Climate shock or schlock?

From Arizona State University  use of a phrase that doesn’t seem to have a clear definition. Though, this one in Urban Dictionary comes pretty close to reality for 99% of people today. Lacking a clear definition in a scientific context, I suppose it is a buzzword used for for the “shock value” and to get headlines. Expect John Kerry to be using the term soon.

Archaeologists lend long-term perspective to food security and climate shock

CHICAGO – What role does pre-existing vulnerabilities play for people who experience a climate shock? Does it amplify the effects of the climate shock or is effect negligible? Four Arizona State University archaeologists are looking into this as part of an international team examining how people can be most resilient to climate change when it comes to food security.  

The group questioned whether vulnerability to food shortages prior to a climate shock – not the actual experience of the food shortage – is related to the scale of impact of that shock. They found a strong relationship.

The team used long-term archaeological and historical data from the North Atlantic Islands and the U.S. Southwest to form the basis of their understanding of changing dynamics in these areas. Each case in their study included information on evolving social, political and economic conditions over centuries, as well as climate data.

The extended timeframe and global scope allowed them to witness changes in the context of vulnerabilities and climate challenges on a wide scale.

“The pattern is so consistent across different regions of the world experiencing substantially different climate shocks, that the role of vulnerability cannot be ignored,” said Margaret Nelson, an ASU President’s Professor in the School of Human Evolution and Social Change.

Nelson made her comments today (Feb. 16) at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Chicago.

The other ASU archaeologists involved in the study are professors Keith Kintigh, Michelle Hegmon and Kate Spielmann, all of the School of Human Evolution and Social Change in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Their findings support the argument for focusing on reducing vulnerabilities to climate shocks to boost resilience, which will ultimately lead to fewer required recovery efforts when crises occur. Nelson said that most often disaster management does not address vulnerabilities prior to shocks but instead focuses on returning a system to its previous condition following a disaster.

“Exposures to climate challenges and other environmental risks are not the sole causes of disasters,” she says. “People have unintentionally built vulnerabilities through decisions and actions in social, political and economic realms.”


The project is funded by the National Science Foundation and Wenner Gren, and includes collaborators from such diverse institutions as the National Museum of Denmark and the North Atlantic Biocultural Organization.


Just a note, I looked for this supposed paper, and since the title nor journal is listed, I can’t find it. I was hoping it would have a definition of “climate shock”. Alas, this story only seems to exist on Eurekalert, and ASU’s press room doesn’t even have it, so it may just be hype from the AAAS conference. I did find one paper on food security and climate shock from 2011, but it doesn’t seem to have been published in a journal, nor does it define what a “climate shock” is, though it cites data claiming to be such shocks.

If anyone knows of the current paper, please leave a link.

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February 17, 2014 10:01 am

Was wondering who Wenner Gren was….
Looking at their financials, it’s a classic.
Investment expenses in the $million range, $50k in donations, grants in the 1% range, overhead and retirement/medical? …. see for yourself.

February 17, 2014 10:03 am

An early use of the term, 2005 …
Seems Climate Change = Climate Disruption = Climate Shock.

February 17, 2014 10:05 am

Climate Shock! Forget any other term for the little bit of warming we may have experienced since the end of the LIA. This term packs some punch – love it.

February 17, 2014 10:09 am
February 17, 2014 10:11 am

Isn’t “climate shock” that moment in the morning when you drawer back the curtains and see you had heavy snow overnight?
Or is that just “weather shock”?

Ted Getzel
February 17, 2014 10:13 am

Climate Schlock supported by the hockey schtick crowd —Oy Vey!

Box of Rocks
February 17, 2014 10:14 am

Just a note, I looked for this supposed paper, and since the title nor journal is listed, I can’t find it. I was hoping it would have a definition of “climate shock”
Must be a take off of the term “oil shock”.
How the 1973 Oil Embargo Saved the Planet
OPEC Gave the Rest of the World a Head Start Against Climate Change
” ….The panic that the oil shock induced brought sweeping changes to global energy policies in the 1970s and 1980s in preparation for the imminent depletion of global oil and gas reserves, which turned out to be illusory ….”

Ivor Ward
February 17, 2014 10:18 am

steveta_uk says:
February 17, 2014 at 10:11 am
Isn’t “climate shock” that moment in the morning when you drawer back the curtains and see you had heavy snow overnight?
It is only climate shock if you do it every day for 30 years, Steve.

Stephen Wilde
February 17, 2014 10:28 am

Wasn’t it fossil fuels that most mitigated the effect of natural climate shocks?
Before that, entire civilisations crumbled when their regional weather changed.
The biggest climate shock for some is the absence of changes for the past 17 years or so.

more soylent green!
February 17, 2014 10:29 am

The shock comes when you get the bill for all this nonsense.

