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As I understand it catastrophe and chaos theories in maths are all about modelling "unstable" systems where small changes can give rise to dramatic and otherwise counter-intuitive consequences - the mathematical equivalent of walking off the edge of a cliff you didn't realise was there.

The problem is that predicting climate changes - particularly as they apply to particular regions requires such a monstrous amount of data - which we currently are only beginning to gather - that the degree of uncertainty around such climate models is huge.

However, as you say, human societies, and particularly those in NW Europe, are highly optimised to particular climatic patterns and any significant changes are therefore almost always problematic - e.g. rising sea levels, extreme weather events, droughts, harvest failures etc..

It seems to me that human adaptation becomes problematic and expensive at those extremes - e.g. persistent temperatures outside the 0-40 centigrade range, wind velocities above storm force, precipitation levels much above/below the long/short term average.

Global climate change thus poses huge adaptation challenges for societies as well as for the biosphere, where a further increase is mass extinction events can be expected.

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by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sat Dec 11th, 2010 at 07:46:20 AM EST
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