Menu Menu

World likely to breach 1.5C climate threshold by 2027

In its latest assessment, the World Meteorological Organisation has warned we are fast approaching a tipping point that could collapse Antarctic ice and cause a huge rise in sea levels.

According to the World Meteorological Organisation’s (WMO) latest assessment, our planet is almost certain to experience new record temperatures in the next five years and breach the 1.5C climate threshold by 2027.

There’s now a 66 per cent chance this will happen, due to emissions from human activities and a change in weather patterns expected later this summer.

If the limit is passed – which researchers have warned could have dire consequences – it’s expected to be temporary. It would, however, represent a significant acceleration of our impact on the global climate system and send the Earth into ‘uncharted territory,’ as highlighted by the United Nations.

The report, known as the Global Annual to Decadal Climate Update, explains that the temperature rise will likely come from a combination of greenhouse gases and the anticipated return of the naturally-occurring El Niño phenomenon, which involves a warming of the Pacific Ocean’s surface.

‘We have never crossed 1.5C. The current record is 1.28C. It’s very likely we’re going to exceed that, we might even reach 1.5C – it’s more likely than not that we will,’ said Met Office expert Dr Leon Hermanson.

‘It’s not this long term warming that the Paris Agreement talks about, but it is an indication that as we start having these years, with 1.5C happening more and more often, we’re getting closer and closer to having the actual long-term climate being on that threshold.’

Countries have pledged, under the 2015 Paris Agreement, to try to hold global temperatures to no higher than 1.5C above pre-industrial levels, after scientific advice that heating beyond that figure would unleash a cascade of increasingly catastrophic and potentially irreversible effects.

Already, we’re seeing far-reaching repercussions for health, food security, water management, and the environment worldwide, the likes of which will only be amplified without urgent intervention.

Looking ahead, temperatures in the Arctic are predicted to increase three times faster than the global average, while greenhouse gases will also lead to more ocean acidification, sea ice and glacier melt, sea level rise, and more extreme weather.

There is additionally set to be less rainfall this year in the Amazon, Central America, Australia and Indonesia, the report found. This is particularly bad news for the Amazon, where scientists have grown increasingly concerned that a vicious cycle of heating and deforestation could tip the region from carbon sink rainforest into savannah-like conditions.

‘We really are now within reach of a temporary exceedance of 1.5C for the annual mean temperature, and that’s the first time in human history we’ve been that close,’ said Adam Scaife, head of long range forecasts at the Met Office, who compile the data from weather and climate agencies around the world.

‘I think that’s perhaps the most stark and obvious and simplest statistic that we’ve got in the report.’