, Volume 109, Issue 1-2, pp 213-241,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.
Date: 09 Aug 2011

The RCP greenhouse gas concentrations and their extensions from 1765 to 2300

Abstract

We present the greenhouse gas concentrations for the Representative Concentration Pathways (RCPs) and their extensions beyond 2100, the Extended Concentration Pathways (ECPs). These projections include all major anthropogenic greenhouse gases and are a result of a multi-year effort to produce new scenarios for climate change research. We combine a suite of atmospheric concentration observations and emissions estimates for greenhouse gases (GHGs) through the historical period (1750–2005) with harmonized emissions projected by four different Integrated Assessment Models for 2005–2100. As concentrations are somewhat dependent on the future climate itself (due to climate feedbacks in the carbon and other gas cycles), we emulate median response characteristics of models assessed in the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report using the reduced-complexity carbon cycle climate model MAGICC6. Projected ‘best-estimate’ global-mean surface temperature increases (using inter alia a climate sensitivity of 3°C) range from 1.5°C by 2100 for the lowest of the four RCPs, called both RCP3-PD and RCP2.6, to 4.5°C for the highest one, RCP8.5, relative to pre-industrial levels. Beyond 2100, we present the ECPs that are simple extensions of the RCPs, based on the assumption of either smoothly stabilizing concentrations or constant emissions: For example, the lower RCP2.6 pathway represents a strong mitigation scenario and is extended by assuming constant emissions after 2100 (including net negative CO2 emissions), leading to CO2 concentrations returning to 360 ppm by 2300. We also present the GHG concentrations for one supplementary extension, which illustrates the stringent emissions implications of attempting to go back to ECP4.5 concentration levels by 2250 after emissions during the 21st century followed the higher RCP6 scenario. Corresponding radiative forcing values are presented for the RCP and ECPs.