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Quantifying process-level uncertainty contributions to TCRE and carbon budgets for meeting Paris Agreement climate targets

Abstract : To achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement requires deep and rapid reductions in anthropogenic CO2 emissions, but uncertainty surrounds the magnitude and depth of reductions. Earth system models provide a means to quantify the link from emissions to global climate change. Using the concept of TCRE—the transient climate response to cumulative carbon emissions—we can estimate the remaining carbon budget to achieve 1.5 or 2 °C. But the uncertainty is large, and this hinders the usefulness of the concept. Uncertainty in carbon budgets associated with a given global temperature rise is determined by the physical Earth system, and therefore Earth system modelling has a clear and high priority remit to address and reduce this uncertainty. Here we explore multi-model carbon cycle simulations across three generations of Earth system models to quantitatively assess the sources of uncertainty which propagate through to TCRE. Our analysis brings new insights which will allow us to determine how we can better direct our research priorities in order to reduce this uncertainty. We emphasise that uses of carbon budget estimates must bear in mind the uncertainty stemming from the biogeophysical Earth system, and we recommend specific areas where the carbon cycle research community needs to re-focus activity in order to try to reduce this uncertainty. We conclude that we should revise focus from the climate feedback on the carbon cycle to place more emphasis on CO2 as the main driver of carbon sinks and their long-term behaviour. Our proposed framework will enable multiple constraints on components of the carbon cycle to propagate to constraints on remaining carbon budgets.
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Submitted on : Thursday, July 28, 2022 - 9:32:48 AM
Last modification on : Friday, October 14, 2022 - 3:55:10 AM
Long-term archiving on: : Saturday, October 29, 2022 - 6:22:53 PM


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Chris D. Jones, Pierre Friedlingstein. Quantifying process-level uncertainty contributions to TCRE and carbon budgets for meeting Paris Agreement climate targets. Environmental Research Letters, 2020, 15, ⟨10.1088/1748-9326/ab858a⟩. ⟨insu-03726981⟩



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