SciCombinator

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Concept: Global warming potential

389

Better stewardship of land is needed to achieve the Paris Climate Agreement goal of holding warming to below 2 °C; however, confusion persists about the specific set of land stewardship options available and their mitigation potential. To address this, we identify and quantify “natural climate solutions” (NCS): 20 conservation, restoration, and improved land management actions that increase carbon storage and/or avoid greenhouse gas emissions across global forests, wetlands, grasslands, and agricultural lands. We find that the maximum potential of NCS-when constrained by food security, fiber security, and biodiversity conservation-is 23.8 petagrams of CO2 equivalent (PgCO2e) y(-1) (95% CI 20.3-37.4). This is ≥30% higher than prior estimates, which did not include the full range of options and safeguards considered here. About half of this maximum (11.3 PgCO2e y(-1)) represents cost-effective climate mitigation, assuming the social cost of CO2 pollution is ≥100 USD MgCO2e(-1) by 2030. Natural climate solutions can provide 37% of cost-effective CO2 mitigation needed through 2030 for a >66% chance of holding warming to below 2 °C. One-third of this cost-effective NCS mitigation can be delivered at or below 10 USD MgCO2(-1) Most NCS actions-if effectively implemented-also offer water filtration, flood buffering, soil health, biodiversity habitat, and enhanced climate resilience. Work remains to better constrain uncertainty of NCS mitigation estimates. Nevertheless, existing knowledge reported here provides a robust basis for immediate global action to improve ecosystem stewardship as a major solution to climate change.

Concepts: Carbon dioxide, Agriculture, Ecosystem, Climate change, Greenhouse gas, Emission standard, Global warming potential, Global warming

55

Tropical carbon emissions are largely derived from direct forest clearing processes. Yet, emissions from drought-induced forest fires are, usually, not included in national-level carbon emission inventories. Here we examine Brazilian Amazon drought impacts on fire incidence and associated forest fire carbon emissions over the period 2003-2015. We show that despite a 76% decline in deforestation rates over the past 13 years, fire incidence increased by 36% during the 2015 drought compared to the preceding 12 years. The 2015 drought had the largest ever ratio of active fire counts to deforestation, with active fires occurring over an area of 799,293 km2. Gross emissions from forest fires (989 ± 504 Tg CO2year-1) alone are more than half as great as those from old-growth forest deforestation during drought years. We conclude that carbon emission inventories intended for accounting and developing policies need to take account of substantial forest fire emissions not associated to the deforestation process.

Concepts: Carbon dioxide, Rainforest, Emission standard, Global warming potential, Global warming, Deforestation, Desertification, Climate forcing agents

50

Livestock are responsible for 12% of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. Sustainable intensification of livestock production systems might become a key climate mitigation technology. However, livestock production systems vary substantially, making the implementation of climate mitigation policies a formidable challenge. Here, we provide results from an economic model using a detailed and high-resolution representation of livestock production systems. We project that by 2030 autonomous transitions toward more efficient systems would decrease emissions by 736 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent per year (MtCO2e⋅y(-1)), mainly through avoided emissions from the conversion of 162 Mha of natural land. A moderate mitigation policy targeting emissions from both the agricultural and land-use change sectors with a carbon price of US$10 per tCO2e could lead to an abatement of 3,223 MtCO2e⋅y(-1). Livestock system transitions would contribute 21% of the total abatement, intra- and interregional relocation of livestock production another 40%, and all other mechanisms would add 39%. A comparable abatement of 3,068 MtCO2e⋅y(-1) could be achieved also with a policy targeting only emissions from land-use change. Stringent climate policies might lead to reductions in food availability of up to 200 kcal per capita per day globally. We find that mitigation policies targeting emissions from land-use change are 5 to 10 times more efficient-measured in “total abatement calorie cost”-than policies targeting emissions from livestock only. Thus, fostering transitions toward more productive livestock production systems in combination with climate policies targeting the land-use change appears to be the most efficient lever to deliver desirable climate and food availability outcomes.

