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50-50 chance of critical temperature rise by 2026, report warns

Paris Agreement of 2015 was based on worldwide acceptance that global temperature rise must be kept below 2C

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Global warming has already led to the mass-melting of ice in the Arctic. Photo: Erik Malm/PA Wire

Global warming has already led to the mass-melting of ice in the Arctic. Photo: Erik Malm/PA Wire

Global warming has already led to the mass-melting of ice in the Arctic. Photo: Erik Malm/PA Wire

The likelihood of world temperature-rise hitting the critical 1.5C of warming within the next five years is now 50-50 and increasing.

The World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) issues the warning in a climate update to be published today.

Scientists say 1.5C of warming is a key threshold in the attempt to keep temperature rise and climate change from escalating out of control.

The Paris Agreement is based on international acceptance that global temperature rise must be kept below 2C and as close to 1.5C as possible.

The chances of exceeding 1.5C have risen rapidly since 2015 when the Paris Agreement was signed.

For the period 2017-2021, there was a 10pc chance, so the new prediction of a 50pc chance for 2021-2026 is a cause for concern.

“This study shows, with a high level of scientific skill, that we are getting measurably closer to temporarily reaching the lower target of the Paris Agreement,” said Professor Petteri Taalas, WMO secretary general.

“The 1.5C figure is not some random statistic. It is rather an indicator of the point at which climate impacts will become increasingly harmful for ­people and indeed the entire planet.

“For as long as we continue to emit greenhouse gases, temperatures will continue to rise.

“Alongside that, our oceans will continue to become warmer and more acidic, sea ice and glaciers will continue to melt, sea levels will continue to rise and our weather will become more extreme.”

Hitting, or exceeding 1.5C in a single year does not mean temperature cannot vary downwards again and the Paris Agreement is more concerned with long-term sustained warming.

But the WMO report warns that “temporary exceedances are expected to occur with increasing frequency”.

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“A single year of exceedance above 1.5C does not mean we have breached the iconic threshold of the Paris Agreement, but it does reveal that we are edging ever closer to a situation where 1.5C could be exceeded for an extended period,” said Dr Leon Hermanson of the UK Met Office.

Britain’s Met Office led the research for the report along with climate-prediction groups from Spain, Germany, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Canada, the US, China, Japan and Australia.

They predict that there is a 93pc likelihood of at least one year between now and 2026 becoming the warmest on record, a position currently held by 2016.

Average temperatures for 2022-2026 are also 93pc likely to be higher than the average for the past five years.

For the November-March period each year, the predictions show “warm anomalies are likely almost everywhere”.

The Arctic is of particular concern, however, as the anomaly – the divergence from previous averages – is more than three times as large as the global anomaly.

“Arctic warming is disproportionately high and what happens in the Arctic affects all of us,” Prof Taalas said.

Rainfall predictions see an increased likelihood of drier conditions over south-western Europe and south-western North America but wetter ­conditions in northern Europe, the Sahel region of Africa, north-east Brazil and Australia.


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