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Response of Arctic temperature to changes in emissions of short-lived climate forcers

Maria Sand, Terje K. Berntsen, K. von Salzen, Mark G. Flanner, Joakim Langner, David G. Victor

There is growing scientific and political interest in the impacts of climate change and anthropogenic emissions on the Arctic. Over recent decades temperatures in the Arctic have increased at twice the global rate, largely as a result of ice–albedo and temperature feedbacks. Although deep cuts in global CO2 emissions are required to slow this warming, there is also growing interest in the potential for reducing short-lived climate forcers (SLCFs; refs 9,10). Politically, action on SLCFs may be particularly promising because the benefits of mitigation are seen more quickly than for mitigation of CO2 and there are large co-benefits in terms of improved air quality11. This Letter is one of the first to systematically quantify the Arctic climate impact of regional SLCFs emissions, taking into account black carbon (BC), sulphur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx), volatile organic compounds (VOCs), organic carbon (OC) and tropospheric ozone (O3), and their transport processes and transformations in the atmosphere. This study extends the scope of previous works by including more detailed calculations of Arctic radiative forcing and quantifying the Arctic temperature response. We find that the largest Arctic warming source is from emissions within the Asian nations owing to the large absolute amount of emissions. However, the Arctic is most sensitive, per unit mass emitted, to SLCFs emissions from a small number of activities within the Arctic nations themselves. A stringent, but technically feasible mitigation scenario for SLCFs, phased in from 2015 to 2030, could cut warming by 0.2 (±0.17) K in 2050.

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