Breaks, Trends and the Attribution of Climate Change: A Time-Series Analysis

  • Francisco Estrada Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Vrije Universiteit

    Centro de Ciencias de la Atmósfera, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Ciudad Universitaria, Circuito Exterior, 0451 Mexico, DF, Mexico.
    Institute for Environmental Studies, Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, Netherlands.

  • Pierre Perron Boston University

    Department of Economics, Boston University, 270 Bay State Rd., Boston, MA, 02215, USA.

Keywords: Segmented trends, Temperatures, Greenhouse gases, Radiative forcings, Anthropogenic influence


Climate change detection and attribution have been the subject of intense research and debate over at least four decades. However, direct attribution of climate change to anthropogenic activities using observed climate and forcing variables through statistical methods has remained elusive, partly caused by difficulties to correctly identify the time-series properties of these variables and by the limited availability of methods to relate nonstationary variables. This paper provides strong evidence concerning the direct attribution of observed climate change to anthropogenic greenhouse gases emissions by first investigating the univariate time-series properties of observed  global and hemispheric temperatures and forcing variables and then by proposing statistically adequate multivariate models. The results show that there is a clear anthropogenic fingerprint on both global and hemispheric temperatures. The signal of the well-mixed Greenhouse Gases (GHG) forcing in all temperature series is very clear and accounts for most of their secular movements since the beginning of observations. Both temperature and forcing variables are characterized by piecewise linear trends with abrupt changes in their slopes estimated to occur at different dates. Nevertheless, their long-term movements are so closely related that the observed temperature and forcing trends cancel out. The warming experimented during the last century was mainly due to the increase in GHG which was partially offset by the effect of tropospheric aerosols. Other forcing sources, such as solar, are shown to only contribute to (shorter-term) variations around the GHG forcing trend.


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How to Cite
Estrada, F., & Perron, P. (2019). Breaks, Trends and the Attribution of Climate Change: A Time-Series Analysis. Economia, 42(83), 1-31.