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Current fossil fuel infrastructure does not yet commit us to 1.5 °C warming

C. J. Smith, Piers M. Forster, Myles Allen, Jan S. Fuglestvedt, Richard J Millar, Joeri Rogelj, Kirsten Zickfeld

Committed warming describes how much future warming can be expected from historical emissions due to inertia in the climate system. It is usually defined in terms of the level of warming above the present for an abrupt halt of emissions. Owing to socioeconomic constraints, this situation is unlikely, so we focus on the committed warming from present-day fossil fuel assets. Here we show that if carbon-intensive infrastructure is phased out at the end of its design lifetime from the end of 2018, there is a 64% chance that peak global mean temperature rise remains below 1.5 °C. Delaying mitigation until 2030 considerably reduces the likelihood that 1.5 °C would be attainable even if the rate of fossil fuel retirement was accelerated. Although the challenges laid out by the Paris Agreement are daunting, we indicate 1.5 °C remains possible and is attainable with ambitious and immediate emission reduction across all sectors.

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