J. R. Lamontagne, P. M. Reed, G. Marangoni, K. Keller, and G. G. Garner
Nature Climate Change (1 April 2019)
Disentangling the relative importance of climate change abatement policies from the human–Earth system (HES) uncertainties that determine their performance is challenging because the two are inexorably linked, and the nature of this linkage is dynamic, interactive and metric specific1. Here, we demonstrate an approach to quantify the individual and joint roles that diverse HES uncertainties and our choices in abatement policy play in determining future climate and economic conditions, as simulated by an improved version of the Dynamic Integrated model of Climate and the Economy2,3. Despite wide-ranging HES uncertainties, the growth rate of global abatement (a societal choice) is the primary driver of long-term warming. It is not a question of whether we can limit warming but whether we choose to do so. Our results elucidate important long-term HES dynamics that are often masked by common time-aggregated metrics. Aggressive near-term abatement will be very costly and do little to impact near-term warming. Conversely, the warming that will be experienced by future generations will mostly be driven by earlier abatement actions. We quantify probabilistic abatement pathways to tolerable climate/economic outcomes4,5, conditional on the climate sensitivity to the atmospheric CO2 concentration. Even under optimistic assumptions about the climate sensitivity, pathways to a tolerable climate/economic future are rapidly narrowing.