Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Why setting a climate deadline is dangerous

The publication of the IPCC Special Report on global warming of 1.5 oC paved the way for the rise of the political rhetoric of setting a fixed deadline for decisive actions on climate change. However, the dangers of such deadline rhetoric suggest the need for the IPCC to take responsibility for its report and openly challenge the credibility of such a deadline.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Access options

Rent or buy this article

Prices vary by article type



Prices may be subject to local taxes which are calculated during checkout

Similar content being viewed by others


  1. IPCC. Special Report: Global Warming of 1.5 °C (eds Masson-Delmotte, V. et al.) (IPCC, 2018).

  2. Watts, J. We have 12 years to limit climate change catastrophe, warns UN. (2018).

  3. United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC, 1992).

  4. Leemans, R. & Vellinga, P. Curr. Opin. Environ. Sustain. 26–27, 134–142 (2017).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Morseletto, P., Biermann, F. & Pattberg, P. Int. Environ. Agreements Polit. Law Econ. 17, 655–676 (2017).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Knutti, R., Rogelj, J., Sedlácek, J. & Fischer, E. Nat. Geosci. 9, 13–18 (2016).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  7. Schleussner, C.-F. et al. Nat. Clim. Change 6, 827–835 (2016).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. MacDougall, A. Curr. Clim. Change Rep. 2, 39–47 (2016).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Millar, R., Allen, M., Rogelj, J. & Friedlingstein, P. Oxford Rev. Econ. Policy 32, 323–342 (2016).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Matthews, H. D., Solomon, S. & Pierrehumbert, R. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. A 370, 4365–4379 (2012).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  11. Leach, N. et al. Nat. Geosci. 11, 574–579 (2018).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  12. Tokarska, K. Nat. Geosci. 11, 546–547 (2018).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  13. Jasanoff, S. Theory Cult. Soc. 27, 233–253 (2010).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Geden, O. Nat. Geosci. 11, 380–383 (2018).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  15. Rogelj, J. et al. Nat. Clim. Change 6, 245–252 (2016).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Geden, O. & Löschel, A. Nat. Geosci. 10, 881–882 (2017).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  17. Shah, A., Mullainathan, S. & Shafir, E. Science 338, 682–685 (2012).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  18. MacMartin, D., Ricke, K. & Keith, D. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. A 376, 20160454 (2018).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Asayama, S. & Hulme, M. Clim. Policy (2019).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Heyward, C. & Rayner, S. in Anthropology and Climate Change: From Actions to Transformations (eds Crate, S. & Nuttall, M.) 86–104 (Routledge, 2016).

  21. Sillmann, J. et al. Nat. Clim. Change 5, 290–292 (2015).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Grundmann, R. Nat. Geosci. 9, 562–563 (2016).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  23. Evensen, D. Nat. Clim. Change 9, 428–430 (2019).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. Allen, M. Why protesters should be wary of ‘12 years to climate breakdown’ rhetoric. (2019).

  25. Hulme, M. Nat. Clim. Change 6, 222–224 (2016).

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references


S.A. acknowledges the support of the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, Grants-in-Aid for JSPS Research Fellow (17J02207). W.P. acknowledges the support of the Economic and Social Research Council Future Leaders Research programme, “Making Climate Social” project (ES/N002016/1)

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Mike Hulme.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Asayama, S., Bellamy, R., Geden, O. et al. Why setting a climate deadline is dangerous. Nat. Clim. Chang. 9, 570–572 (2019).

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:

This article is cited by


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing