A reduced scale model of the coupled carbon cycle, population dynamics, energy system and land use characteristics is used to assess the sensitivity of atmospheric carbon to a variety of policies. Policies simulated include reduction of the rate of growth of the population; reduction of the rate of conversion of forested land to cropland; reduction in per capita energy demand in developed nations; reduction in per capita energy demand in developing nations; reduction in the carbon intensity of energy production in developed nations; and reduction in the carbon intensity of energy production in developing nations. For each policy, both the time to onset of the policy and the fractional annual rate of change in the associated model variable are established. Using as a measure of sensitivity the extension in years required for atmospheric carbon to reach the policy ceiling of 1160 BMT, achieved at a policy that introduces a rate of change in each affected model variable of 0.05 per year (a 5% change per year), then the policies in decreasing order of sensitivity are: Developing nations per capita growth (17 years), Developing nations carbon intensity (17 years), Population control (11 years), Developed nations carbon intensity (2.9 years), Developed nations per capita growth (2.8 years) and Land use (1.3 years). These values are all approximately doubled when population is stabilised first. An analysis of the model results also shows a convergence of the developed and developing nations per capita carbon emissions by 2100 when a portfolio of policies is selected to prevent a doubling of the pre-industrial revolution level of atmospheric carbon at any point in the future, consistent with a principle of “contract and converge”.
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