Climate Science, Common Sense, and Life-Sustaining Chaos

Knowing that climate, like the weather, is a complex of chaotic systems within chaotic systems, I keep up my usual relentless hope that the gloomy forecasts concerning the global warming crisis are most likely overstated. So, I have continued to follow the rather technical articles in Real Climate with great interest. There is very much more to consider than we are recieving through the simplified reports from the mainstream media, so I take the time to read and re-read the articles in Real Climate. Here is a quote from one of the simpler sections of the article there by Gavin Schmidt and Stefan Rahmstorf, assessing the widely reported 11ºC warming, climate crisis. This is a crisis that many are now expecting our world to face in ten years – if we do not make distinct, drastic, lifestyle changes in the direction of what is often nowadays called sustainability.

Is there a “point of no return” or “critical threshold” that will be crossed when the forcings exceed this level, as reported in some media? We don’t believe there is scientific evidence for this. However, as was pointed out at an international symposium on this topic last year in Beijing by Carlo Jaeger: setting a limit is a sensible way to collectively deal with a risk. A speed limit is a prime example. When we set a speed limit at 60 mph, there is no “critical threshold” there – nothing terrible happens if you go to 65 or 70 mph, say. But perhaps at 90 mph the fatalities would clearly exceed acceptable levels. Setting a limit to global warming at 2ºC above pre-industrial temperature is the official policy target of the European Union, and is probably a sensible limit in this sense. But, just like speed limits, it may be difficult to adhere to.

Not all climate scientists agree that earth’s climate changes have been, or are being, caused, generated, or catalyzed by any of the doings of human beings. Yet, since a significant, and apparently growing, number of earth scientists are factoring into the mix of explanations and predictions (to various greater and lesser degrees) many of our puny human activities on this planet over this latest – geologically instantaneous – century, it simply makes sense to assume that, and act as if, what human beings do indeed makes an important difference, overall. What we are doing must make significant differences, just as every little fluctuation can have a great effect amidst the long-term patterns of the largest system of chaos! I still dream, however, that we are already in the middle of doing – in backwards as well as foward steps – just what needs to be done, because it is always all of the least to the greatest causes, effects, and feedback-loops in chaotic systems, that continuously spiral mysteriously into those famous, uncertain, unpredicted, suddenly beautiful, butterfly-wing pattens.

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