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All IPCC definitions taken from Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis. Working Group I Contribution to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Annex I, Glossary, pp. 941-954. Cambridge University Press.

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Fact Brief - Have climate models overestimated global warming?

Posted on 1 June 2024 by John Mason

FactBriefSkeptical Science is partnering with Gigafact to produce fact briefs — bite-sized fact checks of trending claims. This fact brief was written by John Mason in collaboration with members from the Gigafact team. You can submit claims you think need checking via the tipline.

Have climate models overestimated global warming?

noClimate models have correctly predicted how the planet would warm due to human greenhouse gas emissions.

Models use the laws of physics to probe Earth’s climate system - this being the atmosphere, oceans, land and biosphere. They apply what are known as external forcings to that system, such as changes in incoming sunshine or greenhouse gas levels, to see how the climate may change over time.

In a 2019 study, the temperature predictions from 17 climate models used between 1970 and 2007 were compared to observed temperatures. The study concluded the models were "skillful in predicting" future temperatures.

A more recent study published in 2023 looked at climate models created by scientists working for ExxonMobil. Their modeling was found to have been just as accurate as that developed within academia, with average projected warming within the same bounds as that of academic and government bodies from 1970-2007.

Go to full rebuttal on Skeptical Science or to the fact brief on Gigafact

This fact brief is responsive to conversations such as this one.


Geophysical Research Letters Evaluating the Performance of Past Climate Model Projections

Science Assessing ExxonMobil’s global warming projections

Skeptical Science New paper: Assessing ExxonMobil’s global warming projections

University of Queensland Climate Modeling Success Stories

The Guardian The father of climate change

About fact briefs published on Gigafact

Fact briefs are short, credibly sourced summaries that offer “yes/no” answers in response to claims found online. They rely on publicly available, often primary source data and documents. Fact briefs are created by contributors to Gigafact — a nonprofit project looking to expand participation in fact-checking and protect the democratic process. See all of our published fact briefs here.

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