98pc chance the next five years will be the warmest on record

17 May 2023

Image: © lamyai/Stock.adobe.com

The WMO warns that global temperatures are likely to be 1.5 degrees Celsius higher than pre-industrial levels for at least one of the next five years.

The world is on track for a significant rise in global temperatures over the next five years, according to a new report by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

The WMO has warned that there is a 98pc chance that at least one of the next five years “and the five-year period as a whole” will be the warmest on record.

The organisation also claims there is a 66pc chance that the average global temperature will be 1.5 degrees Celsius higher than pre-industrial levels for at least one of the next five years.

This 1.5 degrees Celsius threshold is significant as it is believed that at that point, climate impacts will become increasingly harmful for people and the planet, according to previous WMO statements.

The Paris Agreement in 2015 committed to keeping the rise in global temperatures well below two degrees Celsius, while working to keep them under 1.5 degrees.

WMO secretary-general Prof Petteri Taalas said this doesn’t mean the Earth will permanently exceed this threshold, but the report indicates “we will breach the 1.5 degrees Celsius level on a temporary basis with increasing frequency”.

The likelihood of temporarily exceeding this temperature average has been increasing rapidly since 2015, when the odds were close to zero. Between 2017 and 2021 there was only a 10pc chance that one of those years would reach the threshold. This chance rose to 50pc last year, according to the WMO.

The organisation attributes the rising temperatures to greenhouse gases and a naturally occurring El Niño event, the combination of which is expected to push global temperatures into “uncharted territory”.

“This will have far-reaching repercussions for health, food security, water management and the environment,” Taalas warned. “We need to be prepared.”

The report warns that greenhouse gases caused by human activity are leading to more ocean heating, acidification, glacier melt, rising sea levels and more extreme weather.

Earlier this month, a report by the Marine Institute listed the various threats Ireland’s oceans face and highlighted that changes in the ocean affect seafood, transport and biodiversity.

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Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic