Policy ForumCLIMATE POLICY

Can Paris pledges avert severe climate change?

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Science  04 Dec 2015:
Vol. 350, Issue 6265, pp. 1168-1169
DOI: 10.1126/science.aad5761

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Summary

Current international climate negotiations seek to catalyze global emissions reductions through a system of nationally determined country-level emissions reduction targets that would be regularly updated. These “Intended Nationally Determined Contributions” (INDCs) would constitute the core of mitigation commitments under any agreement struck at the upcoming Paris Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) (1). With INDCs now reported from more than 150 countries and covering around 90% of global emissions, we can begin to assess the role of this round of INDCs in facilitating or frustrating achievement of longer-term climate goals. In this context, it is important to understand what these INDCs collectively deliver in terms of two objectives. First, how much do they reduce the probability of the highest levels of global mean surface temperature change? Second, how much do they improve the odds of achieving the international goal of limiting temperature change to under 2°C relative to preindustrial levels (2)? Although much discussion has focused on the latter objective (35), the former is equally important when viewing climate mitigation from a risk-management perspective.

  • * On temporary assignment at the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), Washington, DC 20506, USA.