Global temperatures could break through the 1.5°C Paris Agreement threshold within FIVE years and cause weather chaos, Met Office warns

Global temperatures could reach 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels in the next five years, the Met Office has warned.

This is above the threshold set by the Paris Agreement on climate change.

The agreement commits countries to holding temperatures to ‘well below’ 2°C above pre-industrial levels and to curb increases to 1.5°C.

If the Met Office’s prediction comes true, it could cause climate chaos on Earth.

Increased temperatures caused by fossil fuels can trigger extreme weather patterns, with cyclones, foods and droughts becoming increasingly common as a result.

Global temperatures could reach 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels in the next five years, the Met Office has warned.

This is above the threshold set by the Paris Agreement on climate change.

The agreement commits countries to holding temperatures to ‘well below’ 2°C above pre-industrial levels and to curb increases to 1.5°C.

If the Met Office’s prediction comes true, it could cause climate chaos on Earth.

Increased temperatures caused by fossil fuels can trigger extreme weather patterns, with cyclones, foods and droughts becoming increasingly common as a result.

Average temperatures around the world are likely to be more than 1°C higher than those seen in the pre-industrial era, measured as between 1850 and 1900, and could reach 1.5°C higher during the period 2018 and 2022.

There is also a small – around 10 per cent – chance that one of the next five years could see global temperatures soar to more than 1.5°C above 19th century levels, the Met Office said.

It is the first time such high values have been highlighted in the Met Office’s decade-long predictions, which are updated every year.

The new highs could come if there is a strong natural El Nino weather pattern in the Pacific, which pushes up world temperatures, which would combine with global warming caused by human activity such as burning fossil fuels.

The latest warning of rising temperatures comes after three years of record heat, with 2016 globally the hottest year on record, and 2017 the warmest without the added impact of an El Nino.

This year is not expected to see temperatures exceed 1.5°C over pre-industrial levels.

Professor Stephen Belcher, chief scientist at the Met Office, said: ‘Given that 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.’

The Paris Agreement’s more stringent 1.5°C limit was introduced into the global deal because some countries including low-lying island states say it is necessary to curb temperature rises for their very survival.

It relates to the global climate reaching such a level over a long-term average period, rather than hitting a temporary high, the scientists said.

Professor Adam Scaife, head of long range prediction at the Met Office, said: ‘These predictions show that 1.5°C events are now looming over the horizon, but the global pattern of heat would be different to more sustained exceeding of the Paris 1.5°C threshold.

‘Early, temporary excursions above this level are likely to coincide with a large El Nino event in the Pacific.’

But he added that continued greenhouse gas emissions leading to further warming would mean a greater chance of seeing years with temperatures of 1.5°C or more above pre-industrial levels in future years.

Meeting either of the temperature limits in the Paris Agreement, which all countries in the world are currently signed up to, would require emissions to fall to net zero by the second half of the 21st century.

El Nino years happen when a change in prevailing winds cause huge areas of water to heat up in the Pacific, leading to elevated temperatures worldwide.

Including El Nino years, 2016 was warmer and 2017 was joint second warmest with 2015.

The main contributor to rising temperatures over the last 150 years is human activity, scientists have said.

This includes burning fossil fuels which puts heat-trapping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

They say man-made climate change is has now overtaken the influence of natural trends on the climate.

Experts say the 2017 record temperature ‘should focus the minds of world leaders’ on ‘scale and urgency’ of the risks of climate change.

Speaking last month, Dr Colin Morice, of the Met Office Hadley Centre, said: ‘The global temperature figures for 2017 are in agreement with other centres around the world that 2017 is one of the three warmest years and the warmest year since 1850 without the influence of El Nino.

‘In addition to the continuing sizeable contribution from the release of greenhouse gases, 2015 and 2016 were boosted by the effect of a strong El Nino, which straddled both years.

‘However, 2017 is notable because the high temperatures continued despite the absence of El Nino and the onset of its cool counterpart, La Nina.’

The El Nino event spanning 2015 to 2016 contributed around 0.2°C (0.36°F) to the annual average increase for 2016, which was about 1.1°C (2°F) than average temperatures measured from 1850 to 1900.

The regional variations in temperature are themselves informative in understanding the mechanisms that cause warming in response to the continuing build up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

Professor Tim Osborn, director of research at the University of East Anglia’s climatic research unit added: ‘It isn’t only the average global temperature that matters, we can also explain the geographical pattern of the warming.

‘Greater warming over land and in the Arctic region, and less warming in the sub-polar regions, are what we expect from our understanding of climate physics, and this is what we observe.’

The World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), which brings together five leading international datasets, said temperatures were on the rise over the long term.

WMO secretary-general Petteri Taalas said: ‘The long-term temperature trend is far more important than the ranking of individual years, and that trend is an upward one.

‘Seventeen of the 18 warmest years on record have all been during this century, and the degree of warming during the past three years has been exceptional.

‘Arctic warmth has been especially pronounced and this will have profound and long-lasting repercussions on sea levels, and on weather patterns in other parts of the world.’

And he said 2017’s warm temperatures were accompanied by extreme weather in many countries around the world.

The US had its most expensive year ever in terms of weather and climate disasters, while other countries saw their development slowed or reversed by tropical cyclones, floods and drought, he said.

President Donald Trump has announced his intention to pull the US out of the Paris Agreement, the world’s first comprehensive deal on cutting greenhouse emissions, which would leave the US as the only country not signed up to the treaty.

 

Climate change expert Bob Ward from the London School of Economics and Political Science, who was not involved in the study, said: ‘This record warm year has also been accompanied by exceptional extreme weather events around the world, including devastating hurricanes in the Caribbean and United States.

‘All countries are exposed to the growing impacts of climate change.

‘This year governments are due to start the process of assessing the size of the gap between their collective ambitions for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and the goals of the Paris Agreement.

‘The record temperature should focus the minds of world leaders, including President Trump, on the scale and urgency of the risks that people, rich and poor, face around the world from climate change.’

Uncertainties arising from incomplete global coverage, particularly a lack of observations from polar regions, and limitations of the measurements used to produce the data sets, have been included in the calculations.

Differences between the various estimates arise largely from the way that the data-sparse polar regions are handled.