BOOK REVIEW:  Climate Uncertainty and Risk – Rethinking Our Response

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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May 27, 2023 6:35 am

Count me in. Expecting Mann to criticize it, which would mean it’s a good read.

David Dibbell
May 27, 2023 6:41 am

Thanks for this review, Kip. I plan to purchase this book out of deep respect for the author’s integrity over the years I have been following the climate debate.

May 27, 2023 6:43 am

I like Dr Curry’s work to date, & look forward to reading her latest pub.

As for uncertainty and risk, it is simply a fact of life and of the universe, while a mindless craving for certainty only leads to useless stress and poor decisions.

The way to deal with uncertainty is actually rather simple: gather as much information about the risk as is reasonably achievable, avoid known risks when you can, but plan for known risks and thus be prepared to react to changing circumstances. Risk management professionals term this approach a combination of risk characterization, risk avoidance, and risk mitigation or adaptation.

There is both negative risk and positive risk. Being able to take advantage of favorable conditions, or to exploit opportunities, is just as important as avoiding or surviving unfavorable circumstances.

For consideration of climate change, the warmunists act as if any change to climate creates only unfavorable conditions, refusing to acknowledge any favorable conditions or advantages.

So while many people speak of risk only in terms of bad outcomes, “risk tolerance”, and risk avoidance, it is just as, if not more important, to consider risk adaptation and exploitation of opportunities. Survival is important, but succeeding and winning are even better than survival.

abolition man
Reply to  Duane
May 27, 2023 7:36 am

In life only two things are certain: death and taxes. In the physical universe there are also two certainties: increasing entropy and uncertainty! Heisenberg was overly narrow in his thinking!
Succeeding and winning are not just better than survival; they are the best revenge!
CO2 to 800ppm for the sake of ALL life on Earth!

Reply to  abolition man
May 27, 2023 9:29 am

Heisenberg was once pulled over by a trooper for speeding. The trooper walked up to Heisenberg’s car window and said,
Sir, do you know how fast you were going?
To which Heisenberg responded,
Not exactly, but I know where I am quite well.

Reply to  fah
May 27, 2023 9:40 am

Good thing the trooper didn’t use the PIT maneuver to determine his speed or poor Heisenberg would have become hopelessly lost!

Reply to  fah
May 27, 2023 9:48 am

This Heisenberg?

Reply to  abolition man
May 27, 2023 9:45 am

In life only two things are certain: death and taxes. 

then thats 3 things

Reply to  Steven Mosher
May 27, 2023 11:27 am

or more, if “taxes” is interpreted as plural of “tax”

(Hey, we’re now getting into the same inane considerations as how may genders there are. What’s your best guesstimate of this conundrum, Steve?)

Reply to  Mr.
May 27, 2023 8:47 pm

Start here.


May 27, 2023 7:22 am

Climate Uncertainty and Risk – Rethinking Our Response

Our U.K. climate remains changeable – no real change there. The risks? Well, that depends on who you listen to. My response – as Churchill would put it – keep buggering on

Best of luck to Dr Curry

Danley B. Wolfe
May 27, 2023 7:33 am

Thanks fpr a great review. Giving Dr. Judith Curry great credit for this book. I have relied on Judith’s balanced views since the early days of climate change hoopla. The issue with climate change is dealing with uncertainty while not allowing ourselves to be fooled thinking the problem itself is uncertainty, i.e., too much hyperventilating going on. If you don’t have heart issues, you soon will have heart issues from just worrying about it. Merriam Webster: “Hypochondriac”, noun: a person who is often or always worried about his or her own health: a person affected by hypochondria or hypochondriasis. E.g.… comparing America’s addiction to polls to a hypochondriac’s obsessive monitoring of his pulse rate.

abolition man
May 27, 2023 7:47 am

Like a seedling growing up through the cracks in a sidewalk, books like Dr. Curry’s are a beginning of the end of the Climate Crisis Hoax! As climate realists, we readers of WUWT need to do all we can to enlarge the chinks and cracks in the edifice of propaganda built by the UN and the media industrial complex! I look forward to purchasing this book and, if it proves as good a read as I hope, I will purchase other copies for friends and family that are open to hearing the truth!
That said, we can expect that the purveyors of misinformation and Scientism will be out in droves to deride and denigrate the author and her work. I imagine much hilarity will ensue!

