World may temporarily reach 1.5°C in one of the next 5 years if urgent action is not taken to reduce emissions

Posted on 27 May 2021

(27 May 2021) - The global temperature has about a 40% chance of temporarily reaching 1.5°C in at least one of the next five years, according to a new climate update issued by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).


At least one year between 2021-2025 has a 90% likelihood of becoming the warmest on record, which would dislodge 2016 from the top ranking, according to the United Kingdom’s Met Office, the WMO’s lead centre for such predictions.


In 2020 – one of the three warmest years on record – the global average temperature was 1.2°C above the pre-industrial baseline. It highlighted the acceleration in climate change indicators like rising sea levels, melting sea ice, and extreme weather, as well as worsening impacts on socio-economic development.


Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, WWF Global Lead Climate & Energy said, “Every half a degree matters, to people, to nature, and to our planet. With urgent, scaled actions that sharply reduce greenhouse gas emissions it is possible to keep global warming to 1.5°C. We cannot afford to slide backwards on this. The international community must lay the foundations committing to structural policy action at the G7 meeting in the UK in June, at the G20 in October in Italy and, crucially, at the COP26 climate talks in Glasgow in November. If they do so, the world’s leaders have an opportunity to make 2021 the year we turned the corner on rising global temperatures,” he said.

Dr Stephen Cornelius, WWF-UK Chief Adviser – Climate Change said, “Limiting global warming to 1.5°C is of critical importance to prevent the worst impacts of the climate crisis on people and nature, but we know without global action we are at risk of reaching this threshold in the coming years. With so much at stake, Governments must take urgent action to cut greenhouse gas emissions and restore nature, as these are essential steps to keep global temperature rises in check.”

Prof Petteri Taalas, WMO Secretary General said “These are more than just statistics. Increasing temperatures mean more melting ice, higher sea levels, more heatwaves and other extreme weather, and greater impacts on food security, health, the environment and sustainable development. This study shows – with a high level of scientific skill – that [the world] is getting measurably and inexorably closer to the lower target of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. It is yet another wakeup call that the world needs to fast-track commitments to slash greenhouse gas emissions and achieve carbon neutrality.”

Notes to editors:

The latest predictions suggest that:

  • Annual mean global (land and sea) mean near-surface temperature is likely to be at least 1°C warmer than pre-industrial levels (defined as the 1850-1900 average) in each of the coming 5 years and is very likely to be within the range 0.9 – 1.8°C;
  • It is about as likely as not (40% chance) that one of the next 5 years will be at least 1.5°C warmer than pre-industrial levels and the chance is increasing with time;
  • It is very unlikely (10%) that the 5-year mean annual global near-surface temperature for 2021-2025 will be 1.5°C warmer than pre-industrial levels;
  • The chance of at least one year exceeding the current warmest year, 2016, in the next five years is 90%;
  • Over 2021-2025, almost all regions, except parts of the southern oceans and the North Atlantic are likely to be warmer than the recent past (defined as the 1981-2010 average);
  • Over 2021-2025, high latitude regions and the Sahel are likely to be wetter than the recent past;
  • Over 2021-2025 there is an increased chance of more tropical cyclones in the Atlantic compared to the recent past;
  • In 2021, large land areas in the Northern Hemisphere are likely to be over 0.8°C warmer than the recent past;
  • In 2021, the Arctic (north of 60°N) is likely to have warmed by more than twice as much as the global mean compared to the recent past;
  • In 2021, southwestern North America is likely to be drier than the recent past whereas the Sahel region and Australia are likely to be wetter.
For further information contact Mandy Jean Woods
Climate activists at the UN climate talks in Marrakech, Morocco in 2016.