Using the past to predict the future
How do we know what is going to happen next to the Earth – and to humans?
One crucial feature of science is that it makes evidence-based predictions.
This evidence comes from several sources. Data can be collected to characterise the current state of the planet, and recordings over time can reveal short-term trends. Controlled experiments can tell us how different factors interact with one another (how chemicals react, how organisms respond, etc.).
In addition, various techniques can be used to reveal what Earth was like in the past, and how and why it has changed. Then, principally through the use of computer models, we can simulate what may happen next.
Models have been used to map out possible futures for the planet. They can also be used to assess how these possible futures may affect human health.Lead image:
Wellcome Library, London CC BY