The uncertainty in climate change and its impacts is of great concern to the international community. While the ever-growing body of scientific evidence substantiates present climate change, the driving concern about this issue lies in the consequences it poses to humanity. Policy makers will most likely need to make decisions about climate policy before climate scientists have quantified all relevant uncertainties about the impacts of climate change. Sandia scientists seek to develop a risk-assessment methodology to evaluate uncertain future climatic conditions.
In a recent analysis, Sandia researchers used computer models to predict the near-term impacts of climate change on state-level economies from 2010 through 2050 because, in the absence of quantifying the near-term cost, the need to address climate change seems more remote and has a diluted sense of urgency. The forecasts from the economic models will almost certainly be highly inaccurate, but this approach is the only coherent option available to inform current decision making. An imprecise prediction can be useful for comparing options to address a significant problem if we assume that such a prediction adequately defines the future relative to the choices to be made and, more importantly, represents a mutually agreed upon basis from which stake-holders can debate alternatives on common ground. This same reasoning applies to climate change. While better science could reduce some of the uncertainty, this reduction will occur after the time frame for effective contemporary policy action. The IPCC climate projections (IPCC 2007b) , along with any limitations and nuanced caveats associated with their usage, represent the best and the most visible climate-science reference for timely framing of the national and international assessment of climate-change risk.