Interactions between CO2 Stabilization Pathways and Requirements for a Sustainable Earth System

Michael R. Raupach,Josep G. Canadell, Dorothee C. E. Bakker, Philippe Ciais, Maria José Sanz,JingYun Fang, Jerry M. Melillo, Patricia Romero Lankao,Jayant A. Sathaye, E.-Detlef Schulze, Pete Smith, and Jeff Tschirley

Efforts to stabilize the atmospheric CO2 concentration take place within a fully coupled Earth system in which there are major interactions between the carbon cycle, the physical climate, and human activities. Hence it is necessary to consider atmospheric CO2 mitigation in the context of the Earth system as a whole and its long-term sustainability.

"Sustainability" and "sustainable development" have been defined in a number of ways. The Brundtland Report (World Commission on Environment and Development 1987) defined sustainable development as "development that meets the needs of the present, without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs." In practice, definitions of sustainable development hinge on several key issues: what has to be sustained, what has to be developed, for how long, and with what tradeoffs. It is necessary to consider economic, social, and environmental dimensions and to accommodate the different perspectives of each dimension as well as the interrelations between them. For the purposes of this chapter, we will follow the consensus of the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development (1996), which identified the major challenges for global sustainable development as (1) combating poverty; (2) protecting the quality and supply of freshwater resources; (3) combating desertification and drought; (4) combating deforestation; (5) promoting sustainable agriculture and rural development; and (6) conserving biological diversity. To this list may be added the goal of the 1992 UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) of preventing dangerous anthropogenic interference in the climate system, implying the need to stabilize the atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases and CO2 in particular.

This chapter examines the challenge of achieving CO2 stabilization in the context of the requirements for a sustainable Earth system, broadly defined as above. We have three objectives, each the topic of a major section. First, we sketch a systems framework for analyzing CO2 stabilization pathways within the full range of carbon-climate-human interactions. Second, we identify the wider economic, environmental, and soci-ocultural implications of a large number of carbon management options in order to provide information about these implications for the systems analysis. Third, we consider a particular important case (land-based mitigation) in more detail. An overall synthesis concludes the chapter.

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