Ratcheting Ambition to Limit Warming to 1.5°C – Trade-Offs between Emission Reductions and Carbon Dioxide Removal
Environmental Research Letters, vol 13, no 6, doi: 10.1088/1748-9326/aac0c1
Posted: 3 Nov 2017 Last revised: 9 Oct 2018
Date Written: April 27, 2018
Mitigation scenarios to limit global warming to 1.5°C or less in 2100 often rely on large amounts of carbon dioxide removal (CDR), with significant potential social, environmental, political and economic risks. A precautionary approach to scenario creation is therefore indicated. This letter presents the results of such a precautionary modelling exercise in which the models C-ROADS and En-ROADS were used to generate a series of 1.5°C mitigation scenarios that apply increasingly stringent constraints on the scale and type of CDR available. This allows us to explore the trade-offs between near-term stringency of emissions reductions and assumptions about future availability of CDR. In particular, we find that regardless of CDR assumptions, near-term ambition increase ("ratcheting") is required for any 1.5°C pathways, making this letter timely for the facilitative, or Talanoa, dialogue to be conducted by the UNFCCC in 2018. By highlighting the difference between net and gross reduction rates, often obscured in scenarios with large-scale CDR, we find that mid-term gross CO2 emissions reduction rates in scenarios with CDR constraints increase to levels without historical precedence. This in turn highlights, in addition to the need to substantially increase CO2 reduction rates, the need to improve emissions reductions for non-CO2 greenhouse gases. Further, scenarios in which all or part of the CDR is implemented as non-permanent storage exhibit storage loss emissions, which partly offset CDR, highlighting the importance of differentiating between net and gross CDR in scenarios. We find in some scenarios, storage loss trending to similar values as gross CDR, indicating that gross CDR would have to be maintained simply to offset the storage losses of CO2 sequestered earlier, without any additional net climate benefit.
Keywords: climate change mitigation, mitigation pathways, GHG emission pathways, carbon dioxide removal, Paris Agreement
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