Predicting warming

18th December 2019

News, Student news

An interactive display created by Wadham DPhil student Stuart Jenkins (Physics, 2014) proved a popular and valuable tool to policymakers at COP25, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in Madrid.

  • Professor Myles Allen discusses the interactive SPM.1 with the Chair of IPCC, Hoesung Lee

    Professor Myles Allen discusses the interactive SPM.1 with the Chair of IPCC, Hoesung Lee

  • Stuart Jenkins

    Stuart Jenkins

The interactive is based on a figure which Stuart created with his supervisor, Professor Myles Allen, for the Summary for Policymakers IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) Special Report on the Global Warming of 1.5 ºC, published in 2018. Summarising the material covered in the first chapter of the report, the figure provides definitions of the global mean surface temperature anomaly, global warming, and considers the requirements and potential trade-offs when designing mitigation policy.

For COP25, the annual United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change conference to discuss global climate policy, Stuart and Myles built an interactive version of the figure which was placed on a screen outside the IPCC pavilion. 

The interactive is designed to communicate the impact of decisions on the timing of net-zero CO2 emissions and level of non-CO2 radiative forcing (a measure of the energy imbalance in the climate system due to non-CO2 anthropogenic influences). 

“Uncertainty of the trajectory of warming and how long we have to achieve climate goals has been a problem. By understanding the trend, policymakers can better judge how they can achieve the goals set by the Paris Agreement. It illustrates the response at global level to the decisions they are making,” commented Stuart. 

Over history it plots historical emissions of CO2 and best estimate non-CO2 radiative forcing until present day. The interactive allows the user to vary the timing of net-zero CO2 emissions and the level on non-CO2 RF at the end of the 21st century and see the impact on the global average temperature anomaly. 

Stuart became interested in the real world impactions of Physics in the third year of his undergraduate course at Wadham when studying the physical properties of the climate system. For his DPhil project he is characterising recent trends in non-CO2 radiative forcing and considering their implications on the climate system.