Candid Admission On The Limitations In Multi-Decadal Climate Model Predictions In A BBC News Article On The UK Climate Impact Plan

On January 26 2012, David Shukman of the BBC published the news article

First report on UK climate impact

The article contains climate predictions decades from now, which as discussed in our new article

Pielke Sr., R.A., and R.L. Wilby, 2012: Regional climate downscaling – what’s the point? Eos Forum. in press

have no predictive skill. What is interesting with respect to the BBC article, however, are several candid quotes [which I have highlighted]

The text of the BBC article starts with

Climate change this century poses both risks and opportunities, according to the first comprehensive government assessment of its type. The report warns that flooding, heatwaves and water shortages could become more likely. But benefits could include new shipping lanes through the Arctic, fewer cold-related deaths in winter and higher crop yields. The findings come in the Climate Change Risk Assessment. This 2,000-page document has been produced by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). It forms part of the government’s strategy for coping with global warming. The research was carried out over the past three years and involved studying the possible impacts in 11 key areas including agriculture, flooding and transport. The assessments rely on multiple scenarios based on computer modelling of the future climate. The authors admit that there are large uncertainties leading to a wide range of possible results.

Are candid quotes are highlighted below

All the scenarios rely on computer models of the future climate and therefore inherently involve uncertainties. One of those involved in the report, defending the reliance on models, told me: “They’re the best we’ve got, they’re all we’ve got.” One aim of the work is to raise awareness of the scale of possible changes and to encourage key organisations to plan ahead. Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman said of the report: “It shows what life could be like if we stopped our preparations now, and the consequences such a decision would mean for our economic stability.”

The claim that with respect to the multi-decadal climate model predictions,  “[t]hey’re the best we’ve got, they’re all we’ve got” is wrong on two counts. First, these multi-decadal climate model predictions have no demonstrated skill of predicting changes in climate statistics when run in a hindcast mode. Second, the bottom-up, resource-based (contextual) vulnerability approach that we present in our paper

Pielke Sr., R.A., R. Wilby, D. Niyogi, F. Hossain, K. Dairuku, J. Adegoke, G. Kallos, T. Seastedt, and K. Suding, 2012: Dealing  with complexity and extreme events using a bottom-up, resource-based  vulnerability perspective. AGU Monograph on Complexity and  Extreme Events in Geosciences, in press.

is a much better way to assess risks faced by society and the environment in the coming decades.

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