Jeff Alberts
Reply to  abolition man
May 27, 2023 8:38 am

Like a seedling growing up through the cracks in a sidewalk, books like Dr. Curry’s are a beginning of the end of the Climate Crisis Hoax!”

Very doubtful. This juggernaut won’t be stopped with words.
May 27, 2023 8:13 am

There is an interview with Judith Curry and it’s all about her new book which can be found here

She speaks well about the issues and the book is recommended

Kit P
Reply to
May 27, 2023 9:57 am

Thanks for the free video. I watched about 10 minutes and learned enough to not buy the book.

It is a silly notion that burning fossil fuels will lead to dangerous variations in the climate Wind and solar is a silly solution that silly people like.

Making and distributing electricity is hazardous. It is done by serious people. By mitigating the risk it is not dangerous. It is safe because the benefits for saving lives is huge compared to rare industrial accidents or electrocution.

I worked in nuclear power. I never thought nukes should be built to reduce the risk of climate change. Power plants should be built where needed.

One of the things best about nuclear power is it mitigates the risk of interruptions in the flow of fossil fuels.

May 27, 2023 9:41 am

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. 

how does she help them?

plugs numbers into computers

and ya she’s a good author

Reply to  Kip Hansen
May 27, 2023 12:52 pm

Methinks he does read but either fails to comprehend or pretends not to. Either way he occasionally erupts with classic Moshisms.

Pat Frank
Reply to  Nansar07
May 27, 2023 5:03 pm

When one is in with the in-crowd, one knows what the in-crowd knows. That the out-crowd is just ever-so bien pensant.

May 27, 2023 9:59 am

When the best in the business intimate that “we just don’t know” on many of the aspects of a complex situation, you know you should pay close attention to what those experts are saying.

Just as when Warren Buffett observes that the only way wind & solar farms make sense is to get in early on the government-gifted subsidies and tax breaks for developers of these schemes scams.

Reply to  Mr.
May 27, 2023 8:59 pm

When the best in the business intimate that “we just don’t know” on many of the aspects of a complex situation, you know you should pay close attention to what those experts are saying.

“Reports that say that something hasn’t happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns—the ones we don’t know we don’t know. And if one looks throughout the history of our country and other free countries, it is the latter category that tends to be the difficult ones.” – Donald Rumsfeld

John Oliver
May 27, 2023 10:27 am

to make a mariners analogy: if I am facing changeable and uncertain weather conditions ahead, my charts are old an unreliable- I am going to want my ship in the best shape possible, engine well maintained, tanks full, extra parts and filters. I would not off load most of my fuel, stop maintaining stuff and make a mad dash for some mythical port all the drunken sailors in the bar were talking about last night.

John Oliver
Reply to  Kip Hansen
May 27, 2023 10:49 am

Absolutely. All the best captains operate that way and the bigger the boat or ship more there is at stake.

May 27, 2023 12:21 pm

Sounds great a little pricey may have to go to kindle

Pat Frank
May 27, 2023 4:46 pm

Judith Curry has written two papers on The Uncertainty Monster. One is (2011) Reasoning about climate uncertainty and the other is (2011) Climate Science and the Uncertainty Monster.

Neither paper references Soon, et al., (2001) Modeling climatic effects of anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions: unknowns and uncertainties, which shows that the physical theory within climate models is utterly unable to resolve or describe the correct climate energy-state.

Reasoning is the more serious paper. It repeatedly mentions uncertainty but never uncertainty bounds. Confidence interval is mentioned once, but in a context of spread around simulation ensemble means — precision not accuracy. Calibration is not mentioned, error only in passing and propagation not at all.

Uncertainty Monster does a better job of discussing error in terms of simulations incorrect with respect to observations (model prediction error). But climate simulations are described as predictions, which they are not.

