WG I The Scientific Basis - Technical Summary

Climate Change 2001: The Scientific Basis

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F. The Projections of the Earth's Future Climate

The tools of climate models are used with future scenarios of forcing agents (e.g., greenhouse gases and aerosols) as input to make a suite of projected future climate changes that illustrates the possibilities that could lie ahead. Section F.1 provides a description of the future scenarios of forcing agents given in the IPCC Special Report on Emission Scenarios (SRES) on which, wherever possible, the future changes presented in this section are based. Sections F.2 to F.9 present the resulting projections of changes to the future climate. Finally, Section F.10 presents the results of future projections based on scenarios of a future where greenhouse gas concentrations are stabilised.

F.1 The IPCC Special Report on Emissions Scenarios (SRES)

In 1996, the IPCC began the development of a new set of emissions scenarios, effectively to update and replace the well-known IS92 scenarios. The approved new set of scenarios is described in the IPCC Special Report on Emission Scenarios (SRES). Four different narrative storylines were developed to describe consistently the relationships between the forces driving emissions and their evolution and to add context for the scenario quantification. The resulting set of 40 scenarios (35 of which contain data on the full range of gases required to force climate models) cover a wide range of the main demographic, economic and technological driving forces of future greenhouse gas and sulphur emissions. Each scenario represents a specific quantification of one of the four storylines. All the scenarios based on the same storyline constitute a scenario "family" (See Box 5, which briefly describes the main characteristics of the four SRES storylines and scenario families). The SRES scenarios do not include additional climate initiatives, which means that no scenarios are included that explicitly assume implementation of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change or the emissions targets of the Kyoto Protocol. However, greenhouse gas emissions are directly affected by non-climate change policies designed for a wide range of other purposes (e.g., air quality). Furthermore, government policies can, to varying degrees, influence the greenhouse gas emission drivers, such as demographic change, social and economic development, technological change, resource use, and pollution management. This influence is broadly reflected in the storylines and resulting scenarios.

Box 5: The Emissions Scenarios of the Special Report on Emissions Scenarios (SRES)

A1. The A1 storyline and scenario family describes a future world of very rapid economic growth, global population that peaks in mid-century and declines thereafter, and the rapid introduction of new and more efficient technologies. Major underlying themes are convergence among regions, capacity building and increased cultural and social interactions, with a substantial reduction in regional differences in per capita income. The A1 scenario family develops into three groups that describe alternative directions of technological change in the energy system. The three A1 groups are distinguished by their technological emphasis: fossil intensive (A1FI), non-fossil energy sources (A1T), or a balance across all sources (A1B) (where balanced is defined as not relying too heavily on one particular energy source, on the assumption that similar improvement rates apply to all energy supply and end-use technologies).

A2. The A2 storyline and scenario family describes a very heterogeneous world. The underlying theme is self-reliance and preservation of local identities. Fertility patterns across regions converge very slowly, which results in continuously increasing population. Economic development is primarily regionally oriented and per capita economic growth and technological change more fragmented and slower than other storylines.

B1. The B1 storyline and scenario family describes a convergent world with the same global population, that peaks in mid-century and declines thereafter, as in the A1 storyline, but with rapid change in economic structures toward a service and information economy, with reductions in material intensity and the introduction of clean and resource-efficient technologies. The emphasis is on global solutions to economic, social and environmental sustainability, including improved equity, but without additional climate initiatives.

B2. The B2 storyline and scenario family describes a world in which the emphasis is on local solutions to economic, social and environmental sustainability. It is a world with continuously increasing global population, at a rate lower than A2, intermediate levels of economic development, and less rapid and more diverse technological change than in the A1 and B1 storylines. While the scenario is also oriented towards environmental protection and social equity, it focuses on local and regional levels.

Figure 17: Anthropogenic emissions of CO2, CH4, N2O and sulphur dioxide for the six illustrative SRES scenarios, A1B, A2, B1 and B2, A1FI and A1T. For comparison the IS92a scenario is also shown. [Based on IPCC Special Report on Emissions Scenarios.]

Since the SRES was not approved until 15 March 2000, it was too late for the modelling community to incorporate the final approved scenarios in their models and have the results available in time for this Third Assessment Report. However, draft scenarios were released to climate modellers earlier to facilitate their input to the Third Assessment Report, in accordance with a decision of the IPCC Bureau in 1998. At that time, one marker scenario was chosen from each of four of the scenario groups based directly on the storylines (A1B, A2, B1, and B2). The choice of the markers was based on which of the initial quantifications best reflected the storyline and features of specific models. Marker scenarios are no more or less likely than any other scenarios, but are considered illustrative of a particular storyline. Scenarios were also selected later to illustrate the other two scenario groups (A1FI and A1T) within the A1 family, which specifically explore alternative technology developments, holding the other driving forces constant. Hence there is an illustrative scenario for each of the six scenario groups, and all are equally plausible. Since the latter two illustrative scenarios were selected at a late stage in the process, the AOGCM modelling results presented in this report only use two of the four draft marker scenarios. At present, only scenarios A2 and B2 have been integrated by more than one AOGCM. The AOGCM results have been augmented by results from simple climate models that cover all six illustrative scenarios. The IS92a scenario is also presented in a number of cases to provide direct comparison with the results presented in the SAR.

The final four marker scenarios contained in the SRES differ in minor ways from the draft scenarios used for the AOGCM experiments described in this report. In order to ascertain the likely effect of differences in the draft and final SRES scenarios, each of the four draft and final marker scenarios were studied using a simple climate model. For three of the four marker scenarios (A1B, A2, and B2) temperature change from the draft and marker scenarios are very similar. The primary difference is a change to the standardised values for 1990 to 2000, which is common to all these scenarios. This results in a higher forcing early in the period. There are further small differences in net forcing, but these decrease until, by 2100, differences in temperature change in the two versions of these scenarios are in the range 1 to 2%. For the B1 scenario, however, temperature change is significantly lower in the final version, leading to a difference in the temperature change in 2100 of almost 20%, as a result of generally lower emissions across the full range of greenhouse gases.

Anthropogenic emissions of the three main greenhouse gases, CO2, CH4 and N2O, together with anthropogenic sulphur dioxide emissions, are shown for the six illustrative SRES scenarios in Figure 17. It is evident that these scenarios encompass a wide range of emissions. For comparison, emissions are also shown for IS92a. Particularly noteworthy are the much lower future sulphur dioxide emissions for the six SRES scenarios, compared to the IS92 scenarios, due to structural changes in the energy system as well as concerns about local and regional air pollution.

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