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Philos Trans A Math Phys Eng Sci. 2018 May 13;376(2119). pii: 20160457. doi: 10.1098/rsta.2016.0457.

Pathways limiting warming to 1.5°C: a tale of turning around in no time?

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Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, Member of the Leibniz Association, Potsdam, Germany
Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, Member of the Leibniz Association, Potsdam, Germany.
National Institute for Environmental Studies, Tsukuba, Japan.
International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, Laxenburg, Austria.
Institute for Atmospheric and Climate Science, ETH Zürich, Zürich, Switzerland.
PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, The Hague, The Netherlands.
Copernicus Institute for Sustainable Development, Utrecht University, Utrecht, The Netherlands.


We explore the feasibility of limiting global warming to 1.5°C without overshoot and without the deployment of carbon dioxide removal (CDR) technologies. For this purpose, we perform a sensitivity analysis of four generic emissions reduction measures to identify a lower bound on future CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion and industrial processes. Final energy demand reductions and electrification of energy end uses as well as decarbonization of electricity and non-electric energy supply are all considered. We find the lower bound of cumulative fossil fuel and industry CO2 emissions to be 570 GtCO2 for the period 2016-2100, around 250 GtCO2 lower than the lower end of available 1.5°C mitigation pathways generated with integrated assessment models. Estimates of 1.5°C-consistent CO2 budgets are highly uncertain and range between 100 and 900 GtCO2 from 2016 onwards. Based on our sensitivity analysis, limiting warming to 1.5°C will require CDR or terrestrial net carbon uptake if 1.5°C-consistent budgets are smaller than 650 GtCO2 The earlier CDR is deployed, the more it neutralizes post-2020 emissions rather than producing net negative emissions. Nevertheless, if the 1.5°C budget is smaller than 550 GtCO2, temporary overshoot of the 1.5°C limit becomes unavoidable if CDR cannot be ramped up faster than to 4 GtCO2 in 2040 and 10 GtCO2 in 2050.This article is part of the theme issue 'The Paris Agreement: understanding the physical and social challenges for a warming world of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels'.


1.5°C goal; CO­2 emissions; carbon budget; carbon dioxide removal; integrated assessment; mitigation pathways

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