086 — Climate Uncertainty and Risk, a conversation with Dr. Judith Curry
I recently read the book "Climate Uncertainty and risk" written by Dr. Judith Curry, who is one of the leading US climate scientists but also an important heterodox thinker. I loved her book, not only because of her take on climate change, but also because she covers a lot of essential topics that are applicable in other complex problems as well.
Judith Curry is president of Climate Forecast Applications Network (CFAN). Previously, she was professor and chair of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology and professor at the University of Colorado-Boulder in the department of aerospace engineering sciences program in the atmospheric and oceanic sciences and environmental studies program. Dr Curry published more than 200 reviewed scientific articles and gave 13 testimonials at US congressional hearings.
In our conversation we discuss about the state of climate and climate science. What role does uncertainty play in assessing climate change and climate risk? Why urgency in measures might be a disaster.
What role do carbon emissions play and can wind and solar energy help in mitigating climate change? What role does or should nuclear energy play? Do many prominent environmentalists hate nuclear even more than climate change?
However, uncertainty cuts both ways, what does this mean in terms of climate, tipping points, systemic attractors, regime shifts?
What role do natural effects play in climate change, like volcanoes (think of the year without summer)? How can we reduce vulnerability and why does deindustrialization and becoming poorer as a society not seem to be a clever way to handle complex risks? At the moment it rather seems that we are crippling our economy without reducing the footprint on the planet while at the same time reducing our resilience.
“There are no solutions, only tradeoffs.”, Thomas Sowell
What does resilience mean on a societal level and what can we do to achieve it? How is resilience connected to global existential risks?
"At that point we are making the environment worse, and doing nothing for the climate and we are messing up our economy over this crazy net zero stuff."
Is energy transition on the scale some countries attempt to do it, a risk far greater than risks related to climate change in the 21st century?
What are wicked problems (showing complexity, uncertainty and ambiguity)? Why do predict than act approaches (which work for tame problems) not work on wicked problems?
"Climate change is the mother of all wicked problems."
What is the utility of models in general and climate specifically?
“This is exactly what models are for—to serve as working hypotheses for further research.”, Ludwig von Bertalanffy
How do climate models work? What is a scenario and how can scenarios be of use in assessing climate change?
Why did we see such a heatwave this summer and autumn? What are likely reasons and what does the hot summer and August of this year tell us about anthropogenic climate change and the next decades?
How to deal with extreme risks that are unlikely, like a Carrington Event? What are microgrids and how could the help making a society more resilient? What is the difference and utility of caution, precaution and the precautionary principle? Why is the precautionary principle problematic and how could a proactionary principle helt?
What are principles of robust decision making? How do incrementalism and local decision making contribute? Is the seed — select — amplify (Meyer, Davis) idea and antifragility connected?
Why do we see deep quality problems and politicisation in science? How is gate keeping of major institutions abused to stop critical discussion, including top journals like Nature and Science? Why did cancel culture blossom in academia and create a toxic intellectual environment?
"The whole incentive system has become completely perverse."
Careerism, ideology or money? Which is harming science the most?
“Big Science may destroy great science, and the publication explosion may kill ideas. Ideas, which are only too rare, may become submerged in the flood.”, Karl Popper
Should we separate science and activism or is a scientist ethically required to become an activist under certain conditions?
"Once you became a political activist, it is game over for your credibility as a scientist."
However, being a scientist and activist for a politically popular topic is currently highly rewarded.
Can people handle complexity or should we simplify complex topics to easy to understand soundbites? And if so, who does the simplifying? Should we hide the scientific debate or even cancel it, to be able to send a simple message?
"In the old days, disagreement was the spice of academic debate and life. Now we are out to cancel our opponents."
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