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IPCC Working Group I 1995 Summary for Policymakers
Considerable progress has been made in the understanding of climate changel science since
1990 and new data and analyses have become available. Greenhouse gas concentrations have continued to increase
Increases in greenhouse gas concentrations since pre-industrial times (ie. since about 1750) have led to a positive radiative forcing of climate, tending to warm the surface and to produce other changes of climate. • The atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases, inter alia carbon dioxide (CO2),
methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N20) have grown significantly: by about 30%, 145%, and 15%, respectively (values for 1992). These trends can be attributed largely to
human activities, mostly fossil fuel use, landhuse change and agriculture. • The growth rates of CO2, CH4 and N20 concentrations were low during the early 1990s.
While this apparently natural variation is not yet fully explained, recent data indicate that
the growth rates are currently comparable to those averaged over the 1980s. • The direct radiative forcing of the long-lived greenhouse gases (2.45 Wm-2) is due
primarily to increases in the concentrations of CO2 (1.56 Wm-2), CHA (0.47 Wm2)
and N20 (0.14 Wm-2) (values for 1992). • Many greenhouse gases remain in the atmosphere for a long time (for CO2 and N20, many
decades to centuries), hence they affect radiative forcing on long time-scales.
stratospheric ozone depletion which gives rise to a negative radiative forcing. • Growth in the concentration of CFCs, but not HCFCs, has slowed to about zero. The
concentrations of both CFCs and HCFCs, and their consequent ozone depletion, are expected to decrease substantially by 2050 through implementation of the Montreal Protocol and
its Adjustments and Amendments. • At present some long-lived greenhouse gases (particularly HFCS (a CFC substitute), PFCS
and SF6) contribute little to radiative forcing but their projected growth could contribute
several per cent to radiative forcing during the 21st century. • If carbon dioxide emissions were maintained at near current (1994) levels, they would
lead to a nearly constant rate of increase in atmospheric concentrations for at least two centuries, reaching about 500 ppmv (approaching twice the pre-industrial concentration of 280 ppmv) by the end of the 21st century.
1 Climate change in IPCC Working Group I usage refers to any change in climate over time whether due to natural variability or as a result of human activity. This differs from the usage in the Framework Convention on Climate Change where Climate Change refers to a change of climate which is attributed directly or indirectly to human activity that alters the composition of the global atmosphere and which is in addition to natural climate variability observed over comparable time periods. 2 A simple measure of the importance of a potential climate change mechanism. Radiative forcing is the perturbation to the energy balance of the Earth-atmosphere system (in Watts per square metre
IPCC Working Group I 1995 Summary for Policymakers
A range of carbon cycle models indicates that stabilisation of atmospheric CO2 concentrations at 450, 650 or 1000 ppmv could be achieved only if global anthropogenic CO2 emissions drop to 1990 levels by, respectively, approximately 40, 110 or 240
years from now, and drop substantially below 1990 levels subsequently. • Any eventual stabilised concentration is governed more by the accumulated anthropogenic
CO2 emissions from now until the time of stabilisation, than by the way those emissions change over the period. This means that, for a given stabilised concentration value, higher emissions in early decades require lower emissions later on. Among the range of stabilisation cases studied, for stabilisation at 450, 650 or 1000 ppmv accumulated anthropogenic emissions over the period 1991 to 2100 are 630 GC, 1030 GtC, and 1410 GC respectively (t approximately 15% in each case). For comparison the corresponding accumulated emissions for IPCC IS92 emission scenarios range from 770 to
2190 GUC. • Stabilisation of CH4 and N20 concentrations at today's levels would involve reductions in
anthropogenic emissions of 8% and more than 50% respectively.
Anthropogenic aerosols tend to produce negative radiative forcings
Tropospheric aerosols (microscopic airborne particles) resulting from combustion of fossil fuels, biomass burning and other sources have led to a negative direct forcing of about 0.5 Wm-2, as a global average, and possibly also to a negative indirect forcing of a similar magnitude. While the negative forcing is focused in particular regions and subcontinental areas, it can have continental to hemispheric scale effects on climate
patterns. • Locally, the aerosol forcing can be large enough to more than offset the positive forcing due
to greenhouse gases. • In contrast to the long-lived greenhouse gases, anthropogenic aerosols are very short
lived in the atmosphere, hence their radiative forcing adjusts rapidly to increases or decreases in emissions.
Climate has changed over the past century
At any one location year-to-year variations in weather can be large, but analyses of meteorological and other data over large areas and over periods of decades or more have provided evidence for some important systematic changes.
Global mean surface air temperature has increased by between about 0.3 and 0.6°C since the late 19th century; the additional data available since 1990 and the re-analyses since then have not significantly changed this range estimated incr ase.
