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Atmospheric Composition, Irreversible Climate Change, and Mitigation Policy

  • Susan Solomon
  • Raymond T. Pierrehumbert
  • Damon Matthews
  • John S. Daniel
  • Pierre Friedlingstein
Chapter

Abstract

The Earth’s atmosphere is changing due to anthropogenic increases of gases and aerosols that influence the planetary energy budget. Policy has long been challenged to ensure that instruments such as the Kyoto Protocol or carbon trading deal with the wide range of lifetimes of these radiative forcing agents. Recent research has sharpened scientific understanding of how climate system time scales interact with the time scales of the forcing agents themselves. This has led to an improved understanding of metrics used to compare different forcing agents, and has prompted consideration of new metrics such as cumulative carbon. Research has also clarified the understanding that short-lived forcing agents can “trim the peak” of coming climate change, while long-lived agents, especially carbon dioxide, will be responsible for at least a millennium of elevated temperatures and altered climate, even if emissions were to cease. We suggest that these vastly differing characteristics imply that a single basket for trading among forcing agents is incompatible with current scientific understanding.

Keywords

Climate change Methane Carbon dioxide Global warming potential Climate policy 

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Susan Solomon
    • 1
    • 2
  • Raymond T. Pierrehumbert
    • 3
  • Damon Matthews
    • 4
  • John S. Daniel
    • 5
  • Pierre Friedlingstein
    • 6
  1. 1.Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary SciencesMassachusetts Institute of TechnologyCambridgeUSA
  2. 2.Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic SciencesUniversity of ColoradoBoulderUSA
  3. 3.Department of the Geophysical SciencesThe University of ChicagoChicagoUSA
  4. 4.Department of Geography, Planning and EnvironmentConcordia UniversityMontrealCanada
  5. 5.Chemical Sciences DivisionNOAA Earth System Research LaboratoryBoulderUSA
  6. 6.College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical SciencesUniversity of ExeterExeterUK

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