Steve from Rockwood
February 17, 2014 10:34 am

Climate shock. The realization that billions of dollars are being wasted on studying weather events using poor science with nothing to show for it.

Michael P
February 17, 2014 10:37 am

Nothing like researching the obvious, the more vulnerable you are to a negative event the more you will suffer from a negative event than someone who is less vulnerable. Just like a plant that is growing at the edge of its climatological range is more likely die from an adverse temperature change than the same plant growing in the middle of its range suffering from the same relative temperature change.

Walter Allensworth
February 17, 2014 10:37 am

It IS just shocking how much global temperatures have risen in the last 17 years and 6 months. 😉

February 17, 2014 10:37 am

Someday, Archaeologist might write about this.
Generation Investment Management

February 17, 2014 10:39 am

Man-Made Global Warming Zealots and Man-Made Climate Change Zealots spend every minute of their working day, thinking up new psychological ways to brainwash the general public into believing they’re to blame for everything that happens with the climate of our planet. I really believe the Climate Zealots are getting desperate after investing hundreds of billions of dollars failing to convince the general public the weather is their fault. All that money spent just pissed down the drain. What a shame.

February 17, 2014 10:40 am

john says:
February 17, 2014 at 10:37 am
Sorry, bad link.

John West
February 17, 2014 10:47 am

And the slide towards “skeptical” positions continues. What’s the difference in a typhoon hitting Northern Australia and one hitting the Philippines? Vulnerability!
Decreasing vulnerability to disasters is the way to prepare for the future. That’s what skeptics have been saying the whole time.

David L. Hagen
February 17, 2014 10:48 am

Some 600 papers have addressed “climate shock”.

February 17, 2014 10:52 am

“Was wondering who Wenner Gren was…”
Axel Wenner-Gren was a sort of early swedish Bernie Madoff, though he had the good taste to die a natural death before the bubble burst.

February 17, 2014 10:56 am

Box of Rocks says:
February 17, 2014 at 10:14 am
“How the 1973 Oil Embargo Saved the Planet
OPEC Gave the Rest of the World a Head Start Against Climate Change”
Ah yeah right, 2 years before the “Endangered Atmosphere” conference at Stanford where CO2AGW was born…

Steve from Rockwood
February 17, 2014 11:00 am

Climate shock. When your Environmental Agency predicts drought and instead you suffer through the worst floods in 50 years.

Rattus Norvegicus
February 17, 2014 11:11 am

They appear to be remarks made about work in progress made at the annual AAAS conference:

February 17, 2014 11:14 am

Am sure results won’t be appreciated by the mad local-food crowd

Bob Layson
February 17, 2014 11:23 am

Given modern industry, and the free movement of essential commercial goods, it requires a lot more climate shock, should any be available, to do the same proportionate damage to us healthier and longer living humans. The world is now a more hospitable and habitable place for humankind (the kind that thinks) because of what is now known and what is now practically possible thanks to capital development.

February 17, 2014 11:24 am

“…nor does it define what a “climate shock” is…”
Made me think of Climate Shock Troops in green jackboots kicking in doors looking for deniers.

February 17, 2014 11:26 am

Although the link i provided upthread doesnt use the term “climate shock” it was written by the professors listed in the press release. All of their bio pages at ASU cite that publication and there are no others listed that match. I’m pretty sure that’s the original work.
However this is an article pending which may give more Information on this term. Dr Nelson’s bio indicates that her team’s work has been submiitted as a special feature for the journal Ecology and Society.
The article doesn’t appear on the journal’s website nor is it listed under her name in the author directory so I suspect that we will see it soon.

February 17, 2014 11:40 am

This is a project development piece designed and timed to attract government funding. Essentially saying we have the expertise to study human resilience to climate change.

February 17, 2014 11:43 am

Steve from Rockwood says:
February 17, 2014 at 10:34 am Good working definition
Steve from Rockwood says:
February 17, 2014 at 11:00 am Suggest Extreme Weather Stress Fatigue fits the definition more closely.

February 17, 2014 12:26 pm

Climate shock is when your team emails go public…

DD More
February 17, 2014 12:31 pm

“climate shock” – Getting to the car parked at the Minneapolis Airport wearing the shorts and
t-shirt when you left Hawaii on your Christmas vacation and it’s -25 F.

David L. Hagen
February 17, 2014 1:07 pm

Or leaving Delhi at 105 F (“in the shade”) and arriving at Minneapolis St. Paul at -19 F.
What’s 1 F between friends compared to such 124 F swings?

