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Scientific uncertainty and climate change: Part I. Uncertainty and unabated emissions

Lewandowsky, Stephan; Risbey, James; Smithson, Michael; Newell, Ben; Hunter, John

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Uncertainty forms an integral part of climate science, and it is often used to argue against mitigative action. This article presents an analysis of uncertainty in climate sensitivity that is robust to a range of assumptions. We show that increasing uncertainty is necessarily associated with greater expected damages from warming, provided the function relating warming to damages is convex. This constraint is unaffected by subjective or cultural risk-perception factors, it is unlikely to be...[Show more]

dc.contributor.authorLewandowsky, Stephan
dc.contributor.authorRisbey, James
dc.contributor.authorSmithson, Michael
dc.contributor.authorNewell, Ben
dc.contributor.authorHunter, John
dc.date.accessioned2015-12-10T22:35:16Z
dc.identifier.issn0165-0009
dc.identifier.urihttp://hdl.handle.net/1885/56202
dc.description.abstractUncertainty forms an integral part of climate science, and it is often used to argue against mitigative action. This article presents an analysis of uncertainty in climate sensitivity that is robust to a range of assumptions. We show that increasing uncertainty is necessarily associated with greater expected damages from warming, provided the function relating warming to damages is convex. This constraint is unaffected by subjective or cultural risk-perception factors, it is unlikely to be overcome by the discount rate, and it is independent of the presumed magnitude of climate sensitivity. The analysis also extends to "second-order" uncertainty; that is, situations in which experts disagree. Greater disagreement among experts increases the likelihood that the risk of exceeding a global temperature threshold is greater. Likewise, increasing uncertainty requires increasingly greater protective measures against sea level rise. This constraint derives directly from the statistical properties of extreme values. We conclude that any appeal to uncertainty compels a stronger, rather than weaker, concern about unabated warming than in the absence of uncertainty.
dc.publisherKluwer Academic Publishers
dc.sourceClimatic Change
dc.titleScientific uncertainty and climate change: Part I. Uncertainty and unabated emissions
dc.typeJournal article
local.description.notesImported from ARIES
local.identifier.citationvolume124
dc.date.issued2014
local.identifier.absfor170200 - COGNITIVE SCIENCE
local.identifier.ariespublicationa383154xPUB355
local.type.statusPublished Version
local.contributor.affiliationLewandowsky, Stephan, University of Western Australia
local.contributor.affiliationRisbey, James, CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research
local.contributor.affiliationSmithson, Michael, College of Medicine, Biology and Environment, ANU
local.contributor.affiliationNewell, Ben, University of New South Wales
local.contributor.affiliationHunter, John, Antarctic Climate & Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre
local.description.embargo2037-12-31
local.bibliographicCitation.issue1-Feb
local.bibliographicCitation.startpage21
local.bibliographicCitation.lastpage37
local.identifier.doi10.1007/s10584-014-1082-7
dc.date.updated2015-12-09T10:26:39Z
local.identifier.scopusID2-s2.0-84901196316
local.identifier.thomsonID000336365300003
CollectionsANU Research Publications

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