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Changing climates - What will the climate be in the future?

Changing climates

This section explores what scientists predict will happen to the climate in the future.

Key questions

  • What will the climate be in the future?
  • How do scientists predict the future climate?

Key concepts

  • Place
  • Interdependence

What will the climate be in the future?

Debate continues about the amount and rate of climate change. IPCC 2100 best case scenario= temp rise of 1.4C and sea level rise of 20cm. Worst case scenario + 5.8C and sea level rise of 88cm.

How do scientists predict the future climate?

Scientists use computer models to predict future climate. These are called models. Modelling is a way of predicting the future taking account a range of variables. The most useful models are highly complex three dimensional general circulation models with sub models for ocean, atmosphere, land biosphere and ice and the interrelationships between them. The IPCC uses countless combinations of 22 different models to arrive at its predictions. There are lots of variables that are hard to predict including:

  • How much of the current temperature variation is down to Co2 emissions?
  • What will clouds do? Will they heat us up or cool us down in the long run?
  • How will natural carbon sinks of the oceans and forests behave in the future?
  • With less snow and Ice will we be absorbing far more incoming radiated heat as our surfaces will be less reflective (the albedo effect?)
  • What will be the effect of population growth, industrial production and effect of UN strategies?


  • IPCC scenarios factsheet PDF | MSWORD
  • Projection based on Emissions scenario sheet PDF | MSWORD




Have a look at the video clip and then discuss the predictions it makes as to what is likely to happen to the climate.

How do scientists make these predictions?



The video clip you have just seen uses data from graphs from the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change).

The scenario factsheet can be used to explain what the different predictions in the video clip are based on. Do not forget that these predictions are uncertain as they are based on scenarios that have not yet happened.

Use the graphs on the projections activity sheet to answer the questions on emissions and global warming projections.



What is the most likely scenario - use a continuum to decide where to stand, from most likely to least likely.

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