Read: August 2022

Inspiration: Interested to read a book by an advocate of climate action who also presents counter-perspectives to many mainstream predictions on climate change


Written with the help of ChatGPT, below is a brief summary to understand what is covered in the book.

“Unsettled”, published in 2021 by author, professor, and former Obama administration Undersecretary for Science in the US Department of Energy Steven Koonin, examines the science and politics of climate change. The book discusses the ways in which human activity, including the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation, has contributed to a warming planet, and the consequences of this warming for the environment and for human society. Koonin also discusses the importance of recognizing the uncertainties of climate science, and argues that it is important to approach the issue with a sense of humility and open-mindedness. He offers science-based counter-perspectives to those who point to “The Science” and claim it to be definitive. Unsettled discusses the potential impacts of climate change, including sea level rise, extreme weather events, and ecosystem changes, and discusses the various approaches that have been proposed to address these impacts, including the use of renewable energy sources and carbon pricing. The book ultimately argues that while the challenges posed by climate change are significant, they can be addressed through careful and informed decision-making.

Unedited Notes

Direct from my original book log, below are my unedited notes (abbreviations and misspellings included) to show how I take notes as I read.

Heat waves no more common now than 1900, humans played no detectable role in hurricane frequency, UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change IPCC is most significant issuer of assessment reports on climate then US National Climate Assessment every 4 years, AR and NCA define science for nonexperts but summarize often in misleading ways, game of telephone ensues as summarize the summary and hyperbole occurs, most depictions of climate are too narrow in scale geographically and time, many ignore urbanization impact on temperature measures (heating in urban common but not signal of global change), albedo represents the earth’s reflectivity which is usually 30% (70% of sunlight absorbed into earth contribute to warming)—but varies at any moment, greenhouse gases cause the insulation which negates boltzmann’s law that surf temp would be 0, catch and release system by the “catch” of heat from escaping causes greenhouse effect and can build up, carbon dioxide for example impedes heat (co2 ppm up from 1750 280 to 410), doubling of co2 not too material to thickening of insulation/intercepting, aerosols have a cooling effect (offset co2 increase, volcano eruption example), human emitted energy only accounts for ~1% of energy in climate system—need to understand other 99% better (uncertain of net between greenhouse gases and aerosols even), emission of gases in atmosphere vs concentration are very different (concentration much more complex to control), carbon emissions not disputed as rapidly rising and concentration rising 2.3ppm/yr (still well below on grand time scale but life today fit for low carbon), methane much less present but stronger warning impact vs carbon, carbon concentration takes a century to change, climate is the average of the weather over decades, climate mode tuning of all the variables is where error comes (so sensitive and no one can predict climate/environment in full complexity), IPCC report takes an average of models that disagree wildly, models often fail to reproduce the past which IPCC mentions but blurs (more likely means natural variations cause change), IPCC even says weather events are no more extreme or likely due to human causes vs past (natural variability and uncertainty), record high vs lows in a year means nothing b/c competing with constantly raised bar so more flux as move out—not tell you about actual temps whichbare on avg minimally diff vs 1900, media headlines on human influenced hurricans omit data pre-1970–gvt reports do this too, but have hidden in notes that cannot conclude human changing hurricans (econ costs up simply b/c development near coasts), tornados said to be up but really b/c better tech to count weak ones (strong ones EF1+ less frequent in fact), sea level rise studies often mislead via time period comparison (say rise x inches 1900 to today with x/y inches last 25 yrs but ignore variability in other 25 yr periods that is similar), hard to separate long term natural cycles vs human influence if narrow time scale analyzed, climate death stats extracted from extremes of models, pollution kills but not caused by climate change (pollution is result of poverty), “climate change could cost billions” incredibly hard to back given model deficiencies and other independent economic factors in play, est. 3% gdp impact by 2100 (i.e. 0.04% per year, negligible), incentives are poor—do not get published/tenure/elected by projecting uncertainty or lack of urgency, certain degree of warming can be net econ positive, developing countries ramp up energy demand via fossil fuels as most convenient (so developed reduction to be overpowered as others grow), about cumulative emission given carbon lifecycle (developing countries have 6.5bn vs 1.5bn people and currently 1/2 energy but will only get more skewed), in face of challenges can turn to adaptation and geoengineering (make earth more reflective or remove co2), can create stratospheric haze (proposed mid-1900s first) but ineffective at night and need to refresh haze (Solar Radiation Mgmt), Carbon Dioxide Removal another option (carbon capture) but requires huge scale and unclear what to do with it, can gene modify plants to absorb more co2 via photosynthesis, start with low risk mitigation/local adaptation, improve science of human influence, red team exercises on studies, hard to tax/regulate globally, developing nations need, focus on model accuracy predicting past then compute future, recognize uncertainty

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Welcome to JeffReads, where I share summaries of the best books I’ve read on business, politics, science, technology and more.




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