Climate estimates aren’t as precise as we think, says a new study. In fact, researchers report that UN projections of how much current climate policies and recent pledges at COP26 will affect global temperatures are more uncertain than assumed.

“The false precision to climate outcomes given during COP26 may lead countries to believe they are making good progress, when the opposite may be true,” said first author Ida Sognnaes, a senior scientist at the CICERO climate research centre in Oslo as reported by AFP.

The study, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, is different than most. That’s because it uses a ‘forecast’ rather than a “backcasting” approach. In this model, scientists worked forward, i.e instead of taking a desired target such as 1.5C then working backwards to see what policies need to be enacted, they modelled the effect of recent policies on future temperatures.

“Our study is a ‘forecast’,” said CICERO’s director of research Glen Peters while talking to AFP. “We model out where existing policies take us and then see where we end up.”

Their estimates ranged from a not so disastrous 2.2C to a catastrophic 2.9C above pre industrial levels which goes to show how uncertain these figures can be.

“If you take the low end of that range, it may sound like we are really close to meeting the Paris goals,” said Peters as quoted by AFP.

“But it is equally likely that the outcome could be up around 3C, in which case much stronger policies would be needed.”

This estimate is not so far off the mark; a UN estimate had predicted a warming of 2.7C going into COP26.

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