New Tool Puts a Consistent Value on Experts’ Uncertainty on Climate Change Models

Morgan Kelly, Office of Communications ・ Princeton Environmental Institute

Science can flourish when experts disagree, but in the governmental realm uncertainty can lead to inadequate policy and preparedness. When it comes to climate change, it can be OK for computational models to differ on what future sea levels will be. The same flexibility does not exist for determining the height of a seawall needed to protect people from devastating floods.

For the first time in the climate field, a Princeton University researcher and collaborators have combined two techniques long used in fields where uncertainty is coupled with a crucial need for accurate risk-assessment — such as nuclear energy — in order to bridge the gap between projections of Earth’s future climate and the need to prepare for it. Reported in the journal Nature Climate Change, the resulting method consolidates climate models and the range of opinions that leading scientists have about them into a single, consistent set of probabilities for future sea-level rise.