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The world's climate is likely to hit a "symbolic and significant milestone" in 2015, international forecasters announced on Wednesday.
But hold your applause — it's not a good thing, the World Meteorological Organization said. Not only is 2015 going to be the hottest year on record worldwide, but the UN agency estimates the globe will end up halfway to the mark beyond which many scientists warn climate change could become catastrophic.
"This is all bad news for the planet," WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud said in announcing the organization's provisional climate report for the year.
Jarraud said 2015's final mark is likely to be more than 1 degree Celsius hotter than the pre-industrial average — halfway to the 2-degree C (3.6 Fahrenheit) point beyond which scientists warn climate change could become catastrophic. Not only that, but the five-year average — a figure that gives scientists a better view of the long-term trend — was a full degree Fahrenheit (0.57 C) above the global average from 1961 to 1990, the WMO reported.
Scientists have already said 2015 is well on track to set a new global average temperature record, the second year in a row. The record-high temperature has been boosted along by a strong El Niño formation, a periodic Pacific warming phase that also helped set a previous high mark in 1998.
Wednesday's announcement comes less than a week before the start of a global climate conference in Paris, at which negotiators hope to hammer out a plan to rein in warming. So far, the national targets laid out for the talks will keep warming down to somewhere between 2.7 and 3.5 C by 2100.
Jarraud told reporters that it was still possible to hold the planetary thermostat at 2 degrees of warming —"But the more we wait for action, the more difficult it will be," he said.
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Reuters contributed to this report.