Palaeoclimate constraints on the impact of 2 °C anthropogenic warming and beyond

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Over the past 3.5 million years, there have been several intervals when climate conditions were warmer than during the pre-industrial Holocene. Although past intervals of warming were forced differently than future anthropogenic change, such periods can provide insights into potential future climate impacts and ecosystem feedbacks, especially over centennial-to-millennial timescales that are often not covered by climate model simulations. Our observation-based synthesis of the understanding of past intervals with temperatures within the range of projected future warming suggests that there is a low risk of runaway greenhouse gas feedbacks for global warming of no more than 2 °C. However, substantial regional environmental impacts can occur. A global average warming of 1–2 °C with strong polar amplification has, in the past, been accompanied by significant shifts in climate zones and the spatial distribution of land and ocean ecosystems. Sustained warming at this level has also led to substantial reductions of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets, with sea-level increases of at least several metres on millennial timescales. Comparison of palaeo observations with climate model results suggests that, due to the lack of certain feedback processes, model-based climate projections may underestimate long-term warming in response to future radiative forcing by as much as a factor of two, and thus may also underestimate centennial-to-millennial-scale sea-level rise.


  • Hubertus Fischer
  • Katrin J. Meissner
  • Alan C. Mix
  • Nerilie J. Abram
  • Jacqueline Austermann
  • Victor Brovkin
  • Emilie Capron
  • Daniele Colombaroli
  • Anne Laure Daniau
  • Kelsey A. Dyez
  • Thomas Felis
  • Sarah A. Finkelstein
  • Samuel L. Jaccard
  • Erin L. McClymont
  • Alessio Rovere
  • Johannes Sutter
  • Eric W. Wolff
  • Stéphane Affolter
  • Pepijn Bakker
  • Juan Antonio Ballesteros-Cánovas
  • Carlo Barbante
  • Thibaut Caley
  • Anders E. Carlson
  • Olga Churakova (Sidorova)
  • Giuseppe Cortese
  • Brian F. Cumming
  • Basil A.S. Davis
  • Anne de Vernal
  • Julien Emile-Geay
  • Sherilyn C. Fritz
  • Paul Gierz
  • Julia Gottschalk
  • Max D. Holloway
  • Fortunat Joos
  • Michal Kucera
  • Marie France Loutre
  • Daniel J. Lunt
  • Katarzyna Marcisz
  • Jennifer R. Marlon
  • Philippe Martinez
  • Valerie Masson-Delmotte
  • Christoph Nehrbass-Ahles
  • Bette L. Otto-Bliesner
  • Christoph C. Raible
  • Bjørg Risebrobakken
  • María F. Sánchez Goñi
  • Jennifer Saleem Arrigo
  • Michael Sarnthein
  • Thomas F. Stocker
  • Qing Yan
  • Zicheng Yu
  • Martin Ziegler
  • Liping Zhou
Enheter & grupper
Externa organisationer
  • University of Bern
  • University of New South Wales
  • Oregon State University
  • Australian National University
  • Max Planck Institute for Meteorology
  • British Antarctic Survey
  • Royal Holloway University of London
  • Ghent University
  • University of Bremen
  • University of Toronto
  • Durham University
  • Leibniz Centre for Tropical Marine Ecology
  • Alfred-Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research
  • University of Cambridge
  • University of Geneva
  • University of Venice
  • Queen's University
  • University of Montreal, Canada
  • University of Southern California
  • University of Nebraska - Lincoln
  • PAGES (Past Global Changes)
  • University of Bristol
  • Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań
  • Yale University
  • University of Paris-Saclay
  • National Center for Atmospheric Research
  • École Pratiques des Hautes Ètudes, Paris
  • University of Kiel
  • University of Copenhagen
  • University of Bordeaux
  • Columbia University
  • Institute for the Dynamics of Environmental Processes (IDPA)
  • Siberian Federal University
  • GNS Science
  • University of Lausanne
  • Bjerknes Centre for Climate Research
  • U.S. Global Change Research Program
  • Institute of Atmospheric Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences
  • Northeast Normal University
  • ETH Zürich
  • Utrecht University
  • Peking University
  • Lehigh University

Ämnesklassifikation (UKÄ) – OBLIGATORISK

  • Klimatforskning
  • Geologi
Sidor (från-till)474-485
TidskriftNature Geoscience
Utgåva nummer7
Tidigt onlinedatum2018 jun 25
StatusPublished - 2018 jul
Peer review utfördJa