Experts from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate Extremes have provided comments on the World Meteorological Organization’s media release WMO update: 50:50 chance of global temperature temporarily reaching 1.5°C threshold in next five years.

Expert reaction has been coordinated by Science Media Exchange.

Comments provided by our experts as below.

Dr Shayne McGregor is an ARC Future Fellow in the School of Earth Atmosphere and Environment at Monash University

“It is incredibly sobering that reaching global temperatures of 1.5oC (the limit targeted by the Paris agreement) is on the verge of becoming normal, yet the world’s greenhouse emissions are still increasing. To me, this highlights how urgently large global emissions reductions are required.”

Professor Steven Sherwood is ARC Laureate Fellow at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate Extremes and UNSW Climate Change Research Centre

“This report is looking at year-on-year natural variations in global-mean temperature (due for example to El Nino cycles) and the chance that in the near future a single warm year might pop above the Paris target warming threshold, which is a significant possibility. However, if that happened it would not mean that we exceeded the target, because the target refers to the underlying average temperature with year-on-year natural variability excluded.  In other words, to actually exceed the target we’d have to be above 1.5C even in a “normal” year, and that is much less likely. But the report reminds us that we are getting uncomfortably close to this target.”

Dr Andrew King is a Lecturer in Climate Science at the School of Geography, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, University of Melbourne.

“This update highlights how fast we are warming the planet. It’s only six and a half years since the Paris Agreement was adopted and we’re already seeing forecasts that we may experience brief exceedance of the 1.5°C global warming limit in the near future. While the Paris Agreement is about keeping global warming well below 2°C and preferably below 1.5°C in the long-term, the possibility of surpassing the 1.5°C threshold, even if only for a year, is worrying. 

Our greenhouse gas emissions are still at near-record highs and until we get emissions down to net-zero we’re going to continue to see global warming. Rapid and drastic emissions reductions are needed urgently if we are to have any chance of sticking to the Paris Agreement. If we fail to take that action we will have much worse heatwaves and bushfire conditions as well as coral reefs that have been decimated beyond recognition.”

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