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What do recent advances in quantifying climate and carbon cycle uncertainties mean for climate policy?

House, Joanna I.; Huntingford, Chris; Knorr, Wolfgang; Cornell, Sarah E.; Cox, Peter M.; Harris, Glen R.; Jones, Chris D.; Lowe, Jason A.; Prentice, I. Colin. 2008 What do recent advances in quantifying climate and carbon cycle uncertainties mean for climate policy? Environmental Research Letters, 3, 044002. 6, pp. 10.1088/1748-9326/3/4/044002

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Abstract/Summary

Global policy targets for greenhouse gas emissions reductions are being negotiated. The amount of emitted carbon dioxide remaining in the atmosphere is controlled by carbon cycle processes in the ocean and on land. These processes are themselves affected by climate. The resulting ‘climate–carbon cycle feedback’ has recently been quantified, but the policy implications have not. Using a scheme to emulate the range of state-of-the-art model results for climate feedback strength, including the modelled range of climate sensitivity and other key uncertainties, we analyse recent global targets. The G8 target of a 50% cut in emissions by 2050 leaves CO2 concentrations rising rapidly, approaching 1000 ppm by 2300. The Stern Review’s proposed 25% cut in emissions by 2050, continuing to an 80% cut, does in fact approach stabilization of CO2 concentration on a policy-relevant (century) timescale, with most models projecting concentrations between 500 and 600 ppm by 2100. However concentrations continue to rise gradually. Long-term stabilization at 550 ppm CO2 requires cuts in emissions of 81 to 90% by 2300, and more beyond as a portion of the CO2 emitted persists for centuries to millennia. Reductions of other greenhouse gases cannot compensate for the long-term effects of emitting CO2.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI): 10.1088/1748-9326/3/4/044002
Programmes: CEH Programmes pre-2009 publications > Biogeochemistry > CC01B Land-surface Feedbacks in the Climate System
CEH Sections: Harding (to 31.07.11)
ISSN: 1748-9326
Additional Information. Not used in RCUK Gateway to Research.: Open Access Journal
Additional Keywords: carbon dioxide, climate, policy, carbon cycle, feedbacks, uncertainty, Stern Review, emissions targets, stabilisation
NORA Subject Terms: Meteorology and Climatology
Atmospheric Sciences
Date made live: 23 Oct 2008 15:31
URI: http://nora.nerc.ac.uk/id/eprint/4620

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