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Putting Humans Into Climate Models

by James Arnott, Aspen Global Change Institute

May 2022 Research Review

A couple years ago, a team of climate scholars posed a provocative question: “The Earth has humans, so why don’t our climate models?” (Beckage et al., 2020). Climate models clearly show how human activities are changing the climate, but they offer only a limited view of how a changing climate is also changing us. Since human actions are at the root of climate change, the scholars argued, incorporating more about people into climate models is crucial for creating realistic climate forecasts and making informed decisions.

Researchers are beginning to respond by modeling factors like public opinion, social norms, climate risk perception, technology learning rates, and the interactions between them. The results can help explain how, and how fast, we might reduce greenhouse gas emissions, with implications for policy design and technology adoption. This new research also reminds us how the assumptions included (or ignored) in models shape collective imagination about what climate solutions are possible.

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Published Date: 
May 25, 2022

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