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Earth may temporarily reach key Paris Agreement limit in next 5 years

The world is increasingly likely to see a year in which global average surface temperatures meet or exceed the Paris Agreement's ambitious temperature target of 1.5°C (2.7°F) above preindustrial levels, a new report predicts.

Why it matters: Limiting warming to 1.5°C is an existential matter for small island states, which could be swamped by rising sea levels if temperatures climb higher. While a single year would not indicate the treaty's 1.5-degree target has been exceeded permanently, it would be a significant milestone.

  • The report serves as another indication that the world is running out of time to limit global warming to levels that society and natural systems can tolerate.
  • Based on recent emissions trends, temperatures are on course to reach or possibly exceed 3°C (5.4°F) above preindustrial levels by 2100.

Yes, but: When it comes to taking stock of global warming, what matters are trends over decades, not individual years.

  • Still, optics nonetheless matter with these climate thresholds, and even temporarily reaching or exceeding the 1.5-degree target would likely be seen as an indication of the urgency for action to slash emissions of planet-warming greenhouse gases.

The big picture: Studies have shown that limiting global warming to 1.5°C above preindustrial levels would have a much greater chance of avoiding potentially disastrous outcomes. These include the widespread loss of coral reefs and triggering runaway feedback loops, such as the collapse of large parts of the Antarctic Ice Sheet.

Details: The report, led by the U.K. Met Office with the participation of scientists from the U.S. and other nations and distributed via the U.N.'s World Meteorological Organization (WMO), says there is a 40% chance that the 1.5-degree target will be temporarily reached in at least one of the next five years.

By the numbers: The analysis pegs the likelihood at 90% that at least one year during the 2021-2025 period will be the warmest on record, knocking 2016 and 2020 out of the top spot (the two years were virtually tied).

  • The chance of temporarily bumping up against the 1.5°C temperature anomaly "has roughly doubled" compared to last year's predictions, the report says — an indication that time is quickly running out to avoid hitting or exceeding the target over a longer time period.
  • However, it's unlikely 2021 will be the one to set the next warmest-year record, given the lingering influence of a waning La Niña episode in the tropical Pacific Ocean.
  • The report, known as the "Global Annual to Decadal Climate Update," finds that the annual global average temperature is likely to be at least 1°C (1.8°F) above preindustrial levels (defined as the 1850-1900 average) during each of the coming five years, ranging from 0.9°C to 1.8°C.
  • Of note: For now, the report finds, it's "very unlikely" that the five-year period will have an overall average temperature departure from average of 1.5°C or higher.

What they're saying: "This study shows, with a high level of scientific skill, that we are getting measurably and inexorably closer to the lower target of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change," said WMO secretary-general Petteri Taalas in a statement.

  • "It is yet another wakeup call that the world needs to fast-track commitments to slash greenhouse gas emissions and achieve carbon neutrality," he said.

Reports: Trump DOJ subpoenaed Apple for records of WH counsel Don McGahn

Apple told former Trump administration White House counsel Don McGahn last month that the Department of Justice subpoenaed information about accounts of his in 2018, the New York Times first reported Sunday.

Why it matters: Although it's unclear why the DOJ took the action, such a move against a senior lawyer representing the presidency is highly unusual.

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Pelosi demands Barr and Sessions testify on data subpoenas she says go "beyond Richard Nixon"

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told CNN Sunday that former Attorneys General William Barr and Jeff Sessions should testify before Congress on reports that the Trump-era Department of Justice seized Democrats' and journalists' data records.

Driving the news: DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz announced Friday an internal investigation into the matter, and Pelosi expressed disbelief to CNN's Dana Brash at assertions that neither Barr nor Sessions knew of probes into lawmakers.

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Shipping giant CEO says business have to avoid global politics

The CEO of the world's largest container-shipping company cautions that international firms have to be careful of taking political stances.

  • What they're saying: "We cannot run a global business if we start to have views on politics in every single country that we are in," Maersk CEO Søren Skou tells "Axios on HBO."
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Chamber of Commerce CEO Suzanne Clark defends overture to Democrats

U.S. Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Suzanne Clark told me on "Axios on HBO" that the business group was right to endorse vulnerable House Democrats last year, despite the flak that resulted from Republicans.

  • Clark, who took over the top job in March, said those House Democrats "had really helped push business's number one priority, which was the free trade agreement with Canada and Mexico, over the finish line."
  • "All of the Republicans that we work with on tax, on regulation — those people are really, really important to us," she added: "So we have to be willing to have a different coalition on every issue."
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Nuclear watchdog: “Essential” to have deal with Iran

The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency tells "Axios on HBO" that it's "essential" to have a nuclear deal with Iran because otherwise "we are flying blind."

Driving the news: Director-General Rafael Mariano Grossi sat down with "Axios on HBO" at IAEA headquarters in Vienna, ahead of Iran's June 18 presidential election and a June 24 extension on negotiations seeking to restore curtailed surveillance of Iranian nuclear sites and salvage the 2015 deal.

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U.N. ambassador Thomas-Greenfield sees tough Putin summit

Photo: "Axios on HBO"

Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, U.S. ambassador to the U.N., told me on "Axios on HBO" that President Biden will be candid, frank — and tough — during this week's summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

  • "The president will make clear to the Russians that they cannot harbor cyber terrorists and criminals in their country and not be held accountable for it," she added. "And they need to take the responsibility for dealing with this issue."
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Dems’ go-it-alone approach faces big hurdles as left’s frustrations spill over

If a bipartisan group of lawmakers fails to strike a deal on the infrastructure proposal it's negotiating with the White House, ramming through a package using the partisan reconciliation process isn't a guaranteed solution.

Why it matters: Getting 51 Democratic votes would be a long, uphill battle. And moderates within the party are balking at the cost of President Biden's spending — even as progressives openly lament that the "transformational" change they seek is slipping out of reach.

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America's U.N. ambassador: "I will always push for women to be part of negotiation teams"

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, U.S. ambassador to the U.N., has argued over her 39-year diplomatic career that educating and empowering women and girls is an investment in peace and security for their nations.

  • "I will always push for women to be part of negotiation teams," she told me in the State Department Treaty Room, during an interview for "Axios on HBO."
  • "I notice ... when they're not in the room. ... Sometimes I'm the only one," she added with a laugh. "And I will call it out."
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