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Paris Agreement 1.5°C climate target could be breached in next five years

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Climate experts have said there is a 40 per cent chance that global temperatures could temporarily exceed 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels in the next five years.

According to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), there is a 90 per cent likelihood of at least one year between 2021-2025 becoming the warmest on record, which would dislodge 2016 from the top ranking.

“These are more than just statistics,” said WMO Secretary-General Professor Petteri Taalas.

“Increasing temperatures mean more melting ice, higher sea levels, more heatwaves and other extreme weather, and greater impacts on food security, health, the environment and sustainable development.”

“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 wake-up call that the world needs to fast-track commitments to slash greenhouse gas emissions and achieve carbon neutrality.”

The Paris Agreement was signed in 2015 and saw delegates from 196 countries meet to agree to cap global warming at “well below 2°C”, with a view to limiting this figure to 1.5°C.

In 2020 – one of the three warmest years on record – the global average temperature was 1.2 °C above the pre-industrial baseline, according to the WMO’s report on the State of the Global Climate 2020.

It highlighted the acceleration in climate change indicators like rising sea levels, melting sea ice, and extreme weather, as well as worsening impacts on socio-economic development.

It added that the chance of temporarily reaching 1.5°C has roughly doubled compared to last year’s predictions. This is mainly due to using an improved temperature data set to estimate the baseline rather than sudden changes in climate indicators.

However, it is deemed very unlikely (10 per cent) that the 5 year mean annual global temperature for the entire 2021-2025 period will be 1.5°C warmer than preindustrial levels, according to the climate update.

With the UK’s Met Office acting as lead centre, climate prediction groups from Spain, Germany, Canada, China, USA, Japan, Australia, Sweden, Norway and Denmark contributed new predictions this year. The WMO said that combining forecasts from climate prediction centres worldwide create a more accurate prediction than that which can be obtained from any single source.

In February, a study warned that global emission reductions needed to be around 80 per cent more ambitious than current plans to meet the 2°C goal.

In May, researchers said that stronger climate change targets pledged by some of the world’s most polluting countries has brought down the level of expected warming to 2.4˚C by the end of the century, still higher than the Paris Agreement target, but lower than previous forecasts.

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