BOOK REVIEW:  Climate Uncertainty and Risk – Rethinking Our Response

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From Watts Up With That?

Book Review by Kip Hansen – 26 May 2023

There are a great many books about the Climate Crisis, the Climate Emergency, the Climate Problem and the Climate Issue – along with its myriad policy solutions—for and against.   Amazon returns “over 50,000 results” for books about “climate change”.  The authors range from politicians through teen-aged activists, economists, geologists, lawyers and assorted “tinkers, tailors, soldiers and spies”.

There is one book that is far different, with a difference that is important.  It has been written by a climate scientist.  Not just an academic climate lecturer, not just an academic climate researcher, but a truly professional climate scientist who has made her living doing climate science across the entire gamut of the field.  She has been a climate science student, a climate science professor, a climate science researcher, the head of the atmospheric sciences department of a major university and is co-owner of Climate Forecast Applications Network (CFAN) which actively supplies real-time, real-world actionable weather and climate forecasts to clients around the world, helping them prepare for and take advantage of ever-changing weather and climate conditions.  

This author, Dr. Judith Curry, does not just plug numbers into computers and write papers for the journals. She does climate science,  in support of  clients, helping them to make better policy and action choices.  She is a working professional climate scientist, working in the trenches of the field where real people live, where real people need to know what to expect from the weather and climate in order to grow their crops, raise their children, defend against floods and droughts, and prepare for the never-quite-certain future. 

This new book, Climate Uncertainty and Risk — Rethinking Our Response, is truly enlightening.  The world has been solely focused on the risks associated with the Earth’s changing climate and has settled on an almost-exclusive solution—eliminate the use of fossils fuels to reduce atmospheric Greenhouse Gas Concentrations—despite overwhelming evidence that the nearly everything leading to that solution, all of the data and all of our combined understanding is highly uncertain, ambiguous, vague and distinctly unsettled.  Worse, much of what we would need to know to make the current policies appropriate may be simply unknowable.

The problem thus becomes “How do we make decisions about how to deal with the uncertainties presented by changing climate?  How do we formulate sensible and reasonable local, regional, national and international policies despite the uncertainties?  — policies that we as a species will not regret 50 years from now?”

Uncertainty is a terrific burden when we feel that “something must be done”.  All of us sometimes face this kind of pressure in our daily lives – we have to do something, the situation seems intolerable, but both the situation itself and possible solutions are filled with uncertainties.  Adding to that unsettling uncertainty can be the uncertainty regarding the very existence of the situation itself—is there really a problem? Or does it only seem to be so?

Regardless of where you currently find yourself on the broad spectrum of opinions (and, we can all admit, biases) about the climate issue, you will find this book will help to clarify the intellectual and informational terrain of the field, bringing into focus many of the issues you are already somewhat familiar with and, more importantly, bringing into focus many issues and facets of the broader climate policy decision-space that you may not have even been aware existed.

If you are certain in your view of present and future climate, certain in regards to what are and are not appropriate policy for solutions, abatement and adaption, you need to read this book.  This book is the cure for your ailment.

If you are mystified by the swirl of conflicting opinions and ‘facts’ presented by those who all appear to be highly qualified experts in the field, if much of the data about climate seems to contradict itself, then you have met the Uncertainty Monster.  Reading this book will help to vanquish the Monster aspect, and supply you with potential approaches to dealing with the ever-present uncertainties.

The lessons to be learned from this book apply not only to climate, not only to science, not only to national and international decision and policy-making, but to all aspects of life, which is itself, at all times, highly uncertain. 

Bottom Line:

Very Highly Recommended.  A book not to be missed by anyone whose interests include any of the sciences.  You will have been amply repaid for the purchase cost and the time invested by reading even one of the sections and chapters of this truly enlightening book. 

Don’t expect this book to magically eliminate the uncertainties of the Climate Issue—uncertainty is at the heart of it.  And that’s a very important lesson to learn.

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Author’s Comment:

For more details on the contents of the book, readers can read what Dr. Curry herself has to say:

The book is available at Amazon (currently in  “pre-order” status with a scheduled release date of 6 June 2023) in  Kindle, Hardcover and Paperback versions. Also available (pre-order) at  Barnes and Noble (eBook) and  Rakuten Kobo (ePub)  and many others.

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