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Assessment of the first consensus prediction on climate change

Abstract

In 1990, climate scientists from around the world wrote the First Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. It contained a prediction of the global mean temperature trend over the 1990–2030 period that, halfway through that period, seems accurate. This is all the more remarkable in hindsight, considering that a number of important external forcings were not included. So how did this success arise? In the end, the greenhouse-gas-induced warming is largely overwhelming the other forcings, which are only of secondary importance on the 20-year timescale.

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Figure 1: Changes in global mean temperature over the 1990–2010 period.

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Acknowledgements

The authors wish to thank the international RCP Concentration Calculation and Data Group for the historical forcing data, and the UK Met Office Hadley Centre, the University of East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit and the Goddard Institute for Space Studies for global temperature data. M. Allen provided helpful comments on an earlier draft. D.J.F. would like to thank the Oxford Martin School and the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment for support. D.A.S. would like to acknowledge funding from Microsoft Research with further support from the US Department of Energy’s Office of Science, Office of Biological and Environmental Research and the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Program Office, through the International Detection and Attribution Group.

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D.J.F. and D.A.S. wrote the text and D.A.S. performed the calculations.

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Correspondence to David J. Frame or Dáithí A. Stone.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Frame, D., Stone, D. Assessment of the first consensus prediction on climate change. Nature Clim Change 3, 357–359 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1038/nclimate1763

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