'Wake-up call:' Climate change could edge Earth's annual temperature past Paris agreement limits in 5 years
- “Increasing temperatures mean more melting ice, higher sea levels, more heatwaves and other extreme weather."
- The landmark 2015 Paris climate agreement set a target of keeping warming to a few tenths of a degree warmer than now.
- The new report was prepared by scientists from the World Meteorological Organization, an agency of the United Nations.
The odds of the planet continuing to warm over the next several years have increased, top meteorologists said Thursday in a new report. In fact, within the next five years, there's now a 40% chance that Earth's annual average temperature will temporarily edge above a limit set by the Paris climate agreement.
The report was prepared by scientists from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), an agency of the United Nations.
“These are more than just statistics,” WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said in a statement. “Increasing temperatures mean more melting ice, higher sea levels, more heat waves and other extreme weather, and greater impacts on food security, health, the environment and sustainable development.”
The landmark 2015 Paris climate agreement set a target of keeping warming to a few tenths of a degree warmer than now. Thursday's report said there is a 40% chance that at least one of the next five years will be 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) higher than pre-industrial times – the more stringent of two Paris goals.
The chance of temporarily reaching 1.5 degrees has roughly doubled compared with last year’s predictions, the WMO said.
“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," Taalas said. "It is yet another wake-up call that the world needs to fast-track commitments to slash greenhouse gas emissions and achieve carbon neutrality.”
The Paris agreement seeks to keep the rise in global temperature 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. National commitments to cut emissions, known as nationally determined contributions, fall far short of what is needed to achieve this target.
The WMO forecast for the next several years also predicts a 90% chance that the world will set yet another record for the hottest year by the end of 2025 and that the Atlantic will continue to brew more potentially dangerous hurricanes than it used to.
"We're seeing accelerating change in our climate," Randall Cerveny, a climate scientist at Arizona State University and a WMO rapporteur who was not involved in the report, told NPR.
"We had had some hopes that, with last year's COVID scenario, perhaps the lack of travel (and) the lack of industry might act as a little bit of a brake," Cerveny said. "But what we're seeing is, frankly, it has not."
Contributing: The Associated Press