The 2015 Paris Climate Accord aimed to pull together countries across the world in a bid to prevent global temperatures reaching 1.5C or above. Countries across the world who joined, would pledge to reduce emissions and work towards greener solutions in order to meet this target. The accord works on 5 year cycles of ‘increasingly ambitious climate action’. In 2020, the UN World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) believed there was a 20% chance that the world would not keep temperatures below 1.5C. However, in the latest forecast, they believe that there is a 40% chance that global temperatures would surpass 1.5C any year within the next five, and the odds are increasing.
The stark difference between the two forecasts is apparently down to improvements in technology which have now shown that the world was in a far worse condition than believed, that the world had already warmed more than already thought. The Paris Accord, studied temperature changes over a 30 year average, but the WMO has now found that average temperature increases of 1C will likely occur every year between now and 2025, with a 90% chance that one of those years will be the warmest on record.
The 1.5C target was set to limit the rise in global temperatures to 1.5 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels. Meaning that the recorded trajectory of global temperatures has been steadily increasing since the 1800’s (the time of the industrial revolution) and that increase should not be greater than 1.5 degrees Celsius.
The rise may seem small in terms of numbers, but is dramatic for the world’s ecological stability. According to Sky News, Professor Petteri Taalas, World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) secretary-general stated: “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 WMO warned that the world can expect ‘a wetter Australia, a wetter African Sahel, and a drier North America, with more cyclones in the Atlantic’, Sky News reported. After the world hits the 1.5C landmark, this may be followed by cooler years due to natural variability, and there will still be some time before the worlds temperature permanently increases above 1.5C.
The BBC spoke to Dr Joeri Rogelj, director of research at the Grantham Institute, Imperial College London who said: “the 1.5C in the Met Office announcement should not be confused with the 1.5C limit in the Paris Agreement. The Paris targets refer to global warming – that is, the temperature increase of our planet once we smooth out year-to-year variations… A single year hitting 1.5C therefore doesn’t mean the Paris limits are breached, but is nevertheless very bad news. It tells us once again that climate action to date is wholly insufficient and emissions need to be reduced urgently to zero to halt global warming.”
Prof Ed Hawkins, a climate scientist at the University of Reading, also spoke to The BBC, who stated that if temperatures reach above 1.5C one year, it does not mean the target set by the Paris Agreement has been exceeded. “As the climate warms, we’ll get more months above 1.5C, then a sequence of them, then a whole year on average above 1.5 and then two or three years and then virtually every year,” He stated that the 1.5C limit is “not a magic number that we’ve got to avoid… It’s not a sudden cliff edge, it’s more like a slope that we’re already on and, as the climate warms, the effects get worse and worse. We have to set a line in the sand to try to limit the temperature rise but we clearly need to recognise that we’re seeing the effects of climate change already in the UK and around the world and those effects will continue to become more severe.”
There is no doubt however that serious and effective efforts to cut carbon emissions and establish greener solutions from world leaders and companies across the globe is now imperative. As Sky News writes: ‘keeping to the 1.5C limit will require dramatic efforts to cut carbon emissions by nearly half by 2030 and to net zero 20 years later. But the world’s current promises put us on track for 2-3C of warming by the end of the century.’