The World Meteorological Organisation has updated its forecast on when the crucial threshold of 1.5 degrees of heating will be passed, finding that there is now a 66% chance this will be breached between now and 2027.

It is yet another alarm, about the urgency and importance of climate action, which scientists have been sounding with increasing frequency and volume for the best part of forty years, and they hope will be yet another wake up call. There is a sense that if people aren’t already awake to this, then they must surely be deaf by now, or consciously not listening, but many people still don’t understand the relevance to their own lives or the impacts of not taking action, and for those that have heard the alarm, many lack clarity about what they can do about it.

This latest report is worrying, but not surprising. With an expected El Nino later this year (which will raise temperatures) replacing a persistent La Nina event (which acted to suppress global temperatures), there is likely to be a 0.4C spike in global temperatures as winds above the Pacific push warm surface water back towards South America. This will add to already increasing temperatures globally because of the continued build-up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere from fossil fuels. Reaching this threshold is a bad thing, but has been forecast for some time. This announcement brings the likelihood of that temperature being exceeded forwards, but it does not yet mean that we have lost any chance of meeting the Paris climate goal of restricting temperature increases to less than 1.5C. This is because the temperature needs to be consistently above 1.5C over a period of years for this to happen, and that may take a further 10-20 years. It does however start to make it look highly unlikely that we will manage to restrain temperatures to this level in future, and this requires urgent action to cut emissions which we seem reluctant to do. Every tenth of a degree of added warmth will cause more death and damage globally, and could risk tipping earth systems beyond recovery point, and that would be catastrophic for people and wildlife.

We are seeing increasingly worrying trends of escalating temperatures, with records being broken and more extreme and devastating weather events that are destroying lives and livelihoods in every part of the world. Whilst it might not be permanent at this stage, this announcement is still deeply troubling, and is a stark reminder that the climate crisis is already here. This updated forecast shows that the window for action is closing and even faster than we previously estimated.

So if scientists have been sounding this alarm for the past 40 years, why haven’t we done more to stop it? Climate change is not optional, it is happening whether we like it or not. It needs concerted action, but the understanding of solutions is still very low. The priority it is given in decision making is still minimal. There is very little funding to do the right thing, and too many perverse subsidies still in effect to carry on doing the wrong things. Our political cycles encourage short-termism, and the decision-making processes are too laborious and filled with red tape, so we are still trying to build projects which answer problems from 20 or 30 years ago, and not today. And people who want to do the right thing still don’t have sufficient agency, or a sense of authority, to make the changes necessary. There is an awful lot to do. The Scottish Government’s Climate Change Delivery Plan, which is being written throughout 2023, will hopefully go some way to answering some of these issues. It really must if we are going to succeed in Scotland, but will need the buy in from the whole of government, not just the climate team. And it needs the buy in of

private business, local authorities, communities and each of us as consumers. Our government was one of the first to declare a climate emergency in 2019. It’s time we all started acting like it was one.