Estimating the timing of geophysical commitment to 1.5 and 2.0 °C of global warming | Nature Climate Change

Following abrupt cessation of anthropogenic emissions, decreases in short-lived aerosols would lead to a warming peak within a decade, followed by slow cooling as GHG concentrations decline. This implies a geophysical commitment to temporarily crossing warming levels before reaching them. Here we use an emissions-based climate model (FaIR) to estimate temperature change following cessation of emissions in 2021 and in every year thereafter until 2080 following eight Shared Socioeconomic Pathways (SSPs). Assuming a medium-emissions trajectory (SSP2–4.5), we find that we are already committed to peak warming greater than 1.5 °C with 42% probability, increasing to 66% by 2029 (340 GtCO2 relative to 2021). Probability of peak warming greater than 2.0 °C is currently 2%, increasing to 66% by 2057 (1,550 GtCO2 relative to 2021). Because climate will cool from peak warming as GHG concentrations decline, committed warming of 1.5 °C in 2100 will not occur with at least 66% probability until 2055. Halting emissions does not immediately stop warming as atmospheric concentrations continue to warm the planet. This study shows society may already be committed to exceeding 1.5 °C peak warming with 42% probability; delaying cuts increases this to 66% in 2029 for all scenarios.
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