Something Alex said recently keeps coming back to me as I sift through the rich and complex findings in the IPCC’s Working Group II report:
“I became a Coaster because I thought it was important for the world to know about the chronofacts and what our future could be. But what use is learning about the future if we can’t use it to better our current and future lives?”
I think we can apply this same thinking to climate science. After all, these big momentous reports, coming out as part of the IPCC’s fifth assessment, are in many ways an effort to help us make sense of our possible future climates. Here’s what the IPCC says about this in a really useful FAQ (PDF here):
“Scenarios are not predictions of what will happen, but they can be useful tools for researching a wide range of “what if” questions about what the world might be like in the future. They can be used to study future emissions of greenhouse gases and climate change. They can also be used to explore the ways climate-change impacts depend on changes in society, such as economic or population growth or progress in controlling diseases.”
Just like FutureCoast voicemails—tidbits from potential futures—these highly scientific scenarios also come with many uncertainties and hanging questions. But they are still useful.