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Mark Gongloff

The Coming El Niño Could Be a Glimpse of a Grim Future

A temporary spike in temperatures next year because of the Pacific weather pattern might motivate us to curb carbon emissions.

Preventing disaster from becoming the new normal.

Preventing disaster from becoming the new normal.

Photographer: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Thanks to El Niño, the world is about to experience something like time travel to the year 2050. It won’t be pleasant. But rather than devolve into panic at the grim climate future it portends, we should use it as a warning about the need to do more to slow global warming.

Climate scientists warned recently that the likely return of the El Niño weather pattern in the Pacific later this year could cause global temperatures to temporarily surge 1.5C above their pre-industrial average in 2024. That margin represents a warming benchmark the whole planet has set as a barely tolerable maximum for many decades in the future, not for the next few years.