The 1.5 degree-threshold has now been breached for the first time during the summer months. As reported by the European Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecast (ECMWF), the first eleven days of June, recording the hottest for this month, saw the planet exceed the pre-industrial global mean temperatures of the summer months, by more than 1.5 degree celsius. Acting as a deterrent for climate crisis.
“Monitoring how often and for how long these breaches occur is more important than ever, if we are to avoid more severe consequences of the climate crisis,” tweeted ECMWF.
Historical Context and Thresholds
Although it has been the first such instance during the summer months, the global mean temperature has been surpassing the 1.5 degree-threshold during the winter and spring months, which is worsening the climate crisis. As per the ECMWF, the first ever breach recorded was in December 2015, which then happened again in the northern hemisphere during the winter and spring months in 2016 and then 2020.
Although the threshold is set up at 2 degrees celsius by the 2015 Paris Agreement, the buffer limit of 1.5 degrees marks the threshold beyond which the increase in global mean temperatures, as compared to the pre-industrial levels, would result in irreversible damages to the planet, ultimately rendering it uninhabitable. Simply put, the global temperatures mustn’t increase beyond the pre-industrial levels, by more than 1.5 degree celsius.
Short-term Breaches and Inevitability
As per the Paris Agreement, the 1.5 degree-threshold pertains to long-term warming trends spanning two to three decades on average, rather than daily or annual global temperatures. Therefore, it’s important to note that this breach is periodic and hasn’t sustained for long as of yet.
But even with various courses of action proposed to achieve the agreement’s objectives, including those put forth by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), it is inevitable that the world will breach the 1.5 degree-threshold before cooling down and finally stabilising.
World Meteorological Organization’s Assessment
Between 2017 to 2020, there was only a 10 percent chance of breaching the 1.5 degree-threshold, but now the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) report, released in May, underscores the disconcerting likelihood of global temperatures surpassing the 1.5 degree-threshold for at least one year between 2023 and 2027. Based on long-range weather forecasts rather than emissions projections, this prediction carries substantial weight. This has made addressing the climate crisis the need of the hour.
In comparison, last year’s global mean temperature was 1.15 degrees Celsius higher than pre-industrial levels, with 2016 holding the record as the warmest year to date, with temperatures exceeding pre-industrial averages by 1.28 degrees Celsius. The WMO emphasised the near certainty that one of the next five years will surpass the 2016 record.
The role of El-Niño in climate crisis
“A warming El Niño is expected to develop in the coming months and this will combine with human-induced climate change to push global temperatures into uncharted territory. This will have far-reaching repercussions for health, food security, water management and the environment,” says Prof Petteri Taalas, the secretary general of the WMO.
Due to the recurring El Niño phenomenon, there is a strong likelihood of exceeding the limit in certain periods over the next 12 months. Furthermore, the WMO report highlights a staggering 98 percent probability that at least one of the upcoming five years will set a new record as the warmest on record, which will have a drastic impact on the ongoing climate crisis.
This situation will impact the Arctic the most which will bear thrice the impact on the next five winters as compared to the global average. Hopefully, when the world leaders meet at the CoP28 UN Climate Summit in Dubai to evaluate the advancements made in achieving the Paris Agreement goals, this issue will be addressed with utmost priority.
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