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UN Weather Agency Predicts World to Surpass Critical Warming Threshold Within Next 5 Years

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Lauren Miller

June 14, 2024 - 11:30 am

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UN Weather Agency Predicts Imminent Global Temperature Surge

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has issued a stark warning: there is an 80% chance that global average temperatures will surpass 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels for at least one year between 2024 and 2028. This prediction marks a significant shift from 2015 when the likelihood of temporarily exceeding this critical threshold was considered nearly zero. UN Secretary-General António Guterres emphasized the gravity of the situation, likening it to "playing Russian roulette with our planet" and urging immediate action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Urgent Call to Action Amid Rising Temperatures

In a landmark report released on World Environment Day, the WMO highlighted the urgent need to curb planet-heating emissions. The report's timing underscores the critical nature of its findings. With an 80% chance of breaching the 1.5-degree Celsius limit between 2024 and 2028, the world faces an urgent need for drastic action. This threshold, the aspirational target of the 2015 Paris Agreement, is crucial in preventing catastrophic climate impacts. Scientists warn that exceeding this limit long-term will result in more frequent and severe extreme weather events.

The Changing Climate Landscape

The WMO's latest prediction is a stark contrast to its 2015 outlook, where the probability of temporarily overshooting 1.5 degrees Celsius was deemed close to zero. This change highlights the accelerating pace of global warming and the increasing difficulty of staying within safe temperature limits. António Guterres stressed the need for a metaphorical "exit ramp off the highway to climate hell," urging world leaders to take control and steer the planet toward a sustainable future. Even at current warming levels, the world is already experiencing devastating impacts such as record-breaking heatwaves, extreme rainfall, droughts, sea level rise, and significant reductions in ice sheets and sea ice.

The Role of Current Leadership

Guterres emphasized that the fight to limit long-term temperature increases to 1.5 degrees Celsius will be determined in the 2020s, under the watch of today's leaders. Speaking at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, he called for more ambitious actions to tackle the climate crisis ahead of the G7 summit in Italy from June 13 to June 15. He pointed out that the decisions made by these leaders in the next 18 months are crucial, stating, "It’s climate crunch time." The WMO report adds urgency to this call, with global average temperatures expected to be between 1.1 and 1.9 degrees Celsius higher than the 1850 to 1900 baseline for each year between 2024 and 2028.

Implications of the WMO Report

The WMO's report indicates a roughly 50/50 chance that global average temperatures over the entire five-year period will exceed 1.5 degrees Celsius compared to the pre-industrial era, up from a 32% likelihood in last year's assessment for 2023 to 2027. This alarming trend suggests that at least one year through 2028 will likely set a new temperature record, surpassing 2023, the hottest year on record to date. WMO Deputy Secretary-General Ko Barrett stressed that these statistics reveal a bleak reality: the world is far off track from meeting the goals set in the Paris Agreement. She warned that failing to cut greenhouse gas emissions urgently will result in trillions of dollars in economic costs, millions of lives affected by extreme weather, and extensive damage to the environment and biodiversity.

The Need for Immediate Action

The WMO's warning comes at a critical time, as the world struggles to meet climate targets. The agency stressed that monthly and annual breaches of the 1.5-degree Celsius threshold do not mean the world has failed to adhere to the Paris Agreement's long-term goals. However, the increasing frequency of temporary exceedances underscores the need for immediate and sustained action. The WMO is "sounding the alarm" that the world is likely to exceed this critical level more frequently in the coming years, highlighting the urgent need for global cooperation and action.

Global Temperature Projections

The WMO report projects that global average temperatures will likely be between 1.1 and 1.9 degrees Celsius higher than pre-industrial levels from 2024 to 2028. This projection underscores the rapid pace of global warming and the increasing likelihood of surpassing critical temperature thresholds. The report's findings indicate that the world must act swiftly to mitigate the impacts of climate change and prevent long-term exceedance of the 1.5-degree Celsius limit.

Economic and Environmental Costs

The WMO's warning also highlights the significant economic and environmental costs of failing to address climate change. Trillions of dollars in economic costs, millions of lives affected by extreme weather, and extensive damage to the environment and biodiversity are among the potential consequences of inaction. The agency emphasizes the need for immediate and substantial reductions in greenhouse gas emissions to avoid these dire outcomes.

The Path Forward

The WMO's report serves as a critical reminder of the urgency of the climate crisis and the need for immediate action. The agency's findings highlight the importance of global cooperation and ambitious climate policies to mitigate the impacts of global warming and prevent catastrophic climate events. As the world approaches a critical juncture in the fight against climate change, the WMO's warning underscores the need for decisive action from world leaders and governments.

Conclusion

The WMO's stark warning about the likelihood of surpassing the 1.5-degree Celsius threshold in the next five years underscores the urgent need for action on climate change. With the potential for significant economic and environmental costs, the agency's findings highlight the importance of immediate and sustained efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and prevent catastrophic climate impacts. As world leaders prepare for the G7 summit, the WMO's report serves as a critical call to action to address the climate crisis and ensure a sustainable future for the planet.