David L. Hagen
February 17, 2014 1:15 pm

The Experience of Food Shortage from Climate Shocks: A Long-Term View
AAAS Sunday, 16 February 2014 Columbus AB (Hyatt Regency Chicago)
Margaret C. Nelson , Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ

As disaster managers are aware, vulnerabilities to human securities condition the impacts of climate shocks. But current practices of disaster relief focus on provisioning and returning conditions to pre-shock form, a practice that does not reduce the probability of future disasters. Using prehistoric and historic cases from the vastly different settings of icy, cold Iceland, Greenland, and Faroe Islands along with the drought-prone US Southwest the relationship between vulnerabilities to food shortage and the impacts of climate shocks is explored. The outcome of this work supports the plea from disaster managers to address vulnerabilities to food shortage as a strategy for ameliorating the impacts of future climate shocks.

h/t Rattus
Losing diesel and parts had a far greater impact on North Korea than global warming. No. Korea has still not recovered, though it builds nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles. See: Fuel and Famnine: Rural Energy Crisis in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, James H. Williams et al. 2000 IGCC

David Ball
February 17, 2014 1:26 pm

I had my climate shocks changed as they weren’t capable of “smoothing” any longer.

February 17, 2014 1:30 pm

Professor Nelson & Co. have presented (most of) this relationship previously in “Climatic Hazards and Social Transformations in the North Atlantic Region and the U.S. Southwest, 900 to 1500 CE” at the International Congress of Arctic Social Sciences (ICASS) Conference in Iceland.(2011) – . It was also presented by the North Atlantic group at the AAAS Conference in Canada (2012) – .
The ICASS presentation is noted under Nelson’s biography – .
“Something Olde, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue, a Silver Sixpence in Her Shoe.”

February 17, 2014 2:52 pm

How to prepare for climate shock:
1. dismantle a good portion of your water storage facilities.
2. dismantle a large portion of your secure natural energy resources and infrastructure.
3. do not repair or improve important infrastructure such as utilities, flood control systems, levees, etc etc etc…
4. tax the citizenry hard enough to weaken their ability to fend for themselves.
5. pass sufficient draconian laws to further inhibit the possibility of addressing the problems with all of the above.

February 17, 2014 4:10 pm

Climate shock? Like being struck by lighting?

February 17, 2014 4:36 pm

I have written to ASU and asked if there is a paper to go with the press release. I’ll let you know. This seems to be a repeating pattern — Margaret Nelson goes to AAAS meetings and presents abstracts for which there is apparently no paper — she gives a longer presentation, I suspect, but maybe doesn’t actually publish. We’ll see what answer I get from ASU.

Chuck Nolan
February 17, 2014 4:55 pm

goldminor says:
February 17, 2014 at 2:52 pm
How to prepare for climate shock:
1. dismantle a good portion of your water storage facilities.
2. dismantle a large portion of your secure natural energy resources and infrastructure.
3. do not repair or improve important infrastructure such as utilities, flood control systems, levees, etc etc etc…
4. tax the citizenry hard enough to weaken their ability to fend for themselves.
5. pass sufficient draconian laws to further inhibit the possibility of addressing the problems with all of the above.
How do we fix it?

Gail Combs
February 17, 2014 6:05 pm

Talk about HYPOCRITES!

September 21, 2012 How to fight a food crisis: To blunt the ravages of drought and market greed, we need a national grain reserve
…The modern concept of a strategic grain reserve was first proposed in the 1930s by Wall Street legend Benjamin Graham. Graham’s idea hinged on the clever management of buffer stocks of grain to tame our daily bread’s tendencies toward boom and bust….
In the inflationary 1970s, the USDA revamped FDR’s program into the Farmer-Owned Grain Reserve, which encouraged farmers to store grain in government facilities by offering low-cost and even no-interest loans and reimbursement to cover the storage costs. But over the next quarter of a century the dogma of deregulated global markets came to dominate American politics, and the 1996 Freedom to Farm Act abolished our national system of holding grain in reserve. [NOTE: the Act was written by Cargill VP Dan Amstutz who later worked for Goldman Sachs. He was so successful in implementing the agenda of the grain traders that they established an award in his name.]
As for all that wheat held in storage…. The stores were gradually depleted until 2008, when the USDA decided to convert all of what was left into its dollar equivalent. And so the grain that once stabilized prices for farmers, bakers and American consumers ended up as a number on a spreadsheet in the Department of Agriculture….

