Journal Highlights

Tackling the Paris Temperature Targets

From Research Spotlights

The global temperature targets established in Paris in 2015 are ambitious; new research examines what it would take to achieve those targets.

In December 2015, 176 nations around the world signed the Paris Agreement, pledging to mitigate climate change by decreasing greenhouse gas emissions and fostering climate resilience. The stated goal of the Paris Agreement is “keeping the increase in global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels,” ideally limiting the increase to 1.5°C.

In a new study, Sanderson et al. reviewed potential global climate trajectories to determine what it would take to achieve the Paris temperature targets.

While the Paris Agreement has not yet entered into force (and will not until 55 countries accounting for at least 55% of global emissions have officially ratified the agreement), many of the parties have begun working on their official mitigation goals: Intended Nationally Determined Contributions, or INDCs. According to the authors, if short-term emissions are in line with INDCs, net negative emissions would be required later in the century to keep temperature rise under 2°C, even though the technology to remove the necessary amount of greenhouse gases may not be realized by then.

To achieve a stable climate, a balance will likely need to be reached between emissions and carbon dioxide (CO2) removal, but the need for negative emissions later can be dramatically reduced through rapid emissions reductions in the near future. If the mitigation process begins in earnest in 2020, the researchers found that net emissions would need to reach zero by 2060 to limit global temperature increase to 2°C, or by 2043 to limit it to 1.5°C. Allowing 50 extra years for Earth’s temperature to exceed goals and then cool back down increases planning flexibility, but even in an overshoot scenario, rapid mitigation in the near term remains necessary. The later mitigation begins, the fewer plausible scenarios exist that avoid 2°C of warming worldwide, let alone stick to the 1.5°C goal. Every year spent following the limited guidelines currently in place decreases the likelihood of a 1.5°C  world. 

By Leah Crane, Freelance Writer

Capping warming at 2 degrees: Pathways beyond Paris

Blog Post—

Even if countries adhere to the Paris climate agreement hammered out last fall, capping global warming at 2 degrees Celsius (4 degrees Fahrenheit) would likely require net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2085 and substantial negative emissions over the long term, according to an in-depth analysis by scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colorado….more


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Featured Special Collection

A Census of Atmospheric Variability from Seconds to Decades 

The atmosphere varies naturally on all length scales from millimeters to thousands of kilometers, and on all time scales from seconds to decades and longer.  This special collection of Geophysical Research Letters synthesizes and summarizes that variability through a phenomenological census.  The collection brings together some of the most influential and definitive papers to have been published in this journal in recent years.  The topics covered include turbulence on time scales of seconds and minutes, gravity waves on time scales of hours, weather systems on time scales of days, atmospheric blocking on time scales of weeks, the Madden–Julian Oscillation on time scales of months, the Quasi-Biennial Oscillation and El Niño–Southern Oscillation on time scales of years, and the North Atlantic, Arctic, Antarctic, Pacific Decadal, and Atlantic Multi-decadal Oscillations on time scales of decades.  The collection is accompanied by a Commentary article, which provides an authoritative, concise, and accessible point of reference for the most important modes of atmospheric variability.

A Census of Atmospheric Variability from Seconds to Decades