finding 2.2 : global-climate-this-century

Global climate is projected to continue to change over this century and beyond. The magnitude of climate change beyond the next few decades depends primarily on the amount of heat-trapping gases emitted globally, and how sensitive the Earth’s climate is to those emissions.



This finding is from chapter 2 of Climate Change Impacts in the United States: The Third National Climate Assessment.

Process for developing key messages: Development of the key messages involved discussions of the lead authors and accompanying analyses conducted via one in-person meeting plus multiple teleconferences and email exchanges from February thru September 2012. The authors reviewed 80 technical inputs provided by the public, as well as other published literature, and applied their professional judgment. Key message development also involved the findings from four special workshops that related to the latest scientific understanding of climate extremes. Each workshop had a different theme related to climate extremes, had approximately 30 attendees (the CMIP5 meeting had more than 100), and the workshops resulted in a paper.b91893b4-24a8-46ba-b09a-013d462caf1b The first workshop was held in July 2011, titled Monitoring Changes in Extreme Storm Statistics: State of Knowledge.b37557ac-ee97-4c28-98ca-4f1f1afe163b The second was held in November 2011, titled Forum on Trends and Causes of Observed Changes in Heatwaves, Coldwaves, Floods, and Drought.e15600d0-290f-44e2-9b58-9ffd295ee6d2 The third was held in January 2012, titled Forum on Trends in Extreme Winds, Waves, and Extratropical Storms along the Coasts.596a7f1e-6ce5-4bdf-b144-d0715a7567bd The fourth, the CMIP5 results workshop, was held in March 2012 in Hawai‘i, and resulted in an analysis of CMIP5 results relative to climate extremes in the United States.b91893b4-24a8-46ba-b09a-013d462caf1b The Chapter Author Team’s discussions were supported by targeted consultation with additional experts. Professional expertise and judgment led to determining “key vulnerabilities.” A consensus-based approach was used for final key message selection.

Description of evidence base: The key message and supporting text summarizes extensive evidence documented in the climate science peer-reviewed literature. Technical Input reports (82) on a wide range of topics were also reviewed; they were received as part of the Federal Register Notice solicitation for public input. Evidence of continued global warming is based on past observations of climate change and our knowledge of the climate system’s response to heat-trapping gases. Models have projected increased temperature under a number of different scenarios.f83b5613-7609-4799-ab8c-c2a41bdc924c 29dec54f-92a8-4543-93f1-941da4f4d750 be244401-e84d-4ddd-af18-e8f59f807e17 That the planet has warmed is “unequivocal,” f83b5613-7609-4799-ab8c-c2a41bdc924c and is corroborated though multiple lines of evidence, as is the conclusion that the causes are very likely human in origin (see also Appendices 3 and 4). The evidence for future warming is based on fundamental understanding of the behavior of heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere. Model simulations provide bounds on the estimates of this warming.

New information and remaining uncertainties: The trends described in the 2009 reporte251f590-177e-4ba6-8ed1-6f68b5e54c8a have continued, and our understanding of the data and ability to model the many facets of the climate system have increased substantially. There are several major sources of uncertainty in making projections of climate change. The relative importance of these changes over time. In the next few decades, the effects of natural variability will be an important source of uncertainty for climate change projections. Uncertainty in future human emissions becomes the largest source of uncertainty by the end of this century. Uncertainty in how sensitive the climate is to increased concentrations of heat-trapping gases is especially important beyond the next few decades. Recent evidence lends further confidence about climate sensitivity (see Appendix 3: Climate Science Supplement). Uncertainty in natural climate drivers, for example how much solar output will change over this century, also affects the accuracy of projections.

Assessment of confidence based on evidence: Given the evidence base and remaining uncertainties, confidence is very high that the global climate is projected to continue to change over this century and beyond. The statement on the magnitude of the effect also has very high confidence.

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