Monday, August 13, 2007

An effort to make more usable risk assessment

Climate Frog is basically about two location-based situations:

  1. Preparing appropriately for changing climate
  2. Responding effectively to climate change
If the impact hasn't hit you yet, you have to trust the forecasts for what those impacts will be. And there's the rub - forecasts are not compelling, and their credibility is challenged for good and bad reasons by skeptics, politically-motivated hecklers and people in denial about the possibility that things could change so radically in their lives.

So it's good that scientists are beginning to change the ways they forecast risk so that people and their governments can make better-informed choices about preparing for what's coming.

This Reuters report describes one such effort.
Scientists are trying to improve predictions about the impact of global warming this century by pooling estimates about the risk of floods or desertification.

"We feel certain about some of the aspects of future climate change, like that it is going to get warmer," said Matthew Collins of the British Met Office. "But on many of the details it's very difficult to say.

"The way we can deal with this is a new technique of expressing the predictions in terms of probabilities."
The new approach pools predictions from different models to form forecasts that account better for uncertainties and provide higher probabilities that people can act on. Specifically, the group is hoping that their new approach will help in risk assessment - deciding when it's worth taking action even when there are doubts about specific impacts and when they might occur.

The costs of guessing wrong could be high either way, but you can see how massive destruction, displacement and death would outweigh the costs of new protective infrastructure in many situations.

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