Close only counts in horse shoes - at least when attention turns to potentially existential questions. The more serious the issue the more important to have the most accurate, reliable information and analysis. Getting it wrong can invite irreparable consequences.
And so a new report published in the journal, Nature, demands our attention.
International policy makers and authorities are relying on projections that underestimate how much the planet will warm—and, by extension, underestimate the cuts in greenhouse gas emissions needed to stave off catastrophic impacts of climate change.
"The basic idea is that we have a range of projections on future warming that came from these climate models, and for scientific interest and political interest, we wanted to narrow this range," said Patrick Brown, co-author of the study. "We find that the models that do the best at simulating the recent past project more warming."
Using that smaller group of models, the study found that if countries stay on a high-emissions trajectory, there's a 93 percent chance the planet will warm more than 4 degrees Celsius by the end of the century. Previous studies placed those odds at 62 percent.
Four degrees of warming would bring many severe impacts, drowning small islands, eliminating coral reefs and creating prolonged heat waves around the world, scientists say.
Planning and allocating scarce resources to an overly-optimistic scenario, say 2 degrees Celsius of warming, can be next to useless if you wind up with 4C of warming.
"The IPCC uses a model democracy—one model, one vote—and that's what they're saying is the range, " Brown explained. "We're saying we can do one better. We can try to discriminate between well- and poor-performing models. We're narrowing the range of uncertainty."
"You'll hear arguments in front of Congress: The models all project warming, but they don't do well at simulating the past," he said. "But if you take the best models, those are the ones projecting the most warming in the future."