World could warm by 1.5°C by 2026

The world faces a 50% chance of registering warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels by 2026, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) warned on Monday (9).

That doesn’t mean the world would be crossing the 1.5°C long-term warming threshold, which scientists have set as a ceiling to prevent catastrophic climate change.

But a year of warming by 1.5°C could offer a taste of what it would be like to cross that long-term threshold, the UN agency said.

“We are getting closer to temporarily reaching the lower target of the Paris Agreement,” said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas, referring to climate agreements adopted in 2015.

The probability of exceeding 1.5°C for a short period has been increasing since 2015, with scientists in 2020 estimating a chance of 20% and revising last year to up to 40%. Even a year of 1.5°C of warming can have dire impacts, such as killing off many of the world’s coral reefs and decreasing Arctic Sea ice cover.

In terms of the long-term average, the global average temperature is now about 1.1°C warmer than the pre-industrial average.

“Losses and damage associated with or exacerbated by climate change are already occurring, some of which are likely to be irreversible in the near future,” said Maxx Dilley, deputy director for climate at WMO.

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