Using predictive computer models, environmental policy researcher Frances Moore from the University of California, Davis and colleagues came up with 100,000 futures in a world impacted by climate change. With global actions to reach net-zero emissions as per the Paris Agreement falling short, the researchers found harrowing worst-case scenarios.
The study simulated 100,000 possible future policy and emissions trajectories to identify relevant variables within the climate-social system which could impact climate change this century.
The researchers found factors like public perceptions of climate change, the future cost and effectiveness of climate mitigation and technologies, and how political institutions respond to public pressure are crucial factors.
Lead author Frances C. Moore said: “Small changes in some variables, like the responsiveness of the political system or the level of public support for climate policy, can sometimes trigger a cascade of feedback that result in a tipping point and drastically change the emissions trajectory over the century.
“We’re trying to understand what it is about these fundamental socio-political-technical systems that determine emissions.”
For this study, the researchers modelled 100,000 possible future pathways of climate policy and greenhouse gas emissions.
They used an integrated, multidisciplinary model that connected data across a wide range of social, political and technical fields.
These scenarios included public and political support, social perceptions of climate change, how quickly collective action or carbon pricing responds to changes in public opinion and other inputs.
The outcomes they found fell into five broad clusters, with warming in 2100 varying between 1.8 to 3.6 degrees Celsius above the 1880-1910 average.
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