by Judith Curry

A preview of the contents of my forthcoming book Climate Uncertainty and Risk. Plus an update on the publication process and availability of the paperbook version for pre-orders.

My forthcoming book Climate Uncertainty and Risk (see this previous blog post) provides a rethinking of the climate change problem, the risks we are facing, and how we can respond.

I’m working on figuring out how to present my book in interviews and op-eds, beyond the description blurb for the book.  My first foray was an interview with Tom Nelson [link]. 

Below is the description that I presented in the interview.

Part I  The Climate Change Challenge

Part I describes how the challenge of climate change has evolved in context of a complex interplay among: scientists, organizations that support research, government-sponsored assessments of climate research, national and international climate policy, politics, and the needs and desires of diverse populations in a rapidly changing world. Polarization has deepened in a fog of confusion about what we know versus what we don’t know and what we can’t know. People trying to understand climate change are left confused by international and national policies and commitments that don’t seem doable or politically feasible.

To assess objectively the risks from climate change and the policies designed to mitigate it, Part I takes a step back from the current debate and broadens our framework for thinking about climate change.

Chapter 1 provides some basic political context and addresses how the climate change issue has been parlayed into a crisis.

Chapter 2 describes the underpinnings of the so-called climate consensus, from the perspectives of philosophy and politics of science and  social psychology.

Chapter 3 introduces the range of challenges that international policy responses are facing.

Chapter 4 deconstructs how politics and problems at the science policy-interface have been highly detrimental both to the scientific and policy processes.

If you’ve been following my blog for the past decade, much of this material will look familiar to you. In writing the book, I’ve worked to consolidate and improve the logic of my arguments.  The greatest challenge in writing Part I was to keep this as politically neutral as possible, so that I don’t turn anyone off from either side of the political spectrum before they get to the good stuff in Part III.

Part II Uncertainty of 21st Century Climate Change

Part II has more actual physical science content.  This Part focuses on the range of plausible outcomes of climate change in the 21st century, including natural climate variability and plausible worst-case scenarios. This formulation starts the climate change clock in the year 2000, which characterizes the current climate to which humanity has more-or-less adapted.

Chapter 5 describes the climate uncertainty monster, which I introduced in a paper published in 2011 (and which was featured in the inaugural posts of this blog).

Chapter 6 describes global climate models, including their uncertainties.  Context is provided for why we placed so much confidence in these inadequate tools.

Chapter 7 Summarizes relevant results from the recent IPCC Sixth Assessment Report.  I provide updated information on why the extreme emissions scenario RCP8.5 is now regarded to be implausible.  I also provide an update on why high values of climate sensitivity are regarded as implausible, and also the controversies about the lower values of climate sensitivity.  I also describe the very tame conclusions of the IPCC on attributing extreme weather events to human-caused warming

Chapters 8 and 9 present more innovative material, describing how I approach developing regional climate scenarios for the next several decades, without directly using climate models.  This approach is designed to work in context with robust decision making frameworks, which are described in Part III.

The approach described in Chapter 8 focuses on integrating reasonable emissions scenarios and climate sensitivity values, along with scenarios of natural climate variability.  I present an argument that regional climate variability in context of local vulnerabilities is more important for decision making than changes in global mean temperature.

Chapter 9 addresses scenarios of future worst-case outcomes.  Worst-case scenarios have an important role to play in many decision-making frameworks. This chapter describes how we can credibly formulate worst-case scenarios, and assess whether they are plausible.  Examples describe extreme weather and climate events, and global sea level rise.

Part III  Risk and Response

Part III presents a framework for analyzing climate risks in all of their complexity and ambiguity, towards formulating pragmatic and adaptable policies. This Part describes how climate risk has been badly mischaracterized and mismanaged.  It describes best practices from risk science and decision making under deep uncertainty. I show how a focus on resilience and antifragility can lead to broader risk management frameworks that are politically viable and support human well-being, both now and in the future.

The overall theme of these three chapters is robust decision making. Writing Chapters 10 through 12 required that I develop a broad understanding of risk and decision sciences, from many different perspectives (which required reading several books and hundreds of journal articles).  Chapters 10 and 11 describe how we have mischaracterized and mismanaged climate risk, and present better approaches in context of the latest research in risk science and governance.  Covid-19 provides an interesting example of risk assessment and management, having both counterpoints and similarities to climate change. Chapter 12 describes the decision making aspect of risk management, under the paradigm of decision making under deep uncertainty.

The final three chapters are the punchline to this book.

Chapter 13 is on Adaptation, Resilience & Development.  This is the longest chapter in the book, I had to cut a lot of material out of this chapter. I really have enough material here that I could have written a separate book on this topic.  The chapter emphasizes that what has been cast as a global “crisis” is for the most part thousands of local vulnerability emergencies that are revealed by extreme weather events. The chapter describes the paramount importance of adaptation, resilience and development, while also describing how international policies and aid programs have badly messed things up.

Chapter 14 is on mitigation.  Whenever I mention this book to anyone, invariably the first thing they ask me where I stand on mitigation.  What I do in this chapter is something different, that rejects emissions targets and deadlines while developing a holistic vision for 21st century energy and transportation infrastructure.  I describe a comprehensive risk management approach, that starts with envisioning what we would like our energy systems to look like circa 2100.  This includes all of the different values in play, of which eliminating CO2 emissions is not the most important.  Risks of a rapid energy transition to 100% renewable energy exceed any conceivable near-term risks from climate change itself.

Chapter 15 pulls it all together.  The chapter describes a climate politics that harnesses enlightened self-interest, rather than focusing on austerity.  I propose a politics of uncertainty that is relentlessly pragmatic.  This new politics is regional/local (not global), and plays to central values of human flourishing and thriving.  The book concludes with this statement:

“By acknowledging uncertainties in the context of better risk management and decision-making frameworks, in combination with techno-optimism, there is a broad path forward for humanity to thrive in a changing climate during the 21st century.”

JC reflections

One take away message from my interview with Tom Nelson is that I need to figure out how to describe the book less formally.  I’m trying to reach both academic and general audiences, and people across the complete spectrum of the climate debate.  We’ll have to see how successful I am with achieving these aims.

I look forward to your comments and suggestions.

Book update

Book production has almost completed the copy-editing phase.  So far, everything is on schedule for June publication.

The paperback version will be released at the same time as the hard cover; you can now pre-order the paperback (including on Amazon).  I had to commit to purchasing a LARGE number of hardback books in order for the paperback book to be published simultaneously (publisher was going to release paperback version 15 months after hard back version).

The prices are set at $110 for hardback, $35 for paperback, and e-version between $15 and $20 (Barnes and Noble has the Nook version listed at $15.49.)  Amazon Kindle version should be available for pre-orders two weeks before the publication date.  I have yet to look into an audio version, but I have been getting numerous requests for this.

There is a new cover design, which was improved with input from my daughter (new cover hasn’t made it to yet.)

Pre-orders of hardback and paperback, plus Barnes and Noble Nook version are available:

Anthem press

Barnes & Noble