A New Dark Age Looms, By Willian B. Gail – The New York Times

Boulder, Colo. — IMAGINE a future in which humanity’s accumulated wisdom about Earth — our vast experience with weather trends, fish spawning and migration patterns, plant pollination and much more — turns increasingly obsolete. As each decade passes, knowledge of Earth’s past becomes progressively less effective as a guide to the future. Civilization enters a dark age in its practical understanding of our planet.To comprehend how this could occur, picture yourself in our grandchildren’s time, a century hence. Significant global warming has occurred, as scientists predicted.

Nature’s longstanding, repeatable patterns — relied on for millenniums by humanity to plan everything from infrastructure to agriculture — are no longer so reliable. Cycles that have been largely unwavering during modern human history are disrupted by substantial changes in temperature and precipitation.As Earth’s warming stabilizes, new patterns begin to appear. At first, they are confusing and hard to identify. Scientists note similarities to Earth’s emergence from the last ice age. These new patterns need many years — sometimes decades or more — to reveal themselves fully, even when monitored with our sophisticated observing systems. Until then, farmers will struggle to reliably predict new seasonal patterns and regularly plant the wrong crops.

Early signs of major drought will go unrecognized, so costly irrigation will be built in the wrong places. Disruptive societal impacts will be widespread.Such a dark age is a growing possibility. In a recent report, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine concluded that human-caused global warming was already altering patterns of some extreme weather events. But the report did not address the broader implication — that disrupting nature’s patterns could extend well beyond extreme weather, with far more pervasive impacts.

Source: A New Dark Age Looms – The New York Times

I file this with James Lovelock, under deeply depressing, negative forecast, on the fringe of the usual dark warnings.

Climate Model Predicts West Antarctic Ice Sheet Could Melt Rapidly – The New York Times

“For half a century, climate scientists have seen the West Antarctic ice sheet, a remnant of the last ice age, as a sword of Damocles hanging over human civilization.The great ice sheet, larger than Mexico, is thought to be potentially vulnerable to disintegration from a relatively small amount of global warming, and capable of raising the sea level by 12 feet or more should it break up. But researchers long assumed the worst effects would take hundreds — if not thousands — of years to occur.Now, new research suggests the disaster scenario could play out much sooner.Continued high emissions of heat-trapping gases could launch a disintegration of the ice sheet within decades, according to a study published Wednesday, heaving enough water into the ocean to raise the sea level as much as three feet by the end of this century.With ice melting in other regions, too, the total rise of the sea could reach five or six feet by 2100, the researchers found. That is roughly twice the increase reported as a plausible worst-case scenario by a United Nations panel just three years ago, and so high it would likely provoke a profound crisis within the lifetimes of children being born today.”

Source: Climate Model Predicts West Antarctic Ice Sheet Could Melt Rapidly – The New York Times

What Weather Is the Fault of Climate Change? A new study finds that climate change can be singled out as a factor in some episodes of extreme weather. nytimes.com|By Heidi Cullen

Heidi Cullen, Chief Scientist at Climate Central, writes:
“But some of our weather has changed significantly, and now a new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine has outlined a rigorous, defensible, science-based system of extreme weather attribution to determine which events are tied to climate change.”

A new study finds that climate change can be singled out as a factor in some episodes of extreme weather.
nytimes.com|By Heidi Cullen

Cancer and Climate Change. I won’t live to see how civilization gets out of this mess. But I have hope. nytimes.com|By Piers J. Sellers, NASA Scientist

Piers Sellars just learned he has stage 4 pancreatic cancer. He has written a moving piece, which includes:
“I work for NASA, managing a large group of expert scientists doing research on the whole Earth system (I should mention that the views in this article are my own, not NASA’s). This involves studies of climate and weather using space-based observations and powerful computer models. These models describe how the planet works, and what can happen as we pump carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The work is complex, exacting, highly relevant and fascinating.

Last year was the warmest year on record, by far. I think that future generations will look back on 2015 as an important but not decisive year in the struggle to align politics and policy with science. This is an incredibly hard thing to do. On the science side, there has been a steady accumulation of evidence over the last 15 years that climate change is real and that its trajectory could lead us to a very uncomfortable, if not dangerous, place. On the policy side, the just-concluded climate conference in Paris set a goal of holding the increase in the global average temperature to 2 degrees Celsius, or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, above preindustrial levels.

While many have mocked this accord as being toothless and unenforceable, it is noteworthy that the policy makers settled on a number that is based on the best science available and is within the predictive capability of our computer models.”

I won’t live to see how civilization gets out of this mess. But I have hope.
nytimes.com|By Piers J. Sellers


David Lindsay
David Lindsay This beautiful piece generated excellent comments. Here is one of the best near the top:

mjs Englewood, NJ 1 day ago

“Dr. Sellers, With all the others, please also accept my gratitude for your courage and dedication. I’ll add, as well, that your attitude toward life and work presents a model for those of us who may encounter a serious illness. We stand with you. A thought on climate change as I write a masters thesis on the Anthropocene. Placing so much hope in science and technology, feels to some extent like advocating for doing “better” more of what has created our problem. Along with whatever Tech Wonders we may come to be blessed with, I think we need a major attitudinal shift from thinking it’s ordained that we use up the world to serve ourselves, toward the idea that we are accountable for life on earth and must become Earth’s stewards. I think it’s important that we take seriously that the time to learn what it means to be human is now. Your letter manifests this spirit.”