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Uncertainty in climate predictions

How can scientists claim to predict the future climate when they seem to change their minds every few months?

Nobody knows for sure how much change is likely, though climate scientists are pretty sure that some change is very likely. Climate scientists use computer models to try and predict what is most likely to happen, based on the best evidence available at the time. As such, when new evidence comes to light, the models are updated and new predictions can be made.

But if we don’t know what changes are definitely going to occur, how can we know what to do about it?

You can’t. But can work out what are the most probable events and plan for those, even if you can’t be certain that they will happen.

Next: Causes of climate change


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How likely is very likely? - Text only version

These are the IPCC REPORT definitions

  • virtually certain - more than 99%
  • extremely likely - more than 95%
  • very likely - more than 90%
  • likely - more than 60%
  • more likely than not - more than 50%
  • unlikely - less than 33%
  • very unlikely - less than 10%
  • extremely unlikely - less than 5%