Global temperature could exceed 1.5°C heating threshold in the next 5 years

Representational image

New Delhi (NVI): Global temperature is likely to be at least 1.0 degree Celsius above pre-industrial levels over the next five years, according to climate prediction of the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO).

The WMO report says there is around a 20 per cent chance that one of the next five years will be at least 1.5 degrees Celsius warmer than pre-industrial levels.

It says 1.5 degree Celsius is the point where global warming-linked consequences become increasingly severe and more difficult and expensive to adapt.

Scientifically documented consequences of breaching 1.5 degree Celsius includes 70 per cent loss of corals and loss of half the habitat of insects by the end of the century. This will bring global food security issues, on top of accelerating frequency and intensity of extreme weather events, the report said.

However, the earth’s average temperature is already over 1.0 degree Celsius above the pre-industrial period.

The Global Annual to Decadal Climate Update, led by the United Kingdom’s Met Office, provides a climate outlook for the next five years, updated annually.

As per the update, the last five-years has been the warmest years on record. While June 2020 was just 0.01 degree Celsius below the record-breaking temperatures of June last year, driven by exceptional heat in Arctic Siberia, May 2020 was the hottest May on record.

WMO further noted that the smallest temperature change are expected in the tropics and in the mid-latitudes of the Southern Hemisphere. Hence, the Arctic is likely to have warmed by more than twice as much as the global mean in 2020 compared to pre-industrial levels (defined as the 1850-1900 average).

As the Arctic heats up, wildfires are breaking out in the area. The exceptional heat saps moisture from the ground across the region’s boreal forests and tundra, creating perfect conditions for wildfires to burn more intensely and far more destructively.

Such dense, peaty soil also offers conditions for so-called “zombie fires”, fires that continue to burn underground and then reignite on the surface after a period, which present serious challenges to controlling them.

Therefore, the fires have grave consequences because arctic tundra is a carbon sink, meaning that it absorbs a large amount of carbon dioxide and converts it to the carbon compounds that make up its dense vegetative structure.

So, whenever tundra burns, it releases many magnitudes more carbon emissions than when an ordinary forest burns. It also cannot be restored quickly, as it is an ecosystem that develops over hundreds of years.

This year in June, an estimated total of 59 mega tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) were released into the atmosphere – marking the highest estimated emissions in the 18 years of the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS) data.

Niklas Hagelberg, UNEP Climate Change Sub-Coordinator said, “Science is giving us ample advance warning of a global disaster moving directly towards us.”

“And this isn’t new news: records are now being broken almost every consecutive year. What is different this year though, is the experience of living through a global pandemic. COVID-19 is giving us a blunt lesson that we humans depend on the stability of our environment and ecosystems and our success is intertwined with the protection of nature,” Hagelberg added.

Moreover, the COVID-19 pandemic has also affected and raised questions of every system that drives our societies. It presents our greatest opportunity to address climate change, the WMO said.

In climate action’s demand for a fair but rapid global transition to an era of clean, renewable energy, this will take a scale of workers and growth matched only by the scale of the need for jobs and economic stimulus as of today.

-RJV