New Video: The Business Impact of Abrupt Change

February 20, 2014

From the hours of marathon interviews conducted by Geoffrey Haines-Stiles, Dr. Jim Byrne, and myself at last December’s American Geophysical Union.

I’m trying to pull out small uncut gems.

Boulder Daily Camera:

A new National Research Council report calls for the development of an early warning system that could help better anticipate sudden changes resulting from climate change.

Professor James White, of the University of Colorado’s Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research and the chair of the National Research Council committee that produced the report, said climate change has increased concern over possible large and rapid changes in the physical climate system, including Earth’s atmosphere, land surfaces and oceans.

“Climate doesn’t change in a nice, linear way,” he said. “There are thresholds and tipping points in the system. If we cross one of those, handling or adapting to that is going to be a challenge. When it comes to adaptations, speed kills.”

Abrupt climate changes and impacts already under way are of immediate concern, the report says. These include the disappearance of late-summer Arctic sea ice and increases in extinction rates of marine and terrestrial species.

Other scenarios, such as the destabilization of the west Antarctic ice sheet, have potentially major consequences — but the probability of these changes occurring within the next century is not well-understood, highlighting the need for more research.

“Evaluating climate changes and impacts in terms of their potential magnitude and the likelihood they will occur will help policymakers and communities make informed decisions about how to prepare for or adapt to them,” White said.

He said scientists now don’t know what many of the thresholds are, suggesting that more research and enhanced monitoring of climate, ecosystems and social systems is needed.

Research needs identified by the report include identifying keystone species whose population decline due to an abrupt change would have cascading effects on ecosystems — and ultimately on human provisions such as food supply.

“It was a call for the U.S. to get more serious about climate change,” he said.

He noted that there are security cameras everywhere, monitoring everything from banks to street intersections. Close monitoring of the Earth is just as important, he said.

“The planet is arguably our most valuable asset,” he said. “We need it for clean water, clean air, energy, food. We don’t monitor that with the same kind of zeal as we do other places that we think are precious.”

5 Responses to “New Video: The Business Impact of Abrupt Change”

  1. Engineer Ron Says:

    I can think of much scarier scenarios.

    Like:

    Sea-level-rise inundates Japan. They respond by invading mainland China who is in a state of West-coast confusion from sea-level-rise. The Chinese drop an H-bomb on Tokyo which is under water from sea-level-rise. An ensuing tsunami cuts across the Pacific, rolls over the submerged Hawaiian islands (sea-level-rise), rolls over the mostly submerged coast of California (sea-level-rise), sloshes over the Sierra-Nevada Mountains and drowns all of the Louisiana Purchase Territory.

    Then President Obama presses the “destroy-the-Earth” button from Air Force 1 thinking he can safely land on the moon.


  2. […] A new National Research Council report calls for the development of an early warning system that could help better anticipate sudden changes resulting from climate change. Professor James White, of the University of Colorado’s Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research and the chair of the National Research Council committee that produced the report, said climate change has increased concern over possible large and rapid changes in the physical climate system, including Earth’s atmosphere, land surfaces and oceans. “Climate doesn’t change in a nice, linear way,” he said. “There are thresholds and tipping points in the system. If we cross one of those, handling or adapting to that is going to be a challenge. When it comes to adaptations, speed kills.” Abrupt climate changes and impacts already under way are of immediate concern, the report says.  […]

  3. andrewfez Says:

    That happened to the company I work for too (whom i won’t disclose as they have social media rules against employees painting them in poor light). They infiltrated CA back in the mid-1990’s, went with the cheapest a/c stuff they could get their hands on, and now for the last 4 or 5 years a/c’s have been failing left and right. Who knows, maybe when you’re in earthquake country, you don’t buy green bananas (or 40 year-life a/c’s).


  4. Andrew – this topic and thread ties into the capitalism thread further up. If capitalism and growth are synonymous and antithetical to the environment, what does that imply about the effects of one on the other? It might imply that capitalism and growth are driving themselves to “ecological suicide” along with the rest of the planet. It all goes to the issue of why climate change is such a dirty word that the administration barely used it at all in the first term and why it was considered a big deal when they used it at all in the second term. Limits and growth are on a collision course.

  5. Earl Mardle Says:

    Nice thought but the internal contradictions scream very loudly for me.

    The point about abrupt change is that we cannot know when it will happen, where its effects will be felt first/strongest etc nor what those effects will be in terms of actual weather month by month.

    The arrogance of presuming to “anticipate” the effects of unknowable states is pretty breathtaking.

    At best we need a rapid response process to detect and analyse the changes and then adjust policy and practise sufficiently rapidly to make a difference before the next abrupt change demands another shift in policy and practise.

    Given that the only thing operating at a “glacial” pace in the world any more is the response of governments to ANYTHING, let alone existential threats to their societies and themselves, I would say that any attempt to implement this idea is a stunning waste of time, energy and resources.


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