IPCC Fourth Assessment Report: Climate Change 2007
Climate Change 2007: Working Group I: The Physical Science Basis

Carbon Cycle

There is unanimous agreement among the coupled climate-carbon cycle models driven by emission scenarios run so far that future climate change would reduce the efficiency of the Earth system (land and ocean) to absorb anthropogenic CO2. As a result, an increasingly large fraction of anthropogenic CO2 would stay airborne in the atmosphere under a warmer climate. For the A2 emission scenario, this positive feedback leads to additional atmospheric CO2 concentration varying between 20 and 220 ppm among the models by 2100. Atmospheric CO2 concentrations simulated by these coupled climate-carbon cycle models range between 730 and 1,020 ppm by 2100. Comparing these values with the standard value of 836 ppm (calculated beforehand by the Bern carbon cycle-climate model without an interactive carbon cycle) provides an indication of the uncertainty in global warming due to future changes in the carbon cycle. In the context of atmospheric CO2 concentration stabilisation scenarios, the positive climate-carbon cycle feedback reduces the land and ocean uptake of CO2, implying that it leads to a reduction of the compatible emissions required to achieve a given atmospheric CO2 stabilisation. The higher the stabilisation scenario, the larger the climate change, the larger the impact on the carbon cycle, and hence the larger the required emission reduction.

Ocean Acidification

Increasing atmospheric CO2 concentrations lead directly to increasing acidification of the surface ocean. Multi-model projections based on SRES scenarios give reductions in pH of between 0.14 and 0.35 units in the 21st century, adding to the present decrease of 0.1 units from pre-industrial times. Southern Ocean surface waters are projected to exhibit undersaturation with regard to calcium carbonate for CO2 concentrations higher than 600 ppm, a level exceeded during the second half of the century in most of the SRES scenarios. Low-latitude regions and the deep ocean will be affected as well. Ocean acidification would lead to dissolution of shallow-water carbonate sediments and could affect marine calcifying organisms. However, the net effect on the biological cycling of carbon in the oceans is not well understood.