Global Warming may reach 1.5°C in next 5 years – How Big a Moment is this?

Back in 2015, yes it has already been seven years, the famous Paris Agreement was adopted. The goal then was that keep the rise in mean global temperature to well below 2 °C and to limit the increase to 1.5 °C.

Here we are now in 2022 and on course to potentially breach that limit.

On May 9, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) formally issued the Global Annual to Decadal Climate Update.

The what?

This is an annual report. Within the latest edition they looked at the period 2022-2026.

Who created this report?

With the UK’s Met Office acting as lead centre, climate prediction groups from Spain, Germany, Canada, China, USA, Japan, Australia, Sweden, Norway and Denmark contributed new predictions.

The team then combined forecasts from climate prediction centres worldwide. That enables them to have a higher quality conclusion.

Basically best of the best, the cream of the crop. When it comes to understanding what is coming then this is as good as it gets.

If you don’t want to read the Book, then you can watch the movie instead

It is an official WMO one minute clip that distills the facts down for you …

Rather wisely comments are turned off.

So what details are in the Report?

The key message is this – There is a 50:50 chance of the annual average global temperature temporarily reaching 1.5 °C above the pre-industrial level for at least one of the next five years

  • For the period 2017-2021 there was a 10% chance. Now that has risen to 50%

Why is 1.5 °C a limit?

Basically because that has been the calculated point at which climate impacts will become increasingly harmful for both people the entire planet.

So where are we now?

In 2021 it was 1.1 °C above the pre-industrial levels. There were also back-to-back La Niña events at the start and end of 2021 and so that had a cooling effect. We are now moving beyond that.

If we get an El Niño event then that pushes things the other way and what that happens we will breach the 1.5 °C limit.

What else does this latest WMO report reveal?

  • The annual mean global near-surface temperature for each year between 2022 and 2026 is predicted to be between 1.1 °C and 1.7 °C higher than preindustrial levels (the average over the years 1850-1900).
  • The chance of global near-surface temperature exceeding 1.5 °C above preindustrial levels at least one year between 2022 and 2026 is about as likely as not (48%). There is only a small chance (10%) of the five-year mean exceeding this threshold.
  • The chance of at least one year between 2022 and 2026 exceeding the warmest year on record, 2016, is 93%. The chance of the five-year mean for 2022-2026 being higher than the last five years (2017-2021) is also 93%.
  • The Arctic temperature anomaly, compared to the 1991-2020 average, is predicted to be more than three times as large as the global mean anomaly when averaged over the next five northern hemisphere extended winters.
  • There is no signal for the El Niño Southern Oscillation for December-February 2022/23, but the Southern Oscillation index is predicted to be positive in 2022.

Oh, and we also get a rain forecast …

  • Predicted precipitation patterns for 2022 compared to the 1991-2020 average suggest an increased chance of drier conditions over southwestern Europe and southwestern North America, and wetter conditions in northern Europe, the Sahel, north-east Brazil, and Australia.
  • Predicted precipitation patterns for the May to September 2022-2026 average, compared to the 1991-2020 average, suggest an increased chance of wetter conditions in the Sahel, northern Europe, Alaska and northern Siberia, and drier conditions over the Amazon.
  • Predicted precipitation patterns for the November to March 2022/23-2026/27 average, compared to the 1991-2020 average, suggest increased precipitation in the tropics and reduced precipitation in the subtropics, consistent with the patterns expected from climate warming.

I also have a prediction

Many will not care, and many will not listen. We will continue to lack the political will to reduce our fossil fuel emissions in the truly meaningful way needed.

I really really want to be wrong about that.

As one recent commenter put it to me, Climate Change is …

not a reason to drop everything and start riding horses

Nobody, and I literally mean absolutely nobody is advocating that we all start riding horses as a climate change solution. I suspect he does not literally mean that, but instead reflects the rather common thought that “they” need to sort out all those big polluters while he can carry on business-as-usual and does not need to do anything.

If a lot of people think like this, as I suspect is the case, then rather a lot of humans, and for that matter ecosystems, will be well and truly F**ked by the devastating consequences of climate change further down the road.

What is inevitable is that life for us can’t continue long term with a business as usual expectation. Either we adjust now and avoid the worst, or the worst happens and the tidal wave of dire consequences overwhelms our business as usual.

For some this might indeed be perceived as a political discussion.

It’s not.

Instead it is an argument that we as a species are currently having with the laws of physics.

Permit me to make this really simple …

  • CO2 is a greenhouse gas that impacts our climate – This insight was published by Svante Arrhenius in 1896, we have known this for a rather long time
  • That big yellow thing up in the sky is radiating energy at us. There exists an energy balance such that we get to keep some of the energy radiated at us. Increase the levels of CO2 and we get to keep more of that energy.
  • Net effect – our climate system adjusts and finds a new balance due to this energy increase being pumped into the system.

We actually do still have meaningful choices.

Climate Scientist Ed Hawkins, the guy who created the concept of climate strips to communicate what is happening, put it like this recently …

Ed explains the above as follows …

The planet has warmed by over 1.1°C so far. There are five possible futures illustrated here. The lowest warming future requires rapid & sustained reductions in emissions & may keep warming close to 1.5°C. The middle future is roughly consistent with current global promises.

He has added this new graphic to his Climate Visuals github repository. It can be used under a CC-BY license with attribution to both him and also the National Centre for Atmospheric Science. You can find it here –

So how big a deal is it when we breach 1.5 C in the next 5 years?

Having one year cross the 1.5 °C limit is not end-game. We have not yet reached a point where the long term trend line has crossed 1.5 °C.

We really can still avoid having the long-term trend line cross that mark if we reduce our CO2 emissions fast enough. However, what is perhaps now inevitable is that we will soon have years where the global average goes above 1.5 °C. It will most probably happen in a year that has the next El Niño.

Bottom Line

We still have choices.

As illustrated by Ed’s chart, what comes will be very much determined by the decisions we make today.


You can find links to the actual report here also with various press releases.

Leave a ReplyCancel reply

Exit mobile version