“Far from being “alarmist,” predictions from climate scientists in many cases are proving to be more conservative than observed climate-induced impacts.
“A decade ago scientists predicted the Arctic wouldn’t be ice-free in summer until 2100. But the extent of summer ice in the North has rapidly shrunk and today covers 70 percent of the area it did in 1979. Now some scientists think the Arctic could be naught but open water within 25 years.
“As for extinctions, earlier this year two scientists at the University of Exeter paired predicted versus observed annihilation rates. The real-world rates are more than double what the best computer modeling showed: While the studies, on average, warned of a 7 percent extinction rate, field observations suggested the rate was closer to 15 percent.
“In reality, Oreskes said, scientists skew their results away from worst-case, doomsday scenarios. “Many people in the scientific community have felt that it’s important to be conservative – that it protects your credibility,” she said. “There’s a low-end bias. It has led scientists to understate, rather than overstate, the impacts.”