Global Temps Already Halfway to Dangerous Warming Threshold

Global temperatures will likely cross the 1˚ C (1.8˚ F) warming threshold in 2015, according to a new report issued by the United Kingdom’s Met Office. That means we’re already halfway to the accepted 2˚ C (3.6˚ F) warming threshold, past which the effects of climate change could prove dangerous.

“We have seen a strong El Niño develop in the Tropical Pacific this year and that will have had some impact on this year’s global temperature,” Stephen Belcher, director of the Met Office Hadley Centre, said in a statement. “We’ve had similar natural events in the past, yet this is the first time we’re set to reach the 1˚ C marker and it’s clear that it is human influence driving our modern climate into uncharted territory.”

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For January through September of this year, global temperatures have been above the average of 1981–2010 in most regions.

The Met Office’s records compare today’s temperatures to the average temperatures of 1850–1900. Though that time period isn’t strictly pre-industrial—generally, the pre-industrial is before 1750—temperature records from that era are more reliable than older logs.

Matt McGrath, reporting for BBC News, has more:

Other researchers in the field say that while the 1C threshold is significant, the overall direction of travel is far more important.

“What matters is this background warming that continues up,” said Prof Miles Allen from the University of Oxford.

“And whether we have a wobble that takes us to 1.02 or 0.99, ok it matters in a sporting event, but it doesn’t really matter in terms of global mean temperature.”

Negotiators are meeting laster this year in Paris for the 21st session of the United Nations Climate Change Conference, known as COP 21. Today’s news comes just days after China reported that it had underestimated it’s carbon emissions. Though that news doesn’t change atmospheric scientists’ measurements of the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere, it will certainly add an unexpected twist to the negotiations.