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A future perspective of historical contributions to climate change

Ragnhild Bieltvedt Skeie, Glen Peters, Jan Fuglestvedt, Robbie Andrew

Countries’ historical contributions to climate change have been on the agenda for more than two decades and will most likely continue to be an element in future international discussions and negotiations on climate. Previous studies have quantified the historical contributions to climate change across a range of choices and assumptions. In contrast, we quantify how historical contributions to changes in global mean surface temperature (GMST) may change in the future for a broad set of choices using the quantification of the shared socioeconomic pathways (SSPs). We calculate the contributions for five coarse geographical regions used in the SSPs. Historical emissions of long-lived gases remain important for future contributions to warming, due to their accumulation and the inertia of climate system, and historical emissions are even more important for strong mitigation scenarios. When only accounting for future emissions, from 2015 to 2100, there is surprisingly little variation in the regional contributions to GMST change between the different SSPs and different mitigation targets. The largest variability in the regional future contributions is found across the different integrated assessment models (IAMs). This suggests the characteristics of the IAMs are more important for calculated future historical contributions than variations across SSP or forcing target.

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