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Wednesday, October 1, 2008

To What Climate are We Adapting?

Mike Hulme of the Tyndall Centre recently wrote this interesting piece on the challenging choices we face with respect to using climate information for adaptation planning. Hulme poses the following question:

How do we prepare the 2012 London Olympics to be well adapted to British summer climate?

  • Do we take a 2050 climate change scenario - heatwaves, droughts and all - and assume this will best describe the summer of 2012?
  • Do we use one of the new experimental decadal forecasts that suggests we may see little warming and maybe wetter summers over the next decade?
  • Or do we make sure that the Olympics are prepared to cope with whatever the summer of 2012 turns out like - whether the blazing heat of 1995 or the gloom of 2008?

Clearly, there is only one robust answer, which given the time invested in developing the latest generation of the UK's climate change scenarios (the now delayed "UKCIP08" projections, which suppose will have to be renamed), should give us pause. There is a persistent disconnect in the climate change community between climate scientists that are compelled to seek "better" projections of climate change and those tasked with managing the consequences who (occasionally) know that we still can't predict the future.

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