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Hollywood-style climate scenarios may entertain some but the science content is suspect, judging by their failure to materialise. Excessive alarmism is self-defeating in the end as more of the public switches off.
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We’ve seen it splashed across news headlines: future sea-level rise that could consume the state of Florida, predicted global temperature spikes of 9 degrees Fahrenheit by 2100—threats of catastrophic climate scenarios leading to societal collapse, says Eurekalert.
But now, a University of Colorado Boulder-led team is pushing for climate scientists to put the more likely and plausible middle-range scenarios to the research forefront, instead of solely the worst-case futures.
“We shouldn’t overstate or understate our climate future,” said Matt Burgess, Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) fellow, assistant professor at CU Boulder and lead on a letter published this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
“People need to think in terms of gradations, not absolutes. Yes, we need to be aware of the extremes, like climate solutions that get us to net zero before mid century, or on the flipside, global catastrophes. But it’s what’s in the middle that is more likely. And that deserves more research.”
The letter, coauthored by CU Boulder’s Roger Pielke Jr. and University of British Columbia’s Justin Ritchie, is a reply to a PNAS perspectives paper entitled, “Climate Endgame,” led by University of Cambridge’s Luke Kemp, that argues catastrophic climate futures, including human extinction, should be a main emphasis in climate research.
The CU Boulder team argues overemphasizing worst-case climate scenarios, like RCP 8.5, turns attention away from the most likely future.
“Right now, not as many climate models focus enough attention on middle scenarios,” said Burgess. “The SSP2-3.4 scenario, which might be one of the most plausible emissions scenarios, wasn’t featured at all in the IPCC’s latest impacts and physical science reports. That should probably change.”
Full article here.
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