I was surprised to read of “propagation of the aforementioned uncertainties through the model simulation,” but that means the effect of unknown internal deficiencies in the physical theory that emerge to produce Dr. Curry’s “model prediction error.

It does not mean the statistical analysis of predictive accuracy in which one propagates root-sum-square (RSS) of calibration error through a step-wise simulation. Predictive uncertainty revealed by the RSS propagation of error through a calculation, as is standard in the physical sciences, is not mentioned at all.

Calibration is mentioned but only in terms of tuning parameters to reduce observational error within a bounded model hind-cast. That is, Dr. Curry’s calibration is relevant to engineering models. It is not the determination of error against a known observational standard.

All this is prefatory to my own prediction: Dr. Curry’s book will not mention the 2001 paper of Soon, Baliunas, Idso, Kondratyev and Posmentier showing the fatal inadequacy of climate models; particularly in terms of resolving the response of the climate to the tiny perturbation of human GHG emissions.

Soon, et al., show that the Monster is one of utter ignorance, not of bounded uncertainty.

The book will not mention calibration in the analytical sense of determining methodological reliability, or a quantitative estimate of a lower limit of model detection, or propagation of error in the RSS sense, or Propagation…,

Nor provide any air temperature projection equipped with physically valid confidence intervals in the sense of Smith (2002: “Yet even in high school physics, we learn that an answer without “error bars” is no answer at all.

Frank from NoVA
Reply to  Pat Frank
May 27, 2023 10:03 pm

Thanks Dr. Frank. If I may quote one of your comments from not too long ago, I think I’d really like to see a book along the lines of ‘[t]here isn’t any evidence at all that our CO₂ emissions have contributed diddly to warm the climate’.

I say this because it’s clear to me that ‘climate change’ is much more a political issue than a science issue. And assuming we’re fortunate enough to ever again elect a rational President and Congress, we would be well served if they were fully aware that neither the climate models nor the paleo record provide any evidence in support of climate alarmism.

Pat Frank
Reply to  Frank from NoVA
May 28, 2023 11:36 am

Thanks, Frank. Climate change, so-called, is not a science issue at all. It’s a pseudo-science issue.

Consensus climatology is a subjectivist narrative — like every academic critical theory in existence — except it’s decorated with mathematics.

The subtext of my post above is that it’s doubtful there’s a single modern climatologist who knows how to evaluate the physical reliability of their own data. That indictment includes the hotists, the warmists, and the skeptics.

Propagation… garnered lots of attacks when it appeared in 2019. The criticisms all failed because none of the critics understood methodological calibration, the difference between accuracy and precision, the difference between physical error and an uncertainty statistic, propagation of error, or the meaning of predictive uncertainty (it’s not the probability distribution around a model mean).

That includes Roy Spenser — although a notable skeptic — whose attempted critique was embarrassingly inept. He evidenced all those lacks of understanding, including mistaking uncertainty for error.

I believe the same is true of Judith Curry. She has never come to grips with physical uncertainty or propagation of error.

I suspect, like all modern climatologists, she doesn’t understand any of it or the absolutely basic need to have that understanding.

Only if one wants to be a scientist, of course.

Pat Frank
Reply to  Kip Hansen
May 28, 2023 6:38 pm

Kip — I’d need only check the Index.

In her blogged description of the Table of Contents, Judith wrote this about climate models: “Chapter 6 describes global climate models, including their uncertainties. Context is provided for why we placed so much confidence in these inadequate tools.” (m bold)

I know why: because none of these people, including Judith, ever thought about propagating error through a simulation.

And I surmise with some confidence that no one in the field, including Judith, has any understanding of the meaning of physical uncertainty, or of error propagation or of the importance of doing it.

You have the book. Please check the Index.

Is Soon, et al, (2001) mentioned? That paper merely showed the huge errors in the energy state of the simulated climate because of deficient physics. But she (included in her we) placed so much confidence in them.

Does Carl Wunsch (2002) appear there? His 2002 paper points out that GCM ocean models don’t converge. And yet they placed so much confidence in them.

