More Scary Stuff About the Future by People with Actual Expertise

shcb will not find the credentials of the authors of this report compelling. He will imagine that their training and the level of analysis they bring to bear is roughly the equivalent of (or, if he’s being honest, slightly inferior to) his own. He may comment on this item, and if he does, it is likely his comment will strike me the same way it does when Nigel Tufnel stares at Marty DiBergi for a moment before explaining (yet again) that “these go to eleven.”

shcb will be wrong.

Nevertheless, here you go: From John D. Steinbruner, Paul C. Stern, and Jo L. Husbands, Editors; Committee on Assessing the Impact of Climate Change on Social and Political Stresses; Board on Environmental Change and Society; Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education; National Research Council: Climate and Social Stress: Implications for Security Analysis.

From the report’s preface:

Core features of the climate change situation are known with confidence. The greenhouse effect associated with the carbon dioxide molecule has been measured, as has the dwell time of that molecule and its concentration in the atmosphere. We also know that the rate at which carbon dioxide is currently being added to the atmosphere substantially exceeds the natural rate that prevailed before the rise of human societies. That means that a large and unprecedentedly rapid thermal impulse is being imparted to the earth’s ecology that will have to be balanced in some fashion. We know beyond reasonable doubt that the consequences will be extensive. We do not, however, know the timing, magnitude, or character of those consequences with sufficient precision to make predictions that meet scientific standards of confidence.

In principle the thermal impulse could be mitigated to a degree that would presumably preserve the current operating conditions of human societies, but the global effort required to do that is not being undertaken and cannot be presumed. As a practical matter, that means that significant burdens of adaptation will be imposed on all societies and that unusually severe climate perturbations will [be] encountered in some parts of the world over the next decade with an increasing frequency and severity thereafter. There is compelling reason to presume that specific failures of adaptation will occur with consequences more severe than any yet experienced, severe enough to compel more extensive international engagement than has yet been anticipated or organized.

This report has been prepared at the request of the U.S. intelligence community with these circumstances in mind. It summarizes what is currently known about the security effects of climate perturbations, admitting the inherent complexities and the very considerable uncertainties involved. But under the presumption that these effects will be of increasing significance, it outlines the monitoring activities that the intelligence community should be developing in support of improved anticipation, more effective prevention efforts, and more decisive emergency reaction when that becomes necessary.

11 Responses to “More Scary Stuff About the Future by People with Actual Expertise”

  1. shcb Says:

    a) We do not, however, know the timing, magnitude, or character of those consequences with sufficient precision to make predictions that meet scientific standards of confidence.

    b) We know beyond reasonable doubt that the consequences will be extensive.

    How can those statements coexist?

  2. jbc Says:

    Imagine you have a big machine with many gears, counterweights, belts, spindles, etc. You know it is very complicated, and that effects on one part of it will have spin-off effects in many other parts. You know with high confidence that a monkeywrench has been released over the middle of the machine and is falling toward it, that it will impact the workings of the machine shortly, that that will certainly break some parts, and that it will have a cascading effect throughout the machine. Nevertheless, you can lack confidence in your ability to predict exactly what subsystems of the machine will be impacted in what particular ways.

  3. shcb Says:

    Good job picking an analogy the other guy can relate to. It looks like you have to pay $60 if you want to easily read the whole report but I managed to read a few pages. As far as I can see from that little reading, and it is way too little to be making an informed opinion. Is both a) and b) are true in regard to this paper.

    It seems these fellows were tasked with giving a detailed report on b) even though they knew a) really prevented them from accurately reporting on b) but they took the CIA’s money and did it anyway. I read a page around 45 where they are talking about the fact that we have gotten pretty good at predicting weather 3 to 5 days out and we at least think we are pretty good at knowing what happened in 100 year increments but that is about it, we aren’t very good at anything between those, and we are particularly bad at predicting decadal increments. So basically, we don’t have a baseline. Anyone that has done any research know the first thing you have to establish is a baseline. But in this case there are just too many variables that we don’t understand yet.

    There were some other passages, in the preface I believe, that had similar thoughts. This seems like something the GAO would put out when under pressure from congress to form a report based on illogical parameters.

    To your analogy, yes the wrench is careening in a gentle arc to the machine, we wish it weren’t, but it is. One fellow over there is yelling that it is going to be terrible! Oh my! Well, he may be right, but there are plenty of places that wrench might fall where it wouldn’t hit anything, there are guards that were put in place to protect other things that might just protect the spinning parts. It might hit somewhere and cause some minor damage, or it might cause catastrophic failure. We really don’t know. It seems there is a portion of this report that is saying that very thing, but the writers were tasked with telling management what is the worst case scenario for when the wrench hits the machine, so they did both. Now both sides can take out passages that fit their agendas.

    In reality there is little we can do anyway, we can make some prudent actions like moving people out of the way so in case the parts start flying they won’t get hit and such but that wrench is on its way and we really don’t have many alternatives. We can jump up and bat it around like a hail Mary pass, but who knows, it might just knock it into a worse position.

  4. shcb Says:

    One thing I will say, the editors, the CAIOCCOSPSBOECSCOBSSAENRC has one of the most impressive acronyms I have ever seen.

  5. enkidu Says:

    a) we can’t predict the weather, but our predictions about climate are (relative to local weather prediction) scaring the crap out of reasonable people.

    b) based on what we do know, the overall picture is not as cheery as the oil and coal industries would like you to believe.

    I think it is interesting that I previously asked about century storms and their frequency and intensity. So shcb immediately tracked down some data that (to no-one’s surprise) reinforced his opinion. Now with spreadsheet! But is this just for the North American eastern seaboard? Western hemisphere? Entire planet? I just asked the question, but regardless of the actual answer, shcb’s answer reinforces his previous bias. Whereas actual climate scientists might be able to give a answer (usually using metaphor, since you can’t say shcb’s F150 carbon caused this particular storm or that one) but in the aggregate, looking over historical records and looking into what we can surmise about the future… it aint pretty for the ACC deniers.

  6. shcb Says:

    The subject was Atlantic hurricanes, if other cyclones in other areas of the world are increasing exponentially, I sure haven’t heard of it. I wasn’t really answering to you directly but to the general charge that hurricanes are getting worse. When this is discussed the gulf and eastern seaboard of the US are the subject.

    It seems Knarly is the only one that understands enough to at least be open to discussing this tactic of using monetary losses to somehow show an increase in severity, which of course has nothing to do with a discussion of climate changes.

  7. enkidu Says:

    The subject was century storms. You ran out and found some data that supported your bias. I’m shocked! Shocked I tell you!

    Funny, you usually love to use the term “Global Warming”. But here you’ve failed to mention the whole global aspect of climate. Odd.


  8. enkidu Says:

    This is the 332nd consecutive month with an above-average temperature.

    Nothing to see here folks.

  9. knarlyknight Says:

    I’ll trade you some rain for some of your heat.

  10. knarlyknight Says:

    Weather is a bit better today, thanks.

  11. enkidu Says:

    We have your rain and cold right here sir, please come round the station and pick them up as they’ve made a bit of a nuisance of themselves. We need fine weather for our Quaint Merkin Holyday of Thxgv. We’re supposed to go tide-pooling…

    Crab season open – I’m dying to get out on the water, but m’lady has plans on top of plans concatenated inside of other plans. Sadly not those sort of plans.

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