Implications of potentially lower climate sensitivity on climate projections and policy
AbstractClimate sensitivity, the long-term temperature response to CO2, has been notoriously difficult to constrain until today. Estimates based on the observed warming trends favor lower values, while the skill with which comprehensive climate models are able to simulate present day climate implies higher values to be more plausible. We find that much lower values would postpone crossing the 2 degrees C temperature threshold by about a decade for emissions near current levels, or alternatively would imply that limiting warming to below 1.5 degrees C would require about the same emission reductions as are now assumed for 2 degrees C. It is just as plausible, however, for climate sensitivity to be at the upper end of the consensus range. To stabilize global-mean temperature at levels of 2 degrees C or lower, strong reductions of greenhouse gas emissions in order to stay within the allowed carbon budget seem therefore unavoidable over the 21st century. Early reductions and the required phase-out of unabated fossil fuel emissions would be an important societal challenge. However, erring on the side of caution reduces the risk that future generations will face either the need for even larger emission reductions or very high climate change impacts.
Rogelj J <http://pure.iiasa.ac.at/view/iiasa/254.html>, Meinshausen M, Sedlacek J, & Knutti R (2014). Implications of potentially lower climate sensitivity on climate projections and policy. Environmental Research Letters 9 (3): no.031003. DOI:10.1088/1748-9326/9/3/031003 <https://doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/9/3/031003>.