In 2010 Anagnostopoulos, et al. (the Demitris Koutsoyiannis group) published their second paper showing that climate model simulations did not match observations (First here). Found in the Index?

Is Propagation mentioned? That was published 3¹/₂ years ago. Is 3¹/₂ years enough time to find its way into a 2023 book focused on model uncertainty?

Please post here on what you find.

Here’s the whole problem. Just replace “Climate Modelers” with ‘Modern Climatologists’ in the title.

Pat Frank
Reply to  Pat Frank
May 31, 2023 9:38 pm

Kip — it would have been easy enough to look.

May 27, 2023 9:27 pm

If all the political leaders, and the vast majority of the scientific/academic community, as well as those who control and run the mass media of the world are all in support of this futile and dangerous remed, to:

eliminate the use of fossils fuels to reduce atmospheric Greenhouse Gas Concentrations—despite overwhelming evidence that the nearly everything leading to that solution…is highly uncertain, ambiguous, vague and distinctly unsettled.”

then attempts to persuade them to change their minds are obviously doomed to failure. Either they have all gone mad, or they have hidden motives.

And in either case, the situation of the hoi polloi, you and I, and all the rest here gathered, is far more perilous than either climate change or the inexplicably wrong-headed solutions being pursued by those who actually govern the world.

Ms Curry may well be able to persuade the majority of her readers, but never the majority of the population. To all appearances, Western governments are preparing, with a lot of help from the IT community, to become the arbitrers of TRUTH, including scientific truth, on the pretext that only government officials can detect fake news created via Artificial Intelligence.

Maybe it would be possible if she controlled Facebook,Twitter, Tiktok, and Instagram, etc.. But then she probably couldn’t be the real, professional climate scientist that you praise so highly.

Trying to persuade sociopaths is hopeless. I guess they don’t teach that in Climate Science School. I think there’s a better chance of RFK Jr. being elected President than there is of persuading the world’s elites to abandon their plans to dismantle the infrastructure that’s just barely keeping the world’s billions of poor alive.

Why not give that a try?

May 28, 2023 6:15 am

On order, 3 copies.

Pat Frank
Reply to  2hotel9
May 29, 2023 6:33 pm

When you get your copies, 2hotel9, perhaps you might please come back and provide an answer to my questions about it. Posted just above.

Reply to  Pat Frank
May 30, 2023 3:58 am

So, you are unwilling to educate yourself or you are unable to do so, either way it ain’t my job to disabuse you of the fake religion of Climatardism.

Pat Frank
Reply to  2hotel9
May 30, 2023 4:58 am

You should have read my comments here before replying, 2hotel9. That is, followed your own suggestion about self-education.

William Howard
May 29, 2023 6:39 am

How about we just forget the whole thing – it is the height of conceit to believe man has more power than God not to mention that it defies all common sense to believe that removing a tiny amount of CO2 (net zero would change the composition of the atmosphere by something like 1 one hundredth of 1%) from the atmosphere will have any effect on the atmosphere

Pat Frank
Reply to  William Howard
May 29, 2023 6:55 pm

It’s worse than that, William. The total average annual forcing increase by human GHG emissions is 0.035 Wm⁻². That amounts to 9.5×10⁻⁵ Wm⁻² forcing increase per day.

Every day 245 Wm⁻² reaches the terrestrial surface from the sun (about 1115 Wm⁻² gets reflected away).

Suppose a climate model simulations updated about twice a day (simulation time-steps can be as short as 30 min.). That means they’d have to detect the perturbation represented by the daily change in GHG forcing.

So, climate modelers, claim that their models can resolve a perturbation that’s 9.5×10⁻⁵ Wm⁻²/245 Wm⁻² = 1 part in 2.6 million of the daily influx of solar energy.

I think fat farking chance covers it.

Frank from NoVA
Reply to  Pat Frank
May 30, 2023 11:10 am

Even worse, due to the Earth’s elliptical orbit, there’s about 91 W/m^2 annual peak-to-peak change in the Sun’s TOA insolation. Our Lady of Tipping Points, please help us!!

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