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Cumulative carbon as a policy framework for achieving climate stabilization

Title:

Cumulative carbon as a policy framework for achieving climate stabilization

Matthews, H. Damon, Solomon, S. and Pierrehumbert, R. (2012) Cumulative carbon as a policy framework for achieving climate stabilization. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences, 370 (1974). pp. 4365-4379. ISSN 1364-503X

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Official URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rsta.2012.0064

Abstract

The primary objective of The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change is to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations at level that will avoid dangerous climate impacts. However, greenhouse gas concentration stabilization is an awkward framework within which to assess dangerous climate change on account of the significant lag between a given concentration level, and the eventual equilibrium temperature change. By contrast, recent research has shown that global temperature change can be well described by a given cumulative carbon emissions budget. Here, we propose that cumulative carbon emissions represent an alternate framework that is applicable both as a tool for climate mitigation as well as for the assessment of potential climate impacts. We show first that both atmospheric CO2 concentration at a given year and the associated temperature change are generally associated with a unique cumulative carbon emissions budget that is largely independent of the emissions scenario. The rate of global temperature change can therefore be related to first order to the rate of increase of cumulative carbon emissions. However, transient warming over the next century will also be strongly affected by emissions of shorter lived forcing agents such as aerosols and methane. Non-CO2 emissions therefore contribute to uncertainty in the cumulative carbon budget associated with near-term temperature targets, and may suggest the need for a mitigation approach that considers separately short- and long-lived gas emissions. By contrast, long-term temperature change remains primarily associated with total cumulative carbon emissions due to the much longer atmospheric residence time of CO2 relative to other major climate forcing agents.

Divisions:Concordia University > Faculty of Arts and Science > Geography, Planning and Environment
Item Type:Article
Refereed:Yes
Authors:Matthews, H. Damon and Solomon, S. and Pierrehumbert, R.
Journal or Publication:Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences
Date:2012
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):10.1098/rsta.2012.0064
ID Code:975119
Deposited By: DAVID MACAULAY
Deposited On:14 Jan 2013 19:51
Last Modified:18 Jan 2018 17:39
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