Supplementary Material from The impact of Earth system feedbacks on carbon budgets and climate response

2018-03-16T12:08:31Z (GMT) by Jason A. Lowe Daniel Bernie
A number of studies have examined the size of the allowable global cumulative carbon budget compatible with limiting twenty-first century global average temperature rise to below 2°C and below 1.5°C relative to pre-industrial levels. These estimates of cumulative emissions have a number of uncertainties including those associated with the climate sensitivity and the global carbon cycle. Although the IPCC fifth assessment report contained information on a range of Earth system feedbacks, such as carbon released by thawing of permafrost or methane production by wetlands as a result of climate change, the impact of many of these Earth system processes on the allowable carbon budgets remains to be quantified. Here, we make initial estimates to show that the combined impact from typically unrepresented Earth system processes may be important for the achievability of limiting warming to 1.5°C or 2°C above pre-industrial levels. The size of the effects range up to around a 350 GtCO2 budget reduction for a 1.5°C warming limit and around a 500 GtCO2 reduction for achieving a warming limit of 2°C. Median estimates for the extra Earth system forcing lead to around 100 GtCO2 and 150 GtCO2, respectively, for the two warming limits. Our estimates are equivalent to several years of anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions at present rates. In addition to the likely reduction of the allowable global carbon budgets, the extra feedbacks also bring forward the date at which a given warming threshold is likely to be exceeded for a particular emission pathway.This article is part of the theme issue ‘The Paris Agreement: understanding the physical and social challenges for a warming world of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels’.