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Boat slips on a dried lake bed at Folsom Lake Marina during a drought in El Dorado Hills, California, on May 25. Photo: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images.

The world is increasingly likely to see a year in which global average surface temperatures meet or exceed the Paris Agreement's ambitious temperature target of 1.5°C (2.7°F) above preindustrial levels, a new report predicts.

Why it matters: Limiting warming to 1.5°C is an existential matter for small island states, which could be swamped by rising sea levels if temperatures climb higher. While a single year would not indicate the treaty's 1.5-degree target has been exceeded permanently, it would be a significant milestone.

Yes, but: When it comes to taking stock of global warming, what matters are trends over decades, not individual years.

  • Still, optics nonetheless matter with these climate thresholds, and even temporarily reaching or exceeding the 1.5-degree target would likely be seen as an indication of the urgency for action to slash emissions of planet-warming greenhouse gases.

The big picture: Studies have shown that limiting global warming to 1.5°C above preindustrial levels would have a much greater chance of avoiding potentially disastrous outcomes. These include the widespread loss of coral reefs and triggering runaway feedback loops, such as the collapse of large parts of the Antarctic Ice Sheet.

Details: The report, led by the U.K. Met Office with the participation of scientists from the U.S. and other nations and distributed via the U.N.'s World Meteorological Organization (WMO), says there is a 40% chance that the 1.5-degree target will be temporarily reached in at least one of the next five years.

By the numbers: The analysis pegs the likelihood at 90% that at least one year during the 2021-2025 period will be the warmest on record, knocking 2016 and 2020 out of the top spot (the two years were virtually tied).

  • The chance of temporarily bumping up against the 1.5°C temperature anomaly "has roughly doubled" compared to last year's predictions, the report says — an indication that time is quickly running out to avoid hitting or exceeding the target over a longer time period.
  • However, it's unlikely 2021 will be the one to set the next warmest-year record, given the lingering influence of a waning La Niña episode in the tropical Pacific Ocean.
  • The report, known as the "Global Annual to Decadal Climate Update," finds that the annual global average temperature is likely to be at least 1°C (1.8°F) above preindustrial levels (defined as the 1850-1900 average) during each of the coming five years, ranging from 0.9°C to 1.8°C.
  • Of note: For now, the report finds, it's "very unlikely" that the five-year period will have an overall average temperature departure from average of 1.5°C or higher.

What they're saying: "This study shows, with a high level of scientific skill, that we are getting measurably and inexorably closer to the lower target of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change," said WMO secretary-general Petteri Taalas in a statement.

  • "It is yet another wakeup call that the world needs to fast-track commitments to slash greenhouse gas emissions and achieve carbon neutrality," he said.

Go deeper

Dutch court orders Shell to cut its emissions in landmark ruling

A Royal Dutch Shell Plc logo on a fence at the Shell Pernis refinery in Rotterdam, Netherlands, on Tuesday, April 27, 2021. Shell reports first quarter earnings on April 29. (Peter Boer/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

In a precedent-setting ruling, a Dutch court ruled Wednesday in favor of environmentalists and more than 17,000 residents of the Netherlands, by ordering Royal Dutch Shell to cut its emissions of greenhouse gases.

Why it matters: It’s the first court ruling that orders a major oil company to make its emissions plans more consistent with Paris Climate Agreement targets, and it could spur legal action against other oil and gas firms.

Fighting global warming means reshaping finance

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The world's growing efforts to limit climate change will have far-reaching impacts for financial markets, and the groundwork for that push is being laid right now.

Why it matters: As more governments implement climate change regulations, trillions of dollars are going to flow towards clean energy and climate-friendly technologies, affecting significant portions of the global financial industry.

DeSantis declares state of emergency after deadly Miami-area condo collapse

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) declared a state of emergency after a portion of a 12-story residential building in Surfside, Florida, collapsed at approximately 1:30 a.m. Thursday, according to AP.

The latest: The executive order will allow for federal assistance as the state continues its search-and-rescue operations. Officials have accounted for 102 people who lived in the high-rise Champlain Towers South, but 99 people remained unaccounted for by mid-afternoon, said Mayor Daniella Levine Cava of Miami-Dade County at a press conference.

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