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Analysing countries' contribution to climate change: Scientific and policy-related choices

Michel den Elzen, Jan S. Fuglestvedt, Niklas Höhne, Cathy Trudinger, Jason Lowe, Ben Matthews, Bård Romstad, Christiano Pires de Campos, Natalia Andronova

This paper evaluates the influence of different policy-related and scientific choices on the calculated regional contributions to global climate change (the “Brazilian Proposal”). Policy-related choices include the time period of emissions, the mix of greenhouse gases and different indicators of climate change impacts. The scientific choices include historical emissions and model representations of the climate system. We generated and compared results of several simple climate models. We find that the relative contributions of different nations to global climate change—from emissions of greenhouse gases alone—are quite robust, despite the varying model complexity and differences in calculated absolute changes. For the default calculations, the average calculated contributions to the global mean surface temperature increase in 2000 are about 40% from OECD, 14% from Eastern Europe and Former Soviet Union, 24% from Asia and 22% from Africa and Latin America. Policy-related choices, such as time period of emissions, climate change indicator and gas mix generally have larger influence on the results than scientific choices. More specifically, choosing a later attribution start date (1990 instead of 1890) for historical emissions, decreases the contributions of regions that started emitting early, such as the OECD countries by 6 percentage points, whereas it increases the contribution of late emitters such as Asia by 8 percentage points. However, only including the fossil CO2 emissions instead of the emissions of all Kyoto gases (fossil and land use change), increases the OECD contributions by 21 percentage points and decreases the contribution of Asia by 14 percentage points.

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