Responsibility for past and future global warming: Uncertainties in attributing anthropogenic climate change

Michel Den Elzen*, Michiel Schaeffer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


During the negotiations on the Kyoto Protocol, Brazil proposed a methodology to link the relative contribution of Annex I Parties to emission reductions with the relative contributions of Parties to the global-mean temperature increase. The proposal was not adopted during the negotiations but referred to the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice for consideration of its methodological aspects. In this context we analyze the impact of model uncertainties and methodological choices on the regionally attributed global-mean temperature increase. A climate assessment model has been developed to calculate changes in greenhouse gas concentrations, global-mean temperature and sea-level rise attributable to individual regions. The analysis shows the impact of the different choices in methodological aspects to be as important as the impact of model uncertainties on a region's contribution to present and future global temperature increases. Choices may be the inclusion of the anthropogenic non-CO2 greenhouse gas emissions and/or the CO2 emissions associated with land-use changes. When responsibility to global temperature change is attributed to all emitting Parties, the impacts of modeling uncertainties and methodological choices on contributions of individual Parties are considerable. However, if relative contributions are calculated only within the group of Annex I countries, the results are less sensitive to the uncertainty aspects considered here.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)29-73
Number of pages45
JournalClimatic Change
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - 2002
Externally publishedYes


  • Kyoto Protocol
  • global temperature
  • methodological aspect
  • anthropogenic climate change
  • methodological choice


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