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Sensitivity of multi-gas climate policy to emission metrics



The Global Warming Potential (GWP) index is currently used to create CO 2 -equivalent emission totals for multi-gas greenhouse targets. While many alternatives have been proposed, it is not possible to uniquely define a metric that captures the different impacts of emissions of substances with widely disparate atmospheric lifetimes, which leads to a wide range of possible index values. We examine the sensitivity of emissions and climate outcomes to the value of the index used to aggregate methane emissions using a technologically detailed integrated assessment model. The methane index is varied between 4 and 70, with a central value of 21, which is the 100-year GWP value currently used in policy contexts. We find that the sensitivity to index value is, at most, 10–18 % in terms of methane emissions but only 2–3 % in terms of the maximum total radiative forcing change, with larger regional emissions differences in some cases. The choice of index also affects estimates of the cost of meeting a given end of century forcing target, with total two-gas mitigation cost increasing by 7–9 % if the index is increased, and increasing in most scenarios from 4 to 23 % if the index is lowered, with a slight (1 %) decrease in total cost in one case. We find that much of the methane abatement occurs as the induced effect of CO 2 abatement rather than explicit abatement, which is one reason why climate outcomes are relatively insensitive to the index value. We also find that the near-term climate benefit of increasing the methane index is small.



Climatic ChangeSpringer Journals

Published: Apr 1, 2013

DOI: 10.1007/s10584-012-0565-7

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