Could we control our climate?
Could we control our climate?

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.

Free course

Could we control our climate?

4.1 Identifying change

In order to compare two sets of probabilities with each other and decide whether they are different, we need to measure or predict differences between distributions in every area of the science and engineering of climate change. So we need to:

  • measure past climate change
  • understand the causes of past climate change
  • predict future climate change with different levels of greenhouse gases or geoengineering
  • test whether climate predictions are similar to the real world.

For all of the above, we must decide if two distributions are ‘different enough’ to call this a change.

  • If the chance of your house being flooded each year increases from 1% to 2%, does this mean you are guaranteed to be flooded every 50 years? And should you look for a new home?

  • No, and it depends!

This is difficult because the change might be very subtle or slow, so we must make decisions to help us decide, such as:

  • which statistical technique should we use to compare them?
  • how large a difference ‘counts’ as a climate change?
  • how many years of data do we need to feel confident in our conclusion?

These questions do not always have easy answers – the decisions may be somewhat arbitrary or subjective – so they are often contested by climate sceptics.

CLI_1

Take your learning further

Making the decision to study can be a big step, which is why you'll want a trusted University. The Open University has 50 years’ experience delivering flexible learning and 170,000 students are studying with us right now. Take a look at all Open University courses.

If you are new to University-level study, we offer two introductory routes to our qualifications. You could either choose to start with an Access module, or a module which allows you to count your previous learning towards an Open University qualification. Read our guide on Where to take your learning next for more information.

Not ready for formal University study? Then browse over 1000 free courses on OpenLearn and sign up to our newsletter to hear about new free courses as they are released.

Every year, thousands of students decide to study with The Open University. With over 120 qualifications, we’ve got the right course for you.

Request an Open University prospectus371