50-50 chance global warming exceeds Paris limit by end of decade, scientists warn
(CN) — Scientists from NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration held a media briefing Thursday morning to discuss the climate and weather trends of 2022, sounding the alarm on rising temperatures around the world.
Depending on the methodology used, the scientists said 2022 was either the fifth or sixth hottest year on record. NASA claims it was the fifth warmest, tied with 2015, while NOAA's slightly different analysis found it was the sixth warmest.
But both agencies agree that Earth was about 2 degrees Fahrenheit - or 1 degree Celsius - warmer on average in 2022 than it was in the 1880s. Last year also saw an increasing number of dangerous weather events, steadily melting sea ice and ever-warming oceans.
Russell Vose, chief of the analysis and synthesis branch of NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information, also predicted there's a 50% chance that by 2030, global warming may exceed the Paris climate agreement's stated goal of limiting global temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial averages.
"There's a 50/50 chance that we have one year in the 2020s that jumps above 1.5 degrees," Vose said.
Vose further predicted that the world may see sustained average temperatures 1.5 degrees C above pre-industrial levels by the 2030s or 40s. Such drastic, sustained temperature increases could wreak havoc on both the global ecosystem and society. An accompanying sea level rise could potentially impact millions of people, with NOAA predicting in September that 4.2 million people in the U.S. could be at risk if the seas rose by just 3 feet.
The risk is even greater in South and East Asia, where more than a third of all people on Earth live. According to the European Union-funded Life Adaptable project, over 100 million people in China, India and Bangladesh could be displaced by rising seas. While the melting of polar sea ice contributes to this process, the increasing temperature of the oceans is itself a major factor. Matter expands when it gets hot, and seawater is no exception.
According to Vose, a La Niña system in the Eastern Pacific slightly lowered global temperatures last year. Despite this, he said, the global ocean system was still storing more of the planet's excess heat than ever before recorded.
Other worrying developments in 2022 included a yearlong drought in North America that by late October was affecting 63% of the continental U.S., and record-breaking rainfall in Pakistan that created floods impacting more than 30 million people.
Given the current trajectory of climate change, the frequency of these severe weather events will likely only increase, according to Gavin Schmidt, director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies.
"I wish we could tell a different story, but that's not what we're paid to do," Schmidt said.