an article on climate uncertainty and risk.
The first issue with uncertainty and risk is with adequate, meaningful data.
We do not have this at this stage. We need data covering at least 60 years * with reliable data collections of temperature air mass and composition. Ocean salinity, density, volume and understanding of both pressure and current affects.at the surface and at all depths.Variations in atmospheric density, composition, fires, volcanoes, winds. Also volcanic effects, Tsunami effects, Anthropogenic CO2 and emission effects. Last the dynamics of planetary movement and of solar heat, magnetism and plasma effects.
We have some. We have an idea of what others we need to have. We have a starting point but we do not have an understanding of what the natural variations can be* and how often they can occur hence our risk assessment has a high inbuilt level of uncertainty.
People like looking for their lost keys under the streetlight because at least there they can see. Similarly Climate egnostics like to look at recent data and experience because that is what they know and are comfortable with. Secondly they like familiarity, normal is what one was born in and grew up with. But climate is much more unpredictable than what we have experienced in the last 20 to 70 years. My apologies to those too young, not enough data base and those too old, set in their ways.
Climate is the Grapes of Wrath years in America. In Australia we had our settlers in South Australia who grew wheat and sheep for 40 years successfully only for the true drought and heat conditions of that area of the world return to wipe them out. History is redolent with famines and feasts [the bible] The deserts of the ancient Egyptian food bowls. Little Ice Ages Roman warm periods..
The best and most simple, elegant example of complete misunderstanding of the risks has happened before our eyes with hardly a whimper from anyone involved. The Global Sea Ice extent. Here we have an example of dropping levels from the 1970’s satellite levels With a recovery due to the Antarctic ice going up to and over x2 SD for several years. In fact roughly 4 years ago we had for one month the highest sea ice extent on record for 1 month. Just 4 years ago.
Then we had a fall in both Arctic and Antarctic extent together in the last 3 years giving a 5-7 SD drop to the lowest figures recorded, now thankfully improving. I cannot emphasize this enough. A 7 SD difference is immense, mind boggling and in terms of risk either immensely significant or significant of something immensely wrong with our understanding of the real standard deviations normally available.The latter is the reality. We are able to have climate and weather fluctuations in terms of years that are a lot higher than what we currently cater for. This means that people who want to see risk can find it anywhere if they are prepared to lie to themselves. Highest temp in all of recording time [3 years] for the hill on the back of our block in Tennessee for one hour in July 13th? Shame about the bushfire. But also for people who desperately wish to see green shoots of recovery anywhere and choose the opposite cooling examples.
Things are not made any better by specious, sometimes mendacious and precious commentary on the different measuring systems available when they disagree with one’s own precious views.Or by using anomaly measurements and making backwards adjustments to real temperature measurements.
Disclaimer, CO2 is real. CO2 by itself can make temperatures go up and it is a small but important balanced component of our atmosphere, hydrosphere and lithosphere.Some people like to argue an it is just atmosphere composition and gravity. Cart before the horse, no, just it is both cart and horse. If the CO2 goes up at a certain gravity and pressure then of course the temperature goes up as well. Both sides would do well to take a chill pill.
But CO2 is only one component of the complicated CO2 pathway for the atmosphere and due to the high carbonic content of the sea and the immense heat capacity of the oceans, which both give and take heat, Vegetation growth on land and sea, responses to CO2 addition are unclear and unknown
While chaos is an unknown, organisation is a given. The immense ocean buffering, the nature of our rocks and thin water envelope. The photosynthesis at this distance from the sun means that for human lifetime experiences, individually and collectively there is minimal risk of anything other than the gradual massive slow changes the earth has had for 2 of its 4 billion plus years. This does not mean that on a decadal or centennial scale we could have changes that seem extreme to us, particularly when we panic.