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The co-evolution of technological promises, modelling, policies and climate change targets

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

<mark>Journal publication date</mark>1/05/2020
<mark>Journal</mark>Nature Climate Change
Number of pages6
Pages (from-to)392-397
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date20/04/20
<mark>Original language</mark>English


The nature and framing of climate targets in international politics has changed substantially since their early expressions in the 1980s. Here, we describe their evolution in five phases-from 'climate stabilization' to specific 'temperature outcomes'-co-evolving with wider climate politics and policy, modelling methods and scenarios, and technological promises (from nuclear power to carbon removal). We argue that this co-evolution has enabled policy prevarication, leaving mitigation poorly delivered, yet the technological promises often remain buried in the models used to inform policy. We conclude with a call to recognise and break this pattern to unleash more effective and just climate policy.

This Perspective maps the history of climate targets and shows how the international goal of avoiding dangerous climate change has been reinterpreted in the light of new modelling methods and technological promises, ultimately enabling policy prevarication and limiting mitigation.