We live in a very complex environment: we see complexity and dynamism and patterns of evidence in satellite photographs, and videos. You can even see it outside your window. It’s endlessly complex, but somehow familiar. The patterns kind of repeat, but they never repeat exactly. It’s a huge challenge to understand. The patterns that you see are there at all of the different scales, but you can’t chop it into one little bit and say, “Oh, well let me just make a smaller climate.” I can’t use the normal products of reductionism to get a smaller and smaller thing that I can study in a laboratory and say, “Oh, now that’s something I now understand.” It’s the whole or it’s nothing.
See this fascinating TED talk by climate scientist Gavin Schmidt.
Gavin Schmidt is a climate scientist at Columbia University’s Earth Institute and is Deputy Chief at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies. He works on understanding past, present and future climate change, using ever-more refined models and data sets to explore how the planet’s climate behaves over time.
Schmidt is also deeply committed to communicating science to the general public. As a contributing editor at RealClimate.org, he helps make sure general readers have access to the basics of climate science, and works to bring the newest data and models into the public discussion around one of the most pressing issues of our time. He has worked with the American Museum of Natural History and the New York Academy of Sciences on education and public outreach, and he is the author of Climate Change: Picturing the Science, with Josh Wolfe.