Emissions and Atmospheric CO2 Stabilization: Long-Term Limits and Paths
Over the very long term, cumulative CO2 emissions "over all time, by all people" are uniquely related to ultimate atmospheric CO2 concentration level, with limited approximation. A corollary to this relation is that net CO2 emissions must peak and then gradually approach zero over 1,000+ years if a constant CO2 concentration is to be maintained, regardless of the level. The objective of stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations is often envisioned as a monotonic approach to constant concentrations. But, if emissions decline less gradually to zero, the pattern of transient CO2 concentrations changes to one with a maximum CO2 concentration followed by a long-term decline to a lower level. Such emissionsconcentration trajectories spend a finite time at the maximum concentration and could have smaller overall climate impacts than trajectories that maintain the maximum concentration. Climate impacts in response to such trajectories, however, remain to be studied.