Climate models should consider people’s perceptions of climate risk, UB expert says


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  • newswise-fullscreen Climate models should consider people’s perceptions of climate risk, UB expert says

    Credit: Credit: Douglas Levere / University at Buffalo

    Sara Metcalf, associate professor of geography, University at Buffalo

BUFFALO, N.Y. — How dangerous is climate change, and how are extreme events such as hurricanes and wildfires linked to rising temperatures?

People’s perceptions of climate risks can influence society’s willingness to take measures to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming. And that’s why climate models should take this aspect of human behavior into account when making predictions about future temperature increases and sea level rise, says Sara Metcalf, PhD, associate professor of geography in the University at Buffalo College of Arts and Sciences.

“I would argue for a greater inclusion of social components in physical climate models,” says Metcalf, an expert on modeling with a long-standing interest in environmental issues. “There may be concern that including human behavior could increase the uncertainty of the models, but there’s a case to be made that it’s worth doing this. We can gain insights about what the true possibilities are for humans to affect the course of climate change, and what collective actions people could take to do things to help the situation.”

“Social science is a different domain from physical science, but it has something very valuable to offer when it comes to understanding the impact of human behavior on climate change," Metcalf says. "We know humans matter when it comes to climate change. So the question is: How much of that is worth representing in the model?”

Metcalf has been working with colleagues across the U.S. over the past few years to link C-ROADS, an existing climate model, to a new social model they’ve created to explore how the perceived dangers of climate change influence behavioral change.

More details: http://www.buffalo.edu/news/tipsheets/2019/001.html

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