Yesterday's tornadoes in Kentucky are widely accepted as a grim reminder of the threat of increasingly frequent extreme weather events attributable to climate change, but the 74 reported deaths (so far) may be the tip of a far greater "iceberg" of impact. Today's civilized world is so densely populated and so tightly integrated that even small deviations from expected patterns can create huge disruptions. The photo above, which shows some of the 80,000 Kentuckians with unprocess job claims associated with the COVID 19 pandemic in June of 2020, illustrates how many of today's government systems are built for average, not peak load. The private sector is no different, with backlogs of shipping containers growing by the day due to people's buying behavior changing by a few percent in response to the pandemic.
Much of the fragility of our society comes from our desire to minimize risk, and much of that comes in the form of insurance of one kind or another. Insurance works pretty well as long as the insurance industry isn't subjected to big violations of their assumptions: Car insurance companies cover the cost of replacing thousands of wrecked cars every year without breaking a sweat. But when disaster strikes, as it did with Hurricane Katrina in 2005, it can threaten the whole industry: In 2005, Louisiana insurers paid out in claims as much in claims as they'd received in premiums for the last 20 years. To deal with the risk of major events like this, the insurance industry depends on their ability to predict how often such events take place. To do that, they rely on lots of information about weather patterns that has been collected over a hundred years or so, that hasn't been and can't be widely and reliably updated to reflect the unpredictable results of climate change.
Remember that the global financial crisis of 2007-2008 was caused by faulty assumptions of the risks associated with mortgage-backed financial products. I can only imagine that as the assumptions of the insurance industry and other commercial and government system are rendered invalid, we may be in for disruptions on a scale that makes a few inches or feet of sea level rise look tame.
As an aviation buff, every time I see an article promising emissions-free flight, I get excited, and the recent announcement of plans for hydrogen-powered airliners by the mid-2030's is no exception. Who wouldn't want to visit distant friends and relatives without the guilt of all the carbon that jet engines put into the atmosphere? Three things sober me up quickly: