Taylor Gray, Ph.D.
The world is a better place when companies are good corporate citizens. I remain focused on developing meaningful and actionable insights from empirical data in pursuit of a better world.
Motive runs on the science of impact. We are always seeking to better understand how the actions of brands can impact people and the planet and how the decisions we all make in the products we buy and the brands we buy them from can influence the development of these impacts. In this blog, we are sharing one of the scientific resources that helps us better make sense of what we hear in the news nearly everyday--and we think it can help you too.
Some of the science of impact is straightforward (...well, relatively, at least) with a clear causal relationship and a high degree of confidence, meaning we can largely all agree that if we do X then Y will most likely happen. Other times, however, this is not the case. Sometimes impacts are simply not clear either because much of the science remains to be developed or because the impacts migrate from scientific understanding to social--and often messier--realities.
Climate Change is Messy
This is the case when exploring the impacts of climate change. Climate change is a multi-system development from energy cycles, carbon cycles, and hydrological cycles expressing varied effects across different ecosystems throughout the world with impacts translated and experienced through social dynamics, economics imperatives, political agendas, uncertainties, and personal anxieties. The science of the impacts of climate change is natural, social, political, economic, and personal. No wonder it all feels a little messy.
Climate change denialism and alarmism both contort the science to their own agendas and are both prevalent--it helps to have a foundation to help us all make sense of what we are hearing.
There are so many competing narratives of the impacts of climate change that it can feel overwhelming. What makes it overly confusing is that most of these competing narratives claim to be based on the same science and data--and they often are! What we do know is that if we continue to emit carbon into the atmosphere (mostly in the form of carbon dioxide and methane) we will exacerbate the greenhouse effect of the atmosphere impacting the earth’s energy balance and cycles. But what this actually means to each of us is less clear. We can model the likely outcomes and impacts, but as with all models there is much uncertainty, and with uncertainty comes the opportunity for competing narratives.
Clarity Within the Mess
Due to this, we think it is important for everybody to have access to some of these models to be able to ground their own personal perspectives. Everyday we see hundreds of news articles and social media posts claiming one thing or another about the impacts of climate change. We like to be able to turn to a series of actual climate models to help us cast a critical eye to any and all claims. Climate change denialism and alarmism both contort the science to their own agendas and are both prevalent--it helps to have a foundation to help us all make sense of what we are hearing.
For us, we often turn back to the IPCC assessment reports. These reports have been produced since 1990 and provide an extensive summary of the state of the science of climate change along with all supporting data and modelling. The most up-to-date report was only just recently released and is publicly available.
Whenever we read of climate impacts what we are truly reading is someone’s interpretation of the models of climate impacts. Having direct and interactive access to data and models ourselves is quite empowering.
What we find even more powerful though is the interactive atlas that accompanies this report. From your web browser you can explore different climate models and play around with different variables for different types of impacts across different time horizons. Want to see how 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming--or perhaps 2°C, 3°C, or 4°C--will impact snow, rain, temperature, frost, sea-level rise, air quality, and so on across the near, medium, or long terms at the local or the global scale, then simply turn to the atlas!
I like to turn to this interactive atlas when I read climate news and narratives that leave me feeling skeptical. Whenever we read of climate impacts what we are truly reading is someone’s interpretation of the models of climate impacts. Having direct and interactive access to data and models ourselves is quite empowering.
I highly recommend you take a look at the atlas and see for yourself what the state of the science of climate change is projecting. The user interface may not be quite as slick as popular consumer-oriented apps but it works quite well given how many models and data are included...and if you can figure out how to use Facebook, Instagram, or YouTube, then you can certainly navigate this atlas.
Critical thought is powerful. The IPCC WGI Interactive Atlas is that piece of public climate science that we can all build our own understanding upon.