Interpretation of high projections for global-mean warming

Science. 2001 Jul 20;293(5529):451-4. doi: 10.1126/science.1061604.


The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has recently released its Third Assessment Report (TAR), in which new projections are given for global-mean warming in the absence of policies to limit climate change. The full warming range over 1990 to 2100, 1.4 degrees to 5.8 degrees C, is substantially higher than the range given previously in the IPCC Second Assessment Report. Here we interpret the new warming range in probabilistic terms, accounting for uncertainties in emissions, the climate sensitivity, the carbon cycle, ocean mixing, and aerosol forcing. We show that the probabilities of warming values at both the high and low ends of the TAR range are very low. In the absence of climate-mitigation policies, the 90% probability interval for 1990 to 2100 warming is 1.7 degrees to 4.9 degrees C.