Climate Mitigation Strategies Sensitive to Natural Disturbances: Fires, hurricanes and droughts potentially affect terrestrial carbon balance
How and to what extent terrestrial sequestration capacity is affected by future climate feedbacks is not well understood. Now, Yannick Le Page and George Hurtt, DOE and UMD researchers working at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, found that climate mitigation strategies are highly sensitive to future natural disturbance rates (e.g. fires, hurricanes, droughts), because of the potential effect of the disturbances on the terrestrial carbon balance. The present and future concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide depends on both anthropogenic and natural sources and sinks of carbon. Most proposed climate mitigation strategies rely on a progressive transition to carbon-efficient technologies to reduce industrial emissions, substantially supported by policies to maintain or enhance the terrestrial carbon stock in forests and other ecosystems. Generally, altered disturbance rates affect the pace of societal and technological transitions required to achieve the mitigation target, with substantial consequences on the energy sector and the global economy. Understanding the future dynamics and consequences of natural disturbances on terrestrial carbon balance is thus essential for developing robust climate mitigation strategies and policies.
Reference: Le Page Y, G Hurtt, AM Thomson, B Bond-Lamberty, P Patel, M Wise, K Calvin, P Kyle, L Clarke, J Edmonds and A Janetos. 2013. “Sensitivity of Climate Mitigation Strategies to Natural Disturbances.” Environmental Research Letters 8 (1): 015018. DOI:10.1088/1748-9326/8/1/015018.