Scientific models and computer simulations from research groups around the world that span climate change impacts on ecosystems, agriculture, water supplies and health will be compared for the first time starting this week. The comprehensive analysis will be coordinated the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) and the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), according to a Eureka Alert report.
More than two dozen research groups will provide their climate change models and simulations, among them groups from Austria, China, Germany, Kenya, the Netherlands and the US. Scientists at the coordinating institutions will compare and analyze them based on a common framework, aiming to identify whether or not their results are robust, where there are uncertainties and why they are there.
Evaluating the effect of unfettered greenhouse gas emissions
Some results, which are expected in less than 12 months, will be considered for inclusion in the development of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report, which is due out in 2014.
"We want to better understand how climate impacts differ between a global warming of two degrees compared to three degrees," Katja Frieler of the Inter-Sectoral Impact Model Intercomparison Project coordinating team (ISI-MIP) was quoted as saying.
"The international community has set a target of two degrees, but unfettered emission of greenhouse gases sets the world on a path to three degrees or more. This seemingly small difference could have drastic impacts. We will examine to what extent they agree across models and quantify the uncertainty that remains."
While comprehensive climate change impact studies have been done on the physics of climate change, climate change impacts on specific systems and sectors, and the economics of climate change mitigation and adaptation, this study will be the first to evaluate such a broad cross-section of studies, a gap in understanding climate change that needs to be filled, added Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, PIK's director. "To address all climate impacts at once is both an ambitious and necessary intent," he comments. "It provides an essential strengthening of the grounds for the 2014 IPCC report."
"The time has come for this comparison," IIASA director Pavel Kabat stated. "A multi-model cross-sectoral approach to projections of climate change impacts has not been available in the past. The ISI-MIP project is a significant and positive development in this regard. We have access to sophisticated models, vast quantities of high-quality data from many sectors and regions and an urgency to deliver a highly integrative analysis of our current knowledge about global impacts of climate change. We are confident that this project can deliver such an analysis."