World’s hottest year on the horizon, new Met Office climate analysis warns

The chance of temporarily reaching 1.5C above pre-industrial levels has roughly doubled compared to last year’s predictions

Called the ‘Global Annual to Decadal Climate Update’, the report covers 2021 through 2025, combining data from past years with “the best predictions from leading climate centres around the world”. Centre locations include Spain, Germany, Canada, China, the US, Japan, Australia, Sweden, Norway and Denmark.

It warns that 2016, currently the hottest year on record in terms of average global temperature, will almost certainly lose its title by 2025. There is a 90% chance. Another warning is that years are becoming hotter in general; the six hottest years on record have all taken place since 2015, and this trend will likely accelerate.

Looking more specifically, the report reveals that the world will likely temporarily breach the Paris Agreement’s 1.5C trajectory between now and 2025. The likelihood of at least one year breaching this trajectory in terms of average global figures is 40%, with the risk higher on a monthly basis. In 2020, the temperature increase against the pre-industrial baseline was 1.2C.

The chance of temporarily reaching 1.5C has roughly doubled compared to last year’s predictions from the WMO and Met Office.

This trend could have devastating negative impacts for certain regions and nations, the report warns. Sahel – the region of Africa immediately south of the Sahara Desert – could become waterlogged, the report reveals, while the Atlantic could see a sharp uptick in tropical cyclone numbers.

“These predictions provide a basis to alert governments and aid agencies to regional climate risks,” Dr Leon Hermanson of the Met Office said.

Hermanson separately told the BBC that “time is running out for the strong action which we need now”.

Green economy reaction

Reacting to the report, the National Centre for Atmospheric Science’s (NCAS) director of climate research Professor Rowan Sutton said: “A single year in which global temperatures exceed 1.5C above pre-industrial levels is quite different to temperatures staying above this level permanently, but it would be entirely appropriate to treat it as a warning of events to come. 

“It would give us new insights into the warmer worlds we are heading toward, for example illustrating diverse impacts on people and natural systems in many different parts of the world.”

The Grantham Institute’s director or research Dr Joeri Rogelj added: “In a world that has warmed by 1.5°C we expect half of the years to be warmer than 1.5°C, and the other half cooler. A single year hitting 1.5°C, therefore, doesn’t mean the Paris limits are breached, but is nevertheless very bad news.”

“As the WMO notes, this report makes an unarguable case that governments and businesses should urgently reduce emissions in the next few years, to keep the door to the Paris Agreement 1.5C target open,” said the ECIU’s senior associate Richard Black.

“Having individual years more than 1.5C above the historical average wouldn’t mean the Paris target is breached, but this is an unmistakable warning sign that the door will close if governments make the wrong choices.

“For governments such as the UK’s, that means getting on with policymaking in areas such as replacing gas boilers – there’s no way to reach either the national 2030 target or net-zero without action on all sources of emissions, and there’s no way to halt climate change and minimise its escalating cost without reaching net- zero.

“The report also makes clear that impacts of climate change on the world’s poorest countries are escalating, making an urgent case that developed nations should deliver on their commitments for financial support – which is certain to be high on the agenda for next month’s G7 summit.”

Net-zero solutions

Since its ratification five years ago, the Paris Agreement has failed to ultimately receive alignment globally. The UN Environment Programme’s (UNEP) emissions gap report for 2020 warned that the global temperature increase could hit 3C this century without a coordinated and ambitious global green recovery approach.

Building on a string of policy and technology recommendations to have been published in recent months, accountancy and advisory network Moore Intelligence, of Moore Global, this week published a report outlining business and policy recommendations for aligning the energy and mining sectors with net-zero.

On energy, the report states that there are major policy and finance gaps in clean electricity generation, alternative fuels and clean transport infrastructure.

On the former, it outlines how many nations, including the UK, will have to deal with an impending ‘nuclear gap’ as existing plants come online. It argues the case for replacing them, rather than using renewable electricity generation with battery storage, stating that they last longer and can be safer.

On fuels and transport, the report outlines the need to scale up alternative low-carbon fuels for the shipping sector and charging infrastructure for the road transport sector. Shipping is currently responsible for around 3% of global CO2e emissions, but researchers for the European Parliament believe this proportion could rise to 17.5% by mid-century without a step-change in approach. Solutions raised by Moore Intelligence include hydrogen and ammonia.

“The world must transition from traditional energy sources and mining techniques if we hope to meet targets of net zero emissions by 2050 and every day we delay makes the task a little bit harder,” Moore Global’s lead for the energy, mining and renewables group David Tomasi said.

“We need to stop talking about targets and green dividends and start considering the practical steps we need to take to get to the point where we have a truly sustainable global economy.”

Earlier this month, the International Energy Agency (IEA) published its first comprehensive report on delivering net-zero globally.

Sarah George

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie