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Carbon budget for 1.5 and 2oC targets lowered by natural wetland and permafrost feedbacks

Comyn-Platt, E., Hayman, G., Huntingford, C., Chadburn, S. E., Burke, E. J., Harper, A. B., Collins, W. J., Webber, C. P., Powell, T., Cox, P. M., Gedney, N. and Sitch, S. (2018) Carbon budget for 1.5 and 2oC targets lowered by natural wetland and permafrost feedbacks. Nature Geoscience, 11. pp. 568-573. ISSN 1752-0894

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1038/s41561-018-0174-9

Abstract/Summary

Methane emissions from natural wetlands and carbon release from permafrost thaw have a positive feedback on climate, yet are not represented in most state-of-the-art climate models. Furthermore, a fraction of the thawed permafrost carbon is released as methane, enhancing the combined feedback strength. We present simulations with an intermediate complexity climate model which follow prescribed global warming pathways to stabilisation at 1.5°C or 2.0°C above pre-industrial levels by the year 2100, and that incorporates a state-of-the-art global land surface model with updated descriptions of wetland and permafrost carbon release. We demonstrate that the climate feedbacks from those two processes are substantial. Specifically, permissible anthropogenic fossil fuel CO2 emission budgets are reduced by 17-23% (47-56 GtC) for stabilisation at 1.5°C, and 9-13% (52-57 GtC) for 2.0°C stabilisation. In our simulations these feedback processes respond faster at temperatures below 1.5°C, and the differences between the 1.5°C and 2°C targets are disproportionately small. This key finding is due to our interest in transient emission pathways to the year 2100 and does not consider the longer term implications of these feedback processes. We conclude that natural feedback processes from wetlands and permafrost must be considered in assessments of transient emission pathways to limit global warming.

Item Type:Article
Refereed:Yes
Divisions:Faculty of Science > School of Mathematical, Physical and Computational Sciences > Department of Meteorology
ID Code:77371
Publisher:Nature Publishing Group

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