World’s Temperature Reaching Dangerously Warm Levels

Ahead of Paris climate talks, scientists warn that pledges to reduce emissions may not extend far enough.

An ice floe floats on a lake in front of the Solheimajokull glacier, where the ice has retreated by more than 1 kilometer since annual measurements began in 1931.
AP Photo/Thibault Camus, Pool, File
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Aamna Mohdin, Quartz
Nov. 9, 2015, 12:26 p.m.

Sci­ent­ists say that to avoid the gravest dangers of cli­mate change, the glob­al sur­face tem­per­at­ure can’t be al­lowed to rise more than 2 °C. Past that point, the world faces cata­stroph­ic changes to food pro­duc­tion, sea levels, wild­life, and wa­ter re­serves.

And it looks like we’re already halfway there.  

The U.K.’s Met Of­fice notes that the tem­per­at­ure at the earth’s sur­face is cur­rently already 1.02 °C high­er than the av­er­age between 1850 and 1900. If trends con­tin­ue, it will—for the first time—rise more than one de­gree Celsi­us above prein­dus­tri­al levels by the end of the year.  

Re­search­ers at the Met Of­fice blame the un­usu­al rise on green­house gases and a re­cord El Nino, a cli­mate phe­nomen­on in which the west­ern trop­ic­al Pa­cific Ocean be­comes ab­nor­mally warm. Steph­en Belch­er, dir­ect­or of the Met Of­fice Had­ley Centre, says in a state­ment: “It is hu­man in­flu­ence driv­ing our mod­ern cli­mate in­to un­charted ter­rit­ory.”  

2014 was the warmest year on re­cord, but 2015 is already set to beat that.  

This warn­ing comes as world lead­ers pre­pare for their up­com­ing meet­ing on cli­mate change, in Par­is next month. While more than 150 coun­tries have sub­mit­ted plans to cut back on glob­al emis­sions, cli­mate ex­perts warn these pledges will still fail to pre­vent glob­al tem­per­at­ures from passing the 2 °C threshold, and in­stead lim­it av­er­age tem­per­at­ure rise to 3 °C.


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