Bill McKibben: Climate Sensitivity of the Third Kind

March 27, 2023

Bill McKibben will be speaking nearby at Saginaw Valley State University in April.

I was asked to come up with some video for the event, and started poking thru my interview with Bill in Greenland in 2018.
This popped right out.

5 Responses to “Bill McKibben: Climate Sensitivity of the Third Kind”

  1. rhymeswithgoalie Says:

    I remember from reading Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s book The Black Swan: The Impact of the HIGHLY IMPROBABLE his description of the relatively multicultural, stable and prosperous Lebanon of his childhood and how the losses and barbarity of the fight between Israel (Maronite Phalange?) and the PLO destroyed all of that. From the perspective of his family and community, his country was hit by a Black Swan that normal residents did not see coming.

    Likewise, people living in towns and cities across the world are just one storm surge, wildfire, mass flooding event or earthquake away from losing all that was familiar and reliable, and the world’s emergency response coffers (like the US National Flood Insurance Program) are just growing holes of debt that can’t possibly keep up with the increasing rate of climate destruction.

  2. neilrieck Says:

    Not wanting to criticize Bill McKibben but in this 2018 video he says “nobody knew”.

    In 2023 we now know that Exxon knew everything by 1978. Take a look a the following PDF then jump down to VUGRAPH 10 on page 26 where we see a chart showing that polar temperatures would rise by 10C by 2050.

    Click to access James-Black-1977-Presentation.pdf

    On page 11 we see a quote mentioning that a maximum sea level rise of 7 meters was possible. Did anyone ever relay this information to London or New York.

    • sailrick Says:

      I just read the PDF. At the time, he seems to have done a pretty fair analysis of the state of the science. However, what is obvious, is that the uncertainties mentioned by James Black are not uncertainties any more.

    • rhymeswithgoalie Says:

      In defense of Bill McKibben, I think he was speaking not in terms of the temperature increase, but in the rate of collapse of climate norms and how quickly we’d see catastrophic impacts from the warming. As Richard Alley pointed out, everything is hunky-dory until we hit a tipping point, at which point everything goes to hell. We’re seeing some of these tipping points before we know to expect them. In talking about collapse of the North Atlantic overturning circulation, Stefan Rahmstorf pointed out that we probably don’t even know we’ve passed a tipping point until well after it happens.

      As for the paper’s forecast of the sea level rise of 7 meters, that was contingent on the loss of the WAIS, and was considered the long term result (i.e., it would take time to reach that inevitable equilibrium point).

  3. indy222 Says:

    James Hansen’s excellent recent paper clarifies “climate sensitivity” like no other author. ECS is a muddied concept in too many papers. Rarely defined, it remains a buzz word which is then pontificated upon. Some think of it as the 1970’s Charney concept, w/o any ice sheet changes, and idealized. Hansen clarifies what it should really mean in the real world we are looking to in the future – “Earth System Sensitivity”, which is closer to what economists would be putting in their simplified IAMs (integrated assessment models), if they dare to do it right. ESS is significantly higher than the old ECS. And getting higher all the time as the new methane emissions work is showing; fully 40% higher than the worst-case IPCC considered RCP8.5 modelling – and it appears to be from current bio sources, not ancient FF leaks or emissions… Wetland, especially melting permafrost. ESS is then at least 5C per CO2 doubling, and after longer term equilibration up to 10C. Not 3C like we’ve been told and the IPCC keeps using. They do not include cloud feedbacks, nor ice sheet changes

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