People, Environment

Unabated Global Heat Casts Doubt Over Climate Goals

Unabated Global Heat Casts Doubt Over Climate GoalsUnabated Global Heat Casts Doubt Over Climate Goals

The Earth is so hot this year that a limit for global warming agreed by world leaders at a climate summit in Paris just a few months ago is in danger of being breached.

In December, almost 200 nations agreed a radical shift away from fossil fuels with a goal of limiting a rise in average global temperatures to well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial times while “pursuing efforts” for 1.5°C.

But 2016 is on track to be the hottest year on record, also buoyed by a natural El Nino event warming the Pacific, according to the UN’s World Meteorological Organization. The first six months were a sweltering 1.3°C above pre-industrial times, Thomson Reuters Foundation News reported.

“It opens a Pandora’s box,” said Oliver Geden, of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs. “The future debate about temperature targets will be about overshoot.”

Many climate scientists say the Paris targets are likely to be breached in the coming decades, shifting debate onto whether it will be possible to turn down the global thermostat.

Climate scientists will meet in Geneva from August 15-18 to plan a UN report about the 1.5°C goal, requested by world leaders in the Paris Agreement for publication in 2018. Overshoot is among the issues in preparatory documents.

Developing nations see overshoot as a betrayal of commitments by the rich and a recipe to worsen heat waves such as in the Middle East this year or a thaw of Greenland’s ice sheet that could swamp island states by raising global sea levels.

“There is a risk that ‘overshoot’ is a slippery slope towards lower ambition,” said Emmanuel de Guzman, secretary of the Climate Commission of the Philippines, which chairs a group of 43 emerging nations in the Climate Vulnerable Forum.