Global climate change is a trending topic, with atmospheric carbon dioxide rising to 415 parts per million in the atmosphere, growing human impacts from sea level rise and atmospheric warming, and dire warnings from scientific and international panels that action needs to be taken soon to avert global ecological disaster. It is in this context that ideas emerge: the notion that ever weirder weather is to be expected, that action is required on a planetary scale to ensure humanity’s survival, and the assertion that our species has set forces in motion that will forever change individual and collective human behaviour.
The concept of ‘global weirding’ has grown in popularity as an alternative to the phrase ‘global warming’. The term was first attributed to American renewable energy guru, Avery Lovins, and then popularised by the centre-right economist Thomas Friedman in an op-ed piece for the New York Times. The neologism appears to have great currency given the incipient effects of global climate change, and the examples of weather, sea level rise, glacial melting and other events that exceed the norm. Examples include the highly variable atmospheric jet stream, polar vortex in the northern hemisphere, and other extremes in temperature, rainfall, wildfires, and flooding across the planet. Therefore, global weirding was intended to broaden the debate beyond sea level rise and abstract discourse about warming average temperatures and growing greenhouse gas emissions. David Wallace-Wells in 2019 catalogued the increasing costs of higher average temperatures and or feedback loops (potential black swan events) that could exacerbate warming even further. Among climate researchers and advocates, there appears to be consensus that global weirding and what Wallace-Wells calls ‘cascading catastrophes’ will occur if we do not act quickly, and are perhaps even likely given what we have already set in motion. The next question becomes what do we do about it, and the answer is complicated. The example of potential feedback loops to accelerate the warming process are considerable, including dramatic shifts in the Earth’s albedo (or reflectiveness), methane release from permafrost and warming oceans, undoubtedly weird events if and when they happen.