Future CO2 emissions and climate change from existing energy infrastructure.
Published Web Locationhttps://doi.org/10.1126/science.1188566
Slowing climate change requires overcoming inertia in political, technological, and geophysical systems. Of these, only geophysical warming commitment has been quantified. We estimated the commitment to future emissions and warming represented by existing carbon dioxide-emitting devices. We calculated cumulative future emissions of 496 (282 to 701 in lower- and upper-bounding scenarios) gigatonnes of CO2 from combustion of fossil fuels by existing infrastructure between 2010 and 2060, forcing mean warming of 1.3 degrees C (1.1 degrees to 1.4 degrees C) above the pre-industrial era and atmospheric concentrations of CO2 less than 430 parts per million. Because these conditions would likely avoid many key impacts of climate change, we conclude that sources of the most threatening emissions have yet to be built. However, CO2-emitting infrastructure will expand unless extraordinary efforts are undertaken to develop alternatives.