IPCC Fourth Assessment Report: Climate Change 2007
Climate Change 2007: Working Group I: The Physical Science Basis

Mean Temperature

All models assessed here, for all the non-mitigation scenarios considered, project increases in global mean surface air temperature (SAT) continuing over the 21st century, driven mainly by increases in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations, with the warming proportional to the associated radiative forcing. There is close agreement of globally averaged SAT multi-model mean warming for the early 21st century for concentrations derived from the three non-mitigated IPCC Special Report on Emission Scenarios (SRES: B1, A1B and A2) scenarios (including only anthropogenic forcing) run by the AOGCMs (warming averaged for 2011 to 2030 compared to 1980 to 1999 is between +0.64°C and +0.69°C, with a range of only 0.05°C). Thus, this warming rate is affected little by different scenario assumptions or different model sensitivities, and is consistent with that observed for the past few decades (see Chapter 3). Possible future variations in natural forcings (e.g., a large volcanic eruption) could change those values somewhat, but about half of the early 21st-century warming is committed in the sense that it would occur even if atmospheric concentrations were held fixed at year 2000 values. By mid-century (2046–2065), the choice of scenario becomes more important for the magnitude of multi-model globally averaged SAT warming, with values of +1.3°C, +1.8°C and +1.7°C from the AOGCMs for B1, A1B and A2, respectively. About a third of that warming is projected to be due to climate change that is already committed. By late century (2090–2099), differences between scenarios are large, and only about 20% of that warming arises from climate change that is already committed.

An assessment based on AOGCM projections, probabilistic methods, EMICs, a simple model tuned to the AOGCM responses, as well as coupled climate carbon cycle models, suggests that for non-mitigation scenarios, the future increase in global mean SAT is likely to fall within –40 to +60% of the multi-model AOGCM mean warming simulated for a given scenario. The greater uncertainty at higher values results in part from uncertainties in the carbon cycle feedbacks. The multi-model mean SAT warming and associated uncertainty ranges for 2090 to 2099 relative to 1980 to 1999 are B1: +1.8°C (1.1°C to 2.9°C), B2: +2.4°C (1.4°C to 3.8°C), A1B: +2.8°C (1.7°C to 4.4°C), A1T: 2.4°C (1.4°C to 3.8°C), A2: +3.4°C (2.0°C to 5.4°C) and A1FI: +4.0°C (2.4°C to 6.4°C). It is not appropriate to compare the lowest and highest values across these ranges against the single range given in the TAR, because the TAR range resulted only from projections using an SCM and covered all SRES scenarios, whereas here a number of different and independent modelling approaches are combined to estimate ranges for the six illustrative scenarios separately. Additionally, in contrast to the TAR, carbon cycle uncertainties are now included in these ranges. These uncertainty ranges include only anthropogenically forced changes.

Geographical patterns of projected SAT warming show greatest temperature increases over land (roughly twice the global average temperature increase) and at high northern latitudes, and less warming over the southern oceans and North Atlantic, consistent with observations during the latter part of the 20th century (see Chapter 3). The pattern of zonal mean warming in the atmosphere, with a maximum in the upper tropical troposphere and cooling throughout the stratosphere, is notable already early in the 21st century, while zonal mean warming in the ocean progresses from near the surface and in the northern mid-latitudes early in the 21st century, to gradual penetration downward during the course of the 21st century.

An expert assessment based on the combination of available constraints from observations (assessed in Chapter 9) and the strength of known feedbacks simulated in the models used to produce the climate change projections in this chapter indicates that the equilibrium global mean SAT warming for a doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2), or ‘equilibrium climate sensitivity’, is likely to lie in the range 2°C to 4.5°C, with a most likely value of about 3°C. Equilibrium climate sensitivity is very likely larger than 1.5°C. For fundamental physical reasons, as well as data limitations, values substantially higher than 4.5°C still cannot be excluded, but agreement with observations and proxy data is generally worse for those high values than for values in the 2°C to 4.5°C range. The ‘transient climate response’ (TCR, defined as the globally averaged SAT change at the time of CO2 doubling in the 1% yr–1 transient CO2 increase experiment) is better constrained than equilibrium climate sensitivity. The TCR is very likely larger than 1°C and very unlikely greater than 3°C based on climate models, in agreement with constraints from the observed surface warming.