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Towards a comprehensive climate impacts assessment of solar geoengineering

2016, Irvine, Peter J., Kravitz, Ben, Lawrence, Mark G., Gerten, Dieter, Caminade, Cyril, Gosling, Simon N., Hendy, Erica J., Kassie, Belay T., Kissling, W. Daniel, Muri, Helene, Oschlies, Andreas, Smith, Steven J.

Despite a growing literature on the climate response to solar geoengineering—proposals to cool the planet by increasing the planetary albedo—there has been little published on the impacts of solar geoengineering on natural and human systems such as agriculture, health, water resources, and ecosystems. An understanding of the impacts of different scenarios of solar geoengineering deployment will be crucial for informing decisions on whether and how to deploy it. Here we review the current state of knowledge about impacts of a solar‐geoengineered climate and identify the major research gaps. We suggest that a thorough assessment of the climate impacts of a range of scenarios of solar geoengineering deployment is needed and can be built upon existing frameworks. However, solar geoengineering poses a novel challenge for climate impacts research as the manner of deployment could be tailored to pursue different objectives making possible a wide range of climate outcomes. We present a number of ideas for approaches to extend the survey of climate impacts beyond standard scenarios of solar geoengineering deployment to address this challenge. Reducing the impacts of climate change is the fundamental motivator for emissions reductions and for considering whether and how to deploy solar geoengineering. This means that the active engagement of the climate impacts research community will be important for improving the overall understanding of the opportunities, challenges, and risks presented by solar geoengineering.

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The limits to global-warming mitigation by terrestrial carbon removal

2017, Boysen, Lena R., Lucht, Wolfgang, Gerten, Dieter, Heck, Vera, Lenton, Timothy M., Schellnhuber, Hans Joachim

Massive near‐term greenhouse gas emissions reduction is a precondition for staying “well below 2°C” global warming as envisaged by the Paris Agreement. Furthermore, extensive terrestrial carbon dioxide removal (tCDR) through managed biomass growth and subsequent carbon capture and storage is required to avoid temperature “overshoot” in most pertinent scenarios. Here, we address two major issues: First, we calculate the extent of tCDR required to “repair” delayed or insufficient emissions reduction policies unable to prevent global mean temperature rise of 2.5°C or even 4.5°C above pre‐industrial level. Our results show that those tCDR measures are unable to counteract “business‐as‐usual” emissions without eliminating virtually all natural ecosystems. Even if considerable (Representative Concentration Pathway 4.5 [RCP4.5]) emissions reductions are assumed, tCDR with 50% storage efficiency requires >1.1 Gha of the most productive agricultural areas or the elimination of >50% of natural forests. In addition, >100 MtN/yr fertilizers would be needed to remove the roughly 320 GtC foreseen in these scenarios. Such interventions would severely compromise food production and/or biosphere functioning. Second, we reanalyze the requirements for achieving the 160–190 GtC tCDR that would complement strong mitigation action (RCP2.6) in order to avoid 2°C overshoot anytime. We find that a combination of high irrigation water input and/or more efficient conversion to stored carbon is necessary. In the face of severe trade‐offs with society and the biosphere, we conclude that large‐scale tCDR is not a viable alternative to aggressive emissions reduction. However, we argue that tCDR might serve as a valuable “supporting actor” for strong mitigation if sustainable schemes are established immediately.

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The world’s biggest gamble

2016, Rockström, Johan, Schellnhuber, Hans Joachim, Hoskins, Brian, Ramanathan, Veerabhadran, Schlosser, Peter, Brasseur, Guy Pierre, Gaffney, Owen, Nobre, Carlos, Meinshausen, Malte, Rogelj, Joeri, Lucht, Wolfgang

The scale of the decarbonisation challenge to meet the Paris Agreement is underplayed in the public arena. It will require precipitous emissions reductions within 40 years and a new carbon sink on the scale of the ocean sink. Even then, the world is extremely likely to overshoot. A catastrophic failure of policy, for example, waiting another decade for transformative policy and full commitments to fossil‐free economies, will have irreversible and deleterious repercussions for humanity's remaining time on Earth. Only a global zero carbon roadmap will put the world on a course to phase‐out greenhouse gas emissions and create the essential carbon sinks for Earth‐system stability, without which, world prosperity is not possible.

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Assessing changes in risk of amplified planetary waves in a warming world

2019, Huntingford, Chris, Mitchell, Dann, Kornhuber, Kai, Coumou, Dim, Osprey, Scott, Allen, Myles

Summer weather extremes are often associated with high-amplitude atmospheric planetary waves (Petoukhov et al., 2013). Such conditions lead to stationary weather patterns, triggering heat waves and sometimes prolonged intense rainfall. These wave events, referred to as periods of Quasi-Resonant Amplification (QRA), are relatively rare though and hence provide only a few data points in the meteorological record to analyse. Here, we use atmospheric models coupled to boundary conditions that have evolved slowly (i.e., climate), to supplement measurements. Specifically we assess altered probabilities of resonant episodes by employing a unique massive ensemble of atmosphere-only climate simulations to populate statistical distributions of event occurrence. We focus on amplified waves during the two most extreme European heat waves on record, in years 2003 and 2015 (Russo et al., 2015). These years are compared with other modelled recent years (1987–2011), and critically against a modelled world without climate change. We find that there are differences in the statistical characteristics of wave event likelihood between years, suggesting a strong dependence on the known and prescribed Sea Surface Temperature (SST) patterns. The differences are larger than those projected to have occurred under climate change since the pre-industrial period. However, this feature of small differences since pre-industrial is based on single large ensembles, with members consisting of a range of estimates of SST adjustment from pre-industrial to present. Such SST changes are from projections by a set of coupled atmosphere–ocean (AOGCM) climate models. When instead an ensemble for pre-industrial estimates is subdivided into simulations according to which AOGCM the SST changes are based on, we find differences in QRA occurrence. These differences suggest that to reliably estimate changes to extremes associated with altered amplification of planetary waves, and under future raised greenhouse gas concentrations, likely requires reductions in any spread of future modelled SST patterns. © 2019 The Authors. Atmospheric Science Letters published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of the Royal Meteorological Society.

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Consecutive extreme flooding and heat wave in Japan: Are they becoming a norm?

2019, Wang, Simon S.-Y., Kim, Hyungjun, Coumou, Dim, Yoon, Jin-Ho, Zhao, Lin, Gillies, Robert R.

[No abstract available]