Instead of rebuilding a grain reserve the USA is now intentionally burning all reserves and ADM profits soar 550 percent as ethanol margins improve.
Remember the US CIA was having hissy fits in their 1974 CIA report:“A Study of Climatological Research as it Pertains to Intelligence Problems”, when grain reserves in 1972 hit a low of a 30 day supply compared with 1969. The stored grain reserves decreased from 600 million metric tons (6 months supply) to less than 100 million metric tons ( 30 day supply)
by 1972.
What is the supply now? – Just-in-time from other countries. The US storage silos have been removed.
Of course food shortages were exactly what investors and grain traders wanted:
The following quotes show the grain traders greed and the level of concern for other humans.

In summary, we have record low grain inventories globally as we move into a new crop year. We have demand growing strongly. Which means that going forward even small crop failures are going to drive grain prices to record levels. As an investor, we continue to find these long term trends…very attractive. — Food shortfalls predicted: 2008 (wwwDOT)

Recently there have been increased calls for the development of a U.S. or international grain reserve to provide priority access to food supplies for Humanitarian needs. The National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA) and the North American Export Grain Association (NAEGA) strongly advise against this concept..Stock reserves have a documented depressing effect on prices… and resulted in less aggressive market bidding for the grains..– July 22, 2008 letter to President Bush (wwwDOT)

The Council on Foreign Relations reports the Bankers esp. Goldman Sachs made out like bandits from the new 1996 policy of no grain reserves – How Goldman Sachs Created the Food Crisis
The World Bank mean while reports: “Globally, food prices are near their historic peaks, and food price volatility is widely seen as the “new normal.” Managing this volatility and feeding a rapidly growing population will require sustained commitment, co-ordination, and vigilance from the international community to help governments put policies in place to help people better cope…”
I am sure they are crying REAL crocodile tears all the way to the bank.

Gail Combs
February 17, 2014 6:16 pm

Chuck Nolan says: @ February 17, 2014 at 4:55 pm
goldminor says:@ February 17, 2014 at 2:52 pm
How do we fix it?
How about reversing what I showed in the following comment.
But the first place to start is to KICK the B@ST@RD$ out of office.
Australia seems to have made a good start and so has Canada. The UK is making rumbling noises and the USA is still stuck on the same issues the Republicans were fighting over in the 1960s and 1970s…. sigh.

F. Ross
February 17, 2014 7:39 pm

“… supposed paper, and since the title nor journal is listed …” (sic)
Suggested edit: “… and since neither the title nor the journal is listed …”

February 17, 2014 11:12 pm

I have my own grain reserve, but I don’t have a water reserve, at least not more than about 10 gal. I need to keep 1000 pounds of rice to feed 4 people for a year. But I’m only keeping about 50 lbs on hand, less than a month’s supply if that’s all we had (it isn’t). But again, water is the real problem if the usual supply is lost.

February 18, 2014 1:55 am

Yea, a few years ago the world’s climatista determined that the public had become fatigued by the term climate change, so they introduced the new term ‘climate disruption’. For a few months afterwards climate disruption was used at every opportunity but it didn’t stick, so they fell back on climate change and you seldom hear anyone use climate disruption anymore. But this new term ‘climate shock’ is catchy, it contains an implicit fear component and it rolls off the tongue easily, but I don’t think it will stick either. It lacks something.

February 18, 2014 3:13 am

Hells bells, they don’t even define “extreme” weather so it is impossible to measure or count. It’s all politics.

Chris Wright
February 18, 2014 4:22 am

The lesson from history is very clear: when the world gets warmer (e.g. the Roman and Medieval periods) mankind prospers. It is when the world gets colder that mankind suffers (e.g. the Dark Ages and the Little Ice Age). Many of the great ancient civilisations failed when the world was colder.
This is where the phrase “climate change” is so useful. It makes it so easy to hide the fact that, historically, warming has always been beneficial. It makes it easy to deceive people so that they automatically assume that any negative impacts of “climate change” was actually caused by warming.

February 18, 2014 5:47 am

I have received a pleasant reply from Rebecca Howe, Editor Associate, School of Human Evolution and Social Change, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, at ASU, explaining that she does not have access to Margaret Nelson’s full study, but has forwarded my message to her for follow-up. We’ll see what develops from that.

February 21, 2014 6:49 pm

Margaret “Peggy” Nelson has replied “The talk I gave at AAAS is a work in progress. I’d be happy to talk with you and to send the ppt if you wish (it is a LARGE file). I’m attaching a related paper.” The link is to her 2010 paper in the open access journal Ecology and Society, at The Cross-scale Interplay between Social and Biophysical Context….. .
If other readers are anxious to know more, leave a comment and I will ask Margaret Nelson for her Powerpoint presentation.
Of note: Ecology and Society had a special issue in 2011 which contained the not only the paper above but two other and a Synthesis authored or co-authored by Margaret Nelson. This issue can be found at

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