Will the Record-breaking Temperatures Breach the 1.5°C Limit

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A press release from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) announced that within five years, there is an 80% chance that we will temporarily breach the 1.5°C temperature limit set in the Paris Agreement.

WMO, the United Nations Agency for providing weather, climate and hydrological information at a global scale, says that we will surpass the Paris Agreement warming cap between 2024 and 2028, and at least one of the next five years will be the hottest on record, even beating 2023 records.

However, it notes that even if we exceed the warming cap in individual years, it does not mean we have permanently breached the 1.5°C symbolic mark or the goal is already lost. The announcement says the threshold limit refers to long-term warming over decades.

But even at the current levels of warming, we are already witnessing devastating climate impacts around the world—deadly heatwaves in Asia and Africa, extreme rainfall events in Dubai and Brazil, severe droughts in some African countries, a reduction of ice sheets, sea ice, and glaciers, and ocean heating.

12-consecutive months of record heat

According to the EU’s climate monitoring service, Copernicus, May 2024 marks the 12th consecutive month of record heat. According to Copernicus data, every single month from June 2023 to May 2024 was the hottest such month on record, with global average temperatures 0.75°C above the 1991–2020 average and 1.63°C above the 1850–1900 pre-industrial average.

The report also shows that human-caused global warming is advancing at 0.26°C per decade—the highest rate since records began. With our current emissions rate, we will blow past our remaining carbon budget of 200 gigatonnes (billion tonnes) within five years. The carbon budget refers to how much carbon dioxide can be emitted before committing to 1.5°C global warming.

“Highway to climate hell.”

The release of this latest data from Copernicus coincided with UN Secretary-General António Guterres’s call to more ambitious climate action during a major speech during World Environment Day. “We are playing Russian roulette with our planet,” said Mr Guterres. 

“We need an exit ramp off the highway to climate hell.  And the good news is that we have control of the wheel.  The battle to limit temperature rise to 1.5 degrees will be won or lost in the 2020s – under leaders’ watch today,” Guterres added.

Guterres blames the climate crisis on fossil fuel companies, which he says “rake in record profits and feast off trillions in taxpayer-funded subsidies” and have spent billions of dollars over decades “distorting the truth, deceiving the public and sowing doubt.” He calls for the ban of fossil fuel advertisements, similar to banning tobacco ads in every country that harms human health.

No evidence of climate change accelerating, a new report finds.

Even if the world reached a new temperature high in 2023 and recorded a faster warming rate, scientists say they don’t see any evidence of a significant acceleration in human-caused climate change beyond increased fossil fuel burning, according to a finding from a new report, “Indicators of Global Climate Change 2023: annual update of key indicators of the state of the climate system and human influence.”

AP News discusses the report’s findings from a group of 57 scientists who used United Nations-approved methods to examine what caused the deadly burst of heat in 2023. The report by the University of Leeds reveals that human-induced warming has risen to 1.19°C over the past decade from 2014-2023, an increase from 1.14 °C in 2013-2022 from last year’s report.

Below are more excerpts from the AP News article:

  • The team of authors — formed to provide annual scientific updates between every seven- to eight-year major U.N. scientific assessments — determined last year was 1.43 degrees Celsius warmer than the 1850 to 1900 average with 1.31 degrees of that coming from human activity. The other 8% of the warming is due mostly to El Nino, the natural and temporary warming of the central Pacific that changes weather worldwide and also a freak warming along the Atlantic and just other weather randomness.
  • The report also said that as the world continues to use coal, oil, and natural gas, Earth will likely reach the point in 4.5 years when it can no longer avoid crossing the internationally accepted threshold for warming: 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit ).

If emission trajectories don’t change, that fits with earlier studies that project Earth is committed or stuck to at least 1.5 degrees by early 2029 if emission trajectories don’t change. The actual hitting of 1.5 degrees could be years later, but it would be inevitable if all that carbon is used, Forster said. (Borenstein, 2024).

Borenstein (2024) says it’s not the end of the world or humanity if temperatures blow past the 1.5 limit, but it will be quite bad, scientists said. 

Past U.N. studies show massive changes to Earth’s ecosystem are more likely to kick in between 1.5 and 2 degrees Celsius of warming, including eventual loss of the planet’s coral reefs, Arctic sea ice, species of plants and animals — along with nastier extreme weather events that kill people (Borenstein, 2024).


Global temperature is likely to exceed 1.5°C above pre-industrial level temporarily in next 5 years. (2024, June 5). World Meteorological Organization. Retrieved from https://wmo.int/news/media-centre/global-temperature-likely-exceed-15degc-above-pre-industrial-level-temporarily-next-5-years

Hottest May on record spurs call for climate action. (2024, June 5). Copernicus. Retrieved from https://climate.copernicus.eu/hottest-may-record-spurs-call-climate-action

Paddison, L. (2024, June 5). UN chief says world is on ‘highway to climate hell’ as planet endures 12 straight months of unprecedented heat. CNN. Retrieved from https://edition.cnn.com/2024/06/05/climate/12-months-record-heat-un-speech/index.html

Borenstein, S. (2024, June 5). New study finds Earth warming at record rate, but no evidence of climate change accelerating. AP News. Retrieved from https://apnews.com/article/climate-change-accelerating-record-hot-deadly-434881547b4585a32fa906cf5495d3f0

Indicators of Global Climate Change 2023: annual update of key indicators of the state of the climate system and human influence. (2024 June 5). Earth System Science Data. Retrieved from https://essd.copernicus.org/articles/16/2625/2024/essd-16-2625-2024-discussion.html

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