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Climate Models Need to Adjust to the Anthropocene

Climate change models should do more than just predict dire results from rising carbon dioxide levels. They must help guide political choices that could alter disastrous outcomes, or they do little more than help us calculate insurance rate hikes and make emergency plans.

A paper by an international group of University of Maryland-led scientists, counting no less than 5 members of the National Academy of Sciences to their ranks, argues that current climate models will fail precisely because they focus too much on the science and not enough on sociology.

The paper makes two key observations:

  1. Current models may address the influence of projected population growth, GDP growth, or other social factors -- but they do not integrate these factors in a coupled, bi-directional feedback loop.

  2. By treating social factors as externalities, climate models reinforce the human tendency to perceive measures taken to control climate change as "costs" rather than as cost effective or good investments.

Amy West

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