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Scenario choice impacts carbon allocation projection at global warming levels

de Mora, L., Swaminathan, R. ORCID:, Allan, R. P. ORCID:, Blackford, J. C., Kelley, D. I., Harris, P., Jones, C. D., Jones, C. G., Liddicoat, S., Parker, R. J., Quaife, T. ORCID:, Walton, J. and Yool, A. (2023) Scenario choice impacts carbon allocation projection at global warming levels. Earth System Dynamics, 14 (6). pp. 1295-1315. ISSN 2190-4987

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To link to this item DOI: 10.5194/esd-14-1295-2023


We show that the distribution of anthropogenic carbon between the atmosphere, land surface, and ocean differs with the choice of projection scenario even for identical changes in mean global surface tempera- ture. Warming thresholds occur later in lower-CO2-emissions scenarios and with less carbon in the three main reservoirs than in higher-CO2-emissions scenarios. At 2 ◦C of warming, the mean carbon allocation differs by up to 63 PgC between scenarios, which is equivalent to approximately 6 years of the current global total emissions. At the same warming level, higher-CO2-concentration scenarios have a lower combined ocean and land carbon allocation fraction of the total carbon compared to lower-CO2-concentration scenarios. The warming response to CO2, quantified as the equilibrium climate sensitivity, ECS, directly impacts the global warming level exceedance year and hence the carbon allocation. Low-ECS models have more carbon than high-ECS models at a given warming level because the warming threshold occurs later, allowing more emissions to accumulate. These results are important for carbon budgets and mitigation strategies as they impact how much carbon the ocean and land surface could absorb at a given warming level. Carbon budgeting will be key to reducing the impacts of anthropogenic climate change, and these findings could have critical consequences for policies aimed at reaching net zero.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Science > School of Mathematical, Physical and Computational Sciences > Department of Meteorology
ID Code:100609
Publisher:European Geosciences Union


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