Global and regional impacts differ between transient and equilibrium warmer worlds

There has recently been interest in understanding the differences between specific levels of global warming, especially the Paris Agreement limits of 1.5 °C and 2 °C above pre-industrial levels. However, different model experiments have been used in these analyses under varying rates of increase in global-average temperature. 

In this study, Andrew D. King et al. used climate model simulations to show that, for a given global temperature, most land is significantly warmer in a rapidly warming (transient) case than in a quasi-equilibrium climate. This results in more than 90% of the world’s population experiencing a warmer local climate under transient global warming than equilibrium global warming. Relative to differences between the 1.5 °C and 2 °C global warming limits, the differences between transient and quasi-equilibrium states are substantial. For many land regions, the probability of very warm seasons is at least two times greater in a transient climate than in a quasi-equilibrium equivalent. In developing regions, there are sizable differences between transient and quasi-equilibrium climates that underline the importance of explicitly framing projections. 

Their study highlights the need to better understand differences between future climates under rapid warming and quasi-equilibrium conditions for the development of climate change adaptation policies. Yet, current multi-model experiments are not designed for this purpose.

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