Climatic Change

, Volume 104, Issue 2, pp 255–285 | Cite as

How well do integrated assessment models simulate climate change?

  • Detlef P. van VuurenEmail author
  • Jason Lowe
  • Elke Stehfest
  • Laila Gohar
  • Andries F. Hof
  • Chris Hope
  • Rachel Warren
  • Malte Meinshausen
  • Gian-Kasper Plattner


Integrated assessment models (IAMs) are regularly used to evaluate different policies of future emissions reductions. Since the global costs associated with these policies are immense, it is vital that the uncertainties in IAMs are quantified and understood. We first demonstrate the significant spread in the climate system and carbon cycle components of several contemporary IAMs. We then examine these components in more detail to understand the causes of differences, comparing the results with more complex climate models and earth system models (ESMs), where available. Our results show that in most cases the outcomes of IAMs are within the range of the outcomes of complex models, but differences are large enough to matter for policy advice. There are areas where IAMs would benefit from improvements (e.g. climate sensitivity, inertia in climate response, carbon cycle feedbacks). In some cases, additional climate model experiments are needed to be able to tune some of these improvements. This will require better communication between the IAM and ESM development communities.


Carbon Cycle Climate Sensitivity Carbon Cycle Model Transient Climate Response Carbon Cycle Feedback 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Detlef P. van Vuuren
    • 1
    Email author
  • Jason Lowe
    • 2
    • 3
  • Elke Stehfest
    • 1
  • Laila Gohar
    • 2
    • 3
  • Andries F. Hof
    • 1
  • Chris Hope
    • 4
  • Rachel Warren
    • 5
  • Malte Meinshausen
    • 6
  • Gian-Kasper Plattner
    • 7
    • 8
  1. 1.Netherlands Environmental Assessment AgencyBilthovenThe Netherlands
  2. 2.MetOffice Hadley CentreExeterUK
  3. 3.Department of MeteorologyThe University of ReadingReadingUK
  4. 4.Judge Business SchoolCambridge UniversityCambridgeUK
  5. 5.Tyndall Centre, School of Environmental SciencesUniversity of East AngliaNorwichUK
  6. 6.Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact AnalysisPotsdamGermany
  7. 7.Environmental Physics, Institute of Biogeochemistry and Pollutant DynamicsETH ZürichZürichSwitzerland
  8. 8.Climate and Environmental Physics, Physics InstituteUniversity of BernBernSwitzerland

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