The human-induced climate crisis, which is causing global temperatures to reach record levels since reliable records began in the 19th century, is now being compounded by El Niño, a phenomenon that warms certain areas of the Pacific Ocean and has global repercussions. “An El Niño episode is expected to develop in the coming months, which has a warming effect. Combined with climate change caused by human activities, it will raise global temperatures to unknown limits,” warned Petteri Taalas, the Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), on Wednesday. “This will have far-reaching implications for health, food security, water management, and the environment. We need to be prepared,” Taalas added in a statement. He is the head of this UN-affiliated organization, which brings together the world’s leading meteorological services.

On the opposite side of El Niño is the phenomenon of La Niña, which helps moderate temperatures. “The cooling effect exerted by La Niña conditions over much of the past three years temporarily slowed down the long-term warming trend,” explained the WMO. “However, the La Niña episode ended in March 2023, and according to forecasts, conditions characteristic of an El Niño episode are expected to develop in the coming months,” the organization added.

Experts have a particular year in mind: 2016. At that time, El Niño was in full swing, and 2016 became the warmest year on the planet since reliable records began in the 19th century. The global temperature was 1.1ºC above the pre-industrial era. “There is a 98 % chance that, in at least one of the next five years, the temperature record set in 2016, during an exceptionally intense El Niño event, will be surpassed,” stated the WMO on Wednesday.

The reference point when discussing climate change is the average surface temperature of the planet during the period from 1850 to 1900, which is before the industrial boom that led to massive burning of fossil fuels, the primary contributors to the emissions that overheat the planet. In 2022, the global average temperature exceeded the pre-industrial average by approximately 1.15 degrees Celsius. The Paris Agreement set a goal of keeping the warming below two degrees and striving for 1.5 degrees if possible. However, the latest report from the Met Office and WMO warns that there is a “66 % likelihood that the annual global average surface temperature will temporarily exceed 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels for at least one of the next five years.”

This does not mean that the more ambitious goal of the Paris Agreement has already been breached, as surpassing that threshold should not be temporary but rather sustained over a longer period of time. However, it does serve as a serious wake-up call regarding the path humanity has taken, which will render the agreement ineffective in the coming decades if a drastic change does not occur. Urgent reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, primarily driven by fossil fuels (oil, gas, and coal), are necessary, as highlighted by the recent comprehensive scientific review from the IPCC, the UN’s expert panel on climate change.

Source: El país