Four short talks on
Extreme Weather has Created a Climate Emergency

The two-minute trailer for the series.


Selected slides from the four talks
(click to stop automatic advance)

“The climate crisis is a lot to wrap our hearts, heads, and strategic policy around.”

Yet, a decade ago, "Climate urgency turned into climate emergency. And without us noticing," said University of Washington professor William H. Calvin in his video series entitled Extreme Weather has Created a Climate Emergency. “There are important lessons to be learned from the five types of extreme weather that surged between 2002 and 2010. They could trash the economy and any big climate project unless we are quick about a CO2 cleanup."

In 2020, big windstorms occurred ten times as often as before 2008. Was 2020 a spike (gone next year) or another step up (like 2008)?

Hurricanes are not included here. NOAA corrected costs for inflation before counting billion-dollar annual numbers.

Existing CO2 cleanup proposals will need an order-of-magnitude improvement if we are to accomplish a cooling before the consequences of extreme weather destroy civilization’s institutions. "Not only might the end-of-the-century be chaotic following a population crash, but much of civilization might be forgotten, should two generations miss out on education in a new dark age. By our failures to act, we are promoting such a future for our grandchildren."


We now have five types of extreme weather that surged more than 200% in recurrence rate or severity, starting in 2002 for stalled hurricanes, 2003 for mega heatwaves, 2006 for prolonged fire weather, 2008 for severe windstorms, and 2010 for severe flooding. None have fallen back: they are still sustained.

That’s the reason that climate action is now an emergency. We must act before additional shifts compromise our ability to act effectively—to cool things off a lot before 2040.


We’ve always had extreme weather in small amounts. Now we seem to have an additional driver.

The hairpin turns of the jet stream are part of the setup for the new windstorms, big floods, fire weather, stalled hurricanes, droughts, Arctic outbreaks, and mega heat waves.

We have had fifty years of climate education efforts but something is preventing effective climate action even by the knowledge­able—perhaps the stay-in-your-seat spectator mindset for the surreal, where gunshots on stage don’t cause you to hit the floor and phone 911.


This lecture uses the MIT Bathtub Simulator to evaluate the proposed climate actions and concludes they are not big enough—even in combination—to do the job that now needs doing.

The experts’ standard emphasis on "Emissions causes Overheating implies a need for Dieting" now needs revising. It was a good summary for the late 20th Century. It still is, for children. But not for adults in the 21st Century, not the ones carrying the responsibility for acting in time.

"It's not just windstorms and floods and fires, but also the economic collapse, famine, wars, genocides, and pandemics. It won’t take a complete collapse of civilization to trigger a slippery slope."


What we need now is a Design Consortium of assorted experts, working full time to design something 10x to 100x better than the existing proposals for removing excess CO2 and cooling us off. The nonprofit would do the design and prototyping, while the rest of us educate governments about the need for taking over the nonprofit project within a few years.

The need for speed is primarily because of the slippery slope we are on. No second chances.

Further surges in extreme weather could collapse the global economy and make it impossible to build a Big Project.

"Working to improve the situation is far better than the depression and despair that comes with focusing on helplessness. Which is where we are heading."

DIY: Make a Working Model of Climate Action

Try the MIT emissions/removals simulator yourself; I have customized the link so that you enter seeing the same two graphs as I use near the end of my third talk. Be sure to explore the little pulldowns.

The simulator is essentially a spreadsheet that uses sliders to vary the parameters and then update the graphs. Such models always have limitations: in this one, though there are controls for speed of implementation, the model needs work if it is to achieve the risk evaluation aspect of the medical mindset. In particular, there is no way to increase removals enough to actually cool quickly (it needs an "Other removals" slider, maxed out above 400 GtCO2/yr, with its own implementation-speed setting). The current emphasis (14 sliders) is on emissions reduction that merely slow climate change a little; only two sliders govern removals and they max out below 20 GtCO2/yr. And nothing reminds the user that ocean-based carbon dioxide removal has been left out entirely. --WHC

Potential translators: To facilitate translations, the author has used the Creative Common license CC BY 4.0. The PowerPoint files for each talk are available from the author to aid in relabeling; the “notes” for each slide have the US-English narrations, as marked up for Amazon’s Polly.

