The world is creeping closer to the warming threshold international agreements are trying to prevent, with nearly a 50-50 chance that Earth will temporarily hit that temperature mark within the next five years, teams of meteorologists across the globe predicted.
With human-made climate change continuing, there’s a 48% chance that the globe will reach a yearly average of 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels of the late 1800s at least once between now and 2026, a bright red signal in climate change negotiations and science, a team of 11 different forecast centers predicted for the World Meteorological Organization, late Monday.
The odds are inching up along with the thermometer. Last year, the same forecasters put the odds at closer to 40% and a decade ago it was only 10%.
The team, coordinated by the United Kingdom’s Meteorological Office, in their five-year general outlook said there is a 93% chance that the world will set a record for hottest year by the end of 2026. They also said there’s a 93% chance that the five years from 2022 to 2026 will be the hottest on record. Forecasters also predict the devastating fire-prone megadrought in the US Southwest will keep going.
“We’re going to see continued warming in line with what is expected with climate change,” said UK Met Office senior scientist Leon Hermanson, who coordinated the report.
These forecasts are big picture global and regional climate predictions on a yearly and seasonal time scale based on long term averages and state of the art computer simulations. They are different than increasingly accurate weather forecasts that predict how hot or wet a certain day will be in specific places.
But even if the world hits that mark of 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial times — the globe has already warmed about 1.1 degrees (2 degrees Fahrenheit) since the late 1800s — that’s not quite the same as the global threshold first set by international negotiators in the 2015 Paris agreement. In 2018, a major United Nations science report predicted dramatic and dangerous effects on people and the world if warming exceeds 1.5 degrees.
The global 1.5 degree threshold is about the world being that warm not for one year, but over a 20- or 30- year time period, several scientists said. This is not what the report predicts. Meteorologists can only tell if Earth hits that average mark years, maybe a decade or two, after it is actually reached there because it is a long term average, Hermanson said.