'More likely than not' world will soon see 1.5°C of warming, and other nature and climate news you need to read this week

Top climate change and environment news: 'More likely than not' world will soon see 1.5°C of warming, and more.
Top climate change and environment news: 'More likely than not' world will soon see 1.5°C of warming, and more.
Image: REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger
  • This round-up brings you the must-read nature and climate news from the past week.
  • Top nature and climate news: 'More likely than not' world will soon see 1.5°C of warming; More than half of the world's large lakes are drying up; Record-breaking April heatwaves across large parts of Asia.

1. WMO: 'More likely than not' world will soon see 1.5°C of warming

For the first time ever, global temperatures are now more likely than not to breach 1.5°C of warming within the next five years, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said on 17 May.

This does not mean the world would cross the long-term warming threshold of 1.5°C above preindustrial levels set out in the 2015 Paris Agreement.

But a year of warming at 1.5°C could offer a glimpse of what that would be like, based on the 30-year global average.

Even temporarily reaching 1.5°C is "an indication that as we start having these years with 1.5°C happening more and more often, then we are getting closer to having the actual long-term climate be on that threshold", according to Leon Hermanson of the Met Office.

It also means the world has failed to make sufficient progress on slashing climate-warming greenhouse gas emissions.

The chance of soon hitting 1.5°C has been boosted by the expectation of an El Niño weather pattern developing in the coming months. During El Niño, warmer waters in the tropical Pacific heat the atmosphere above, lifting global temperatures.

The likelihood of temporarily exceeding 1.5°C has increased over time. Scientists had estimated just a 10% chance of hitting 1.5°C between 2017 and 2021, for example.

The WMO update provides more of a prediction-based long-range weather forecast, unlike the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's climate projections, which are based on future greenhouse gas emissions.

There's a 98% chance that one of the next five years will be the hottest on record, surpassing 2016 which saw a global temperature impacted by about 1.3°C of warming, the WMO adds.

What’s the World Economic Forum doing about climate change?

Climate change poses an urgent threat demanding decisive action. Communities around the world are already experiencing increased climate impacts, from droughts to floods to rising seas. The World Economic Forum's Global Risks Report continues to rank these environmental threats at the top of the list.

To limit global temperature rise to well below 2°C and as close as possible to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, it is essential that businesses, policy-makers, and civil society advance comprehensive near- and long-term climate actions in line with the goals of the Paris Agreement on climate change.

The World Economic Forum's Climate Initiative supports the scaling and acceleration of global climate action through public and private-sector collaboration. The Initiative works across several workstreams to develop and implement inclusive and ambitious solutions.

This includes the Alliance of CEO Climate Leaders, a global network of business leaders from various industries developing cost-effective solutions to transitioning to a low-carbon, climate-resilient economy. CEOs use their position and influence with policy-makers and corporate partners to accelerate the transition and realize the economic benefits of delivering a safer climate.

Contact us to get involved.

2. More than half of the world's large lakes are drying up

More than half of the world's large lakes and reservoirs have shrunk since the early 1990s, chiefly because of climate change, intensifying concerns about water for agriculture, hydropower and human consumption, a study has found.

A team of international researchers reported that some of the world's most important freshwater sources – from the Caspian Sea between Europe and Asia to South America's Lake Titicaca – lost water at a cumulative rate of around 22 gigatonnes per year for nearly three decades. That's about 17 times the volume of Lake Mead, the United States' largest reservoir.

Fangfang Yao, a surface hydrologist at the University of Virginia who led the study published in the journal Science, said 56% of the decline in natural lakes was driven by climate warming and human consumption, with warming "the larger share of that".

Climate scientists generally think that the world's arid areas will become drier under climate change, and wet areas will get wetter, but the study found significant water loss even in humid regions. "This should not be overlooked," Yao said.

Almost 2 billion people, who live in a drying lake basin, are directly affected and many regions have faced shortages in recent years.

National Water Stress Rankings.
Countries experiencing water stress.
Image: World Resources Institute

Many parts of regions like the Middle East and South Asia are already experiencing extremely high baseline water stress levels, which is likely to get worse as the climate crisis unfolds.

The study found unsustainable human use dried up lakes, such as the Aral Sea in Central Asia and the Dead Sea in the Middle East, while lakes in Afghanistan, Egypt and Mongolia were hit by rising temperatures, which can increase water loss to the atmosphere.

3. News in brief: Top nature and climate stories this week

Record-breaking April heatwaves across large parts of Asia, were "30 times more likely" because of human-induced climate change, according to an international team of scientists.

The UN Environment Programme has announced a 17-year roadmap to reducing plastics pollution by 80% by 2040, including promoting refillable bottles, bulk dispensers, deposit-return-schemes and packaging take-back schemes to tackle single-use plastics.

Mexican volcano near capital spews more ash, forcing authorities to cancel in-person classes for more than 100,000 students as one of the country's most active volcano raises health concerns.

The US EPA tightens rules to force some utilities to clean up older piles of toxic coal ash at power plants to prevent contamination of groundwater. It's the latest in a series of rules to reduce pollution in the sector.

Wind power became the dominant source of electricity in the UK for the first time, as wind turbines generated more electricity than gas in the first three months of the year.

Southern Europe braces for a climate change-fuelled summer of drought, with some regions already suffering water shortages and farmers expecting their worst yields in decades.

El Niño is intensifying, which could leave a $4 trillion bill for the global economy in its wake, according to a new study of the naturally-occurring climate phenomenon.

4. More on the nature and climate crises on Agenda

The recent G7 summit brought some potentially far-reaching impacts for net zero action, nature and the circular economy, and this article outlines 3 main takeaways.

The oceans are becoming less able to regulate the Earth's climate, as warming waters undermine the role sea ice, which supports vital underwater ecosystems, plays in regulating ocean temperatures.

Is 2023 going to be the hottest year on record? The southern hemisphere has just experienced its warmest month ever, according to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Information.

These 8 unexpected side effects of climate change show some of the unusual effects global warming is having on the world, from changing the size of animals to the state of wine and coffee crops.

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