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Future Sulfur Dioxide Emissions

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The importance of sulfur dioxide emissions for climate change is now established, although substantial uncertainties remain. This paper presents projections for future sulfur dioxide emissions using the MiniCAM integrated assessment model. A new income-based parameterization for future sulfur dioxide emissions controls is developed based on purchasing power parity (PPP) income estimates and historical trends related to the implementation of sulfur emissions limitations. This parameterization is then used to produce sulfur dioxide emissions trajectories for the set of scenarios developed for the Special Report on Emission Scenarios (SRES). We use the SRES methodology to produce harmonized SRES scenarios using the latest version of the MiniCAM model. The implications, and requirements, for integrated assessment modeling of sulfur dioxide emissions are discussed. We find that sulfur emissions eventually decline over the next century under a wide set of assumptions. These emission reductions result from a combination of emission controls, the adoption of advanced electric technologies, and a shift away from the direct end use of coal with increasing income levels. Only under a scenario where incomes in developing regions increase slowly do global emission levels remain at close to present levels over the next century. Under a climate policy that limits emissions of carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide emissions fall in a relatively narrow range. In most cases, the relative climatic effect of sulfur dioxide emissions decreases dramatically to a point where sulfur dioxide is only a minor component of climate forcing by the end of the century. Ecological effects of sulfur dioxide, however, could be significant in some developing regions for many decades to come.

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Correspondence to Steven J. Smith.

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Smith, S.J., Pitcher, H. & Wigley, T.M.L. Future Sulfur Dioxide Emissions. Climatic Change 73, 267–318 (2005).

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