What do we learn from climate predictions?

Article by Hazell Ransome.

Climate models are extremely helpful to environmental policymakers and leaders because they provide the information and evidence to make well-informed decisions about future environmental actions [1,2].

By using several different well-considered scenarios of human response to climate change (from doing nothing to doing a huge amount) climate modellers can give policymakers an idea of the range of possible future changes in temperature [3,4] given certain policy actions [5,6].

For example, most of you will know by now that greenhouse gas emissions will increase future temperatures and affect future weather patterns [7]. Models can be used to predict how human activities, such as increased emissions, will affect the climate [8] and how quickly CO2 emissions need to decrease to limit warming to specific levels [8,9].

They can also highlight delayed effects [10] – i.e even if we were to stop releasing emissions today, the greenhouse gas we have already released will continue to cause warming for at least several decades [11].

Basically, all climate models have limitations but, properly used, they can make important contributions to tackling climate change!


[1] https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/pdf/10.1098/rsta.2008.0169 (See: Page 4660 Paragraph 2)

[2] https://www.nature.com/articles/nature08823.pdf (See: Final sentence of article)

[3] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0959378016300681 (See: Abstract)
https://www.carbonbrief.org/explainer-how-shared-socioeconomic-pathways-explore-future-climate-change(See: Introduction)

[4] https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10584-011-0148-z (See: Introduction paragraph 1)

[5] https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10584-011-0148-z (See: 3.3.1 paragraph 2)

https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00382-012-1636-1 (See: Summary and Conclusion Paragraph 4)

[7] https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/features/GlobalWarming/page2.php (See: What is global warming?)

[8] https://www.nature.com/articles/nature08019.pdf (See: In abstract)

[9] https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/chapter/spm/ (See: Figure SPM.1)

[10] https://www.ipcc.ch/site/assets/uploads/2018/02/WG1AR5_Chapter12_FINAL.pdf (See: Figure 12.46 c and d – compare the time at which CO2 atmosphere concentrations start to differ between scenarios and then when surface temperatures differ. There is a delay of roughly 10 years)

[11] https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/chapter/spm/ (See: A.2.2)

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