The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has issued a dire warning that global temperatures are likely to surge to record levels, with the planet experiencing its first year above the 1.5°C of warming threshold within the next five years.
In its “Global Annual to Decadal Climate Update for 2023-2027” report, the WMO says “there is a 66 per cent likelihood the annual average near-surface global temperature between 2023 and 2027 will be more than 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels for at least one year”.
There is a 98 per cent likelihood that at least one of the next five years – and the five-year period as a whole – will be the warmest on record due to heat-trapping greenhouse gases and the naturally occurring El Niño.
“This report does not mean we will permanently exceed the 1.5°C level specified in the Paris Agreement, which refers to long-term warming over many years,” says WMO Secretary-General Professor Petteri Taalas.
“However, WMO is sounding the alarm that we will breach the 1.5°C level on a temporary basis with increasing frequency.
“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. We need to be prepared.”
There is a 32 per cent chance the five-year mean between 2023 and 2027 will exceed the 1.5°C threshold. Between 2017 and 2021, this likelihood was just 10 per cent.
This report is another stark reminder of the need to slash emissions and end reliance on fossil fuels.
“The warning bells are increasing in volume for urgent action on climate change,” says Professor Lesley Hughes from the Climate Council.
“Australia is already in the crosshairs of climate change. We’ve seen the risks dramatically escalate during the past five years through multiple floods, the Black Summer bushfires and our last drought.
“Hitting 1.5°C – even temporarily – will only see these climate extremes worsen.
“We still have a window to drive global momentum towards a safer climate, but it’s clear the window is closing rapidly. This is a pivotal moment to accelerate climate action to protect ourselves from a future of catastrophic warming.
“Every fraction of a degree of warming matters. Governments must listen to the science and slash emissions this decade, and rapidly transition away from burning and exporting fossil fuels – coal, oil and gas – which are driving dangerous climate change.”