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The Science of Climate Change

Climate change is no longer a distant threat or just a possibility, it is now a reality for all of us. In this pathway, Kevin Trenberth, a renowned climatologist, delves into the science behind climate change. He first introduces the climate system, its main components and forces.

Tackling the Plastic Crisis

Plastic pollution is by far the biggest threat to our oceans and this remains an incredibly tough problem to solve. Plastic credits could potentially serve as one of the much needed solutions for this crisis.

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The Scale of the Net Zero Challenge

The price of meeting net zero is estimated to be between $100-150 trillion over the next 30 years. Regardless of this cost, we need to reach net zero before climate change does irreversible damage to the environment and the economy.

ESG, Sustainability and Impact Jargon Buster

ESG, sustainability, impact… they all just mean green, right? Not quite. Despite being used often interchangeably, there are distinct differences between these terms.

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Featured Pathways

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The Science of Climate Change

Climate change is no longer a distant threat or just a possibility, it is now a reality for all of us. In this pathway, Kevin Trenberth, a renowned climatologist, delves into the science behind climate change. He first introduces the climate system, its main components and forces.

Tackling the Plastic Crisis

Plastic pollution is by far the biggest threat to our oceans and this remains an incredibly tough problem to solve. Plastic credits could potentially serve as one of the much needed solutions for this crisis.

More pathways

Book a demo

Pricing

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Plans & Membership

Our Platform

Expert led content

+1,000 expert presented, on-demand video modules

Learning analytics

Keep track of learning progress with our comprehensive data

Interactive learning

Engage with our video hotspots and knowledge check-ins

Testing & certification

Gain CPD / CPE credits and professional certification

Managed learning

Build, scale and manage your organisation’s learning

Integrations

Connect Sustainability Unlocked to your current platform

Featured Content

More featured content

The Scale of the Net Zero Challenge

The price of meeting net zero is estimated to be between $100-150 trillion over the next 30 years. Regardless of this cost, we need to reach net zero before climate change does irreversible damage to the environment and the economy.

ESG, Sustainability and Impact Jargon Buster

ESG, sustainability, impact… they all just mean green, right? Not quite. Despite being used often interchangeably, there are distinct differences between these terms.

More featured content

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Introduction to Climate Models

Introduction to Climate Models

Liz Bentley

25 years: Meteorologist

How can we see 5, 10 or 100 years into our future? Join Liz Bentley as she explores climate modelling and projections.

How can we see 5, 10 or 100 years into our future? Join Liz Bentley as she explores climate modelling and projections.

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Introduction to Climate Models

12 mins 14 secs

Overview

Climate models are computer programs that simulate the behaviour of the Earth's climate system. They work by representing the Earth as a set of grid boxes or cells. The models use mathematical equations to simulate how these variables interact with each other over time. They differ from weather forecasting in time scale, spatial scale and input data. From climate models, we have developed Shared Socioeconomic Pathways (or SSPs), which are scenarios used in climate modelling that describe different possible trajectories of global socioeconomic development over the next few decades. SSPs provide a common framework for exploring the relationship between different climate change mitigation and adaptation policies and socioeconomic development.

Key learning objectives:

  • Define the purpose of climate models

  • Understand difference between climate models and forecasting

  • Outline the Shared Socioeconomic Pathways (SSPs)

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Summary
What are climate models? 
Climate models are computer programs that simulate the behaviour of the Earth's climate system. They work by representing the Earth as a set of grid boxes or cells, with each cell containing information about temperature, pressure, humidity and other relevant variables. The models use mathematical equations to simulate how these variables interact with each other over time. 

How do climate models and weather forecasting differ? 
1. Time scale
Climate models are designed to simulate long-term changes in the Earth's climate (decades or centuries). Weather forecast models are designed to simulate short-term weather patterns (days or weeks). 

2. Spatial scale
Climate models typically have a coarser spatial resolution than weather forecast models, as they are focused on capturing large-scale processes (such as global ocean currents). Weather forecast models need to capture small-scale features (such as individual storms and weather fronts).

3. Input data
Climate models are designed to explicitly incorporate the interactions between the atmosphere and other components of the Earth’s system (particularly the oceans). Weather forecast models are primarily forced by atmospheric parameters and so rely primarily on observational data such as temperature, humidity and wind.

What are the Shared Socioeconomic Pathways (SSPs)? 
Shared Socioeconomic Pathways (or SSPs) are scenarios used in climate modelling that describe different possible trajectories of global socioeconomic development over the next few decades. They were developed to provide a common framework for exploring the relationship between different climate change mitigation and adaptation policies and socioeconomic development.

  • SSP1 (also called Sustainability) represents a future with strong emphasis on sustainable development, low population growth, and low fossil fuel use, with an increasing use of renewable energy and improved environmental policies.

  • SSP2 (known as Middle of the Road) represents a future with moderate population growth, intermediate economic development, and fossil fuel use continuing as today, with some improvements in efficiency and environmental policies.

  • SSP3 (also known as Regional Rivalry) represents a future with slow population growth, slow economic development, and a continuation of existing regional rivalries, with limited international co-operation and investment in clean energy.

  • SSP4 (or Inequality) represents a future with high levels of inequality, low population growth, and fossil fuel use continuing at current levels, with limited investment in clean energy.

  • SSP5 (also called Fossil-Fuelled Development) represents a future with rapid population growth, high levels of economic development, and continued high use of fossil fuels, with limited investment in clean energy and weak environmental policies.

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Liz Bentley

Liz Bentley

Professor Liz Bentley is the Chief Executive of the Royal Meteorological Society, a not-for-profit organisation based in the UK. Her career in meteorology spans over 30 years and she has worked at the Met Office, BBC, and in Government. She is a regular contributor to the major broadcasters, delivering over 200 media interviews each year.

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