End-to-end Quantification of Uncertainty for Impacts Prediction (EQUIP)

Lead Research Organisation: University of Oxford
Department Name: Oxford Physics

Abstract

Society is becoming increasingly aware of climate change and its consequences for us. Examples of likely impacts are changes in food production, increases in mortality rates due to heat waves, and changes in our marine environment. Despite such emerging knowledge, precise predictions of future climate are (and will remain) unattainable owing to the fundamental chaotic nature of the climate system and to imperfections in our understanding, our climate simulation models and our observations of the climate system. This situation limits our ability to take effective adaptation actions. However, effective adaptation is still possible, particularly if we assess the level of precision associated with predictions, and thus quantify the risk posed by climate change. Coupled with assessments of the limitations on our knowledge, this approach can be a powerful tool for informing decision makers. Clearly, then, the quantification of uncertainty in the prediction of climate and its impacts is a critical issue. Considerable thought has gone into this issue with regard to climate change research, although a consensus on the best methods is yet to emerge. Climate impacts research, on the other hand, has focussed primarily on a different set of problems: what are the mechanisms through which climate change is likely to affect for example, agriculture and health, and what are the non-climatic influences that also need to be accounted for? Thus the research base for climate impacts is sound, but tends to be less thorough in its quantification of uncertainty than the physical climate change research that supports it. As a result, statements regarding the impacts of climate change often take a less sophisticated approach to risk and uncertainty. The logical next stage for climate impacts research is therefore to learn from the methods used for climate change predictions. Since climate and its impacts both exist within a broader earth system, with many interrelated components, this next stage is not a simple transfer of technology. Rather, it means taking an 'end-to-end' integrated look at climate and its impacts, and assessing risk and uncertainty across whole systems. These systems include not only physical and biological mechanisms, but also the decisions taken by users of climate information. The climate impacts chosen in EQUIP have been chosen to cover this spectrum from end to end. As well as aiding impacts research, end-to-end analyses are also the logical next stage for climate change research, since it is through impacts that society experiences climate change. The project focuses primarily on the next few decades, since this is a timescale of relevance for societies adapting to climate change. It is also a timescale at which our projections of greenhouse gas emissions are relatively well constrained, thus uncertainty is smaller than for, say, the end of the century. Work on longer timescales will also be carried out in order to gain a greater understanding of uncertainty. EQUIP research will build on work to date on the mechanisms and processes that lead to climate change and its impacts, since it is this understanding that forms the basis of predictive power. This knowledge is in the form of observations and experiments (e.g. experiments on crops have demonstrated that even brief episodes of high temperatures near the flowering of the crop can seriously reduce yield) and also simulation models. It is through effective use and combination of climate science and impacts science, and the models used by each community, that we will be able to quantify uncertainty, assess risk, and thus equip society to deal with climate change.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description New methods developed for the attribution of impacts to external drivers of climate such as rising greenhouse gas concentrations
Exploitation Route International efforts to quantify loss and damage from climate change
Sectors Environment,Government, Democracy and Justice

URL http://climateprediction.net
 
Description Interest in international community in new methods for quantifying loss and damage from climate change
First Year Of Impact 2013
Sector Energy,Environment,Financial Services, and Management Consultancy
Impact Types Policy & public services