While the world attempts to tackle one of the biggest problems in recent years – the coronavirus pandemic – climate change continues to be another uncorrected crisis.
A new assessment conducted by the UK’s Met Office for the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) found that the possibility of average global temperatures surpassing the 1.5C benchmark has reached 20% with a 70% chance that it will be breached in one month or more during the next five years.
The last time the assessment was carried out, the possibility of bypassing 1.5C was at 10%, meaning that the chances have now doubled.
WMO secretary general Petteri Taalas said: “This study shows – with a high level of scientific skill – the enormous challenge ahead in meeting the Paris Agreement on Climate Change target of keeping a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius.”
The target, established under the Paris Climate Agreement in 2015, was signed by many of the world’s nations to reduce greenhouse gases in efforts to slow global warming. It was that same year that saw global average temperatures reach 1C above the pre-industrial period. However, five years later, it seems like not much has been implemented in terms of prevention efforts.
Admittedly, the assessment does not include the carbon emission drop off that occurred as countries went into lockdown to curb the spread of the coronavirus earlier this year. However, there’s a reason for this. According to Taalas:
“[The] WMO has repeatedly stressed that the industrial and economic slowdown from Covid-19 is not a substitute for sustained and coordinated climate action. Due to the very long lifetime of CO2 in the atmosphere, the impact of the drop in emissions this year is not expected to lead to a reduction of CO2 atmospheric concentrations which are driving global temperature increases.”
What happens if temperatures surpass 1.5C?
In 2018, the Special Report on Global Warming (LINK) of 1.5C was published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The report detailed some of the ways humans and earth would be impacted if temperatures rose above the threshold, including rising sea levels, increased risk to food and health security, worsening weather disasters, threat to fresh water supply and a breakdown of ecosystems.
The impact of global warming can already be felt in every corner of the globe. The last few years have been the hottest on the record, and even the coldest places on the globe are falling victim to rapidly rising temperatures. Recently, the Siberian Arctic recorded its highest temperatures ever reported. In fact, the Arctic region is already thought to be warming twice as fast as the rest of the world.
As the world begins to recover from the economic and social impact of coronavirus, it is stringent that tackling the climate crisis is included in recovery efforts.
“Governments should use the opportunity to embrace climate action as part of recovery programmes and ensure that we grow back better,” says Taalas.