Beyond equilibrium climate sensitivity

R. Knutti, Maria A. A. Rugenstein, Gabriele Hegerl

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Equilibrium climate sensitivity characterizes the Earth's long-term global temperature response to increased atmospheric CO2 concentration. It has reached almost iconic status as the single number that describes how severe climate change will be. The consensus on the 'likely' range for climate sensitivity of 1.5 °C to 4.5 °C today is the same as given by Jule Charney in 1979, but now it is based on quantitative evidence from across the climate system and throughout climate history. The quest to constrain climate sensitivity has revealed important insights into the timescales of the climate system response, natural variability and limitations in observations and climate models, but also concerns about the simple concepts underlying climate sensitivity and radiative forcing, which opens avenues to better understand and constrain the climate response to forcing. Estimates of the transient climate response are better constrained by observed warming and are more relevant for predicting warming over the next decades. Newer metrics relating global warming directly to the total emitted CO2 show that in order to keep warming to within 2 °C, future CO2 emissions have to remain strongly limited, irrespective of climate sensitivity being at the high or low end.
Original languageEnglish
JournalNature Geoscience
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 4 Sept 2017

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