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HomeWorldThe first annual global breach of the crucial 1.5C warming threshold.

The first annual global breach of the crucial 1.5C warming threshold.

According to the EU’s climate service, global warming has surpassed 1.5C for the first time in a full year.

In order to help prevent the worst effects, world leaders made a commitment in 2015 to attempt to keep the global temperature increase to 1.5C.

The globe is one step closer to breaking the historic “Paris agreement” in the long run, even though this initial year-long breach does not.

Scientists suggest we can still delay global warming by acting quickly to reduce carbon emissions.

“It is noteworthy to surpass [1.5C of warming] annually on average,” according to Prof. Liz Bentley, the CEO of the Royal Meteorological Society.

“It’s just one more misguided move. However, we are aware of our obligations.”

1.5C global warming

A major emblem of global efforts to combat climate change is the restriction of long-term warming to 1.5C over “pre-industrial” levels, or before people began using huge amounts of fossil fuels.

According to a historic UN assessment from 2018, there were far more risks associated with 2C of warming than there were with 1.5C, including the possibility of extreme heat waves, rising sea levels, and the extinction of biodiversity.

However, data from the EU’s Copernicus Climate Change Service during the past year indicates that temperatures have continued to rise at an alarming rate, as seen in the graph below. The temperature increased by 1.52C between February 2023 and January 2024.

There is no great surprise in this year-long breach. For the eighth consecutive month, January had record warmth.

According to Berkeley Earth, a science organization, the year 2023 was actually more than 1.5C warmer than pre-industrial levels. NASA and other scientific organizations estimate that the past 12 months have seen a warming of little under 1.5C.

The methodology used to estimate global temperatures for the late 1800s, when data were more scarce, is mostly to blame for these little variations.

All the major datasets, however, concur that the world is currently experiencing its warmest era since the start of modern records, and that this warming trajectory is likely to continue for a very long time.

1.5C global warming

Furthermore, the average global sea surface temperature is at its highest point ever—yet another illustration of how widely distributed climate records are. It’s especially noteworthy, as the figure below illustrates, considering that ocean temperatures typically peak in another month or so.

What has caused the breakage of 1.5C in the last year?

Without a doubt, human activity is the primary cause of the long-term warming trend. Burning fossil fuels creates gases like carbon dioxide that warm the globe. The great majority of the warmth experienced over the past year is also attributable to this.

El Niño, a naturally occurring phenomena that warms the environment, has also raised air temperatures in recent months, however it usually only does so by 0.2C.

El Niño and La Niña: What are they?

After El Niño started to develop in the second part of 2023, global average air temperatures started to rise by more than 1.5C virtually every day, and this trend continued throughout 2024. The graph below illustrates this where the red line is above the dashed line.

A few months from now, El Niño conditions should end, allowing global temperatures to momentarily stabilize before declining slightly and most likely returning below the 1.5C mark.

 

However, if immediate action is not taken, temperatures will eventually continue to rise in the coming decades due to human activity.

“The only way to stop global temperatures from rising is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions quickly,” says Samantha Burgess, deputy director of Copernicus.

Is it possible to limit global warming?

At the current rate of emissions, it may be possible to surpass the 1.5C global warming target within the next ten years as a long-term average rather than a single year.

Although scientists believe this would not signal a climatic cliff edge, it would be a very symbolic milestone.

According to Professor Myles Allen, who is a lead author of the UN’s historic 2018 report and teaches at the University of Oxford and Gresham College, “there isn’t a threshold beyond which climate change will spin out of control.”

But as we’ve seen with the unprecedented heat waves, droughts, wildfires, and floods over the past 12 months, the effects of climate change will only get worse.

“Every tenth of a degree of warming causes more harm than the last one,” Professor Allen continues.

Passing “tipping points” is also far more likely as global temperature climbs by an additional half a degree, or the difference between 1.5C and 2C.

These are climatic system thresholds that, if crossed, may cause abrupt and possibly irreversible changes.

For example, Prof. Bentley states that “catastrophic” rises in global sea levels during the ensuing millennia would result from the Greenland and West Antarctic Ice Sheets potentially collapsing at a tipping point.

However, scientists are eager to point out that people can still influence the course of global warming.

The globe has come a long way, with the use of green technologies such as electric vehicles and renewable energy sources growing around the world.

As a result, based on existing policies and commitments, some of the worst case scenarios of 4C or more of warming this century thought plausible a decade ago are now regarded as considerably less likely.

The world’s belief that net zero carbon emissions would eventually bring an end to global warming is arguably the most hopeful of all. One special emphasis is on effectively cutting emissions this decade.

According to Zeke Hausfather, a climate scientist with the US organization Berkeley Earth, “that means we can ultimately control how much warming the world experiences, based on our choices as a society, and as a planet.”

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