Abstract

The Paris Agreement sets a long-term temperature goal of holding the global average temperature increase to well below 2 °C, and pursuing efforts to limit this to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels. Here, we present an overview of science and policy aspects related to this goal and analyse the implications for mitigation pathways. We show examples of discernible differences in impacts between 1.5 °C and 2 °C warming. At the same time, most available low emission scenarios at least temporarily exceed the 1.5 °C limit before 2100. The legacy of temperature overshoots and the feasibility of limiting warming to 1.5 °C, or below, thus become central elements of a post-Paris science agenda. The near-term mitigation targets set by countries for the 2020–2030 period are insufficient to secure the achievement of the temperature goal. An increase in mitigation ambition for this period will determine the Agreement's effectiveness in achieving its temperature goal.

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Acknowledgements

We acknowledge the work by IAM modellers that contributed to the IPCC AR5 Scenario Database and the World Climate Research Programme's Working Group on Coupled Modelling, which is responsible for CMIP. We thank the climate modelling groups for producing and making available their model output, and the International Institute for Applied System Analysis for hosting the IPCC AR5 Scenario Database. For CMIP, the US Department of Energy's Program for Climate Model Diagnosis and Intercomparison provided coordinating support and led development of software infrastructure in partnership with the Global Organization for Earth System Science Portals. We would like to thank the modelling groups that participated in the Inter-Sectoral Impact Model Intercomparison Project (ISI-MIP) and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research for hosting the database. The work was supported by the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (11_II_093_Global_A_SIDS and LDCs), within the framework of the Leibniz Competition (SAW-2013-PIK-5), from EU FP7 project HELIX (grant no. FP7-603864-2) and by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF; grant no. 01LS1201A1). J.R. received funding from the EU's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement no. 642147 (CD-LINKS).

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Affiliations

  1. Climate Analytics, 10969 Berlin, Germany

    • Carl-Friedrich Schleussner
    • , Michiel Schaeffer
    • , Tabea Lissner
    •  & William Hare
  2. Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, 14473 Potsdam, Germany

    • Carl-Friedrich Schleussner
    • , Tabea Lissner
    • , Anders Levermann
    • , Katja Frieler
    •  & William Hare
  3. Energy Program, International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, 2361 Laxenburg, Austria

    • Joeri Rogelj
  4. Institute for Atmospheric and Climate Science, ETH Zurich, 8092 Zürich, Switzerland

    • Joeri Rogelj
    • , Erich M. Fischer
    •  & Reto Knutti
  5. Environmental Systems Analysis Group, Wageningen University and Research Centre, 6708 PB Wageningen, the Netherlands

    • Michiel Schaeffer
  6. Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey 08544, USA

    • Rachel Licker
  7. Institute of Physics and Astronomy, University of Potsdam, 14476 Potsdam, Germany

    • Anders Levermann
  8. Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University, New York 10964-1000, USA

    • Anders Levermann

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Contributions

C.F.S, J.R., M.S. and W.H. led the writing of the paper with significant contributions from all authors. C.F.S, J.R., M.S. and W.H. designed the manuscript structure and content. C.F.S., J.R. and M.S. carried out the analysis presented and produced the figures.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Correspondence to Carl-Friedrich Schleussner.

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https://doi.org/10.1038/nclimate3096

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