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

Large-scale singularities

Very few studies have been conducted on the impacts of large-scale singularities, which are extreme, sometimes irreversible, changes in the Earth system such as an abrupt cessation of the North Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation, or rapid global sea-level rise due to Antarctic and/or Greenland ice sheet melting [2.4.7]. Due to incomplete understanding of the underlying mechanisms of these events, or their likelihood, only exploratory studies have been carried out. For example, in terms of exploring the worst-case scenario of abrupt sea-level rise, impact assessments have been conducted for the coastal zone for a 5 m rise, and for a 2.2 m rise by 2100 [2.4.7]. This is the first time these scenarios have been included in any WGII assessment, and the expectation is that many more such studies will become available for assessment in the future.

Probabilistic characterisations

Probabilistic characterisations of future climate and non-climate conditions are increasingly becoming available. A number of studies focused on the climate system have generated probabilistic estimates of climate change, conditional on selected or probabilistic emissions scenarios, the latter being a subject of considerable debate [2.4.8]. Probabilistic futures have been applied in a few CCIAV studies to estimate the risk of exceeding predefined thresholds of impact and the associated timing of such exceedances [2.3.1].