According to the UN, there is a 50 percent probability that global warming will exceed the threshold of 1.5 degrees in the next five years – at least temporarily.

According to a climate report published by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) on Tuesday, the probability of such a development in 2015 was still close to zero.

In the Paris climate agreement, the world community committed itself to limiting global warming to below two degrees, if possible only 1.5 degrees, compared to the pre-industrial age.

According to the report, the probability of the threshold being temporarily exceeded between 2017 and 2021 was still ten percent.

According to the WMO, it is already 50 percent for the period from 2022 to 2026 - which means that the probability of a short-term exceedance is just as great as the probability that it will not happen.

However, the Paris climate agreement is about limiting global warming in the long term.

According to the WMO report, there is currently only a 10 percent chance that five-year average global warming will exceed 1.5 degrees.

WMO Secretary General Petteri Taalas emphasized that the estimates are very reliable.

The world is getting closer and closer to the limit agreed in Paris.

From 1.5 degrees, the effects of the climate would be "increasingly harmful" for people and the entire planet.

As long as humans keep pumping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, "sea levels will continue to rise and extreme weather conditions will continue to intensify."

Meanwhile, meteorologists are assuming with a probability bordering on certainty that at least one of the years between 2022 and 2026 will be the warmest year on record.

So far, 2016 holds this record.

It is also almost certain that the global temperature rise will continue.

In 2021, the global average temperature was 1.11 degrees above the pre-industrial reference temperature.

How much the climate has changed is currently being illustrated by the unprecedented heat wave in India and Pakistan.

For two months people have had to live with temperatures of over 40 degrees.

More than a billion people are affected.

Apart from health problems, serious economic consequences can also be expected.

However, climate researchers are not surprised by the extreme temperatures.

They see it as just a foretaste of a near future of frequent unbearable heat in South Asia.

"This heat wave could kill thousands of people," warns Robert Rohde from the US climate analysis institute Berkeley Earth, referring to the high temperatures since March.

It will take some time before the exact number of victims, especially among the elderly and poor, is known.

According to the Indian government, mortality from heat in India has increased by more than 60 percent since 1980.

Most recently, there were heat waves in 2015 and 2019 with many fatalities.

WMO boss Taalas speaks of a "cascade of effects" of the heat on agriculture and water and energy supplies.

In addition, the air quality deteriorates due to the high temperatures and the risk of fire increases.

From the point of view of climate researchers, the increasing heat waves in South Asia are a catastrophe with an announcement.

"I'm surprised that most people are shocked, even though we've long warned them that catastrophes like this are coming," said University of Hawaii biologist Camilo Mora.

"This region of the world and most tropical areas are among the areas most susceptible to heat."

In a widely publicized 2017 study, Mora and his team predicted that by the end of this century, nearly half of the world's population would be exposed to "deadly heat" for at least 20 days a year.

This also applies if global warming were limited to two degrees compared to the pre-industrial age.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), however, the world is currently heading for a warming of 2.8 degrees.

Experts are still examining to what extent the current heat wave in India and Pakistan is due to climate change.

German climate researcher Ulrike Otto, a pioneer in this relatively new branch of climate science known as attribution research, says there is "no doubt that climate change is changing the game when it comes to extreme heat".

"What we are experiencing now will be normal or cool in a world that is between two and three degrees warmer," adds the scientist from London's Imperial College.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change also predicts "more intense, longer, more frequent heat waves" for India and Pakistan.

Marian Zachariah from Imperial College says heatwaves like the one in India happened every 50 years before human activities massively changed the climate.

Today this is to be expected every four years.

A study published last week in the journal Science, for which Vikki Thompson from the University of Bristol compared the world's worst heat waves since 1960, also speaks in favor of a worsening of the situation in South Asia.

"Statistically, it's likely that a record heatwave will hit India sooner or later," Thompson warns on that basis.

Then temperatures of more than 50 degrees are to be expected.

Climate scientist Roxy Mathew Koll from the Indian Institute for Tropical Meteorology is concerned.

Even with global warming of 1.1 degrees compared to the pre-industrial age, there is an increase in heat waves, floods, storms and droughts in India.

"It's hard for me to envision the impact if the rise in global temperatures doubles."

Keywords: