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The amount of carbon dioxide that we can still emit while limiting global warming to a given target, is called the “remaining carbon budget,” and it has become a powerful tool to inform climate policy goals and track progress towards net-zero emissions targets. This remaining carbon budget is a fixed total quantity of future emissions that is small enough to limit global temperature increases before they exceed our climate targets. Scientist estimates of the remaining carbon budget vary widely. H. Damon Matthews, professor and Concordia University research chair in Climate Science and Sustainability and Kasia Tokarska, postdoctoral research fellow at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich, say they have developed a a new way to generate a better estimate of the remaining carbon budget for the 1.5C limit of the Paris Agreement that integrates all major sources of uncertainty. Their results suggest that even if the growing list of countries committing to 2050 net-zero emissions targets reached their goals, we would still deplete the 1.5C remaining carbon budget more than a decade too soon. At the peak of global Covid-19 lockdowns in April 2020, daily CO2 emissions decreased by almost 20% relative to the same period in 2019. These insights can inform how COVID-19 recovery investments could be used to drive emissions further downward. There are no emergency lockdown measures that will slow the rate of climate warming. Instead we need targeted, substantial and sustained effort and investments to continue to decrease and eventually eliminate global CO2 emissions. This window is open now, and we must not miss the opportunity, write H. Damon Matthews and Kasia Tokarska.

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