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Risk Analysis, Vol. 25, No. 6, 2005 DOI: 10.1111/j.1539-6924.2005.00689.x Eliciting Information from Experts on the Likelihood
 

Summary: Risk Analysis, Vol. 25, No. 6, 2005 DOI: 10.1111/j.1539-6924.2005.00689.x
Eliciting Information from Experts on the Likelihood
of Rapid Climate Change
Nigel W. Arnell,1 Emma L. Tompkins,1,2
and W. Neil Adger2
The threat of so-called rapid or abrupt climate change has generated considerable public
interest because of its potentially significant impacts. The collapse of the North Atlantic Ther-
mohaline Circulation or the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, for example, would have potentially
catastrophic effects on temperatures and sea level, respectively. But how likely are such ex-
treme climatic changes? Is it possible actually to estimate likelihoods? This article reviews the
societal demand for the likelihoods of rapid or abrupt climate change, and different methods
for estimating likelihoods: past experience, model simulation, or through the elicitation of
expert judgments. The article describes a survey to estimate the likelihoods of two charac-
terizations of rapid climate change, and explores the issues associated with such surveys and
the value of information produced. The surveys were based on key scientists chosen for their
expertise in the climate science of abrupt climate change. Most survey respondents ascribed
low likelihoods to rapid climate change, due either to the collapse of the Thermohaline Circu-
lation or increased positive feedbacks. In each case one assessment was an order of magnitude
higher than the others. We explore a high rate of refusal to participate in this expert survey:
many scientists prefer to rely on output from future climate model simulations.

  

Source: Adger, Neil - School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia

 

Collections: Environmental Sciences and Ecology