U.S. Department of Commerce


Date of this Version



In: Climate Science Special Report: A Sustained Assessment Activity of the U.S. Global Change Research Program [Wuebbles, D.J., D.W. Fahey, K.A. Hibbard, D.J. Dokken, B.C. Stewart, and T.K. Maycock (eds.)]. U.S. Global Change Research Program, Washington, DC, USA (2017), pp. 584-607.


U.S. government work.


1. Warming and associated climate effects from CO2 3 emissions persist for decades to millennia. In the near-term, changes in climate are determined by past and present greenhouse gas emissions modified by natural variability. Reducing the total concentration of atmospheric CO2 is necessary to limit near-term climate change and stay below long-term warming targets (such as the oft-cited 3.6°F [2°C] goal). Other greenhouse gases (for example, methane) and black carbon aerosols exert stronger warming effects than CO2 on a per ton basis, but they do not persist as long in the atmosphere; therefore, mitigation of non-CO2 species contributes substantially to near term cooling benefits but cannot be relied upon for ultimate stabilization goals. (Very high confidence)

2. Stabilizing global mean temperature below long-term warming targets requires an upper limit on the accumulation of CO2 14 in the atmosphere. The relationship between cumulative CO2 emissions and global temperature response is estimated to be nearly linear. Nevertheless, in evaluating specific temperature targets, there are uncertainties about the exact amount of compatible anthropogenic CO2 emissions due to uncertainties in climate sensitivity, the response of the carbon cycle including feedbacks, the amount of past CO2 emissions, and the influence of past and future non-CO2 species. (Very high confidence)

3. Stabilizing global mean temperature below 3.6°F (2°C) or lower relative to preindustrial levels requires significant reductions in net global CO2 emissions relative to present-day values before 2040 and likely requires net emissions to become zero or possibly negative later in the century. Accounting for the temperature effects of non-CO2 species, cumulative CO2 emissions are required to stay below about 800 GtC in order to provide a two-thirds likelihood of preventing 3.6°F (2°C) of warming, meaning approximately 230 GtC more could be emitted globally. Assuming global emissions follow the range between the RCP8.5 and RCP4.5 scenarios, emissions could continue for approximately two decades before this cumulative carbon threshold is exceeded. (High confidence)

4. Successful implementation of the first round of Nationally Determined Contributions associated with the Paris Agreement will provide some likelihood of meeting the long term temperature goal of limiting global warming to “well below” 3.6°F (2°C) above preindustrial levels; the likelihood depends strongly on the magnitude of global emission reductions after 2030. (High confidence)

5. Climate intervention or geoengineering strategies such as solar radiation management are measures that attempt to limit or reduce global temperature increases. If interest in geoengineering increases with observed impacts and/or projected risks of climate change, interest will also increase in assessments of the technical feasibilities, costs, risks, co-benefits, and governance challenges of these additional measures, which are as yet unproven at scale. These assessments are a necessary step before judgments about the benefits and risks of these approaches can be made with high confidence. (High confidence)