Natural carbon sinks currently absorb approximately half of the anthropogenic CO2 emitted by fossil fuel burning, cement production and land-use change. However, this airborne fraction may change in the future depending on the emissions scenario. An important issue in developing carbon budgets to achieve climate stabilization targets is the behaviour of natural carbon sinks, particularly under low emissions mitigation scenarios as required to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement. A key requirement for low carbon pathways is to quantify the effectiveness of negative emissions technologies which will be strongly affected by carbon cycle feedbacks. Here we find that Earth System Models suggest significant weakening, even potential reversal, of the ocean and land sinks under future low emission scenarios that will hinder the effectiveness of negative emissions technologies.
Original languageEnglish
Article number095012
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalEnvironmental Research Letters
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 20 Sept 2016

Bibliographical note

The work of CDJ, JAL, AW was supported by the Joint UK DECC/Defra Met Office Hadley Centre Climate Programme (GA01101). CDJ, JAL, AW, PF, EK, DvV are supported by the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 641816 (CRESCENDO). GPP was supported by the Norwegian Research Council (project 209701). PC acknowledges support from the European Research Council Synergy grant ERC-2013-SyG-610028 IMBALANCE-P. We acknowledge the World Climate Research Programme's Working Group on Coupled Modelling, which is responsible for CMIP, and we thank the climate modeling groups (listed in Table 1 of this paper) for producing and making available their model output. For CMIP the U.S. Department of Energy's Program for Climate Model Diagnosis and Intercomparison provides coordinating support and led development of software infrastructure in artnership with the Global Organization for Earth system Science Portals.


  • climate
  • carbon cycle
  • earth system
  • negative emissions
  • carbon dioxide removal
  • mitigation scenarios


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