How difficult is it to recover from dangerous levels of global warming?

Lowe, J.A.; Huntingford, C. ORCID:; Raper, S.C.B.; Jones, C.D.; Liddicoat, S. K.; Gohar, L.K.. 2009 How difficult is it to recover from dangerous levels of global warming? Environmental Research Letters, 4, 014012. 9, pp.

Before downloading, please read NORA policies.

Download (369kB)


Climate models provide compelling evidence that if greenhouse gas emissions continue at present rates, then key global temperature thresholds (such as the European Union limit of two degrees of warming since pre-industrial times) are very likely to be crossed in the next few decades. However, there is relatively little attention paid to whether, should a dangerous temperature level be exceeded, it is feasible for the global temperature to then return to safer levels in a usefully short time. We focus on the timescales needed to reduce atmospheric greenhouse gases and associated temperatures back below potentially dangerous thresholds, using a state-of-the-art general circulation model. This analysis is extended with a simple climate model to provide uncertainty bounds. We find that even for very large reductions in emissions, temperature reduction is likely to occur at a low rate. Policy-makers need to consider such very long recovery timescales implicit in the Earth system when formulating future emission pathways that have the potential to ‘overshoot’ particular atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases and, more importantly, related temperature levels that might be considered dangerous.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
Programmes: CEH Programmes pre-2009 publications > Biogeochemistry > CC01B Land-surface Feedbacks in the Climate System
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: Harding (to July 2011)
ISSN: 1748-9326
Additional Information. Not used in RCUK Gateway to Research.: Environmental Research Letters is an Open Access Journal
NORA Subject Terms: Meteorology and Climatology
Earth Sciences
Atmospheric Sciences
Date made live: 09 Apr 2009 12:11 +0 (UTC)

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item

Document Downloads

Downloads for past 30 days

Downloads per month over past year

More statistics for this item...