The Black Swan and Climate Change

You may have heard about an excellent book called The Black Swan, a book by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, about randomness and uncertainty.

Black Swan events were discussed by Taleb in the book, with almost all major scientific discoveries, historical events, and artistic accomplishments labelled as “Black Swans” — i.e. they are undirected and unpredicted. Examples are the rise of the Internet, the creation of the PC, World War 1 and 9/11.

In this post for the Harvard Business Review blogs, and from the point of view of climate change, Andrew Winston suggests two Black Swans will shape our world.

“Black Swan 1 is climate change itself. What really makes for a Black Swan is the fact that massive numbers of people are sure it can’t be true. Even in the face of overwhelming evidence of climate change and resource constraints vs. the two heavy-hitter forces driving sustainability — many people struggle with believing any of it.

Black Swan 2: is worldwide action. We’ll need to change so much about the way the world works as to make it nearly unrecognisable. Imagine companies creating radically new energy supplies, entirely electric transportation systems, and non-toxic and completely recyclable products. Picture massive increases in resource efficiency, waterless manufacturing and agriculture, and everyone engaging in tough, heretical conversations about our consumption and what it means to live a good quality life.

Winston goes on to say that “Taleb’s work gives me hope — the unexpected not only can happen, he says, it’s really the only thing that ever changes history. Which Black Swan will hit first? Will it be climate devastation and resource shortages … or collective action to create more profitable, healthy, and sustainable companies, communities, and countries?

The first Swan has left the gate and we have some catching up to do, but I’m betting on the second.”

Want to know more about the book? There’s a review here