IPCC Fourth Assessment Report: Climate Change 2007
Climate Change 2007: Working Group II: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability Guardrail analysis

Guardrail analysis comprises two types of inverse analysis that first define targets for climate change or climate impacts to be avoided and then determine the range of emissions that are compatible with these targets: tolerable windows analysis (Toth, 2003) and safe landing analysis (Swart et al., 1998). The tolerable windows approach allows the assessment of the implications of multiple competing climate policy goals on the mid-term and long-term ranges of permissible greenhouse gas emissions. It has initially been applied to several normative thresholds for climate impacts, which are analysed together with socio-economic constraints that aim at excluding unacceptable mitigation policies. Toth et al. (2003) analyse the interplay between thresholds for the global transformation of ecosystems, regional mitigation costs and the timing of mitigation. They show that following a business-as-usual scenario of GHG emissions (which resembles the SRES A2 scenario) until 2040 precludes the possibility of limiting the worldwide transformation of ecosystems to 30%, even under optimistic assumptions regarding willingness to pay for the mitigation of GHG emissions afterwards. Toth et al. (2003) show that mitigation of GHG emissions has to start no later than 2015 if a reduction in agricultural yield potential in South Asia of more than 10% is to be avoided. This result, however, is contingent on the regional climate change projection of the specific GCM applied in this analysis (HadCM2) and the accuracy of the impact models. The consideration of regional and local climate impacts in inverse analyses raises challenges as to the treatment of the significant uncertainties associated with them.

The tolerable windows approach has also been applied in connection with systematic climate thresholds, predominantly for probabilistic analyses of the stability of the thermohaline ocean circulation (Zickfeld and Bruckner, 2003; Bruckner and Zickfeld, 2004; Rahmstorf and Zickfeld, 2005). Rahmstorf and Zickfeld (2005) conclude that the SRES A2 emissions scenario exceeds the range of emissions corresponding to a 5% and 10% likelihood of inducing a commitment to a circulation shutdown around 2035 and 2065, respectively. A 2% risk of shutdown can no longer be avoided, even with very stringent emission reductions, given the assumptions in their models.