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"Risky Business" -- The Discovery Files

The Discovery Files
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A new analysis of climate risk, published by researchers at MIT and elsewhere, shows that even moderate carbon-reduction policies now can substantially lower the risk of future climate change. It also shows that quick, global emissions reductions would be required in order to provide a good chance of avoiding a temperature increase of more than 2 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial level.

Credit: NSF/Karson Productions

Audio Transcript:

What are the Odds?

I'm Bob Karson with the discovery files -- new advances in science and engineering from the National Science Foundation.

It's not about whether you believe devastating global climate change is imminent -- or, whether you think it's all just a myth. If we are to deal with whatever the future presents, it comes down to using the best science we have to assess the risks.

A new, more realistic analysis of that risk comes from a research team led by MIT's joint program on the science and policy of global change. They looked at four different emissions reduction scenarios, and estimated the odds of various possible climate change outcomes under each of them. By understanding the full 'range of uncertainty,' society may ultimately make better decisions to minimize risk.

The new research used the MIT global systems model, a detailed computer simulation, getting a broader picture with hundreds of runs using slight variations in the parameters for each run.

The findings show that even relatively modest emission-control policies now can greatly reduce the future likelihood of extreme temperature increases, and the damages that could result. The report also indicates that without prompt action worldwide, extreme changes could become more difficult, if not impossible to control.

It's as if the Earth were a big roulette ball, and somebody's just given us the odds.

"The Discovery Files" covers projects funded by the government's National Science Foundation. Federally sponsored research -- brought to you, by you! Learn more at or on our podcast.

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