This essay by Roger Pielke Jr. offers an unusual and welcome take on Climate: “Is the World Ready for Good News on Climate?” Subhead:
“A new assessment of plausible futures suggests reasons for considerable optimism on climate policy.” Optimism on the climate? That’s virtually unheard of in the media.
Part of the subtext is that much of the scientific literature on climate change continues to base projections on implausible models, RCP 8.5 and its newer version, SSP5-8.5. Pielke and two coauthors of a paper on the topic in Environmental Research Letters (open access) suggest that the use of the more plausible scenarios “suggests that the world thus sits in an enviable position to take on the challenge of deep decarbonization.”
With this in mind I looked at the revised forest plan for the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests released this month. Here’s how they approached the scenarios:
Future climate: The modeled future climate projections are Localize Constructed Analogs (LOCA) downscaled from the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 5 (CMIP5) model realizations. This includes the hindcast (historical) and the projected (future) climate for the RCP4.5 (low) and RCP8.5 (high) emission scenarios. Each year, the range is defined by the highest and lowest model values for that year across all 32 models, and the central line represents the weighted mean across all models (Taylor et al. 2012, Sanderson et al. 2017).
This seems like a valid approach, and I commend the planners for not relying solely on RCP8.5 and for using RCP4.5, which is in the middle of the range of scenarios (1.9, 2.6, 3.4, 4.5, 6.0, 7.0, and 8.5). It would be interesting to know why they used RCP8.5 at all, since it is widely viewed as an implausible — not merely “high” — emissions scenario.
FWIW, here is a discussion (for climate nerds) of the relationship of the RCPs and the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 5 (CMIP5).
In any case, the plan’s “futurecasting” of conditions on the forests is highly useful for forest managers. For example, the FEIS includes charts that provide “Projected temperature variables for the Southern Blue Ridge Mountains – M221Dc under RCP 4.5 and RCP 8.5 for (A) average daily maximum temperature, (B) average daily minimum temperature, (C) days per year with maximum temperature above 90°F, and (D) days per year with minimum temperature below 32°F.”
Anyone know how this has been is will be handled in other plan revisions?