The latest report from the World Meteorological Organization predicts a 98% likelihood that at least 1 of next 5 years will be warmest on global record. Photo: Jonathan Borba

Record temps incoming

Ireland could become a global leader in preventing natural carbon emissions as the world prepares for it’s hottest year on record, a Cork expert has said.

Dr Chris Mays, a palaeontology lecturer at the School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences at UCC, said there is more than a 50% chance the earth will exceed its global goal of 1.5°C in the next 5 years.

His comments follow the latest report from the World Meteorological Organization which predict a 98% likelihood that at least 1 of next 5 years will be warmest on global record.

In 2015, the Paris Agreement was adopted by 196 countries to limit global temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, however, Dr Mays says a 2°C increase is more likely.

“If you look at the global average, what you can see today to is that we're about 1.1°C above that global average,” he told the Cork Independent.

“Within the next 5 years there's almost a 100% chance we'll have the hottest year on record.

"The 1.5°C target was a little bit too ambitious and maybe we shouldn't have been aiming so low. There is a more than a half chance we'll end up with more than 1.5°C at least for one of the years in the next 5.”

Looking forward, Dr Mays said Ireland can prepare for a 2°C temperature increase by better managing its peatlands.

He said: “They are getting dryer with this warmer weather, they play an important role in keeping carbon in the ground.

“When they dry out their carbon will be released as part of our carbon emissions, but if we keep them wet, if we keep them sustained, if we keep it in the ground instead of cutting it, we'll end up meeting a lot of our carbon targets.

“Ireland is one of those places that has a lot of peatland and we can use that to our advantage. We can become more or less a global world leader to prevent natural carbon emissions.”

Dr Mays also highlighted a number of immediate effects we could see in Ireland if global temperatures rise to 2°C over the next 5 years.

He said: “Even with the fairly wet winters, there won't be enough water to last the entire year, so you'll end up with more drying, especially in the peatlands. We might have to artificially keep them wet.

“It will be changing the seasonal patterns for our agriculture because things will be getting dryer and warmer much earlier each year.”

However, Dr Mays said there is a glimmer of hope in the fact that Antarctica is not warming as fast as the Arctic.

He said: “Records show that the world warms up asymmetrically and you end up with much more rapid warming in the poles.

“The reason the South Pole is warming much slower is because it's almost its own little climatic regime down there, cut off from the rest of the world by the southern ocean. As long as we keep our global temperatures down, that Antarctic world will more or less stay shut off from the rest, but as soon as that starts weakening, then Antarctica will be heading into a much warmer state which would be pretty dramatic to the global sea levels.”