Concepts: Carbon dioxide, Climate change, Methane, Greenhouse gas, Emission standard, Global warming potential, Global warming, Anthropogenic

33

Climate change in the circumpolar region is causing dramatic environmental change that is increasing the vulnerability of infrastructure. We quantified the economic impacts of climate change on Alaska public infrastructure under relatively high and low climate forcing scenarios [representative concentration pathway 8.5 (RCP8.5) and RCP4.5] using an infrastructure model modified to account for unique climate impacts at northern latitudes, including near-surface permafrost thaw. Additionally, we evaluated how proactive adaptation influenced economic impacts on select infrastructure types and developed first-order estimates of potential land losses associated with coastal erosion and lengthening of the coastal ice-free season for 12 communities. Cumulative estimated expenses from climate-related damage to infrastructure without adaptation measures (hereafter damages) from 2015 to 2099 totaled $5.5 billion (2015 dollars, 3% discount) for RCP8.5 and $4.2 billion for RCP4.5, suggesting that reducing greenhouse gas emissions could lessen damages by $1.3 billion this century. The distribution of damages varied across the state, with the largest damages projected for the interior and southcentral Alaska. The largest source of damages was road flooding caused by increased precipitation followed by damages to buildings associated with near-surface permafrost thaw. Smaller damages were observed for airports, railroads, and pipelines. Proactive adaptation reduced total projected cumulative expenditures to $2.9 billion for RCP8.5 and $2.3 billion for RCP4.5. For road flooding, adaptation provided an annual savings of 80-100% across four study eras. For nearly all infrastructure types and time periods evaluated, damages and adaptation costs were larger for RCP8.5 than RCP4.5. Estimated coastal erosion losses were also larger for RCP8.5.

Concepts: Carbon dioxide, Climate, Weather, Climate change, Methane, Greenhouse gas, Global warming potential, Permafrost

31

Increased energy demand has led to plans for building many new dams in the western Amazon, mostly in the Andean region. Historical data and mechanistic scenarios are used to examine potential impacts above and below six of the largest dams planned for the region, including reductions in downstream sediment and nutrient supplies, changes in downstream flood pulse, changes in upstream and downstream fish yields, reservoir siltation, greenhouse gas emissions and mercury contamination. Together, these six dams are predicted to reduce the supply of sediments, phosphorus and nitrogen from the Andean region by 69, 67 and 57% and to the entire Amazon basin by 64, 51 and 23%, respectively. These large reductions in sediment and nutrient supplies will have major impacts on channel geomorphology, floodplain fertility and aquatic productivity. These effects will be greatest near the dams and extend to the lowland floodplains. Attenuation of the downstream flood pulse is expected to alter the survival, phenology and growth of floodplain vegetation and reduce fish yields below the dams. Reservoir filling times due to siltation are predicted to vary from 106-6240 years, affecting the storage performance of some dams. Total CO2 equivalent carbon emission from 4 Andean dams was expected to average 10 Tg y-1 during the first 30 years of operation, resulting in a MegaWatt weighted Carbon Emission Factor of 0.139 tons C MWhr-1. Mercury contamination in fish and local human populations is expected to increase both above and below the dams creating significant health risks. Reservoir fish yields will compensate some downstream losses, but increased mercury contamination could offset these benefits.

Concepts: Carbon dioxide, River, Drainage basin, Natural gas, Methane, Greenhouse gas, Emission standard, Global warming potential

30

In September and October 2015 widespread forest and peatland fires burned over large parts of maritime southeast Asia, most notably Indonesia, releasing large amounts of terrestrially-stored carbon into the atmosphere, primarily in the form of CO2, CO and CH4. With a mean emission rate of 11.3 Tg CO2 per day during Sept-Oct 2015, emissions from these fires exceeded the fossil fuel CO2 release rate of the European Union (EU28) (8.9 Tg CO2 per day). Although seasonal fires are a frequent occurrence in the human modified landscapes found in Indonesia, the extent of the 2015 fires was greatly inflated by an extended drought period associated with a strong El Niño. We estimate carbon emissions from the 2015 fires to be the largest seen in maritime southeast Asia since those associated with the record breaking El Niño of 1997. Compared to that event, a much better constrained regional total carbon emission estimate can be made for the 2015 fires through the use of present-day satellite observations of the fire’s radiative power output and atmospheric CO concentrations, processed using the modelling and assimilation framework of the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS) and combined with unique in situ smoke measurements made on Kalimantan.

