Workshop on climate science needed to support robust adaptation decisions

By Dr Simon Buckle

I just wanted to highlight the great event we held last week with Judy Curry at Georgia Tech on how we can use climate science to help us make better decisions – in business, government, health and development.  Do have a look at the presentations from the really diverse group we managed to assemble in Atlanta, from international organisations, business, development agencies, NGOs and research.

A few  points strike me as worth (re)emphasising:

  • Climate models are extremely valuable tools for assessing climate change over the rest of this century, but even the most advanced climate models are not yet able to provide detailed information with sufficient confidence on the variability and change of regional climate in the next few decades. This will take time and money (higher resolution, more computational power).
  • So trying to forecast the climate in 5, 10 or 20 years time is right at the research frontier, but many decision makers aren’t as hung up over the uncertainties in climate projections as the scientists.  They’re used to dealing with uncertainty and some of the factors they need to take into account are way more uncertain than how the climate will change;
  • It’s the holistic view of risk that matters. In other words, how climate variability and change interacts with other factors such as population, urbanisation, economic growth, degradation of ecosystems, land use change etc;
  • Scientists working on decision relevant issues need to think really hard about the decision making context.  Who is making decisions? What is the motivation? What is being decided and what are the relevant timescales? And are the research methods and outputs relevant and informative? Are there alternative approaches that might increase the robustness of decision making in the face of uncertainty? Are the limitations of the research transparent to the decision makers who might use it?
  • Many different approaches are emerging from collaboration among decision makers and scientists that can supplement the valuable insights gleaned from climate models and help inform robust decision making in the face of climate variability and change.
  • Even if some prominent UK politicians still have their heads in the sand over climate risks, major businesses, governments and development organisations are already factoring climate into their decision making.

You can read a more detailed summary of the workshop on the Grantham Institute website.

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