Climate change researchers should focus more attention on the impact of climate change during the next 5 years if they want to convert skeptics over to their agenda of greenhouse gas mediation. In order to capture the attention of skeptics and the undecided it needs to be shown that there is an immediacy to the impact of pumping billions of metric tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Gaining credibility for long term forecasts requires being able to demonstrate a capability to make accurate medium range forecasts.
While predicting moderate impacts due to climate change occurring during the next five years does not offer the opportunity for producing attention grabbing headlines in the manner that long term catastrophic forecasts do, they do offer a better opportunity for changing opinions.
So what sort of 5 year predictions should climate researchers be making? Here are some examples:
- rise in sea level
- reduction in arctic sea ice extent
- number of hurricanes hitting the U.S.
- increase in price of wheat due to extreme weather
- increase in the price of rice due to extreme weather
- increase in cost of property insurance
- number of acres burned by forest fires
- increase in pH of the ocean
While there is a downside to getting short term predictions wrong, as pointed out in a post by Roger Pielke, Jr., the upside is that getting predictions right offer the opportunity for a researcher to gain minor celebrity status. Maybe it is not a good analogy, but recall how much fame some psychics have gotten from making highly specific predictions that turned out to be accurate, regardless of their overall batting average. Accurate medium term climate change predictions offer a much greater opportunity to win over skeptics than do impossible to verify catastrophic long term predictions.