Estimating and tracking the remaining carbon budget for stringent climate targets

Nature. 2019 Jul;571(7765):335-342. doi: 10.1038/s41586-019-1368-z. Epub 2019 Jul 17.


Research reported during the past decade has shown that global warming is roughly proportional to the total amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere. This makes it possible to estimate the remaining carbon budget: the total amount of anthropogenic carbon dioxide that can still be emitted into the atmosphere while holding the global average temperature increase to the limit set by the Paris Agreement. However, a wide range of estimates for the remaining carbon budget has been reported, reducing the effectiveness of the remaining carbon budget as a means of setting emission reduction targets that are consistent with the Paris Agreement. Here we present a framework that enables us to track estimates of the remaining carbon budget and to understand how these estimates can improve over time as scientific knowledge advances. We propose that application of this framework may help to reconcile differences between estimates of the remaining carbon budget and may provide a basis for reducing uncertainty in the range of future estimates.

MeSH terms

  • Atmosphere / chemistry*
  • Carbon Dioxide / analysis*
  • Earth, Planet
  • Environmental Policy / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Feedback
  • Global Warming / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Global Warming / prevention & control*
  • Global Warming / statistics & numerical data*
  • Goals*
  • Human Activities / legislation & jurisprudence
  • International Cooperation / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Models, Theoretical*
  • Paris
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Temperature*
  • Time Factors
  • Uncertainty


  • Carbon Dioxide