Global temperatures are set to soar to record levels in the next five years and exceed the key climate threshold of 1.5C for the first time, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) predicted Wednesday, as it warned humanity is entering “uncharted territory” that will impact our health, food and water security and the environment.
There is a 66% chance global temperatures will cross the critical climate threshold of 1.5C above pre-industrial levels at least once between now and 2027, the United Nations’ weather agency warned in its annual report.
The forecast, if realized, would mark the first time humanity has crossed the 1.5C threshold.
The prediction also marks the first time the agency believes heating will be more likely than not to exceed the threshold after it projected 50:50 odds last year for the years 2022 through 2026.
Experts believe limiting global heating to 1.5C can help avoid the worst impacts of climate change and most countries in the world, including the United States, committed to pursuing this goal when they signed the historic Paris climate agreement.
Hitting or passing the threshold in one or several years does not mean the Paris limit—which refers to warming on a longer time scale—has been permanently broken, stressed WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas, adding that the agency is “sounding the alarm” that we will breach the threshold temporarily and “with increasing frequency.”
The chances of temporarily exceeding the 1.5C limit have been increasing since 2015, the WMO said, rising from almost zero to around 10% between 2017 and 2021.
What To Watch For
The next few years are almost certain to be some of the hottest on record, the WMO report said. Specifically, the agency said there’s a 98% chance that one of the next five years will be the warmest on record, as well as a 98% chance the average temperature for the full five-year span will be hotter than that for the preceding five years. In January, the WMO said the past eight years have been the warmest on record, fueled by human actions that pump greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and trap heat. Recent years have been marked by reports of extreme weather events, droughts, fires, flooding, record heat waves and other problems associated with global heating. Despite breaking numerous records, recent years have benefited from the cooling effect of the La Niña weather pattern. The WMO said the appearance of El Niño, another global climatic phenomenon that is characterized by warmer weather, will be a key factor helping to push temperatures higher over the next few years.
“Global mean temperatures are predicted to continue increasing” and move us “further and further away from the climate we are used to,” said Leon Hermanson, a scientist with the U.K.’s Met Office who led the report.