EGEE 102
Energy Conservation and Environmental Protection

What is Uncertain

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The long-term effects of global warming

Scientists have identified that our health, agriculture, water resources, forests, wildlife, and coastal areas are vulnerable to the changes that global warming may bring. But projecting what the exact impacts will be over the twenty-first century remains very difficult. This is especially true when one asks how a local region will be affected.

Scientists are more confident about their projections for large-scale areas (e.g., global temperature and precipitation change, average sea level rise) and less confident about the ones for small-scale areas (e.g., local temperature and precipitation changes, altered weather patterns, soil moisture changes). This is largely because the computer models used to forecast global climate change are still ill-equipped to simulate how things may change at smaller scales.

Some of the largest uncertainties are associated with events that pose the greatest risk to human societies. IPCC cautions, "Complex systems, such as the climate system, can respond in non-linear ways and produce surprises." There is the possibility that a warmer world could lead to more frequent and intense storms, including hurricanes. Preliminary evidence suggests that, once hurricanes do form, they will be stronger if the oceans are warmer due to global warming. However, the jury is still out whether or not hurricanes and other storms will become more frequent.

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IPCC stands for The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate change. Its role is to assess scientific, technical and socio-economic information to determine the risk of human-induced climate change and the options available for adapting to these changes.