Climate to exceed key threshold by 2027


A breakdown of the information from the World Meteorological Association reports

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Image by Handelsgeselschaft via Wikimedia commons

By Freya Milwain

IN MAY, THE World Meteorological Association (WMA) published two reports about the current and future state of the climate. The reports detailed a worrying prediction: within the next five years, global mean temperatures are likely to reach 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels.

The prediction is partly due to the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO). The reports predict that an ‘El Niño’ event will likely occur between December this year and February next year, increasing surface temperatures in equatorial regions of the Pacific Ocean as a result of atmospheric conditions.

Global temperatures will then temporarily rise due to the release of heat from the ocean. Additionally, rainfall will be affected by the resulting changes in atmospheric pressure, causing droughts in some regions and flooding in others.

For the past three years there has been a La Niña event (the colder counterpart of El Niño), meaning equatorial Pacific surface temperatures have been lower than average. In spite of this, global temperatures were still 1.15 degrees above pre-industrial levels in 2022, and marine heatwaves were more common than cold spells.

What this indicates is that while ENSO may be the instigator of higher temperatures in the coming years, it is far from their main cause. Global warming caused by high concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is becoming an increasing problem, and the coming El Niño event will only worsen the inevitable.

The nature of ENSO means that the temperature rise will be temporary, but it will still have a large impact on weather systems in the coming years, and indicates the stage that climate change has reached.

Global temperatures are tracked in comparison with temperatures in 1750, when the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere began to increase with fossil fuels for industry. Since then, global temperatures have been increasing consistently, especially since the end of the 20th century.

The 1.5 degree milestone is significant as signatories of the Paris Agreement, which came into force in 2016, pledged to try and keep global warming below 1.5 degrees, and well below two degrees. Crossing this threshold temporarily does not mean that the goal has failed, but the fact that we’re coming close to it so soon is troubling, and crossing the threshold will likely only become more frequent in years to come.

Some strides have been made since the Paris Agreement, and many countries are carrying out their commitments to reaching net zero, but the WMA’s reports illustrate there is still a long way to go to reduce the impact of climate change. One of the reports details that greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are still increasing, and 2022 actually saw the highest increase in methane concentration on record. 2022 also saw record-breaking temperatures, sea levels, rainfall and heat-waves in spite of La Niña conditions.

While the changes in global temperatures do not appear large at first glance, their distribution means that they will have a significant impact. The 1.5 degree rise refers to average surface temperatures globally, but in specific regions the increase will be much higher.

Arctic regions experienced more warm anomalies than other areas in 2022, which, combined with warmer sea temperatures, contribute to rising sea levels. The reports predict that in the next five years, the Arctic will experience a temperature anomaly three

times hotter than the global average.

It is not certain that the 1.5 degree threshold will be crossed, but the WMA puts the probability at 66 per- cent. Even if it isn’t, global temperatures are predicted to reach at least 1.1 degrees above pre-industrial levels, and there is a 98 percent chance that at least one year before 2027 will be the warmest on record.

The future may not be certain, but it is clear that the climate is head-ing in a troubling direction, and steps must be taken to both reduce the impact of global warming and prepare for the now inevitable damage it will cause