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Accounting for carbon cycle feedbacks in a comparison of the global warming effects of greenhouse gases

Title:

Accounting for carbon cycle feedbacks in a comparison of the global warming effects of greenhouse gases

Gillett, Nathan P and Matthews, H. Damon (2010) Accounting for carbon cycle feedbacks in a comparison of the global warming effects of greenhouse gases. Environmental Research Letters, 5 (3). 034011. ISSN 1748-9326

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Official URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/5/3/034011

Abstract

Greenhouse gases other than CO2 make a significant contribution to human-induced climate change, and multi-gas mitigation strategies are cheaper to implement than those which limit CO2 emissions alone. Most practical multi-gas mitigation strategies require metrics to relate the climate warming effects of CO2 and other greenhouse gases. Global warming potential (GWP), defined as the ratio of time-integrated radiative forcing of a particular gas to that of CO2 following a unit mass emission, is the metric used in the Kyoto Protocol, and we define mean global temperature change potential (MGTP) as an equivalent metric of the temperature response. Here we show that carbon–climate feedbacks inflate the GWPs and MGTPs of methane and nitrous oxide by ~ 20% in coupled carbon–climate model simulations of the response to a pulse of 50 × 1990 emissions, due to a warming-induced release of CO2 from the land biosphere and ocean. The magnitude of this effect is expected to be dependent on the model, but it is not captured at all by the analytical models usually used to calculate metrics such as GWP. We argue that the omission of carbon cycle dynamics has led to a low bias of uncertain but potentially substantial magnitude in metrics of the global warming effect of other greenhouse gases, and we suggest that the carbon–climate feedback should be considered when greenhouse gas metrics are calculated and applied.

Divisions:Concordia University > Faculty of Arts and Science > Geography, Planning and Environment
Item Type:Article
Refereed:Yes
Authors:Gillett, Nathan P and Matthews, H. Damon
Journal or Publication:Environmental Research Letters
Date:2010
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):10.1088/1748-9326/5/3/034011
Keywords:carbon feedback, global warming potential, global temperature change potential, metrics
ID Code:975098
Deposited By: DAVID MACAULAY
Deposited On:09 Jan 2013 15:45
Last Modified:18 Jan 2018 17:39
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