How will climate change play out over the next 100 years?

There is a key figure in the IPCC’s Working Group Two report from its Fifth Assessment that shows what the pressure will be on five areas they call ‘Reasons for Concern’.

Working Group Two’s Figure 19-7, presents thermometer like gradual coloured shading from white to purple to signify increasing additional risk due to climate change. The additional risk increases as global mean temperature increases.

However, we don’t know what the average temperature will be ten, fifty or one hundred years from now. The IPCC’s Working Group One projects these changes using computer modelling and scenarios which comprise bundles of assumptions about the future.

The Fifth Assessment Report modelling is based on Representative Concentration Pathways (RCPs) which each indicate a possible trajectory of concentration of greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere. The highest emissions growth scenario is included in RCP8.5.

Figure FAQ12.1-1 in the Working Group One report illustrates possible temperature responses to the concentration pathways until the year 2100. This includes small globes shaded, again, from white to purple – this time indicating increases to global surface temperature up to eleven degrees.

To illustrate the increasing risk to the Reasons for Concern over the coming century, I have created a new graphic using RCP8.5.

RFC heat map

Interpretation of graphics from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Fifth Assessment Report (2014), Working Group One Figure FAQ12.1-1 and Working Group Two Figure 19-7 using Representative Concentration Pathway 8.5, by Scott Losee,, 28/4/2015

I am looking forward to giving this interpretation its first airing at my presentation to the Young Engineers group this Thursday night at the Queensland Art Gallery. Young engineers will experience these changes as their careers unfold over the next 40 years.

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