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Negative emissions physically needed to keep global warming below 2 °C

Nature Communications volume 6, Article number: 7958 (2015) | Download Citation

Abstract

To limit global warming to <2 °C we must reduce the net amount of CO2 we release into the atmosphere, either by producing less CO2 (conventional mitigation) or by capturing more CO2 (negative emissions). Here, using state-of-the-art carbon–climate models, we quantify the trade-off between these two options in RCP2.6: an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change scenario likely to limit global warming below 2 °C. In our best-case illustrative assumption of conventional mitigation, negative emissions of 0.5–3 Gt C (gigatonnes of carbon) per year and storage capacity of 50–250 Gt C are required. In our worst case, those requirements are 7–11 Gt C per year and 1,000–1,600 Gt C, respectively. Because these figures have not been shown to be feasible, we conclude that development of negative emission technologies should be accelerated, but also that conventional mitigation must remain a substantial part of any climate policy aiming at the 2-°C target.

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Acknowledgements

We thank W. Dang for constructive discussion about the figures and D. van Vuuren for providing data from the ‘original’ RCP2.6. We also thank the participants and organizers of the workshops on negative emissions: in Vienna, on April 2013, organized by the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) and the Global Carbon Project (GCP) and in Tokyo, on December 2013, organized by GCP, IIASA, the Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change and the National Institute for Environmental Studies. T.G. was supported by the European Research Council Synergy grant ERC-2013-SyG-610028 IMBALANCE-P. C.D.J. was supported by the Joint UK DECC/Defra Met Office Hadley Centre Climate Programme (GA01101).

Author information

Affiliations

  1. Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de l'Environnement (LSCE), Institut Pierre-Simon Laplace (IPSL), CEA - CNRS - UVSQ, CEA l'Orme des Merisiers, 91191 Gif-sur-Yvette, France.

    • T. Gasser
    •  & P. Ciais
  2. Centre International de Recherche sur l'Environnement et le Développement (CIRED), CNRS - Ecole des Ponts ParisTech - EHESS - AgroParisTech - CIRAD, Campus du Jardin Tropical, 45 bis avenue de la Belle Gabrielle, 94736 Nogent-sur-Marne, France.

    • T. Gasser
    •  & C. Guivarch
  3. Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology, 3173-25 Showa-machi, Kanazawa-ku, Yokohama, Kanagawa 236-0001, Japan.

    • K. Tachiiri
  4. Met Office, Hadley Centre, FitzRoy Road, Exeter EX1 3PB, UK.

    • C. D. Jones

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Contributions

T.G. and C.G. designed the study, inspired by one of the previous papers by K.T.. C.D.J., K.T. and T.G. provided data. T.G. conducted the computations and made the figures. All authors discussed the results. T.G. wrote the text with inputs from all authors.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to T. Gasser.

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https://doi.org/10.1038/ncomms8958

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