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The impact of the permafrost carbon feedback on global climate

  • Degrading permafrost can alter ecosystems, damage infrastructure, and release enough carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4) to influence global climate. The permafrost carbon feedback (PCF) is the amplification of surface warming due to CO2 and CH4 emissions from thawing permafrost. An analysis of available estimates PCF strength and timing indicate 120 +/- 85 Gt of carbon emissions from thawing permafrost by 2100. This is equivalent to 5.7 +/- 4.0% of total anthropogenic emissions for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) representative concentration pathway (RCP) 8.5 scenario and would increase global temperatures by 0.29 +/- 0.21 degrees C or 7.8 +/- 5.7%. For RCP4.5, the scenario closest to the 2 degrees C warming target for the climate change treaty, the range of cumulative emissions in 2100 from thawing permafrost decreases to between 27 and 100 Gt C with temperature increases between 0.05 and 0.15 degrees C, but the relative fraction of permafrost to total emissions increases to between 3% and 11%. AnyDegrading permafrost can alter ecosystems, damage infrastructure, and release enough carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4) to influence global climate. The permafrost carbon feedback (PCF) is the amplification of surface warming due to CO2 and CH4 emissions from thawing permafrost. An analysis of available estimates PCF strength and timing indicate 120 +/- 85 Gt of carbon emissions from thawing permafrost by 2100. This is equivalent to 5.7 +/- 4.0% of total anthropogenic emissions for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) representative concentration pathway (RCP) 8.5 scenario and would increase global temperatures by 0.29 +/- 0.21 degrees C or 7.8 +/- 5.7%. For RCP4.5, the scenario closest to the 2 degrees C warming target for the climate change treaty, the range of cumulative emissions in 2100 from thawing permafrost decreases to between 27 and 100 Gt C with temperature increases between 0.05 and 0.15 degrees C, but the relative fraction of permafrost to total emissions increases to between 3% and 11%. Any substantial warming results in a committed, long-term carbon release from thawing permafrost with 60% of emissions occurring after 2100, indicating that not accounting for permafrost emissions risks overshooting the 2 degrees C warming target. Climate projections in the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report (AR5), and any emissions targets based on those projections, do not adequately account for emissions from thawing permafrost and the effects of the PCF on global climate. We recommend the IPCC commission a special assessment focusing on the PCF and its impact on global climate to supplement the AR5 in support of treaty negotiation.show moreshow less

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Metadaten
Author:Kevin Schaefer, Hugues LantuitORCiDGND, Vladimir E. Romanovsky, Edward A. G. Schuur, Ronald Witt
DOI:https://doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/9/8/085003
ISSN:1748-9326 (print)
Parent Title (English):Environmental research letters
Publisher:IOP Publ. Ltd.
Place of publication:Bristol
Document Type:Article
Language:English
Year of first Publication:2014
Year of Completion:2014
Release Date:2017/03/27
Tag:global climate; permafrost; permafrost carbon feedback
Volume:9
Issue:8
Pagenumber:9
Funder:NASA [NNX10AR63G]; NOAA [NA09OAR4310063]; NSF Permafrost Carbon Research Coordination Network [955713]; NSF Permafrost Carbon Research Coordination Network under AON Grant [ARC-0856864]; United Nations Environmental Programme, Division of Early Warning and Assessment
Organizational units:Mathematisch-Naturwissenschaftliche Fakultät / Institut für Erd- und Umweltwissenschaften
Peer Review:Referiert
Publication Way:Open Access