9 September, 2015

How well do integrated assessment models represent non-CO2 radiative forcing?


Harmsen, M.J.H.M., van Vuuren, D.P., van den Berg, M., Hof, A.F., Hope, C., Krey, V., Lamarque, J.-F., Marcucci, A., Rose, S.K., Shindell, D.T., Schaeffer M.

This study aims to create insight in how Integrated Assessment Models (IAMs) perform in describing the climate forcing by non-CO2 gases and aerosols. The simple climate models (SCMs) included in IAMs have been run with the same prescribed anthropogenic emission pathways and compared to analyses with complex earth system models (ESMs) in terms of concentration and radiative forcing levels. In our comparison, particular attention was given to the short-lived forcers' climate effects. In general, SCMs show forcing levels within the expert model ranges.

However, the more simple SCMs seem to underestimate forcing differences between baseline and mitigation scenarios because of omission of ozone, black carbon and/or indirect methane forcing effects. Above all, results also show that among IAMs there is a significant spread (0.74 W/m2 in 2100) in non-CO2 forcing projections for a 2.6 W/m2 mitigation scenario, mainly due to uncertainties in the indirect effects of aerosols. This has large implications for determining optimal mitigation strategies among IAMs with regard to required CO2 forcing targets and policy costs.