[Emphasis and inline comments are mine–cr]
Assessment of how climate scientists communicate risk shows imperfections, improvements
The hardest part, experts find, is communicating “unquantifiable” uncertainty
Scientists have long struggled to find the best way to present crucial facts about future sea level rise, but are getting better at communicating more clearly, according to an international group of climate scientists, including a leading Rutgers expert.
The consequences of improving communications are enormous, the scientists said, as civic leaders actively incorporate climate scientists’ risk assessments into major planning efforts to counter some of the effects of rising seas.
Writing in Nature Climate Change, the scientists review the language and graphics used in climate “assessment” reports between 1990 and 2021 by members of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
[We can imagine lots of hypothetical scary stuff-cr]
But other processes, particularly some of those acting on ice sheets, involve factors we don’t understand that well and that are difficult to put into quantitative terms, but might nonetheless be able to cause rapid sea-level rise.”
“There’s quantifiable uncertainty, which can be measured and presented with a degree of confidence,” he said, “and then there’s ambiguity, a form of deep uncertainty that cannot be well represented quantitatively.”
[Must get the fear out there. –cr]
But when conveying sea level uncertainties that have been and remain difficult to quantify, the language in the reports often has fallen short, either oversimplifying projections or conveying the information in a confusing manner, according to the analysis. Such language could lead policymakers to neglect the risks associated with possible high-end, sea-level outcomes.
[We may not know bupkis but push onward citizen!-cr]
Ambiguity arises in situations in which analysts can interpret a common set of facts in highly divergent ways – or can’t interpret them at all, Kopp said.
In the First Assessment Report, released in 1990, the authors characterized a rapid disintegration of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet because of global warming as “unlikely in the next century.”
In contrast, in the Sixth Assessment Report, published in 2021, scientists warn that higher rates of sea level rise before 2100 could be “caused by earlier-than-projected disintegration of marine ice shelves, the abrupt, widespread onset of marine ice sheet instability and marine ice cliff instability around Antarctica.”
The report goes on to explain that the processes are characterized by “deep uncertainty.” It concludes: “In a low-likelihood, high-impact storyline, under high emissions such processes could in combination contribute more than one additional meter of sea level rise by 2100.”
[The last sentence above appears to be a merging of Pascal’s Wager with random alarmist speculative hypotheticals peppered with mealy mouthed caveats. And much more scary.-cr]
[Policy must take the form of READY, FIRE, AIM–cr]
It matters that scientists get it right, the study concludes.
“The presence and magnitude of ambiguity in sea-level projections can affect how planners make decisions, and thus is important to communicate clearly and effectively,” Kopp said.
[We did well comrades–cr]
The other authors in the study, all of whom were involved with the Sixth Assessment Report, include those from Brown University and the University at Buffalo in the U.S., as well as others in China, France, Germany, Great Britain, the Netherlands, New Zealand and Singapore.
Nature Climate Change
METHOD OF RESEARCH
SUBJECT OF RESEARCH
Communicating future sea-level rise uncertainty and ambiguity to assessment users
ARTICLE PUBLICATION DATE