Some of the world’s leading climatologists have admitted that they failed to predict the severity of devastating floods in Germany and a heat wave in parts of the northern hemisphere.
These scientists have correctly warned for decades that a rapidly warming climate will lead to more torrential rains and more harmful heat waves.
But they argue that their computers are still unable to accurately predict the intensity of these more extreme weather events.
So they are urging governments to invest heavily in a common climate supercomputer.
Computers are an essential tool for climate prediction and for monitoring climate change, and it is information technology that will underpin the new report – a kind of “bible” of climate science – by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which will be released in August.
“We have to be on the alert because the IPCC (climate computer) models are not good enough,” Prof Julia Slingo, former chief scientist at the UK Weather Service told BBC News.
“We need an international center that makes a quantum leap in climate models that capture the basic physics behind extremes,” he adds. “Without this, we will continue to downplay the severity and frequency of extreme events and their increasingly unprecedented nature.”
She says the costs of such a supercomputer, which could run into hundreds of millions of dollars, “would be negligible” compared to the expenditures from extreme weather events – for which our societies have not prepared.
Slingo will advocate this initiative during the CPO26 Climate Summit, scheduled for November.
She and other experts agree that climate change is an emergency. But, in the opinion of Oxford professor Tim Palmer, “It is impossible to determine how far we are in (the) emergency because we don’t have the tools to answer it.”
“We need commitment and vision on the same scale as CERN (the Joint European Center for the Study of Physics) if we are to build climate models that can accurately simulate extreme weather events like the current Canadian heat wave,” Palmer says.
The intense heat wave in Canada was accompanied by fires – Photo: Copernicus / Sentinel-2 / Sentinel Hub / Pierre Marcuse / BBC
The most important thing for the researchers is to check whether extreme events such as those affecting Germany and Canada at this time will repeat every 20 years, 10 years, 5 years – or even annually. At the moment, it is impossible to know precisely.
Some scholars argue that it is pointless to wait for the IPCC to say how bad climate change is. That’s because the agency’s report, which is supposed to gather all the accumulated knowledge about climate change, will already be out of date when it’s released — one reason being that it was completed before these extreme events occurred right now.
“The apparent acceleration of our climate stabilization collapse underscores that when it comes to a climate emergency, we are in the depths of…” researcher Bill McGuire from University College London told the BBC.
“A lot in the climate science community agrees with this, even if not publicly. IPCC reports tend to be conservative and consensus-seeking. Climate change can no longer be reversed) and forecasts of non-standard events; and consensus due to scenarios More extremes tend to be marginalized,” McGuire continues.
“Many peer-reviewed studies that are not cited in IPCC documents present more pessimistic scenarios. There is no reason why the consensus view is correct, and we need to prepare for the worst even if we hope for the best.”
Cows cool in the lake amid the Pakistani heat wave; Scientists say they are unable to accurately predict extreme weather events right now – Image: EPA/BBC
Mike Holm, a professor at the University of Cambridge, points out that “the IPCC is working at a slower pace and for good reason: it takes time for science to mature, and for the context of uncertainty to be properly defined.”
“I think it’s dangerous for people to start delegitimizing the IPCC report even before it’s published,” he criticizes. “Yes, there are climate extremes, and some of them – like heat waves and hurricane intensity – are becoming more extreme, but this is predictable in IPCC models. I think it’s dangerous to start promoting more and more on emergencies. Fear (…) It’s a dangerous political game.”
Meanwhile, the British government’s former chief scientist David King recently set up the Climate Change Advisory Group in an effort to fill in the gaps left by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
One of the group members, Mark Maslin, also from University College London, said of the IPCC that “the executive summary has to get the approval and signature of 193 countries; their reports come out every six or seven years, which is why. writing, they end up being behind the (latest) literature by a year or two.”
“If they still serve their purpose? Yes, because they provide an essential service to connect scientists, sociologists, and economies around the world and provide basic estimates of what will happen to governments and businesses. A rapidly changing climate and political landscape? No.”
Video: Rain causes devastation and death across Europe