"System change is now inevitable. Either because we do something about it, or because we will be hit by climate change. '...

"We need to develop economic models that are fit for purpose. The current economic frameworks, the ones that dominate our governments, these frameworks... the current economic frameworks, the neoclassical, the market frameworks, can deal with small changes. It can tell you the difference, if a sock company puts up the price of socks, what the demand for socks will be. It cannot tell you about the sorts of system level changes we are talking about here. We would not use an understanding of laminar flow in fluid dynamics to understand turbulent flow. So why is it we are using marginal economics, small incremental change economics, to understand system level changes?"

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Talk (by Me): Cybernetics of Climate July 1

I'm giving this talk July 1 at 6:30 PM as part of the Austin Forum at the Texas Advanced Computing Center in Austin.

Y'all come. Directions and details here.

If anyone is interested in seeing me present this talk in your town, please contact me.

Cybernetics of Climate

You're invited to a discussion session entitled "Cybernetics of Climate" presented by Dr. Michael Tobis, Research Scientist Associate at the University of Texas Institute for Geophysics. at The University of Texas at Austin.

Dr. Tobis's presentation will focus on climate change as an example of whether, when and how computing can influence policy.

As human activity changes the composition of the global atmosphere at an unprecedented pace, human society is faced with unprecedented challenges. We have to determine to what extent the changes matter, and by when. Some argue that the risks of excessive policy response are as large as or larger than the risks of inadequate policy response. One of the unique aspects of the problem is that the conditions being predicted have no historical or paleontological analogy. We are entering new territory, and are forced to make projections based only on scientific principles, without any direct observations.

Most progress in engineering relies to some extent on doing exactly this sort of extrapolation. The assistance of high performance computers is crucial in developing most new technologies these days, from spacecraft to medicines.

How well do these techniques apply to predicting the future of the earth as a physical system? Climate simulations often take center stage in public discussions about climate change, but how should these computations be understood? Is the climate system well enough characterized to rely on models? If not, how should that affect what we do about it?

Dr. Tobis will offer a tour of how computers and computations are used in addressing our planet's future and some ideas as to the strengths and limitations of these approaches.

Michael Tobis started his career as an electrical engineer with a focus in statistics. As a graduate student, he built one of the first multicore computers and used it to run ocean simulations using code he himself developed. Since his doctorate in climatology, he has been focusing on climate computation, at Argonne National Laboratory, at The University of Chicago, and now at The University of Texas at Austin.

Update: Changed the posting date to move this to the top, to remind people in commute distance of this.


EliRabett said...


David B. Benson said...

MT --- Off-topic, but the July 2009 issue of Scientific American has an article on The Science of Bubbles & Busts which you may care to read.

Some other good articles; I found the one on Grassoline informative.

Hank Roberts said...

Webcast, or video online later, _please_ sir? (I realize hoping for an actual transcript is so last-millenium of me.) With a link if you're taking followups online?

Michael Tobis said...

I don't know if there will be video.

I will post the slides.

Besides the talk will be better the second time I give it :-). Any takers?

Dan Satterfield said...

Would indeed love to see the slides. Hopefully someone will video.

tidal said...

good interview (with extensive video excerpt) by Gavin Schmidt on skill and constraints of climate models at edge.org yesterdy...

David B. Benson said...

How did it go?

steve said...

Michael - would you be willing to come and give the talk as an invited speaker at this: http://www.cs.toronto.edu/wsrcc/