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Can Art Make (Climate) Models Better?

Screenshot from Future Models Manual website

by Felix Schaumann

How do we think about climate futures ahead of us? Different actors tend to use different tools for that. The stream of weather catastrophes in the news media suggests a rather gloomy future. Some recent novels try to paint a more optimistic picture of the decades ahead (see our post on this).

International climate politics, for its part, has mainly based visions of the future on IPCC scenarios and model projections. For example, integrated assessment models (IAMs) played an important role in highlighting the feasibility of limiting global warming to 2 or even 1.5 degrees, and thereby led the way to the Paris Agreement. At the same time, this policy ambition came at the expense of modelling huge quantities of negative emission technologies, which again had a strong influence on the climate policy discourse.

Clearly, model-based climate futures are important for climate politics, but it is far from obvious what goes into them and based on which premises they are devised. Lisette van Beek tried to shine some light on fundamental questions about IAMs by teaming up with artists Ekaterina Volkova and Julien Thomas and writing an IAM manual.

Continue reading Can Art Make (Climate) Models Better?

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Climate Endgame – How to Research and Communicate Extreme Climate Risks?

Firefighters in front of a wall of flames, wading through shallow water

by Felix Schaumann

“Are we screwed?”, “How bad is it gonna get?” – these are the questions that I most frequently get when I mention that I am in climate science. Newspaper coverage of a recent perspective article in PNAS seemed to suggest that we are actually headed towards a global catastrophe with potential extinction and that we know dangerously little about it: “Climate endgame: risk of human extinction ‘dangerously underexplored’ – Scientists say there are ample reasons to suspect global heating could lead to catastrophe”, or “We Are Not Freaking Out Enough About Climate Change”.

This media coverage has led other researchers to criticize the underlying article for being too gloomy – they argue it scares the public and overemphasizes the likelihood of catastrophic climate change. Continue reading Climate Endgame – How to Research and Communicate Extreme Climate Risks?

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RCP-8.5: Business-As-Usual or Unrealistic Worst-Case? The contested interpretation of climate change scenarios

By Felix Schaumann

RCP-8.5 is not only the arguably most popular climate change scenario, it is also often framed in a very specific manner: as the business-as-usual trajectory that humanity is on if no climate change policies are adopted.

For an academic discipline that actively tries to be policy-relevant, climate science in the context of the IPCC is often weirdly inaccessible. An example of this is the rather cryptic naming of climate scenarios that form the backbone of IPCC reports and many climate modelling studies: names range from SSP1-1.9 to SSP5-8.5. A specific element of these mysterious scenarios – the so-called RCP-8.5 – has been the focus of a rather fierce academic debate.

Yet, more than being a somewhat nerdy scientific debate, the controversy around RCP-8.5 actually points to some fundamental disagreements about the communication of climate futures. Continue reading RCP-8.5: Business-As-Usual or Unrealistic Worst-Case? The contested interpretation of climate change scenarios

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After Lunch Post: Zum Essen mit Sighard Neckel

von Michael Brüggemann

Wie kommt die Gesellschaft in die Zukunft? Sighard Neckel, Professor für Soziologie an der Universität Hamburg, unterscheidet drei Szenarien.

Prof. Sighard Neckel

(1) Modernisierung. Dies ist der Merkel-Weg, den die meisten westlichen Politiker:innen gehen. Sie erkennen die vor uns liegenden ökologischen Probleme durchaus an, wagen aber nur kleine Schritte Richtung Klimaschutz, Nachhaltigkeit, aber ohne große Veränderungen an den Logiken von Konsumgesellschaft und Wachstumsdenken. Damit befinden wir uns auf dem Weg zu 2,7 Grad, wie gerade ein Bericht der UN-Umweltbehörde UNEP ausgerechnet hat – was harmlos klingt, birgt gewaltige Risiken für Menschheit und Ökosysteme. Continue reading After Lunch Post: Zum Essen mit Sighard Neckel