The IPCC issues its third assessment report
The Third Assessment Report (TAR) consists of four reports, three of them from its working groups:
* Working Group I: The Scientific Basis
* Working Group II: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability
* Working Group III: Mitigation
* Synthesis Report
The "headlines" from the Summary for Policymakers in The Scientific Basis were:
1. An increasing body of observations gives a collective picture of a warming world and other changes in the climate system (The global average surface temperature has increased over the 20th century by about 0.6 °C; Temperatures have risen during the past four decades in the lowest 8 kilometers of the atmosphere; Snow cover and ice extent have decreased)
2. Emissions of greenhouse gases and aerosols due to human activities continue to alter the atmosphere in ways that are expected to affect the climate (Anthropogenic aerosols are short-lived and mostly produce negative radiative forcing; Natural factors have made small contributions to radiative forcing over the past century)
3. Confidence in the ability of models to project future climate has increased (Complex physically based climate models are required to provide detailed estimates of feedback and of regional features. Such models cannot yet simulate all aspects of climate (e.g., they still cannot account fully for the observed trend in the surface-troposphere temperature difference since 1979) and there are particular uncertainties associated with clouds and their interaction with radiation and aerosols. Nevertheless, confidence in the ability of these models to provide useful projections of future climate has improved due to their demonstrated performance on a range of space and time-scales.)
4. There is new and stronger evidence that most of the warming observed over the past 50 years is attributable to human activities
5. Human influences will continue to change atmospheric composition throughout the 21st century
6. Global average temperature and sea level are projected to rise under all IPCC SRES scenarios
The TAR estimate for the climate sensitivity is 1.5 to 4.5 °C; and the average surface temperature is projected to increase by 1.4 to 5.8 Celsius degrees over the period 1990 to 2100, and the sea level is projected to rise by 0.1 to 0.9 meters over the same period. The wide range in predictions is based on scenarios that assume different levels of future CO2 emissions. Each scenario then has a range of possible outcomes associated with it. The most optimistic outcome assumes an aggressive campaign to reduce CO2 emissions; the most pessimistic is a "business as usual" scenario. Other scenarios fall in between.
IPCC uses the best available predictions and their reports are under strong scientific scrutiny. The IPCC concedes that there is a need for better models and better scientific understanding of some climate phenomena, as well as the uncertainties involved. Critics assert that the data is insufficient to determine the real importance of greenhouse gases in climate change. Sensitivity of climate to greenhouse gases may be overestimated or underestimated because of flaws in the models and because the importance of some external factors may be misestimated. The predictions are based on scenarios, and the IPCC did not assign any probability to the 35 scenarios used.