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Original Research Papers

Climate-carbon cycle feedbacks under stabilization: uncertainty and observational constraints

Authors:

Chris D. Jones ,

Hadley Centre, Met Office, Exeter EX1 3PB, GB
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Peter M. Cox,

Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Winfrith, Dorset DT2 8ZD, GB
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Chris Huntingford

Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Wallingford, Oxon OX10 8BB, GB
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Abstract

Avoiding ‘dangerous climate change’ by stabilization of atmospheric CO2 concentrations at a desired level requires reducing the rate of anthropogenic carbon emissions so that they are balanced by uptake of carbon by the natural terrestrial and oceanic carbon cycles. Previous calculations of profiles of emissions which lead to stabilized CO2 levels have assumed no impact of climate change on this natural carbon uptake. However, future climate change effects on the land carbon cycle are predicted to reduce its ability to act as a sink for anthropogenic carbon emissions and so quantification of this feedback is required to determine future permissible emissions. Here, we assess the impact of the climate-carbon cycle feedback and attempt to quantify its uncertainty due to both within-model parameter uncertainty and between-model structural uncertainty. We assess the use of observational constraints to reduce uncertainty in the future permissible emissions for climate stabilization and find that all realistic carbon cycle feedbacks consistent with the observational record give permissible emissions significantly less than previously assumed. However, the observational record proves to be insufficient to tightly constrain carbon cycle processes or future feedback strength with implications for climate-carbon cycle model evaluation.

How to Cite: Jones, C.D., Cox, P.M. and Huntingford, C., 2006. Climate-carbon cycle feedbacks under stabilization: uncertainty and observational constraints. Tellus B: Chemical and Physical Meteorology, 58(5), pp.603–613. DOI: http://doi.org/10.1111/j.1600-0889.2006.00215.x
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  Published on 01 Jan 2006
 Accepted on 29 Jun 2006            Submitted on 12 Jan 2006

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