Reconciling Paris Agreement goals for temperature, emissions—study finds two targets don’t always go hand in hand

Monday, March 26, 2018

By National Center for Atmospheric Research

As society faces the challenge of limiting warming to no more than 2 degrees Celsius, new research finds an apparent contradiction: Achieving that goal doesn’t necessarily require cutting greenhouse gas emissions to zero, as called for in the Paris Agreement. But under certain conditions, even zero emissions might not be enough.

The Paris Agreement, a global effort to respond to the threats of human-caused climate change, stipulates that warming be limited to between 1.5 degrees C (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) and 2 degrees C (3.6 degrees F). It also stipulates that countries achieve net-zero  in the second half of this century. But the relationship between the two—is the emissions goal sufficient or even necessary to meet the  goal?—has not been well understood.

In a new study published in the journal Nature Climate Change, scientists used a computer model to analyze a variety of possible future scenarios to better understand how emissions reductions and temperature targets are connected. The study, published March 26, was led by Katsumasa Tanaka at the National Institute for Environmental Studies in Japan and co-authored by Brian O’Neill at the U.S. National Center for Atmospheric Research.

Photo courtesy of Señor Codo.


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Energy, Environment, Impact Assessment
climate change