By Evan Girvetz, Senior Climate Scientist for The Nature Conservancy
We often hear broad statements about how climate change will affect people and nature throughout the world: “We need to hold the world’s average temperature increase to 2 degrees Celsius to avoid major impacts.”
But what does 2 degrees, 4 degrees or 6 degrees globally mean to specific communities in China, the United States, Poland, or anywhere else in the world?
The bottom line is that climate change will play out differently in different parts of the world—and the impacts to each place need to be assessed and addressed separately. Different places will experience different levels of temperature and precipitation change. And climate will change differently during different parts of the year.
So, what will climate change bring to your community? There is an easy way to explore your climate of the future.
The Nature Conservancy, working with partners at the University of Washington, University of Southern Mississippi, Santa Clara University, Climate Central, and the World Bank have developed a suite of tools as part of the Climate Wizard project to help people around the world better understand how climate change will impact the places where they live, work and recreate.
The Climate Wizard tool was originally launched in 2009, using future climate models developed for the data from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fourth Assessment report released in 2007. Since its release in 2009, the Climate Wizard tools have received close to 100,000 unique visits, including visitors from virtually every single country in the world.
Climate change science is rapidly changing—the amount of climate data available is increasing exponentially, doubling in amount every couple of years.
And we are continuing to make the Climate Wizard more relevant by providing access to the newest future climate models and by providing more sophisticated climate metrics based on daily climate data.
This year, the IPCC and partner science organizations around the world released an updated set of future climate models for the Fifth Assessment Report (AR5). These data have just now been integrated into the Climate Wizard and this week have been made available for people around the world to explore how climate change is likely to impact areas of interest to them. This new version of the Climate Wizard is being pre-released in conjunction with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) COP19 being held in Warsaw, Poland this week.
The tool allows people to see the range of 28 different future climate models for temperature and precipitation change in a set of select counties around the world. For example, this application allows users to see that 100% of Climate Models agree that precipitation is projected to increase in China, and that in parts of the Tibetan plateau, the amount of rain that falls by 2090 will likely be greater than has ever fallen in the past.
In contrast, Mexico is projected to be 11% drier on average with the most drying occurring in the Yucatan Peninsula, Southern Mexico and the coastal areas. However, if emissions are kept to a lower level, Mexico is projected to be only 3% drier.
The Climate Wizard project has also produced a new application in collaboration with the World Bank to make climate information more relevant to specific types of impacts and analyze climate extremes.
Using future climate data at a daily time scale, 22 derivative climate statistics that relate to specific types of impact were developed globally—such as growing degree days and metrics of extreme precipitation and heat events. These data have been integrated into the Climate Wizard analysis framework as part of the World Bank Climate Knowledge Portal.
Working with local scientists, community leaders and partner organizations, we have used Climate Wizard in several countries to paint an even more detailed picture of what future climate may mean at a regional scale.
This summer I traveled to Ethiopia to help engineers and scientists better understand how climate change is projected to affect water resource management in the Nile River Basin. We used the Climate Wizard to develop a website customized to the Eastern Nile Regional Technical Office.
This application analyzes 9 different climate models to show how precipitation is projected to decrease in the Egyptian, lower portion of the river basin where water is consumed for agriculture, while increasing in the Ethiopian, upper river basin where a majority of the precipitation falls.
This application can be used to support planning of Eastern Nile Basin water resources, which is a major effort being negotiated between Egypt, South Sudan and Ethiopia.
These new applications developed for IPCC COP 19 and for the World Bank represent the continual evolution of the Climate Wizard to provide the most up-to-date, accessible, relevant and useful information to people around the world.
The Climate Wizard project is committed to continuing to improve the applications and keep them updated with the newest available data.
We are also continuing to find ways to better communicate complicated climate change information to be understood and used by decision makers, policymakers and others who want to know how climate change will impact the places they care about. This information helps us understand how the climate we (and our grandchildren) ultimately end up with, depends on decisions we’re making today about carbon pollution warming our world.