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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

EPA: Climate change disproportionately affects marginalized communities

Homes stand partially flooded in LaPlace, Louisiana on Aug. 30 in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida. Photo: Patrick Fallon/AFP via Getty Images

The effects of climate change disproportionately fall on "underserved communities who are least able to prepare for, and recover from, heat waves, poor air quality, flooding, and other impacts," according to an Environmental Protection Agency report released Thursday.

Why it matters: “The impacts of climate change that we are feeling today, from extreme heat to flooding to severe storms, are expected to get worse, and people least able to prepare and cope are disproportionately exposed," EPA Administrator Michael Regan said in a statement.

Miriam Kramer, author of Space
38 mins ago - Science

All-civilian Inspiration4 is back on Earth after flight to space

A side-by-side of the Inspiration4 crew and a shot of their capsule on the way back to Earth. Photo: SpaceX

The all-civilian Inspiration4 crew is back on Earth after their three-day mission in orbit.

The big picture: The launch and landing of this fully amateur, private space crew marks a changing of the guard from spaceflight being a largely government-led venture to being under the purview of private companies.

28 U.S. citizens depart Afghanistan on Qatar Airways flight

Passengers board a Qatar Airways aircraft bound to Qatar at the airport in Kabul on September 10, 2021. Photo: Aamir Qureshi/AFP via Getty Images

The State Department on Saturday confirmed that a Qatar Airways charter flight left Kabul on Friday with 28 U.S. citizens and seven lawful permanent residents on board.

The big picture: Friday's flight is the third such airlift by Qatar Airways since the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, AP reports.

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