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Energy system transformations for limiting end-of-century warming to below 1.5 °C

A Corrigendum to this article was published on 27 April 2016

This article has been updated

Abstract

Many impacts projected for a global warming level of 2 °C relative to pre-industrial levels may exceed the coping capacities of particularly vulnerable countries. Therefore, many countries advocate limiting warming to below 1.5 °C. Here we analyse integrated energy–economy–environment scenarios that keep warming to below 1.5 °C by 2100. We find that in such scenarios, energy-system transformations are in many aspects similar to 2 °C-consistent scenarios, but show a faster scale-up of mitigation action in most sectors, leading to observable differences in emission reductions in 2030 and 2050. The move from a 2 °C- to a 1.5 °C-consistent world will be achieved mainly through additional reductions of CO2. This implies an earlier transition to net zero carbon emissions worldwide, to be achieved between 2045 and 2060. Energy efficiency and stringent early reductions are key to retain a possibility for limiting warming to below 1.5 °C by 2100. The window for achieving this goal is small and rapidly closing.

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Figure 1: Emission profiles and temperature outcomes of 1.5 °C-consistent scenarios.
Figure 2: Cumulative carbon emissions by 2050 and 2100.
Figure 3: Global decarbonization overview.
Figure 4: Mitigation costs for 1.5 °C and 2 °C scenarios.
Figure 5: Overview of the relative change in mitigation contributions or characteristics for 1.5 °C-consistent scenarios relative to corresponding 2 °C-consistent scenarios.

Change history

  • 17 March 2016

    In the version of this Perspective originally published, the units in Fig. 3a and the corresponding main text should have read kgCO2 GJ−1, not tCO2 GJ−1. This error has been corrected in the online versions of this Perspective.

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Acknowledgements

We acknowledge the work by IAM modellers that contributed to the IPCC AR5 scenario database and thank IIASA for hosting the IPCC AR5 scenario database.

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J.R. and G.L. designed the research with input from all authors. J.R. coordinated the research. J.R., G.L., E.K., V.K. and R.C.P. carried out the research. J.R. and G.L. wrote the first draft of the manuscript. All authors contributed to analysing the results and writing the paper.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Joeri Rogelj or Gunnar Luderer.

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Rogelj, J., Luderer, G., Pietzcker, R. et al. Energy system transformations for limiting end-of-century warming to below 1.5 °C. Nature Clim Change 5, 519–527 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1038/nclimate2572

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