Global annual average temperatures may temporarily reach the world’s 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit (1.5 Celsius target limit) within the next five years, meteorologists warn.Global annual average temperatures may temporarily reach the world’s 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit (1.5 Celsius target limit) within the next five years, meteorologists warn.
The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) predicts a 40% chance temperatures will hit the 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit increase limit set out in the Paris Agreement at least once before 2025. The Paris Agreement aims to keep annual global temperature increases to no more than 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit relative to pre-industrial levels by 2050.
The WMO also calculates a 90% likelihood that one or more years between 2021-2025 will be the warmest on record. The year 2016 was the warmest experienced since records began, with average temperatures of 2 degrees Fahrenheit (1.1 Celsius) above pre-industrial levels.
Such stark analysis comes during a tumultuous time for the energy industry. Courts have ordered fossil fuel-based companies to reduce emissions. World leaders meet later this month to discuss environmental policies against a backdrop of regions announcing drops in greenhouse gases.
Oil Industry Punished for Greenhouse Gas Emissions
It’s been a bumpy road for some of the big players in the oil and gas sector.
In Holland, a judge ordered Dutch company Shell to reduce its CO2 emissions by 45% within 10 years, a legal first and a watershed moment for the industry. Shell plans to appeal and argues it was already transitioning to net-zero emissions by 2050.
Elsewhere, a majority (61%) of shareholders at North American multinational energy corporation Chevron rebelled against the board and voted in favor of emissions-reducing proposals. The company’s annual meeting update stated: “To advance a lower-carbon future, we are focused on cost-efficiently lowering our carbon intensity, increasing renewables and offsets in support of our business, and investing in low-carbon technologies that enable commercial solutions.”
Over at ExxonMobil, dissident hedge fund activists Engine No. 1 gained enough backing to replace two board members. The new candidates aim to cultivate a more environmentally-friendly strategy at the oil and gas corporation.
Darren Woods, chairman and chief executive officer at ExxonMobil, says the company is listening to shareholder concerns about low-carbon technology and bottom lines on profits and costs. He said: “We heard from shareholders today about their desire to further these efforts, and we are well-positioned to respond.”
The stories came as global leaders prepare for a series of meetings dominated by future environmental policies.
Awaiting the Next Move Against Global Warming
Australia has just announced a 5% reduction in emissions for 2020, achieving its lowest level on a per capita basis in 30 years, thanks partly to lockdowns during the COVID-19 pandemic. The European Union also reported GHG emission reductions for member states, some 3.8% down in 2019 compared to 2018 levels, before the COVID crisis.
Such reductions may influence G7 leaders at a carbon-neutral summit in Cornwall, England, from June 11-13. Climate change will be high on the agenda.
The G7 comprises the United Kingdom, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United States, and the European Union. This year, the U.K. has also invited Australia, India, South Korea, and South Africa as guest countries.
It’s a precursor to the COP26 meeting in Glasgow, Scotland, where more than 190 world leaders will attend from November 1-12, 2021. They will discuss how to secure global net-zero emissions by mid-century and keep the 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit (1.5 Celsius) temperature increase as a possibility by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Glasgow is marking the event by planting 18 million trees over a decade, which is about 10 trees for every resident.
Weather Warnings as Temperatures Rise
The WMO expects changes in weather patterns linked to temperature rises. Action appears more pressing given a warmer world is already upon us.
In 2020, the global average temperature was 2.2 degrees Fahrenheit (1.2 degrees Celsius) above the pre-industrial baseline, one of the three warmest years on record. WMO models estimate that the annual mean global temperature in the next five years is likely to be at least 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit (1 degree Celsius) warmer than pre-industrial levels. Overall, the potential increase is between 1.6–3.2 degrees Fahrenheit (0.9–1.8 degrees Celsius).
They anticipate an increased chance of more tropical cyclones in the Atlantic than in previous years, plus wetter weather for high-latitude regions.
WMO Secretary-General Prof. Petteri Taalas said: “These are more than just statistics. Increasing temperatures mean more melting ice, higher sea levels, more heatwaves and other extreme weather … with greater impacts on food security, health, the environment and sustainable development.”
Opinion writer: Tom Shearman
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