Implications of potentially lower climate sensitivity on climate projections and policy

Date Published 2014, March 01

Authors Joeri Rogelj, Malte Meinshausen, Jan Sedláček and Reto Knutti

Journal IOP Science, Environmental Research Letters
Volume 9, 031003 (7pp), doi:10.1088/1748-9326/9/3/031003

Climate 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 °C temperature threshold by about a decade for emissions near current levels, or alternatively would imply that limiting warming to below 1.5 °C would require about the same emission reductions as are now assumed for 2 °C. It is just as plausible, however, for climate sensitivity to be at the upper end of the consensus range.