• Economics of tipping the climate dominoes

      Lemoine, Derek; Traeger, Christian P.; Univ Arizona, Dept Econ (NATURE PUBLISHING GROUP, 2016-01-18)
      Greenhouse gas emissions can trigger irreversible regime shifts in the climate system, known as tipping points. Multiple tipping points affect each other's probability of occurrence, potentially causing a 'domino effect'. We analyse climate policy in the presence of a potential domino effect. We incorporate three different tipping points occurring at unknown thresholds into an integrated climate-economy model. The optimal emission policy considers all possible thresholds and the resulting interactions between tipping points, economic activity, and policy responses into the indefinite future. We quantify the cost of delaying optimal emission controls in the presence of uncertain tipping points and also the benefit of detecting when individual tipping points have been triggered. We show that the presence of these tipping points nearly doubles today's optimal carbon tax and reduces peak warming along the optimal path by approximately 1 degrees C. The presence of these tipping points increases the cost of delaying optimal policy until mid-century by nearly 150%.
    • The increasing importance of atmospheric demand for ecosystem water and carbon fluxes

      Novick, Kimberly A.; Ficklin, Darren L.; Stoy, Paul C.; Williams, Christopher A.; Bohrer, Gil; Oishi, A. Christopher; Papuga, Shirley A.; Blanken, Peter D.; Noormets, Asko; Sulman, Benjamin N.; et al. (NATURE PUBLISHING GROUP, 2016-09-05)
      Soil moisture supply and atmospheric demand for water independently limit-and profoundly affect-vegetation productivity and water use during periods of hydrologic stress(1-4). Disentangling the impact of these two drivers on ecosystem carbon and water cycling is difficult because they are often correlated, and experimental tools for manipulating atmospheric demand in the field are lacking. Consequently, the role of atmospheric demand is often not adequately factored into experiments or represented in models(5-7). Here we show that atmospheric demand limits surface conductance and evapotranspiration to a greater extent than soil moisture in many biomes, including mesic forests that are of particular importance to the terrestrial carbon sink(8,9). Further, using projections from ten general circulation models, we show that climate change will increase the importance of atmospheric constraints to carbon and water fluxes in all ecosystems. Consequently, atmospheric demand will become increasingly important for vegetation function, accounting for >70% of growing season limitation to surface conductance in mesic temperate forests. Our results suggest that failure to consider the limiting role of atmospheric demand in experimental designs, simulation models and land management strategies will lead to incorrect projections of ecosystem responses to future climate conditions.