With Another Record-Breaking Month, the 1.5-Degree C Warming Target Isn’t Dead, But It’s On Life Support

Climate climate change
With Another Record-Breaking Month, the 1.5-Degree C Warming Target Isn’t Dead, But It’s On Life Support

June 2023 was the hottest such month on record, and it marked the start of a hellacious string of hottest months that lasted an entire year — plus at least one more month. According to the E.U.’s Copernicus Climate Change Service, June 2024 broke last year’s mark, keeping the streak alive of each successive month achieving hottest-on-record status.

Perhaps most notably, that makes it a full year the global average temperature exceeded 1.5-degrees Celsius above preindustrial temperatures, which was the aspirational goal set forth in the 2015 Paris Agreement. In fact, the global average was 1.64 degrees C above the 1850-1900 average, according to Copernicus. That’s the hottest 12 months ever recorded.

At recent U.N. climate conferences, “Keep 1.5 Alive” was the slogan du jour; even the president of last year’s version Sultan Al Jabr, who doubles as the head of the United Arab Emirates national oil company, called 1.5 degrees his “north star” on multiple occasions.

So… is that all done?

Not quite yet. It is generally agreed that for the world to “pass” the 1.5 degree threshold, or the backup 2.0 degrees mark, or any particular temperature, we need the average to exceed it for multiple years in a row. Copernicus notes it is actually intended to mean an average over a 20- or 30-year period. We’re not there, but a full 12-month period above 1.5 degrees this early — when various predictions in recent years had suggested it might arrive around the early 2030s — is beyond concerning.

And many scientists have at this point conceded that, as emissions stay stubbornly high and fossil fuels just keep on thriving, keeping the world to 1.5 degrees is essentially a dead goal.

For this particular streak, there are at least some promising signs of a brief reprieve. According to NOAA, the Pacific Ocean phenomenon known as El Niño that helps warm the world is now gone, and we are enjoying a brief “ENSO neutral” period before La Niña arrives and exerts a cooling effect. There is a 65 percent change of La Niña conditions forming between July and September, which rises to 85 percent by the November to January period. Meanwhile, the world’s oceans have ever-so-slightly cooled, with the average temperature finally dipping below last year’s mark after a brain-breaking 17 months of higher-than-ever levels.

Of course, “slightly below last year’s record” is still far above every other year. Hurricane Beryl and it’s early-season records are still wreaking havoc, and the hot ocean is still out there ready to fuel the actual peak of the hurricane calendar. Heat waves are proving predictably deadly, and summer is just getting started. We may not have killed off 1.5 degrees completely just yet, but it’s definitely not looking so good.

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