Back in 1990, as the debate over climate change was heating up, a dissident shareholder petitioned the board of Exxon, one of the world’s largest oil companies, imploring it to develop a plan to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from its production plants and facilities.
The board’s response: Exxon had studied the science of global warming and concluded it was too murky to warrant action. The company’s “examination of the issue supports the conclusions that the facts today and the projection of future effects are very unclear.”
Before the Syrian uprising that began in 2011, the greater Fertile Crescent experienced the most severe drought in the instrumental record. For Syria, a country marked by poor governance and un- sustainable agricultural and environmental policies, the drought had a catalytic effect, contributing to political unrest. We show that the recent decrease in Syrian precipitation is a combination of natural variability and a long-term drying trend, and the unusual severity of the observed drought is here shown to be highly unlikely without this trend.
(Michael Mann is someone to listen to on climate science, but notice the typical nod to "market mechanisms" as solution. Another illustration how positivist natural science almost always leads to conflation with mainstream economic/political views. Why the whole tradition of marxist analysis based in dialectics and systemic analysis is so important to be brought into the analysis of climate science and political change.)
One of the most under-appreciated aspects of the climate change problem is the so-called "fat tail" of risk. In short, the likelihood of very large impacts is greater than we would expect under typical statistical assumptions.
We are used to thinking about likelihoods and probabilities in terms of the familiar "normal" distribution -- otherwise known as the "bell curve". It looks like this:
Terrible pictures arrive onto social media of refugees from Syria and elsewhere, washed up on the shores of Europe. One in particular is particularly ghastly – the body of young Aylan Kurdi. He was only three. He was from the Syrian town of Kobane, now made famous as the frontline of the battle between ISIS and the Kurdish militias (largely the YPG and PKK). Aylan Kurdi’s body lay in a fetal position. Few dry eyes could turn away from that photograph.
Something lurking in the Northeastern Pacific is killing off the graceful giants of the world’s oceans. For since May of 2015 30 large whales have been discovered dead — their bloated and decaying bodies washed up on Alaskan shores. It’s an unusual mortality event featuring a death rate of nearly 400 percent above the average. So far, scientists don’t yet have a culprit. But there is a prime suspect and it’s one that’s linked to climate change.
The previously available evidence for that statement is staggering and on Thursday the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in the U.S. announced that July was the hottest month the planet has ever experienced since records began and that both land and ocean temperatures are on pace to make 2015 the hottest year ever recorded.
An excellent audio overview/summary with Paul Beckwith of abrupt changes in the Arctic and global systems due to climate change. Abrupt changes happening at a very fast pace, changing jet streams that guide global weather patterns, and ocean currents including the slowing of the Gulf Stream and huge blocks of warm and cold seas due to systems stalling.
Historians may look to 2015 as the year when shit really started hitting the fan. Some snapshots: In just the past few months, record-setting heat waves in Pakistan and India each killed more than 1,000 people. In Washington state's Olympic National Park, the rainforest caught fire for the first time in living memory. London reached 98 degrees Fahrenheit during the hottest July day ever recorded in the U.K.; The Guardian briefly had to pause its live blog of the heat wave because its computer servers overheated.