Sources and implications of deep uncertainties surrounding sea-level projections

A. M. Bakker, D. Louchard, and K. Keller

Climatic Change (9 December 2016)

DOI: 10.1007/s10584-016-1864-1

Long-term flood risk management often relies on future sea-level projections. Projected uncertainty ranges are however widely divergent as a result of different methodological choices. The IPCC has condensed this deep uncertainty into a single uncertainty range covering 66% probability or more. Alternatively, structured expert judgment summarizes divergent expert opinions in a single distribution. Recently published uncertainty ranges that are derived from these “consensus” assessments appear to differ by up to a factor four. This might result in overconfidence or overinvestment in strategies to cope with sea-level change. Here we explore possible reasons for these different interpretations. This is important for (i) the design of robust strategies and (ii) the exploration of pathways that may eventually lead to some kind of consensus distributions that are relatively straightforward to interpret.


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