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Climate change and energy

The planet could hit 1.5 °C of warming inside the next five years

February 1, 2018

Forecasts suggest that by 2022 there's an outside chance we'll experience temperatures that exceed a target of the Paris climate agreement.

Warming as usual: The Met Office, the UK's weather and climate forecasting organization, says its latest forecasts suggest that annual global average temperatures are likely to exceed 1 °C above preindustrial levels over the next five years.

A troubling outlier: The forecasts also give a 10 percent chance at least one of the next five years will see a global average temperature 1.5 °C above preindustrial levels. Such an occurrence is likely to coincide with an El Niño weather event.

Why it matters: The Paris agreement aims to limit average global temperature rises to less than 2 °C, or ideally 1.5 °C, above preindustrial levels. At temperatures higher than that, effects like rising seas, drought, and extreme weather will be pronounced. A blip above 1.5 °C isn’t too troubling in isolation—but the Met Office warns that continued carbon dioxide emissions will tip it from a one-off to a more regular occurrence.

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Illustration by Rose Wong

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