The climate won’t warm as much as we feared – but it will warm more than we hoped

A sign at a climate protest reading 'There is no planet B'.
23 July 2020

We know the climate changes as greenhouse gas concentrations rise, but the exact amount of expected warming remains uncertain.

Scientists study this in terms of “equilibrium climate sensitivity” – the temperature rise for a sustained doubling of carbon dioxide concentrations. Equilibrium climate sensitivity has long been estimated within a likely range of 1.5-4.5℃.

Under our current emissions trajectories, carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere will likely double between 2060 and 2080, relative to concentrations before the industrial revolution. Before that, they had changed little for millennia.

major new assessment has now calculated a range of 2.6–3.9℃. This implies that alarmingly high estimates from some recent climate models are unlikely, but also that comfortingly low estimates from other studies are even less likely.

Read the full article on The Conversation website, co-authored by Prof Eelco Rohling