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      Allowable CO2 emissions based on regional and impact-related climate targets

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          Abstract

          Global temperature targets, such as the widely accepted limit of an increase above pre-industrial temperatures of two degrees Celsius, may fail to communicate the urgency of reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. The translation of CO2 emissions into regional- and impact-related climate targets could be more powerful because such targets are more directly aligned with individual national interests. We illustrate this approach using regional changes in extreme temperatures and precipitation. These scale robustly with global temperature across scenarios, and thus with cumulative CO2 emissions. This is particularly relevant for changes in regional extreme temperatures on land, which are much greater than changes in the associated global mean.

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          Most cited references 49

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          An Overview of CMIP5 and the Experiment Design

          The fifth phase of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5) will produce a state-of-the- art multimodel dataset designed to advance our knowledge of climate variability and climate change. Researchers worldwide are analyzing the model output and will produce results likely to underlie the forthcoming Fifth Assessment Report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Unprecedented in scale and attracting interest from all major climate modeling groups, CMIP5 includes “long term” simulations of twentieth-century climate and projections for the twenty-first century and beyond. Conventional atmosphere–ocean global climate models and Earth system models of intermediate complexity are for the first time being joined by more recently developed Earth system models under an experiment design that allows both types of models to be compared to observations on an equal footing. Besides the longterm experiments, CMIP5 calls for an entirely new suite of “near term” simulations focusing on recent decades and the future to year 2035. These “decadal predictions” are initialized based on observations and will be used to explore the predictability of climate and to assess the forecast system's predictive skill. The CMIP5 experiment design also allows for participation of stand-alone atmospheric models and includes a variety of idealized experiments that will improve understanding of the range of model responses found in the more complex and realistic simulations. An exceptionally comprehensive set of model output is being collected and made freely available to researchers through an integrated but distributed data archive. For researchers unfamiliar with climate models, the limitations of the models and experiment design are described.
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            Tipping elements in the Earth's climate system.

            The term "tipping point" commonly refers to a critical threshold at which a tiny perturbation can qualitatively alter the state or development of a system. Here we introduce the term "tipping element" to describe large-scale components of the Earth system that may pass a tipping point. We critically evaluate potential policy-relevant tipping elements in the climate system under anthropogenic forcing, drawing on the pertinent literature and a recent international workshop to compile a short list, and we assess where their tipping points lie. An expert elicitation is used to help rank their sensitivity to global warming and the uncertainty about the underlying physical mechanisms. Then we explain how, in principle, early warning systems could be established to detect the proximity of some tipping points.
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              Greenhouse-gas emission targets for limiting global warming to 2 degrees C.

              More than 100 countries have adopted a global warming limit of 2 degrees C or below (relative to pre-industrial levels) as a guiding principle for mitigation efforts to reduce climate change risks, impacts and damages. However, the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions corresponding to a specified maximum warming are poorly known owing to uncertainties in the carbon cycle and the climate response. Here we provide a comprehensive probabilistic analysis aimed at quantifying GHG emission budgets for the 2000-50 period that would limit warming throughout the twenty-first century to below 2 degrees C, based on a combination of published distributions of climate system properties and observational constraints. We show that, for the chosen class of emission scenarios, both cumulative emissions up to 2050 and emission levels in 2050 are robust indicators of the probability that twenty-first century warming will not exceed 2 degrees C relative to pre-industrial temperatures. Limiting cumulative CO(2) emissions over 2000-50 to 1,000 Gt CO(2) yields a 25% probability of warming exceeding 2 degrees C-and a limit of 1,440 Gt CO(2) yields a 50% probability-given a representative estimate of the distribution of climate system properties. As known 2000-06 CO(2) emissions were approximately 234 Gt CO(2), less than half the proven economically recoverable oil, gas and coal reserves can still be emitted up to 2050 to achieve such a goal. Recent G8 Communiqués envisage halved global GHG emissions by 2050, for which we estimate a 12-45% probability of exceeding 2 degrees C-assuming 1990 as emission base year and a range of published climate sensitivity distributions. Emissions levels in 2020 are a less robust indicator, but for the scenarios considered, the probability of exceeding 2 degrees C rises to 53-87% if global GHG emissions are still more than 25% above 2000 levels in 2020.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Nature
                Nature
                Springer Science and Business Media LLC
                0028-0836
                1476-4687
                January 2016
                January 20 2016
                January 2016
                : 529
                : 7587
                : 477-483
                Article
                10.1038/nature16542
                26789252
                © 2016

                http://www.springer.com/tdm

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