Feb 8: For the first time, global warming has exceeded 1.5C across an entire year, according to the EU’s climate service.
World leaders promised in 2015 to try to limit the long-term temperature rise to 1.5C, which is seen as crucial to help avoid the most damaging impacts.
This first year-long breach doesn’t break that landmark “Paris Agreement”, but it does bring the world closer to doing so in the long term.
Urgent action to cut carbon emissions can still slow warming, scientists say.
“To go over [1.5C of warming] on an annual average is significant,” says Prof Liz Bentley, chief executive of the Royal Meteorological Society.
“It’s another step in the wrong direction. But we know what we’ve got to do.”
Limiting long-term warming to 1.5C above “pre-industrial” levels – before humans started burning large amounts of fossil fuels – has become a key symbol of international efforts to tackle climate change.
A landmark UN report in 2018 said that the risks from climate change – such as intense heatwaves, rising sea levels and loss of wildlife – were much higher at 2C of warming than at 1.5C.
But temperatures have kept rising at a concerning pace, data from the EU’s Copernicus Climate Change Service from the past year shows, illustrated in the graph below. The period from February 2023 to January 2024 reached 1.52C of warming.