Tuesday, March 1, 2005
The barriers to the use of climate predictions
We've all read about (and faced) the reluctance to use climate information by people who give reasons that we are convinced are excuses for something else. We try to analyze what that something else is.
In particular, we look at the literature on decision making and see that it is not that common for people to use new or unfamiliar information in making decisions. The unfamiliarity of climate information arises mostly from the remoteness of the information, the slow time scale of climate evolution, and the long series of climate events that are needed to institutionalize a new technology.
We will suggest methods for overcoming this slow time scale by techniques that compress the time scale: simulation games, retrospective decisions, and failure analysis.
Considering other worthy innovations that did not diffuse into society, it is not a given that climate prediction will become a standard technique in the support of decisions. It becomes absolutely essential to successfully demonstrate the use of climate prediction to support decisions in some publicly observable context.
Ed Sarachik is co-director of the University of Washington's Center for Science in the Earth System (CSES).