REFERENCES (pull down)

There is a good “bathtub simulator” for accumulating emissions at which will allow one to see just how little most “climate solutions” affect the temperature outcome. Note, however, that their "tech solutions" max out at removing 17 GtCO2/year because they omit anything ocean-based, 70% of the earth's surface. To get my initial settings, use this modified link.

David Archer (2005), Fate of fossil fuel CO2 in geologic time. J. Geophys. Res. 110, C09S05, doi: 10.1029/2004JC002625

Beal, C. M., Archibald, I., Huntley, M. E., Greene, C. H., & Johnson, Z. I. (2018), Integrating Algae with Bioenergy Carbon Capture and Storage (ABECCS) Increases Sustainability, Earth’s Future, 6,

Calvin WH (1998), The great climate flip-flop. The Atlantic 281(1):47-64

Calvin WH (2008), Global Fever: How to Treat Climate Change. University of Chicago Press.

Calvin WH (2013), Emergency 20-year drawdown of excess CO₂ via push-pull ocean pumps. MIT ClimateCoLab Proposal for Geoengineering (Finalist).

Jared Diamond (2005), Collapse: How Societies Choose to Succeed or Fail. New York: Viking,

Jennifer A. Francis (2018), Why are Arctic linkages to extreme weather still up in the air? BAMS,

Francis, J. A., and S. J. Vavrus (2012), Evidence linking Arctic amplification to extreme weather in mid-latitudes. Geophys. Res. Lett., 39, L06801,

Francis, J., & Skific, N. (2015), Evidence linking rapid Arctic warming to mid-latitude weather patterns. Philosophical Transactions. Series A, Mathematical, Physical, and Engineering Sciences, 373(2045), 20140170.

David W. Keith, et al (2016). Stratospheric solar geoengineering without ozone loss. PNAS 113:14910-14.

Jan C Minx, et al (2018), Negative emissions—Part 1: Research landscape and synthesis. Environmental Research Letters 13(6) 063001,

G. F. Nemet, M. W. Callaghan, F. Creutzig, S. Fuss, J. Hartmann, J. Hilaire, W. F. Lamb, J. C. Minx, S. Rogers, P. Smith (2018), Negative emissions—Part 3: Innovation and upscaling. Environ. Res. Lett. 13, 063003, doi: 10.1088/1748-9326/aabff4

Robine J.-M., et al. (2008), Death toll exceeded 70,000 in Europe during the summer of 2003. C. R. Biologies 331,

Will Steffen, et al (2018), Trajectories of the Earth System in the Anthropocene. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Aug 2018, 201810141;

Strand S, Benford G (2009), Ocean sequestration of crop residue carbon: recycling fossil fuel carbon back to deep sediments. Environ Sci & Tech 43:1000-1007.

Trenberth, K. E. & Fasullo, J. (2012), Climate extremes and climate change: The Russian heat wave and other climate extremes of 2010. J. Geophys. Res. 117, D17103.

von Hippel, T. (2018), Thermal removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere: energy requirements and scaling issues. Climatic Change 148: 491. [dry ice plant, also excellent review]

USGCRP (2018), Second State of the Carbon Cycle Report (SOCCR2): A Sustained Assessment Report [Cavallaro, N., G. Shrestha, R. Birdsey, M. A. Mayes, R. G. Najjar, S. C. Reed, P. Romero-Lankao, and Z. Zhu (eds.)]. U.S. Global Change Research Program.

Wuebbles, D.J., et al, editors (2017), Climate Science Special Report: Fourth National Climate Assessment, Volume I. U.S. Global Change Research Program, Washington, DC, USA,

National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (2019), Negative Emissions Technologies and Reliable Sequestration: A Research Agenda. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: Omits ocean-based approaches.

And see the 2018 reports on the new climate from the National Academies (US), European academies, and Royal Society (UK).