Anticipate Uncertainty When Planning for Climate Change

Not only are climate change impacts difficult to predict, but even the causes of climate change — greenhouse gases including carbon dioxide and methane emissions — are variable, leading to uncertainties in impact scenario projections.

IPCC Scenarios
The IPCC considers various scenarios to produce model-based ranges of sea level rise and temperature changes.

Warming Scenarios_IPCC_Ranges

Uncertainties include:

  • significant variation between the climate-changing impact of high- and low-emissions scenarios;
  • unexpected responses in natural systems, such as feedback loops and tipping points; and
  • the degree of accuracy of climate models, which are used to develop predictions for climate change impacts.


Plan for Uncertainty

Because it is impossible to predict future climate change impacts with complete certainty, land trust managers must plan for uncertainty when developing land management plans. Two approaches can be used to plan for uncertainty, either separately or together:

  • Scenario planning, which involves the creation of several potential scenarios that might develop in the future, based upon a set of variables or predictions.
  • Adaptive management, which helps land managers monitor, evaluate and adapt land management practices to changing environmental conditions, such as rising temperatures or earlier snow melt.