50-50 chance world will warm by 2.7°F over five years – Met Office

World has a ‘fifty-fifty chance’ of overshooting its global warming limit of 2.7°F at some point in the next five years, Met Office warns

  • Met Office: 50-50 chance world will warm by more than 1.5C over next five years
  • It is almost certain that 2022-2026 will see a record warmest year, experts said
  • Paris climate agreement was signed in 2015 to try and keep warming under 1.5C
  • At COP26 last year, governments re-iterated commitment to keeping ‘1.5C alive’ 

There is a 50-50 chance that temperatures will exceed the key 2.7°F (1.5°C) threshold for global warming in the next five years, a Met Office study has warned.

Such a rise would be temporary, but researchers are still concerned about the way temperatures are heading.

They say that one of the years between 2022 and 2026 is very likely to be the warmest on record globally, beating the current hottest year of 2016.

The latest update, produced by the Met Office for the UN’s World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), claims that the chances of temporarily exceeding 2.7°F (1.5°C) above pre-industrial levels in one of the next five years have never been higher. 

There is a 50-50 chance that temperatures will exceed the key 2.7°F (1.5°C) threshold for global warming in the next five years, a Met Office study has warned (stock image) 

PARIS AGREEMENT:  ACCORD TO LIMIT TEMPERATURE RISES 

The Paris Agreement, first signed in 2015, is an international agreement to control and limit climate change.

It hopes to hold the increase in the global average temperature to below 2°C (3.6°F) ‘and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C (2.7°F)’.

It seems the more ambitious goal of restricting global warming to 1.5°C (2.7°F) may be more important than ever, according to previous research which claims 25 per cent of the world could see a significant increase in drier conditions.

The Paris Agreement on Climate Change has four main goals with regards to reducing emissions:

1)  A long-term goal of keeping the increase in global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels

2) To aim to limit the increase to 1.5°C, since this would significantly cut risks and the impacts of climate change

3) Governments agreed on the need for global emissions to peak as soon as possible, recognising that this will take longer for developing countries

4) To undertake rapid reductions thereafter in accordance with the best available science

Source: European Commission 

Under the global Paris climate treaty, countries pledged to curb temperature rises to 3.6°F (2°C) and pursue efforts to limit them to 2.7°F (1.5°C) above 19th century levels to avoid the most dangerous impacts of climate change.

In 2015, when the Paris Agreement was signed, the chance of temporarily exceeding 2.7°F (1.5°C) was close to zero, the WMO said.

The world is already seeing increasing floods, storms, heatwaves and wildfires as a result of climate change of around 1.98°F (1.1°C) in 2021, and beyond 2.7°F (1.5°C) of warming, more extreme weather, crop damage and losses of key systems such as coral reefs are expected.

Some vulnerable countries, such as low-lying island states, warn that going beyond 2.7°F (1.5°C) threatens their very survival.

The report’s lead expert, Dr Leon Hermanson, of the Met Office, said: ‘Our latest climate predictions show that continued global temperature rise will continue, with an even chance that one of the years between 2022 and 2026 will exceed 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.

‘A single year of exceedance above 1.5°C does not mean we have breached the iconic threshold of the Paris Agreement, but it does reveal that we are edging ever closer to a situation where 1.5°C could be exceeded for an extended period.’

The Met Office report found that the annual global average surface temperature for any year in the next five is predicted to be between 1.98°F (1.1°C) and 3.06°F (1.7°C) higher than pre-industrial levels.

The chance of at least one year exceeding the 2.7°F (1.5°C) threshold is 48 per cent over the period, but there is only a small chance (10 per cent) of the whole five-year average being above the threshold.

And the chance of at least one of the years 2022-2026 exceeding the current record warmest year of 2016 is more than 90 per cent.

The Arctic will bear the brunt of the changing climate, as warming there is expected to be more than three times as great as the global average over the next five winters, the Met Office said.

WMO secretary-general Professor Petteri Taalas said: ‘This study shows – with a high level of scientific skill – that we are getting measurably closer to temporarily reaching the lower target of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. 

‘The 1.5°C figure is not some random statistic; it is rather an indicator of the point at which climate impacts will become increasingly harmful for people and indeed the entire planet.

‘For as long as we continue to emit greenhouse gases, temperatures will continue to rise.

‘And, alongside that, our oceans will continue to become warmer and more acidic, sea ice and glaciers will continue to melt, sea level will continue to rise, and our weather will become more extreme.’

Revealed: MailOnline dissects the impact greenhouse gases have on the planet – and what is being done to stop air pollution

Emissions

Carbon dioxide

Carbon dioxide (CO2) is one of the biggest contributors to global warming. After the gas is released into the atmosphere it stays there, making it difficult for heat to escape – and warming up the planet in the process. 

It is primarily released from burning fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas, as well as cement production. 

The average monthly concentration of CO2 in the Earth’s atmosphere, as of April 2019, is 413 parts per million (ppm). Before the Industrial Revolution, the concentration was just 280 ppm. 

CO2 concentration has fluctuated over the last 800,000 years between 180 to 280ppm, but has been vastly accelerated by pollution caused by humans. 

