• Open Access

Cascading uncertainty in climate change models and its implications for policy

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Abstract

Climate scientists face a serious public image problem because the next round of climate models they are working on are destined to produce a wider rather than a smaller range of uncertainty. To the public and policymakers, it will look as if the scientific understanding of climate change is becoming less rather than more clear, particularly as there will be a deliberate attempt by lobbyists and parts of the media to portray the science in this way. There is a need to communicate the fundamental strengths and weaknesses of climate modelling as an essential tool to allow us to understand the consequences of our actions and to develop appropriate policy. We need to demonstrate that with greater knowledge comes greater uncertainty but also greater transparency and confidence in our knowledge. New communications strategies that do not solely rely on the ‘weight of evidence’ argument but instead aim to win hearts and minds are required. New policy approaches combining win–win solutions are required if issues of climate change mitigation and adaptation are to be tackled.

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