Assessing dangerous climate change through an update of the IPCC ‘‘reasons for concern”


Article 2 of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change [United Nations (1992) Accessed February 9, 2009] commits signatory nations to stabilizing greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that ‘‘would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference (DAI) with the climate system. ’’ In an effort to provide some insight into impacts of climate change that might be considered DAI, authors of the Third Assessment Report (TAR) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) identified 5 ‘‘reasons for concern’’ (RFCs). Relationships between various impacts reflected in each RFC and increases in global mean temperature (GMT) were portrayed in what has come to be called the ‘‘burning embers diagram.’’ In presenting the ‘‘embers’’ in the TAR, IPCC authors did not assess whether any single RFC was more important than any other; nor did they conclude what level of impacts or what atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases would constitute DAI, a value judgment that would be policy prescriptive. Here, we describe revisions of the sensitivities of the
RFCs to increases in GMT and a more thorough understanding of the concept of vulnerability that has evolved over the past 8 years. This is based on our expert judgment about new findings in the growing literature since the publication of the TAR in 2001, including literature that was assessed in the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report (AR4), as well as additional research published since AR4. Compared with results reported in the TAR, smaller increases in GMT are now estimated to lead to significant or substantial consequences in the framework of the 5 ‘‘reasons for concern.’’

Download file: http://PNAS_IPCC_Reassessing_DANGEROUS_CC.full_.pdf

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