Recent attempts to diagnose equilibrium climate sensitivity (ECS) from changes in Earth's energy budget point toward values at the low end of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fifth Assessment Report (AR5)'s likely range (1.5–4.5 K). These studies employ observations but still require an element of modeling to infer ECS. Their diagnosed effective ECS over the historical period of around 2 K holds up to scrutiny, but there is tentative evidence that this underestimates the true ECS from a doubling of carbon dioxide. Different choices of energy imbalance data explain most of the difference between published best estimates, and effective radiative forcing dominates the overall uncertainty. For decadal analyses the largest source of uncertainty comes from a poor understanding of the relationship between ECS and decadal feedback. Considerable progress could be made by diagnosing effective radiative forcing in models.


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