Concepts: Carbon dioxide, Southeast Asia, Natural gas, Methane, Fossil fuel, Coal, Greenhouse gas, Global warming potential

30

Large quantities of organic carbon are stored in frozen soils (permafrost) within Arctic and sub-Arctic regions. A warming climate can induce environmental changes that accelerate the microbial breakdown of organic carbon and the release of the greenhouse gases carbon dioxide and methane. This feedback can accelerate climate change, but the magnitude and timing of greenhouse gas emission from these regions and their impact on climate change remain uncertain. Here we find that current evidence suggests a gradual and prolonged release of greenhouse gas emissions in a warming climate and present a research strategy with which to target poorly understood aspects of permafrost carbon dynamics.

Concepts: Carbon dioxide, Climate change, Natural gas, Methane, Greenhouse gas, Emission standard, Global warming potential, Global warming

29

Agriculture is one of the largest anthropogenic sources of greenhouse gases (GHGs), with dairy and beef production accounting for nearly two-thirds of emissions. Several recent papers suggest that dung beetles may affect fluxes of GHGs from cattle farming. Here, we put these previous findings into context. Using Finland as an example, we assessed GHG emissions at three scales: the dung pat, pasture ecosystem, and whole lifecycle of milk or beef production. At the first two levels, dung beetles reduced GHG emissions by up to 7% and 12% respectively, mainly through large reductions in methane (CH4) emissions. However, at the lifecycle level, dung beetles accounted for only a 0.05-0.13% reduction of overall GHG emissions. This mismatch derives from the fact that in intensive production systems, only a limited fraction of all cow pats end up on pastures, offering limited scope for dung beetle mitigation of GHG fluxes. In contrast, we suggest that the effects of dung beetles may be accentuated in tropical countries, where more manure is left on pastures, and dung beetles remove and aerate dung faster, and that this is thus a key area for future research. These considerations give a new perspective on previous results perspective, and suggest that studies of biotic effects on GHG emissions from dung pats on a global scale are a priority for current research.

Concepts: Carbon dioxide, Climate change, Cattle, Beetle, Natural gas, Methane, Greenhouse gas, Global warming potential

29

Internet traffic has grown rapidly in recent years and is expected to continue to expand significantly over the next decade. Consequently, the resulting greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of telecommunications service-supporting infrastructure have become an important issue. In this study, we develop a set of models for assessing the use-phase power consumption and carbon dioxide emissions of telecom network services to help telecom providers gain a better understanding of the GHG emissions associated with the energy required for their networks and services. Due to the fact that measuring the power consumption and traffic in a telecom network is a challenging task, these models utilize different granularities of available network information. As the granularity of the network measurement information decreases, the corresponding models have the potential to produce larger estimation errors. Therefore, we examine the accuracy of these models under various network scenarios using two approaches: (i) a comprehensive sensitivity analysis through simulations and (ii) a case study of a deployed network. Both approaches show that the accuracy of the models depends on the network size, the total amount of network service traffic (i.e., for the service under assessment), and the number of network nodes used to process the service.

Concepts: Carbon dioxide, Natural gas, Methane, Fossil fuel, Greenhouse gas, Emission standard, Global warming potential, Greenhouse gases

28

Geological storage of CO2 that has been captured at large, point source emitters represents a key potential method for reduction of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. However, this technology will only be viable if it can be guaranteed that injected CO2 will remain trapped in the subsurface for thousands of years or more. A significant issue for storage security is the geomechanical response of the reservoir. Concerns have been raised that geomechanical deformation induced by CO2 injection will create or reactivate fracture networks in the sealing caprocks, providing a pathway for CO2 leakage. In this paper, we examine three large-scale sites where CO2 is injected at rates of ∼1 megatonne/y or more: Sleipner, Weyburn, and In Salah. We compare and contrast the observed geomechanical behavior of each site, with particular focus on the risks to storage security posed by geomechanical deformation. At Sleipner, the large, high-permeability storage aquifer has experienced little pore pressure increase over 15 y of injection, implying little possibility of geomechanical deformation. At Weyburn, 45 y of oil production has depleted pore pressures before increases associated with CO2 injection. The long history of the field has led to complicated, sometimes nonintuitive geomechanical deformation. At In Salah, injection into the water leg of a gas reservoir has increased pore pressures, leading to uplift and substantial microseismic activity. The differences in the geomechanical responses of these sites emphasize the need for systematic geomechanical appraisal before injection in any potential storage site.

Concepts: Carbon dioxide, Climate change, Gas, Natural gas, Methane, Greenhouse gas, Emission standard, Global warming potential