Non-Kyoto radiative forcing in long-run greenhouse gas emissions and climate change scenarios

31-10-2013 | Publication

Climate policies must consider radiative forcing from Kyoto greenhouse gases, as well as other forcing constituents, such as aerosols and tropospheric ozone that result from air pollutants. Non-Kyoto forcing constituents contribute negative, as well as positive forcing, and overall increases in total forcing result in increases in global average temperature. Non-Kyoto forcing modeling is a relatively new component of climate management scenarios. This paper describes and assesses current non-Kyoto radiative forcing modeling within five integrated assessment models.

The study finds negative forcing from aerosols masking (offsetting) approximately 25 % of positive forcing in the near-term in reference non-climate policy projections. However, masking is projected to decline rapidly to 5–10 % by 2100 with increasing Kyoto emissions and assumed reductions in air pollution—with the later declining to as much as 50 % and 80 % below today’s levels by 2050 and 2100 respectively. Together they imply declining importance of non-Kyoto forcing over time.

There are however significant uncertainties and large differences across models in projected non-Kyoto emissions and forcing. A look into the modeling reveals differences in base conditions, relationships between Kyoto and non-Kyoto emissions, pollution control assumptions, and other fundamental modeling. In addition, under climate policy scenarios, we find air pollution and resulting non-Kyoto forcing reduced to levels below those produced by air pollution policies alone—e.g., China sulfur emissions fall an additional 45–85 % by 2050.

None of the models actively manage non-Kyoto forcing for climate implications. Nonetheless, non-Kyoto forcing may be influencing mitigation results, including allowable carbon dioxide emissions, and further evaluation is merited.