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April 4, 2023

Better Climate Metrics, or Better Climate Risk Responses?

Mark Trexler

We can probably all agree that today's average global temperature targets of 1.5 or 2 degrees are rather seriously deficient when it comes to effectively communicating climate risks writ large. And it's tempting, as Alice Hill and Rafe Pomerance suggested in this short article, to come up with other metrics. They suggest internationally agreeing to a cap on sea level rise (SLR) by 2100.

But today we are plausibly looking at between 3 and 10 feet of SLR by 2100, with little robust basis for probabilistically breaking that range down. Any reasonable person would consider almost that entire range to be "unacceptable" given the disastrous implications of the entire range when combined with extreme events and storm surges. That being the case, how would a conversation attempting to at least implicitly define an "acceptable level of SLR" even get started?

Therefore, while we absolutely should be coming up with better climate risk metrics than the 1.5 or 2 degree targets, I think we need to search a little harder for how to more effectively trigger a stronger climate risk response at the individual, corporate, and societal levels. We should be able to do a lot better, but I doubt there's a one-size-fits-all answer.

Featured Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay.



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