Scientists Warn 1.5 Celsius Warming Threshold Is Rapidly Approaching

The likelihood of reaching the limit within five years, beyond which climate change impact will become severe, rose to 50 percent

Lee Yaron
Lee Yaron
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Shoreline on Lake Mead at the Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Monday.
Shoreline on Lake Mead at the Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Monday.Credit: AP Photo/John Locher
Lee Yaron
Lee Yaron

The year in which the world will cross the 1.5 degree Celsius warming threshold, defined in the Paris Climate Accords as a goal and a red line beyond which the dangers of climate change rise significantly, is approaching rapidly. That is the conclusion of the World Meteorological Organization and the British Meteorological Service.

In an announcement issued Tuesday, the organizations said the likelihood of temporarily exceeding this limit within the next five years has leaped to 50 percent. In 2015, such a scenario’s likelihood was deemed “nil.” The full WMO report, with projections for the next five years, will be published in the coming days.

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The Paris Accords state that the leaders of the world must act quickly to limit the rise in global temperatures to 1.5 degrees Celsius compared to preindustrial levels. Beyond this level, scientists say the impacts of global warming – lethal heat waves, water shortages, crop and ecosystem collapse – will worsen significantly. Every fraction of a degree of warming, scientists say, increases the extreme occurrences and their social and economic consequences.

According to the United Nations panel of climate scientists, the top authority on the topic, in a 1.5-degree warming scenario, extreme heat waves will become 4.1 times more frequent, drought twice as frequent and heavy rainfall capable of causing floods 1.5 times as frequent.

Scientists say that to avoid such consequences, humanity must reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 45 percent within the next eight years. To do so, humanity must wean itself from fossil fuels and expand the use of renewable energies.

Yet the world’s countries are not taking enough steps to reduce emissions, and even their rhetoric falls short of the required level. In Israel, the Ministerial Committee for Legislation approved Sunday a goal of reducing Israel’s greenhouse gas emissions by 27 percent, but as a cabinet resolution rather than a law.

After examining commitments submitted by the world’s countries, the UN has determined that the Earth will grow 2.8 degrees Celsius warmer. At the end of last year’s UN climate summit in Glasgow, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said that “it’s time for a state of emergency.”

The scientists stated that there is a very high degree of certainty that one of the next five years will be the hottest ever recorded.

“The figure of 1.5 degrees Celsius is not a random figure. It represents the point where the climate impacts will become more harmful for people and the entire planet,” said WMO director Prof. Petteri Taalas.

Amir Givati, of the Environmental and Earth Studies School at Tel Aviv University, said that “the new forecast leaves almost no doubt that the trend of global warming is accelerating faster than projected a few short years ago. Summer 2022 will be particularly scorching and dry on the European continent, more than ever measured.”

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