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.
New scientific models supported by the British government’s Foreign Office show that if we don’t change course, in less than three decades industrial civilisation will essentially collapse due to catastrophic food shortages, triggered by a combination of climate change, water scarcity, energy crisis, and political instability.
Before you panic, the good news is that the scientists behind the model don’t believe it’s predictive. The model does not account for the reality that people will react to escalating crises by changing behavior and policies.
First the good news. James Hansen, one of the world’s most recognized climate scientists, along with 13 of his well-decorated fellows believe that there’s a way out of this hothouse mess we’re brewing for ourselves. It’s a point that’s often missed in media reports on their most recent paper — Ice Melt, Sea Level Rise, and Superstorms. A paper that focuses on just two of the very serious troubles we’ll be visiting on ourselves in short order if we don’t heed their advice.
BARROW, Alaska — A mile off the coast of the continent’s northernmost city, Josh Jones gunned his four-wheeler over ridges of buckling ice and through pools of turquoise water, where normally there would be a vast sheen of ice and snow.