Climate Forcings in the Industrial Era
The forcings that drive long-term climate change are not known with an accuracy sufficient to define future climate change. Anthropogenic greenhouse gases (GHGs), which are well measured, cause a strong positive (warming) forcing. But other, poorly measured, anthropogenic forcings, especially changes of atmospheric aerosols, clouds, and land-use patterns, cause a negative forcing that tends to offset greenhouse warming. One consequence of this partial balance is that the natural forcing due to solar irradiance changes may play a larger role in long-term climate change than inferred from comparison with GHGs alone. Current trends in GHG climate forcings are smaller than in popular ``business as usual'' or 1% per year CO2 growth scenarios. The summary implication is a paradigm change for long-term climate projections: uncertainties in climate forcings have supplanted global climate sensitivity as the predominant issue.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Science
- Pub Date:
- October 1998