Perspective | Published:

Allowable CO2 emissions based on regional and impact-related climate targets

Nature volume 529, pages 477483 (28 January 2016) | Download Citation

Abstract

Global temperature targets, such as the widely accepted limit of an increase above pre-industrial temperatures of two degrees Celsius, may fail to communicate the urgency of reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. The translation of CO2 emissions into regional- and impact-related climate targets could be more powerful because such targets are more directly aligned with individual national interests. We illustrate this approach using regional changes in extreme temperatures and precipitation. These scale robustly with global temperature across scenarios, and thus with cumulative CO2 emissions. This is particularly relevant for changes in regional extreme temperatures on land, which are much greater than changes in the associated global mean.

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Acknowledgements

S.I.S. acknowledges the European Research Council (ERC) ‘DROUGHT-HEAT’ project funded by the European Community’s Seventh Framework Programme (grant agreement FP7-IDEAS-ERC-617518). A.J.P. and M.G.D. were supported by the Australian Research Council (ARC) Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science (grant number CE110001028). M.G.D. was also supported by the ARC (grant number DE150100456). This work contributes to the World Climate Research Programme (WCRP) Grand Challenge on Extremes. We acknowledge the WCRP Working Group on Coupled Modelling, which is responsible for CMIP, and we thank the climate modelling groups for producing and making available their model output. For CMIP the US Department of Energy’s Program for Climate Model Diagnosis and Intercomparison provides coordinating support and led development of software infrastructure in partnership with the Global Organization for Earth System Science Portals. We thank N. Maher for help with processing CMIP5 data. The climate extremes indices calculated for the different CMIP5 runs were obtained from the Environment Canada CLIMDEX website (http://www.cccma.ec.gc.ca/data/climdex/).

Author information

Affiliations

  1. Institute for Atmospheric and Climate Science, Department of Environmental Systems Science, ETH Zurich, Switzerland

    • Sonia I. Seneviratne
    •  & Reto Knutti
  2. ARC Centre of Excellence in Climate System Science, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia

    • Markus G. Donat
    •  & Andy J. Pitman
  3. Climate Change Research Centre, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia

    • Markus G. Donat
    •  & Andy J. Pitman
  4. Department of Geography, Loughborough University, Loughborough, UK

    • Robert L. Wilby

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Contributions

S.I.S., M.G.D. and A.J.P. designed the study, following an initial discussion between S.I.S, A.J.P. and R.K. S.I.S. coordinated the conception and writing of the article. M.G.D. performed the analyses. R.L.W. contributed to the interpretation of regional impacts. All authors commented on the manuscript and analyses.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Sonia I. Seneviratne.

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https://doi.org/10.1038/nature16542

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