Abrupt Climate Change Focus of New Yale Forum Video


An issue that for years received only passing attention, even in many professional circles, abrupt climate change and potential impacts on at-risk ecosystems is getting more attention in the scientific sphere.

You may be hearing more and more about the concept of “abrupt climate change.”

Abrupt climate change — a term and issue not often discussed even among many climatologists just a few years ago — is getting increased attention, in part stemming from a recent National Research Council report on the issue.

It’s the focus of independent videographer Peter Sinclair’s new Yale Forum video. With sound-bites from 10 different climate researchers, the video underscores that even “normal” climate change can lead to “abrupt” adverse impacts on ecosystems, as when long-term sea-level rise leads to a surge’s breaching levees which, were it not for the sea-level rise, could have withstood the surge.

And with some ecosystems at risk of being stressed beyond their acceptable thresholds, “you can push something very gradually, and suddenly it hits stuff that we care about,” Penn State researcher Richard Alley told Sinclair.

“With climate change, storms that technically aren’t major hurricanes are causing major hurricane damages,” again in part because of rising sea levels, meteorologist Scott Mandia says in the video.

Another expert cautions in the video that the impacts can be analogous to “potentially losing the base of a pyramid,” with resulting dire implications for species well up the food chain. And for another mental image some might find difficult to black-out, UCLA Professor Aradhna Tripati cautions that “the climate system is a pretty dangerous beast, so you don’t want to poke the sleeping dragon.”

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7 Responses to Abrupt Climate Change Focus of New Yale Forum Video

  1. Thank you for all your hard work. For all of us out there watching this unfold and wanting somehow to help make more people aware what can we do locally?

  2. Paul Quigg says:

    Another scary video, scientist after scientist, water melting, crashing, expanding. How about some solutions. Some discussion of the economic, political, and psychological problems. It’s easy to scare the hell out of people with concerned scientists in hushed voices and graphic video. The climate change debate has become slightly more realistic in facing the enormous challenges, with adaptation gaining more emphasis. This video, if given wide exposure, can do great harm. The public is numbed to the constant doomsday rhetoric.
    I can understand the scientists concerns but they have been terrible spokesmen for their cause and their failure to concern themselves with rational solutions to the problem is very apparent.

    • Lewis Gannett says:

      Paul Quigg seems to have overlooked the fact that large numbers of scientists have indeed provided “rational solutions,” chief among them the reduction of carbon emissions (see IPCC reports to the United Nations). It’s scarcely the fault of scientists that politicians have ignored the substance of this advice. As for “constant doomsday rhetoric,” Quigg apparently refers to scientific description of climate-change realities. Is Quigg asking scientists to change their findings to produce a false sense of security?

      • Paul Quigg says:

        “The reduction of carbon emissions” is not a “rational solution” to climate change. Of course we need to reduce GHG emissions. A rational solution would involve HOW we can significantly reduce GHG emissions. Scientists, economists, politicians, and psychologists have all proposed solutions but very seldom have they have proposed a solution which involves all of these disciplines. William Nordhaus, author of the DICE computer models is the only economist I have found to take a comprehensive approach, and his conclusions are very pessimistic. If everybody would be “nice” we would have no crime. The question is, HOW do you get everybody to be nice.
        There are no “realities” in regard to the future.

        • Lewis Gannett says:

          Mr. Quigg, I agree that reduction of carbon emissions is a complex challenge that requires expertise of all kinds. The main thing missing, it seems to me, is a sense of urgency from top government and private policy makers. Will videos such as “Expecting the Unexpected: Abrupt Climate Change” help to instill a greater sense of public urgency? Let’s hope so. By the way, I don’t subscribe to the notion that accurate information in “scary” videos numbs people into a sense of hopelessness. In my opinion the video under discussion isn’t nearly scary enough. Almost nobody in mainstream discourse, from the president on down, conveys the sense that climate change threatens the future of humankind. That is a strange state of affairs, wouldn’t you say?

          • Paul Quigg says:

            Lewis, There is no such thing as “accurate information” in regard to the future. I don’t think the public views the future as hopeless, I think they are full of hope for the “future of humankind.” The future has infinite possibilities.

  3. Lewis Gannett says:

    In that case, Mr. Quigg, we need not be concerned about videos that “scare the hell out of people.” I wish I shared your optimistic outlook.