The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has predicted that global temperatures may reach the threshold established in the Paris Climate Accords at least once within the next five years, according to a new forecast.
Countries in the 2015 Paris Agreement are working to limit the global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels. The WMO says there’s a 20% chance at least one year between 2020 and 2024 could hit that marker. The warmest years on record have occurred since 2015, and 2020 may continue that trend.
While the forecast is worrisome, researchers will be watching to see if the global temperature reaches — and stays above — that 1.5 degree Celsius mark. The temperatures could naturally fluctuate year to year.
There is “a very small chance – just 3% – of the five-year average exceeding” that Paris Agreement threshold, Professor Richard Betts, a climate scientist at the U.K.’s Met Office, wrote on CarbonBrief. “This is a reminder of rising temperatures, but it would not mean that the long-term Paris goal to limit warming to 1.5C will have been breached,” he added on Twitter.
The forecast models don’t include recent declines in emissions due to COVID-19, but the WMO said short-term drops aren’t significant enough to affect an overall change in the global temperature. As countries have lifted restrictions, the emissions have rebounded.
The effects of the temperature increase wouldn’t be felt immediately, but the same would be true of halting it at 1.5 degrees Celsius, according to Betts. Some coastal areas could still experience more flooding, for example. “This all emphasizes how vital it is to stop the warming,” he wrote.