World may hit 1.5 degrees temperature threshold in next five years, WMO warns

World Meteorological Organisation says odds are increasing of temporary breach

There is a 40 per cent chance of the world temporarily hitting the 1.5 degrees Celsius global temperature rise threshold in one of the next five years, scientists have warned.

The warning comes in a new climate update that also warns that the odds of the world experiencing global annual temperatures that are 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels in one of the next five years are increasing with time.

The report published by the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) also warns of a very high likelihood – a 90 per cent chance – of at least one year between 2021 and 2025 becoming the warmest on record, outstripping 2016's record heat.

Global average temperatures of 1.5 degrees above 19th-century levels are seen as a threshold beyond which the most dangerous impacts of climate change will be felt.


In 2020, the global average temperature was 1.2 degrees above pre-industrial levels, making it among the three hottest years on record.

The global annual to decadal climate update was produced by the UK Met Office, the WMO’s lead on such predictions.

WMO secretary general Prof Petteri Taalas said the update's predictions were more than just statistics.

“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,” he said.

“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,” he said.

Climate pledge

Under the international Paris Agreement countries pledged to limit long-term global temperature rises to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and pursue efforts to curb them to a rise of 1.5 degrees, to reduce the risks and impacts of climate change.

Scientists warn that temperature rises above 1.5 degrees will lead to more heatwaves, extreme rainstorms, water shortages and drought, greater economic losses, lower crop yields, higher sea levels and destruction of coral reefs.

Keeping to the 1.5 degrees limit means dramatic efforts to cut carbon emissions by nearly half by 2030 and to net zero – or carbon neutrality – by 2050.

But current action promised by countries puts the world on track for 2-3 degrees of warming by the end of the century.

Prof Taalas also warned the report underlined the need for action to adapt to the impacts of a warming world, such as in the increase in extreme weather events.

In the coming five years, the annual mean global temperature is predicted to be at least 1 degree warmer – with a range of 0.9-1.8 – than pre-industrial levels.

The odds of any one year in the next five reaching the 1.5 degrees threshold have roughly doubled compared with a similar analysis last year – mainly due to an improved temperature dataset used for the baseline, the Met Office said.

As hosts of the G7 summit in June and the key COP26 climate summit in Glasgow in November, the UK government must demonstrate it will deliver on its ambitious climate targets, Prof Adam Scaife of the Met Office said. – PA