We need more research on near-term impacts of climate change, a new paper in WIRE’s Climate Change suggests.
We are used to hearing about life on Earth nearing a state of collapse by the end of the century because of climate change. While these longer-term prognoses might be accurate, we still need more research on near-term impacts of climate change, a new paper in WIRE’s Climate Change suggests.
This is a gap we need to address if any of the long-term models are going to keep their relevance for the future, argue the researchers, because relatively little attention has been given to near-term projections as compared to widely popular projections until the end of the century.
As governments, funding agencies and companies need solid climate data to fine-tune their decisions, they might find little useful ground for doing so. Meanwhile, communities and cities face the same problem, often being unable to access near-term risks and effectively manage priorities.
The challenge is particularly pertinent considering limited human capacities, financial wherewithal and other resources which governments seek to optimize. If near-term models are not available, this might lead to decisions that are far from optimal. Also, too much reliance on long-term models can create a false impression that we know it all although the future might turn out completely different.
With the tools available today scientists have capacities to project near-term futures and it’s time they took full advantage of this opportunity, say the researchers. A shift in focus might also change the role of scientists in climate politics and governance, possibly giving them more leverage and voice in shaping key decisions as regards near-term climate action, such as mitigation and adaptation choices, capacity building and addressing hotspots of climate vulnerability.
As possible guidance for action, the researchers suggest defining timescales for relevant areas and issues of concern. Based on agricultural sector cases, the researchers show that very few real-life issues require planning beyond 2030, without undermining the benefits of longer-term projections, especially considering time lags in the climate system.
Other suggestions include considering the readiness of stakeholders to act upon longer time scales, reframing long-term issues into their contemporary manifestations and increasing the flexibility of climate policies in general. The aim is to enable us to be always ready to have the most up-to-date knowledge and information reliably at our disposal so we can better deal with the consequences of climate change facing us right now.