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Sci Adv. 2020 Jan 8;6(2):eaaw9490. doi: 10.1126/sciadv.aaw9490. eCollection 2020 Jan.

Optimal temperature overshoot profile found by limiting global sea level rise as a lower-cost climate target.

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Max Planck Institute for Meteorology, Bundesstrasse 53, 20146 Hamburg, Germany.
Research Unit Sustainability and Global Change, University of Hamburg, Grindelberg 5, 20144 Hamburg, Germany.


The global temperature targets of limiting surface warming to below 2.0°C or even to 1.5°C have been widely accepted through the Paris Agreement. However, limiting surface warming has previously been proven insufficient to control sea level rise (SLR). Here, we explore a sea level target that is closer to coastal planning and associated adaptation measures than a temperature target. We find that a sea level target provides an optimal temperature overshoot profile through a physical constraint of SLR. The allowable temperature overshoot leads to lower mitigation costs and more effective long-term sea level stabilization compared to a temperature target leading to the same SLR by 2200. With the same mitigation cost as the temperature target, a SLR target could bring surface warming back to the targeted temperatures within this century, lead to a reduction of surface warming of the next century, and reduce and slow down SLR in the centuries thereafter.

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