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Earth System Dynamics An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union

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https://doi.org/10.5194/esd-2018-17
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
Research article
21 Mar 2018
Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Earth System Dynamics (ESD).
Risk and the Point of No Return for Climate Action
Matthias Aengenheyster1, Qing Yi Feng2, Frederik van der Ploeg3, and Henk A. Dijkstra2 1Atmospheric, Oceanic and Planetary Physics, Department of Physics, Oxford University, Oxford, UK
2Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research Utrecht, Department of Physics, Utrecht University, Utrecht, the Netherlands
3Centre for the Analysis of Resource Rich Economies, Department of Economics, Oxford University, Oxford, UK
Abstract. If the Paris targets are to be met, there may be very few years left for policy makers to start cutting emissions. Here, we ask by what year at the latest one has to take action to keep global warming below the 2 K target (relative to preindustrial levels) at the year 2100 with a 67 % probability; we call this the Point of No Return (PNR). Using a novel, stochastic model of CO2 concentration and global mean surface temperature derived from the CMIP5 ensemble simulations, we find that cumulative CO2 emissions from 2015 onwards may not exceed 424 GtC and that the PNR is 2035 for the policy scenario where the share of renewable energy rises by 2 % per year. Pushing this increase to 5 % per year delays the PNR until 2045. For the 1.5 K target, the carbon budget is only 198 GtC and there is no time left before starting to increase the renewable share by 2 % per year. If the risk tolerance is tightened to 5 %, the PNR is brought forward to 2022 for the 2 K target and has been passed already for the 1.5 K target. Including substantial negative emissions towards the end of the century delays the PNR from 2035 to 2042 for the 2 K and to 2026 for the 1.5 K target, respectively. We thus show the impact on the PNR not only of the temperature target and the speed by which emissions are cut, but also of risk tolerance, climate uncertainties and the potential for negative emissions.
Citation: Aengenheyster, M., Feng, Q. Y., van der Ploeg, F., and Dijkstra, H. A.: Risk and the Point of No Return for Climate Action, Earth Syst. Dynam. Discuss., https://doi.org/10.5194/esd-2018-17, in review, 2018.
Matthias Aengenheyster et al.
Matthias Aengenheyster et al.
Matthias Aengenheyster et al.

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Short summary
We determine the Point of No Return (PNR) in climate change, which is the latest year when to take action to reduce greenhouse gases to stay, with a certain probability, within thresholds set by the Paris Agreement. For a 67 % probability and a 2 K threshold, the PNR is the year 2035 when the share of renewable energy rises by 2 % per year. We show the impact on the PNR of the speed by which emissions are cut, the risk tolerance, climate uncertainties and the potential for negative emissions.
We determine the Point of No Return (PNR) in climate change, which is the latest year when to...
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