‘Nowhere on Earth to escape’: World breached 1.5C limit temporarily in hottest June on record

‘Every fraction of a degree of warming means significant impacts on people and communities now and in the future’

Stuti Mishra,Louise Boyle
Thursday 15 June 2023 16:07 BST
Thousands of dead fish wash ashore along Texas beaches

The world breached – for a time – 1.5 degrees Celsius this month, scientists confirmed on Thursday, as they issued warnings on how fast humanity is approaching the critical warming limit set by the Paris Agreement.

The first 11 days of June were the hottest on record for this time of year, the European earth observation programme, Copernicus, reported.

The 1.5C threshold was crossed after El Niño – a climate pattern linked to warming in the Pacific – was officially declared, and last month saw record sea-surface temperatures.

While hitting 1.5C is temporary, it is the first time that the limit has been breached in June, Copernicus said.

The world has warmed on average 1.1C since industrial times began, largely due to burning fossil fuels. The ensuing excessive heat had led to a barrage of climate impacts from more powerful storms to prolonged droughts and more frequent wildfires.

In 2015 the world came together and signed the Paris Agreement to hold global temperature rise to 1.5C – or at least well below 2C – in an effort to stave off more a catastrophic climate crisis.

It isn’t the first time that the world has hit 1.5C – the threshold was surpassed in December 2015, and exceeded repeatedly in the winters and springs of 2016 and 2020, Copernicus noted.

What’s more, the limit was set for changes in long-term averages of 20-30 years, and not for short periods of days or months.

However to cross 1.5C, even briefly, is a warning sign of how far off countries are in sticking to pledges to cut emissions causing the warming, scientists said, taking us closer to the “point of no return”.

“These figures don’t just reflect a few days of warm weather in the UK or a small part of the world, it reflects the average temperature across the whole world,” said Hannah Cloke, a hydrology professor from the University of Reading.

“Every fraction of a degree of warming means significant impacts on people and communities now and in the future.”

She added: “Each time we tip over 1.5 degrees with increasing regularity, it is a worrying sign that we are getting closer to a point of no return. There is nowhere on earth to escape from this global heating.”

The next five years are expected, on average, to be the hottest ever recorded due to the combination of El Nino and the human-caused climate crisis, according to the World Meteorological Organisation.

“El Niño years have always been warm years, but now they occur against a background of decade-on-decade, fossil-fuel-driven warming that has loaded the dice in favour of temperature extremes,” says Dr Richard Hodgkins, senior lecturer in physical geography at Loughborough University.

The 1.5C breach is yet another wake-up call.

“Looking to the future however, with continued high emissions of greenhouse gases, we can expect to cross the 1.5C threshold increasingly frequently, and even permanently unless we act very rapidly to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions,” said Dr Paulo Ceppi, Lecturer in Climate Science at the Grantham Institute at Imperial College London.

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