50% chance of surpassing catastrophic climate change threshold within 5 years - study

Temperatures in 2022 are likely to be higher than the 1991-2020 average in almost all regions except parts of the Southern Ocean, South Atlantic and the Pacific Ocean.

BIRDS FLY near factory emissions n Tangshan, China, in 2016. Waskow emphasizes the importance of using religion to fight climate change (photo credit: KIM KYUNG-HOON/FILE PHOTO/ REUTERS)
BIRDS FLY near factory emissions n Tangshan, China, in 2016. Waskow emphasizes the importance of using religion to fight climate change
(photo credit: KIM KYUNG-HOON/FILE PHOTO/ REUTERS)

A new study led by the World Meteorological Organization has revealed that the chance of at least one of the next five years exceeding 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels is now about 50:50 (48%).

The 1.5°C target is the goal of the Paris Agreement, which calls for countries to take concerted climate action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in order to limit global warming.

“This study shows – with a high level of scientific skill – that we are getting measurably closer to temporarily reaching the lower target of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change,” said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas while referencing the peer-reviewed study.

“The 1.5° figure is not some random statistic,” he said, but “rather an indicator of the point at which climate impacts will become increasingly harmful for people and indeed the entire planet.”

Taalas has warned that as long as countries continue to emit greenhouse gases at the same rate they do now, temperatures will continue to rise. 

“And alongside that, our oceans will continue to become warmer and more acidic, sea ice and glaciers will continue to melt, sea level will continue to rise and our weather will become more extreme," he said. "Arctic warming is disproportionately high – and what happens in the Arctic affects all of us.”

Temperatures in 2022 are likely to be higher than the 1991-2020 average in almost all regions exceptparts of the Southern Ocean, South Atlantic and the Pacific Ocean. Alaska, western Canada, andIndia are likely to be cooler. Skill  (forecast accuracy) is estimated from hindcasts to be medium or high in most regions, giving medium to high confidence in the forecast. 

In 2021, the global average temperature was 1.1°C above the pre-industrial baseline, according to the provisional WMO report on the State of the Global Climate. The final report will be released on May 18.