Some rather dire news has been issued within an official press release from the UK’s Met Office. Entitled “Five-year forecast indicates further warming” they explain that their climate models point to us probably breaching the 1.5 C Global Warming limit in the next five years …
A new forecast published by scientists at the Met Office indicates the annual global average temperature is likely to exceed 1 °C and could reach 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels during the next five years (2018-2022).
There is also a small (around 10%) chance that at least one year in the period could exceed 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels (1850–1900), although it is not anticipated that it will happen this year. It is the first time that such high values have been highlighted within these forecasts.
This was not supposed to happen until the 2040s, yet here it is popping up in an official Press Release from a highly reputable Meteorological office.
Why Does This limit matter?
The Paris Agreement adopted the 1.5 C limit as a goal, not simply because they plucked it out of the air but for a very good reason. If Global Warming reaches 2 C then more than a quarter of the planet’s surface could become significantly drier, hence it was set as a goal to avoid that outcome.
For a more detailed analysis on this refer to a recent paper (Jan 2018) on the topic published in Nature …
Keeping global warming within 1.5 °C constrains emergence of aridification
Illustrating the Met Office 5 year Forecast
The following graph shows you what their data models are telling them is quite probably going to happen …
Observations by UK Met Office Subject Matter Experts
“Given we’ve seen global average temperatures around 1 °C above pre-industrial levels over the last three years, it is now possible that continued warming from greenhouse gases along with natural variability could combine so we temporarily exceed 1.5 °C in the next five years.” – Prof Stephen Belcher, Chief Scientist at the Met Office
“We are now starting to see a small but real chance of temporarily exceeding the 1.5 °C level, but we should remember that the Paris agreement is about the global climate reaching this level over a longer-term average, rather than just a temporary excursion.” – Dr Doug Smith, of the Met Office Hadley Centre
“These predictions show that 1.5 °C events are now looming over the horizon, but the global pattern of heat would be different to a more sustained exceeding of the Paris 1.5 °C threshold. Early, temporary excursions above this level of warming are likely to coincide with a large El Niño event in the Pacific.” – Prof Adam Scaife, Head of Long Range Prediction at the Met Office
What could this mean?
Here is a clip by the UK Met Office’s Professor Adam Scaife explaining it …
The IPCC Report
An IPCC report that is being worked upon by literally thousands of subject matter experts from all around the world is due for publication later this year. the goal of that report is to explain the impact of Global Warming of 1.5 C and above.
In its decision on the adoption of the Paris Agreement, the Conference of Parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) at its 21st Session in Paris, France (30 November to 11 December 2015), invited the IPCC to provide a special report in 2018 on the impacts of global warming of 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways.
At its 43rd Session (Nairobi, Kenya, 11 – 13 April 2016), the IPCC Panel decided to accept the invitation from the UNFCCC to provide a special report in 2018 on the impacts of global warming of 1.5 ºC above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways, and to prepare a Special Report on this topic in the context of strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change, sustainable development and efforts to eradicate poverty.
The scoping meeting that prepared the draft outline for the Special Report was held on 15 – 18 August 2016 in Geneva, Switzerland.
That report will lay out in detail what is more or less now upon us.
Should we be worried?
(Hint: the above question is not actually a binary choice, because “no” is no longer an evidence-based option).