IPCC Fourth Assessment Report: Climate Change 2007
Climate Change 2007: Synthesis Report

3.2.1 21st century global changes

Continued GHG emissions at or above current rates would cause further warming and induce many changes in the global climate system during the 21st century that would very likely be larger than those observed during the 20th century. {WGI 10.3}

Advances in climate change modelling now enable best estimates and likely assessed uncertainty ranges to be given for projected warming for different emissions scenarios. Table 3.1 shows best estimates and likely ranges for global average surface air warming for the six SRES marker emissions scenarios (including climate-carbon cycle feedbacks). {WGI 10.5}

Table 3.1. Projected global average surface warming and sea level rise at the end of the 21st century. {WGI 10.5, 10.6, Table 10.7, Table SPM.3}

Case  Temperature change (°C at 2090-2099 relative to 1980-1999) a, d   Sea level rise (m at 2090-2099 relative to 1980-1999)  
Best estimate  Likely range  Model-based range excluding future rapid dynamical changes in ice flow  
Constant year 2000 concentrationsb  0.6  0.3 – 0.9  Not available  
B1 scenario  1.8  1.1 – 2.9  0.18 – 0.38  
A1T scenario  2.4  1.4 – 3.8  0.20 – 0.45  
B2 scenario  2.4  1.4 – 3.8  0.20 – 0.43  
A1B scenario  2.8  1.7 – 4.4  0.21 – 0.48  
A2 scenario  3.4  2.0 – 5.4  0.23 – 0.51  
A1FI scenario  4.0  2.4 – 6.4  0.26 – 0.59  


a) These estimates are assessed from a hierarchy of models that encompass a simple climate model, several Earth Models of Intermediate Complexity, and a large number of Atmosphere-Ocean General Circulation Models (AOGCMs) as well as observational constraints.

b) Year 2000 constant composition is derived from AOGCMs only.

c) All scenarios above are six SRES marker scenarios. Approximate CO2-eq concentrations corresponding to the computed radiative forcing due to anthropogenic GHGs and aerosols in 2100 (see p. 823 of the WGI TAR) for the SRES B1, AIT, B2, A1B, A2 and A1FI illustrative marker scenarios are about 600, 700, 800, 850, 1250 and 1550ppm, respectively.

d) Temperature changes are expressed as the difference from the period 1980-1999. To express the change relative to the period 1850-1899 add 0.5°C.

Although these projections are broadly consistent with the span quoted in the TAR (1.4 to 5.8°C), they are not directly comparable. Assessed upper ranges for temperature projections are larger than in the TAR mainly because the broader range of models now available suggests stronger climate-carbon cycle feedbacks. For the A2 scenario, for example, the climate-carbon cycle feedback increases the corresponding global average warming at 2100 by more than 1°C. Carbon feedbacks are discussed in Topic 2.3. {WGI 7.3, 10.5, SPM}

Because understanding of some important effects driving sea level rise is too limited, this report does not assess the likelihood, nor provide a best estimate or an upper bound for sea level rise. Model-based projections of global average sea level rise at the end of the 21st century (2090-2099) are shown in Table 3.1. For each scenario, the mid-point of the range in Table 3.1 is within 10% of the TAR model average for 2090-2099. The ranges are narrower than in the TAR mainly because of improved information about some uncertainties in the projected contributions.[12] The sea level projections do not include uncertainties in climate-carbon cycle feedbacks nor do they include the full effects of changes in ice sheet flow, because a basis in published literature is lacking. Therefore the upper values of the ranges given are not to be considered upper bounds for sea level rise. The projections include a contribution due to increased ice flow from Greenland and Antarctica at the rates observed for 1993-2003, but these flow rates could increase or decrease in the future. If this contribution were to grow linearly with global average temperature change, the upper ranges of sea level rise for SRES scenarios shown in Table 3.1 would increase by 0.1 to 0.2m.[13] {WGI 10.6, SPM}

  1. ^  TAR projections were made for 2100, whereas the projections for this report are for 2090-2099. The TAR would have had similar ranges to those in Table 3.1 if it had treated uncertainties in the same way.
  2. ^  For discussion of the longer term see Sections 3.2.3 and 5.2.