E. Future Global and Regional Climate Change


Continued emissions of greenhouse gases will cause further warming and changes in all components of the climate system. Limiting climate change will require substantial and sustained reductions of greenhouse gas emissions. {Chapters 6, 11, 12, 13, 14}




Projections of changes in the climate system are made using a hierarchy of climate models ranging from simple climate models, to models of intermediate complexity, to comprehensive climate models, and Earth System Models. These models simulate changes based on a set of scenarios of anthropogenic forcings.

A new set of scenarios, the Representative Concentration Pathways  (RCPs),  was  used  for  the  new  climate  model  simulations  carried  out  under  the framework of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 5 (CMIP5) of the World Climate Research Programme.

In all RCPs, atmospheric CO2 concentrations are higher in 2100 relative to present day as a result of a further increase of cumulative emissions of CO2  to the atmosphere during the 21st century (see Box SPM.1).

Projections in this Summary for Policymakers are for the end of the 21st century (2081–2100) given relative to 1986–2005, unless otherwise stated.

To place such projections in historical context, it is necessary to consider observed changes between different periods. Based on the longest global surface temperature dataset available, the observed change between the average of the period 1850–1900 and of the AR5 reference period is 0.61 [0.55 to 0.67] °C. However, warming has occurred beyond the average of the AR5 reference period. Hence this is not an estimate of historical warming to present (see Chapter 2) .


  • Projections for the next few decades show spatial patterns of climate change similar to those projected for the later 21st century but with smaller magnitude. Internal variability will continue to be a major influence on climate, particularly in the near-term and at the regional scale. By the mid-21st century the magnitudes of the projected changes are substantially affected by the choice of emissions scenario (Box SPM.1). {11.3, Box 11.1, Annex I}


  • Projected climate change based on RCPs is similar to AR4 in both patterns and magnitude, after accounting for scenario differences. The overall spread of projections for the high RCPs is narrower than  for  comparable scenarios used  in  AR4  because in  contrast to  the  SRES emission  scenarios  used  in  AR4,  the  RCPs  used  in  AR5  are  defined  as  concentration pathways and thus carbon cycle uncertainties affecting atmospheric CO2  concentrations are not considered in the concentration driven CMIP5 simulations. Projections of sea level rise are larger than in the AR4, primarily because of improved modelling of land-ice contributions.{11.3, 12.3, 12.4, 13.4, 13.5}


Figure SPM.7: CMIP5 multi-model simulated time series from 1950 to 2100 for (a) change in global annual mean  surface  temperature  relative  to  1986–2005  (see  Table  SPM.2  for  other  reference  periods),  (b) Northern Hemisphere September sea ice extent (5 year running mean) and (c) global mean ocean surface pH. Time series of projections and a measure of uncertainty (shading) are shown for scenarios RCP2.6 (blue) and RCP8.5 (red). Black (grey shading) is the modelled historical evolution using historical reconstructed forcings. The mean and associated uncertainties averaged over 2081−2100 are given for all RCP scenarios as colored vertical bars. The numbers of CMIP5 models used to calculate the multi-model mean is indicated. For sea ice extent (b), the projected mean and uncertainty (minimum-maximum range) of the subset of models that most closely reproduce the climatological mean state and 1979‒2012 trend of the Arctic sea ice is given (number of models given in brackets). For completeness, the CMIP5 multi-model mean is also indicated with dotted lines. The dashed line represents nearly ice-free conditions (i.e., when sea ice extent is less than 106 km2 for at least five consecutive years). For further technical details see the Technical Summary Supplementary Material {Figures 6.28, 12.5, and 12.28–12.31; Figures TS.15, TS.17, and TS.20}


Figure  SPM.8: Maps of CMIP5 multi-model mean results for the scenarios RCP2.6 and RCP8.5 in 2081–2100 of (a) annual mean surface temperature change, (b) average percent change in annual mean precipitation, (c) Northern Hemisphere September sea ice extent and (d) change in ocean surface pH. Changes in panels (a), (b) and (d) are shown relative to 1986–2005. The number of CMIP5 models used to calculate the multi-model mean is indicated in the upper right corner of each panel. For panels (a) and (b), hatching indicates regions where the multi-model mean is small compared to internal variability (i.e., less than one standard deviation of internal variability in 20-year means). Stippling indicates regions where the multi-model mean is large compared to internal variability (i.e., greater than two standard deviations of internal variability in 20-year means) and where 90% of models agree on the sign of change (see Box 12.1). In panel (c), the lines are the modelled means for 1986−2005; the filled areas are for the end of the century. The CMIP5 multi-model mean is given in white colour, the projected mean sea ice extent of a subset of models (number of models given in brackets) that most closely reproduce the climatological mean state and 1979‒2012 trend of the Arctic sea ice extent is given in light blue colour. For further technical details see the Technical Summary Supplementary Material. {Figures 6.28, 12.11, 12.22, and 12.29; Figures TS.15, TS.16, TS.17, and TS.20}


Table SPM.2: Projected change in global mean surface air temperature and global mean sea level rise for the mid- and late 21st century relative to the reference period of 1986–2005. {12.4; Table 12.2, Table 13.5}

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