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IPCC Working Group I 1995 Summary for Policymakers
Recent years have been among the warmest since 1860, i.e., in the period of instrumental
record, despite the cooling effect of the 1991 Mt. Pinatubo volcanic eruption. • Night-time temperatures over land have generally increased more than daytime
temperatures. • Regional changes are also evident. For example, the recent warming has been greatest
over the mid-latitude continents in winter and spring, with a few areas of cooling, such as the North Atlantic ocean. Precipitation has increased over land in high latitudes of the
Northern Hemisphere, especially during the cold season. • Global sea level has risen by between 10 and 25 cm over the past 100 years and much of
the rise may be related to the increase in global mean temperature. • There are inadequate data to determine whether consistent global changes in climate
variability or weather extremes have occurred over the 20th Century. On regional scales
Any human-induced effect on climate will be superimposed on the background "noise" of natural climate variability, which results both from internal fluctuations and from external causes such as solar variability or volcanic eruptions. Detection and attribution studies attempt to distinguish between anthropogenic and natural influences. "Detection of change" is the process of demonstrating that an observed change in climate is highly unusual in a statistical sense, but does not provide a reason for the change. "Attribution" is the process of establishing cause and effect relations, including the testing of competing hypotheses.
Since the 1990 IPCC Report, considerable progress has been made in attempts to distinguish between natural and anthropogenic influences on climate. This progress has been achieved by including effects of sulphate aerosols in addition to greenhouse gases, thus leading to more realistic estimates of human-induced radiative forcing. These have then been used in climate models to provide more complete simulations of the human-induced climate change 'signal'. In addition, new simulations with coupled atmosphere-ocean models have provided important information about decade to century time-scale natural internal climate variability. A further major area of progress is the shift of focus from studies of global-mean changes to comparisons of modelled and observed spatial and temporal patterns of climate change.
The most important results related to the issues of detection and attribution are: • The limited available evidence from proxy climate indicators suggests that the 20th
century global mean temperature is at least as warm as any other century since at least 1400 AD. Data prior to 1400 are too sparse to allow the reliable estimation of global IPCC Working Group I 1995 Summary for Policymakers
• Assessments of the statistical significance of the observed global mean surface air
temperature trend over the last century have used a variety of new estimates of natural internal and externally-forced variability. These are derived from instrumental data, palaeodata, simple and complex climate models, and statistical models fitted to observations. Most of these studies have detected a significant change and show that the
observed warming trend is unlikely to be entirely natural in origin. • More convincing recent evidence for the attribution of a human effect on climate is
emerging from pattem-based studies, in which the modelled climate response to combined forcing by greenhouse gases and anthropogenic sulphate aerosols is compared with observed geographical, seasonal and vertical patterns of atmospherit temperature change. These studies show that such pattern correspondences increase with time, as one would expect as an anthropogenic signal increases in strength. Furthermore, the probability is very low that these correspondences could occur by chance as a result of natural internal variability only. The vertical patterns of change are also inconsistent with trose expected
for solar and volcanic forcing. • Our ability to quantify the human influence on global climate is currently limited because
the expected signal is still emerging from the noise of natural variability, and because there are uncertainties in key factors. These include the magnitude and patterns of long term natural variability and the time-evolving pattern of forcing by, and response to, changes in concentrations of greenhouse gases and aerosols, and land surface changes. Nevertheless, the balance of evidence suggests that there is a discernible human influence on global climate.
Climate is expected to continue to change in the future
The IPCC has developed a range of scenarios, LS92a-f, of future greenhouse gas and aerosol · precursor emissions based on assumptions concerning population and economic growth, land
use, technological changes, energy availability and fuel mix during the period 1990 to 2100. Through understanding of the global carbon cycle and of atmospheric chemistry, these emissions can be used to project atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases and aerosols and the perturbation of natural radiative forcing. Climate models can then be used to develop projections of future climate. • The increasing realism of simulations of current and past climate by coupled atmosphere
ocean climate models has increased our confidence in their use for projection of future climate change. Important uncertainties remain, but these have been taken into account in
the full range of projections of global mean temperature and sea level change. • For the mid-range IPCC emission scenario, iS92a, assuming the best estimate" value of
climate sensitivity' and including the effects of future increases in aerosol, models project an increase in global mean surface air temperature relative to 1990 of about 2°C by 2100. This estimate is approximately one third lower than the "best estimate" in 1990. This is due primarily to lower emission scenarios (particularly for CO2 and the CFCs), the inclusion of the cooling effect of sulphate aerosols, and improvements in the treatment of the carbon cycle. Combining the lowest IPCC emission scenario (IS92c) with
1 In IPCC reports, climate sensitivity usually refers to the long term (equilibrium) change in global mcan surface temperature following a doubling of atmospheric equivalent CO2 concentration. More generally, it refers to the equilibrium change in surface air temperature following a unit change in