Coast KZN

21 May 2023

World set to breach 1.5ºC threshold by 2027 – scientists

Dominic Naidoo (IOL) Picture: REUTERS/Amanda Perobelli/File Photo. A crushed bottle is seen on the dry ground of the Jaguari dam, which is part of the Cantareira reservoir system, during a drought in Joanopolis, near Sao Paulo, Brazil, October 8, 2021.

The El Niño phenomenon along with human-caused climate fluctuations, according to a UN agency, could drive temperatures into “uncharted territory” within the next 5 years. Scientists have warned that the world will almost certainly experience new temperature records within the next five years, with the mercury likely to rise by more than 1.5ºC above pre-industrial levels.

According to research conducted by the UN’s World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), the breach of the crucial 1.5ºC threshold, which scientists have warned could have catastrophic consequences, should be transitory. The WMO warned that it would represent a marked acceleration of human impacts on the global climate system and propel the world into an “uncharted territory” of extreme and frequent weather phenomena the likes of which we may not be prepared for.

In accordance with the Paris climate agreement of 2015, countries have pledged to try to keep global temperatures below 1.5ºC above pre-industrial levels, based on scientific advice that warming above that level would unleash a cascade of progressively catastrophic and potentially irreversible consequences.

Prof Petteri Taalas, secretary-general of the World Meteorological Organisation, stated, “this report does not indicate that we will perpetually exceed the 1.5ºC specified in the Paris agreement, which refers to long-term warming over many years”. “However, the WMO is ringing the alarm that we will temporarily exceed the 1.5ºC threshold with increasing frequency.”

Global average surface temperatures have never previously surpassed 1.5ºC. The highest previous average was 1.28ºC above pre-industrial levels. There is a 66% chance of exceeding the 1.5ºC threshold in at least one year between 2023 and 2027, according to the report published on Wednesday.

The past year’s heat waves set new records in many parts of the world, but according to the report, those highs may only be the beginning, as climate collapse and the impact of a developing El Niño weather system combine to create heat waves around the world.

El Niño is a component of a weather system that oscillates in the Pacific. La Niña, the opposing phase, has had a cooling effect on global temperature increases during the past three years. As La Niña ends and a new El Niño develops, scientists discovered that there is a 98% chance that at least one of the next five years will be the warmest on record.