World Set to Surpass 1.5-degree Celsius by 2028, UN Agency Says

The climate crisis is getting so bad, the secretary-general of the United Nations said, that it’s time for a “windfall” tax on profits from fossil fuel companies.

On Wednesday, Antonio Guterres said that these taxes on the “godfathers of climate chaos” would help to pay for the global fight against global warming.

Much attention across the world has shifted to economic troubles such as inflation and conflicts in countries such as Sudan, Gaza and Ukraine. Guterres tried to draw headlines away from those situations and back to climate change, just as the northern hemisphere is about to enter summer.

The speech he gave was timed for World Environment Day. In the speech, he drew on new projections and data that show something needs to be done. 

Last month, the Copernicus service of the European Union, which tracks temperatures around the world, reported that it was the hottest May on record. That marked the 12th month in a row that experienced a record high average temperature.

According to the service, the average surface air temperature was 15.9 degrees Celsius, or 60.6 degrees Fahrenheit, in May. That’s 1.52 degrees Celsius higher than the average in May before industrial times.

The main contributor to higher temperatures is fossil fuels such as oil, coal and gas, according to environmentalists.

In addition to those stats, the World Meteorological Organization recently said the global mean near-surface temperature for each year between 2024 and 2028 is expected to be about 1.1 to 1.9 degrees Celsius higher than when the industrial era began.

The Paris climate accord from 2015 set a target of keeping this increase below 1.5 degrees Celsius, which equates to 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit.

At a news conference, Ko Barrett, the deputy secretary-general of the WMO, said:

“Beyond the predictions and statistics is the stark reality that we risk trillions of dollars in economic losses, millions of lives upended and destruction of fragile and precious ecosystems and the biodiversity that exists there.

“What is clear is that the Paris agreement target of 1.5 degrees Celsius is hanging on a thread. It’s not yet dead, but it’s hanging by a thread.”

On Tuesday, 57 scientists released a new study that found that Earth would likely reach the 1.5 degrees limit in just four-and-a-half years if we keep burning fossil fuels as we are today.

Experts at the U.N. as well as academics have continued to highlight how the rise in temperatures upend climate patterns, causing flooding, forest fires and drought around the world. As a result, climate migration occurs, farm products and insurance become more expensive, and there’s a greater risk to public health such as scarcity of water and high heat.

Waleed Abdalati, the head of the University of Colorado’s environmental sciences unit, commented:

“While some individuals may escape direct consequences, we will all be affected.”