Nitrogen dioxide 

The gas nitrogen dioxide (NO2) comes from burning fossil fuels, car exhaust emissions and the use of nitrogen-based fertilisers used in agriculture.

Although there is far less NO2 in the atmosphere than CO2, it is between 200 and 300 times more effective at trapping heat.

Sulfur dioxide 

Sulfur dioxide (SO2) also primarily comes from fossil fuel burning, but can also be released from car exhausts.

SO2 can react with water, oxygen and other chemicals in the atmosphere to cause acid rain. 

Carbon monoxide 

Carbon monoxide (CO) is an indirect greenhouse gas as it reacts with hydroxyl radicals, removing them. Hydroxyl radicals reduce the lifetime of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. 

Particulates

What is particulate matter?

Particulate matter refers to tiny parts of solids or liquid materials in the air. 

Some are visible, such as dust, whereas others cannot be seen by the naked eye. 

Materials such as metals, microplastics, soil and chemicals can be in particulate matter.

Particulate matter (or PM) is described in micrometres. The two main ones mentioned in reports and studies are PM10 (less than 10 micrometres) and PM2.5 (less than 2.5 micrometres).

Air pollution comes from burning fossil fuels, cars, cement making and agriculture 

Scientists measure the rate of particulates in the air by cubic metre.

Particulate matter is sent into the air by a number of processes including burning fossil fuels, driving cars and steel making.

Why are particulates dangerous?

Particulates are dangerous because those less than 10 micrometres in diameter can get deep into your lungs, or even pass into your bloodstream. Particulates are found in higher concentrations in urban areas, particularly along main roads. 

Health impact

What sort of health problems can pollution cause?

According to the World Health Organization, a third of deaths from stroke, lung cancer and heart disease can be linked to air pollution. 

Some of the effects of air pollution on the body are not understood, but pollution may increase inflammation which narrows the arteries leading to heart attacks or strokes. 

As well as this, almost one in 10 lung cancer cases in the UK are caused by air pollution. 

Particulates find their way into the lungs and get lodged there, causing inflammation and damage. As well as this, some chemicals in particulates that make their way into the body can cause cancer. 

Deaths from pollution 

Around seven million people die prematurely because of air pollution every year. Pollution can cause a number of issues including asthma attacks, strokes, various cancers and cardiovascular problems. 

 

Asthma triggers

Air pollution can cause problems for asthma sufferers for a number of reasons. Pollutants in traffic fumes can irritate the airways, and particulates can get into your lungs and throat and make these areas inflamed. 

Problems in pregnancy 

Women exposed to air pollution before getting pregnant are nearly 20 per cent more likely to have babies with birth defects, research suggested in January 2018.

Living within 3.1 miles (5km) of a highly-polluted area one month before conceiving makes women more likely to give birth to babies with defects such as cleft palates or lips, a study by University of Cincinnati found.

For every 0.01mg/m3 increase in fine air particles, birth defects rise by 19 per cent, the research adds. 

Previous research suggests this causes birth defects as a result of women suffering inflammation and ‘internal stress’. 

What is being done to tackle air pollution? 

Paris agreement on climate change

The Paris Agreement, which was first signed in 2015, is an international agreement to control and limit climate change. 

It hopes to hold the increase in the global average temperature to below 2°C (3.6ºF) ‘and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C (2.7°F)’.

Carbon neutral by 2050 

The UK government has announced plans to make the country carbon neutral by 2050. 

They plan to do this by planting more trees and by installing ‘carbon capture’ technology at the source of the pollution.

Some critics are worried that this first option will be used by the government to export its carbon offsetting to other countries.

International carbon credits let nations continue emitting carbon while paying for trees to be planted elsewhere, balancing out their emissions.

No new petrol or diesel vehicles by 2040

In 2017, the UK government announced the sale of new petrol and diesel cars would be banned by 2040.  

However,  MPs on the climate change committee have urged the government to bring the ban forward to 2030, as by then they will have an equivalent range and price.

The Paris Agreement, which was first signed in 2015, is an international agreement to control and limit climate change. Pictured: air pollution over Paris in 2019.

Norway’s electric car subsidies

The speedy electrification of Norway’s automotive fleet is attributed mainly to generous state subsidies. Electric cars are almost entirely exempt from the heavy taxes imposed on petrol and diesel cars, which makes them competitively priced.

A VW Golf with a standard combustion engine costs nearly 334,000 kroner (34,500 euros, $38,600), while its electric cousin the e-Golf costs 326,000 kroner thanks to a lower tax quotient. 

Criticisms of inaction on climate change

The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has said there is a ‘shocking’ lack of Government preparation for the risks to the country from climate change. 

The committee assessed 33 areas where the risks of climate change had to be addressed – from flood resilience of properties to impacts on farmland and supply chains – and found no real progress in any of them.

The UK is not prepared for 2°C of warming, the level at which countries have pledged to curb temperature rises, let alone a 4°C rise, which is possible if greenhouse gases are not cut globally, the committee said.

It added that cities need more green spaces to stop the urban ‘heat island’ effect, and to prevent floods by soaking up heavy rainfall. 

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