Reassessing the RCPs

by Kevin Murphy in Judith Curry, January 28, 2019 in ClimateEtc.

A response to: “Is RCP8.5 an impossible scenario?”. This post demonstrates that RCP8.5 is so highly improbable that it should be dismissed from consideration, and thereby draws into question the validity of RCP8.5-based assertions such as those made in the Fourth National Climate Assessment from the U.S. Global Change Research Program.

Analyses of future climate change since the IPCC’s 5th Assessment Report (AR5) have been based on representative concentration pathways (RCPs) that detail how a range of future climate forcings might evolve.

Several years ago, a set of RCPs were requested by the climate modeling research community to span the range of net forcing from 2.6 W/m2 to 8.5 W/m2 (in year 2100 relative to 1750) so that physics within the models could be fully exercised. Four of them were developed and designated as RCP2.6, RCP4.5, RCP6.0 and RCP8.5. They have been used in ongoing research and as the basis for impact analyses and future climate projections.

Figure 2. History and forecasts of CO2 concentration. RCP8.5 is defined by 936 ppm in 2100.