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Reducing climate risks with fast and complete energy transitions: applying the precautionary principle to the Paris agreement

Type of publication Peer-reviewed
Publikationsform Original article (peer-reviewed)
Author Desing Harald, Widmer Rolf,
Project Laboratory for Applied Circular Economy (LACE)
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Original article (peer-reviewed)

Journal Environmental Research Letters
Page(s) 0 - 0
Title of proceedings Environmental Research Letters
DOI 10.1088/1748-9326/ac36f9

Open Access

Type of Open Access Publisher (Gold Open Access)


Averting the climate catastrophe requires the transformation of the energy system. A wide range of energy transition pathways are being explored in literature, which limit peak heating during this century as likely as not to 2°C or 1.5°C. Growing understanding of the Earth system suggests that peak heating beyond 1.5°C may be an existential threat to the biosphere and therefore also humanity. Transitions that exceed this vital threshold with a high probability expose future generations to substantial risks without their prior consent. Here we advocate the precautionary principle and explore with a minimal energy transition model the energy requirements to minimize climate risks. Fast and complete transitions are energetically possible when temporarily increasing fossil emissions above current levels for the sole purpose of accelerating the growth of renewable energy capacity. This reduces the probability to exceed 1.5°C peak heating at best to 20%, highlighting the urgency for climate action.