Our efforts to stop climate change are not enough. A new study shows that we could have exceeded the 1.5 degree mark in just a few years. This has fatal consequences for our planet.

It was one of the declared climate goals: We want to keep global warming well below two degrees compared to the pre-industrial level and aim for 1.5 degrees – that was decided in 2015 by the 175 countries in the Paris climate agreement. As a new study shows, we could soon reach 1.5 degrees – with devastating consequences for people and nature.

According to the World Weather Organization (WMO), the annual average temperature in the world could be more than 1.5 degrees above the pre-industrial level by 2026. The probability that this will happen at least once in the five-year period from 2022 to 2026 is almost 50 percent. Just seven years ago it was considered practically impossible that this value would be reached within five years.

This does not mean that the 1.5 degree mark will be permanently exceeded. In subsequent years, the value could be lower again. The hottest year so far was 2016 with about 1.2 degrees above the pre-industrial level (1850-1900), but after that the global average temperature was slightly lower again.

But the trend is clear: Temperatures have been rising for decades, and the probability of breaking the 2016-2026 temperature record is 93 percent, according to the WMO report.

Climate experts warn that the consequences of climate change will be significant if the temperature rises above 1.5 degrees. “The 1.5 degrees is not just any statistic,” said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas. “It is an indicator of the point at which the impacts of climate change are becoming increasingly damaging to people and the entire planet.”

On the occasion of the study, WMO Secretary General Taalas specifically warns of five points: A fatal cycle triggered by the emission of greenhouse gases.

1. Temperatures continue to rise

Last year, the global average temperature was 1.1 degrees above pre-industrial levels, according to the WMO’s preliminary climate report. The WMO will publish the final value on May 18th. However, there are regional differences. In Germany, for example, it is already 1.6 degrees.

However, the scientists of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) found that even the 2-degree target can only be achieved with immediate and far-reaching climate protection measures. We would have to guarantee climate neutrality by 2070 at the latest. This means that only as much greenhouse gas is emitted as the sinks can absorb.

2. The oceans are getting warmer and more acidic

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the oceans have so far absorbed more than 90 percent of the additional heat caused by man-made climate change. This buffers global warming. In addition, according to the IPCC, the oceans contain 20 to 30 percent of the carbon dioxide produced by humans, which makes their water more acidic.

3. Sea ice and glaciers are dying

As a research team showed in November 2021, global warming is accelerating the great ocean currents around Antarctica. Then, in December 2021, British and American scientists warned of a “dramatic change” at a gigantic glacier in Antarctica. In less than 10 years, a piece of floating debris at the front of the glacier could “shatter like a car windshield,” warned one of the study’s authors. The reason for this is warm water that gets under the glacier.

4. Sea levels continue to rise

With warming and dying sea ice and glaciers, the water is expanding, which contributes to sea level rise. And at breakneck speed:

According to calculations by several US authorities, sea levels could rise as much in the next 30 years as they have in the past 100 years. By 2050, sea levels around the United States could rise by an average of up to 30 centimeters, according to a report published in February, which was prepared in collaboration with the space agency Nasa and the environmental protection agency NOAA.

5. Weather events are becoming more and more extreme

If the sea level rises, this has an impact on natural disasters and extreme weather events. For example, this increases the risk of storms and flooding in coastal areas. Global warming is accompanied by more heat and drought periods, and thus to forest fires. This became clear last year in the USA, in 2019 in the Amazon region.

Experts are convinced that the climate protection efforts made so far are far from sufficient to limit warming as intended. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recently made this clear in its most recent status report, which it has published in three parts with different focal points since summer 2021.

What climate experts and activists have been demanding for years now applies: reducing the emission of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, which hold back the earth’s heat radiation and cause higher temperatures. This is the only way to avert the worst consequences of climate change.

However, this requires an immediate change of direction in many areas. “We are at a crossroads. The decisions we make now can ensure a future worth living,” said IPCC Chair Hoesung Lee in April. “We have the tools and the knowledge to limit warming.”



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