Climate forecasts: setting the record straight

Photo credit:   James Willamor

March 11, 2014 // By: Griffin Carpenter

Climate forecasts are accurate. Fact. 

Those who argue against climate change have always sought to discredit the science – the models used by climate forecasters in particular. They insist such predictions are simply too inaccurate and uncertain to warrant taking action, but new NEF research shows this just isn’t true.

We now have over twenty years’ worth of forecasts from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Despite an endless barrage of criticism in the media, these forecasts are proving themselves to be highly accurate. As shown below, actual year-on-year trends in carbon concentrations, global temperatures and sea-levels have aligned strongly with the original IPCC forecasts, and the majority of climatic changes fell within the range predicted. Climate science is earning its stripes:


Source: IPCC

In fact, climate forecasts are actually outperforming many of the key economic forecasts cited by government departments and journalists. Looking at a selection of key long-term forecasts – population, debt-to-GDP and oil price – we can see that not only do many of the actual observations fall well outside the forecast range, the expected trend was way off the mark as well. But have you ever heard these measures condemned as “mumbo jumbo” in the media?


Source: ONS, HM Treasury, EIA

Common sense tells us that public policy decisions must be based on the information and tools we have available. What our new paper makes clear is that climate change forecasts offer just as much, if not more certainty as long-term economic forecasts. The argument that climate science is just too uncertain to inform long-term spending decisions can no longer be used as intellectual cover.

Issues

Energy & Climate Change, Macroeconomics

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