fight climate change. The concentration of planet-heating greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions have seen an overall growth in recent years, where the amount of fresh emissions should actually be decreasing. Keeping pace with this, the last five years have been the hottest ever recorded. Countries are supposed to come out with better national climate goals by the time of a crucial climate conference in Glasgow in November, but little is actually happening on that front. On top of that, countries are relying on fossil fuels like coal and oil to power their way out of the economic devastation caused by the covid-19 pandemic. Any hopes of a global green recovery have been dashed.
There was a silver lining to global pandemic lockdowns last year, when global CO2 emissions fell by 7% from 2019 levels. A study published in March stated that global emissions cuts need to be ten times higher than they are right now to stop climate change. It also found that to meet Paris Agreement goals, the world needs the equivalent of a global lockdown once every two years. The key takeaway is this: the planet is heating up faster than ever, and the window for meaningful global action is getting smaller.
Speaking on the latest report, the WMO Secretary General Patteri Taalas says that a warmer world means more melting ice, higher sea levels, more heatwaves and other extreme weather. “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,” he says.