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Type: Journal article
Title: The Paris warming targets: emissions requirements and sea level consequences
Author: Wigley, T.
Citation: Climatic Change: an interdisciplinary, international journal devoted to the description, causes and implications of climatic change, 2018; 147(1-2):31-45
Publisher: Springer
Issue Date: 2018
ISSN: 0165-0009
Statement of
T.M.L. Wigley
Abstract: The Paris Agreement states that, relative to pre-industrial times, the increase in global average temperature should be kept to well below 2 °C and efforts should be made to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C. Emissions scenarios consistent with these targets are derived. For an eventual 2 °C warming target, this could be achieved even if CO2 emissions remained positive. For a 1.5 °C target, CO2 emissions could remain positive, but only if a substantial and long-lasting temperature overshoot is accepted. In both cases, a warming overshoot of 0.2 to 0.4 °C appears unavoidable. If the allowable (or unavoidable) overshoot is small, then negative emissions are almost certainly required for the 1.5 °C target, peaking at negative 1.3 GtC/year. In this scenario, temperature stabilization occurs, but cumulative emissions continue to increase, contrary to a common belief regarding the relationship between temperature and cumulative emissions. Changes to the Paris Agreement to accommodate the overshoot possibility are suggested. For sea level rise, tipping points that might lead to inevitable collapse of Antarctic ice sheets or shelves might be avoided for the 2 °C target (for major ice shelves) or for the 1.5 °C target for the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. Even with the 1.5 °C target, however, sea level will continue to rise at a substantial rate for centuries.
Rights: © The Author(s) 2017. This article is an open access publication. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made.
DOI: 10.1007/s10584-017-2119-5
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Environment Institute publications

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