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Research Scientist Erwan Monier examines uncertainty in climate change

Recently promoted from post-doc to research scientist, Dr. Erwan Monier works on quantifying uncertainty in future climate change using model simulations. “There are a lot of things about the earth system that we don’t know,” explains Erwan, “We have to take uncertainty into account so that we can get at the probability of future climate change.” Using tools like the Integrated Global Systems Model (IGSM) framework, Erwan examines potential temperature change ranges based on different emissions scenarios.

For example, Erwan poses questions like: “how probable is it that the US will warm by, say, four degrees by the end of this century?” The Joint Program has done a substantial amount of work on uncertainty in global temperature changes, and Erwan’s work continues this line of research on a region by region basis, focusing on specific parts of the world at a time.

“I think this research is very important because this is the type of information that is needed by policy makers so that they can actually make good decisions about what we need to do to reduce climate change,” says Erwan. “It’s also important for the public, because I think there’s a lot of doubts – with these methods you can show that even with a lot of uncertainty, we have ideas of the range of warming that we’ll likely see by the end of the century—and you can actually give them numbers.”

Erwan and his colleagues also analyze the impact of different policies on future emissions scenarios and the subsequent impact on climate these policies would cause. He is trying to answer questions such as: if specific climate policies are enforced, what will be the expected reduction in emissions, the expected change in temperature, and the expected impacts on climate in terms of such events as floods, droughts, and heat waves?

After running numerous model scenarios and analyzing the data for significant changes in temperature, his preliminary results demonstrate the drastic emissions reductions needed to achieve the 2 degree Celsius target for global warming discussed by policymakers around the world. “Unless we implement really stringent policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the [2 degree Celsius] target will be very difficult to achieve. The aim is to figure out what we need to do to reach those goals and the challenge is how to translate this information into meaningful action.” His research also shows that even if the 2 degree target in global warming was reached, many regions of the world would experience much higher warming than 2 degree Celsius and thus suffer serious environmental consequences.

Erwan finds the chance that his research results will be turned into real action much more likely at MIT. Speaking about his opportunities within the Joint Program, Erwan states “We are not just doing science for science; we are actually aiming at using it for action. I think that is very important. And that is something that, for me, is new. I’ve never really thought about research scientists interacting with policy makers or people in Washington DC. But there are a lot of people at the Joint Program who have a network of people who are directly influenced by the results that we are getting and can actually do something about it.”

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Researcher Highlights

Researcher Highlights

Category: Education | Updated 3 years ago

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April 26, 2011 17:08
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