Environmentalists have long warned of the urgency in halting man-made global warming. We have long known just how vital it is to curb global warming before it reaches the point of no return. But this month – scientists have given the world a stark warning: we could reach 1.5 degree warming threshold even earlier than was previously anticipated.
This 1.5 degree C. warming level was the cap agreed to by countries in the Paris Climate Agreement. But the UN weather agency – the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has announced this month that there is a 20% chance that global temperatures will be 1.5 degrees warmer than the pre-industrial average in at least one year between 2020 and 2024. And the WMO also stated that there is a 70% chance that it will be exceeded in a single month during that time.
This is a stark warning that we are getting closer to what the Paris Agreement is trying to prevent. Breaking this threshold would be further evidence that international attempts to curb climate change have fallen short.
It is not impossible that countries will still manage to achieve the target set in Paris of keeping global warming well below 2 degrees, and ideally no more than 1.5 degrees by the end of the century. But it is important that the absolute urgency of the situation sinks in.
Crossing the 1.5 degree threshold has been described as a 'screaming warning signal'. But it should not become a distraction from efforts to reduce man-made greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2050 at the very latest.
The coronavirus crisis has resulted in a dip in emissions. But this pandemic-related dip, experts agree, is likely to be short-lived. Many people believe that the economic strife caused by the crisis will actually hinder efforts in this arena and make it more difficult to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and halt global warming.
Successfully tackling the crisis will involve rebuilding healthy and resilient economic and societal systems, which are truly able to withstand whatever may come and drive change towards a sustainable future.
A WMO official, Dilley, said that the world is like an ocean liner. It cannot be stopped on a dime but takes a long while to turn around. Some of us started to steer in the right direction years ago, but many others are yet to lean into it.
Time is running out. It is vital not only that governments make the necessary changes, but also that business, and individuals also take steps to make a difference. It is only if we all work together to direct this ship towards a better future that we can tackle the existential threat we all face.
Reaching this crucial threshold is obviously a scary prospect. But we also have to know that though time is short, we do have a change to turn this ship around.