More about RCPs
Read this SkepticalScience report on RCPs. Here are a few more resources:
Towards New Scenarios for Analysis of Emissions, Climate Change, Impacts, and Response Strategies, IPCC Expert Meeting Report, 19–21 September, 2007
The representative concentration pathways: an overview, van Vuuren et. al 2011, Climatic Change (2011) 109:5–31, doi:10.1007/s10584-011-0148-z
The next generation of scenarios for climate change research and assessment, Moss et.al. 2010, Nature, doi:10.1038/nature08823
Global warming under old and new scenarios using IPCC climate sensitivity range estimates, Rogelj, Meinshausen and Knutti 2012, Nature Climate Change, doi:10.1038/NCLIMATE1385
IPCC Data Distribution Centre on-line documentation of the scenario process, including documentation of narrative development and usage
If you want more detail, check out the book Demystifying Climate Models by Gettelman and Rood. The book is available for free on-line.
But can climate models be trusted? As usual, the answer is not a black/white yes or no, but more nuanced. As argued in this article by Hargreaves and Annan, the prediction that global and annual mean temperature will rise by around 2–4°C over the 21st century is credible. Short-term and regional predictions are much less reliable.
Watch this great video by software engineer Steve Easterbrook about the efforts that modeling centers go through to produce the models. Highly recommended!
data on emissions and its drivers
The CIA factbook is a great place to find how individual countries compare in population, affluence, and emissions. What's amazing (to me, anyway) is how big the affluence gap is between the richest and poorest countries. If you're reading this, then you're probably in a pretty rich country; never forget how lucky you are that that's the case.
Or check out Boden et al. 2012. Global, Regional, and National Fossil-Fuel CO2 Emissions. Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, U.S. Department of Energy, Oak Ridge, Tenn., U.S.A. doi:10.3334/CDIAC/00001_V2012.
climate over deep time
To me, one of the most disturbing facets of the climate problem relates to the long lifetime of CO2 (discussed in chapter 5): over the next few decades, we'll emit enough CO2 to seriously alter the climate for the next 10,000+ years. Here's a recent paper that lays out the argument.
On a somewhat related note, worst-case scenarios are for an enormous amount of warming. This article talks about how climates we may experience within 200 years will be like the warm Pliocene (3 million years ago) or the very warm Eocene (50 million years ago), a period so warm there was no permanent ice on the planet. Grim, indeed.