It Wasn't Unprecedented. It Was a Dragon King.
A term from systems theory helps explain the collapse of our climate.
Here's what happened in Lahaina: It wasn't just a wildfire. It was a wildfire plus the equivalent of a category one hurricane with wind gusts up to 80 mph. It was a pyrocane. A meteorologist on CNN actually does a fairly good job of explaining all of the details. The word "unprecedented" is getting thrown around, except it wasn't unprecedented. It was predicted.
It was a dragon king event.
In Chinese mythology, the dragon king commands oceans, lakes, rivers, and rain. He controls dragons and sea creatures.
He makes the weather.
Didier Sornette introduced dragon king theory in the 2000s as a way of explaining what “experts” miss when they assume systems behave in steady, predictable ways while ignoring anomalies and dismissing rare events. It's exactly what climate minimizers do when they shrug off multiple thousand-year disasters happening one right after another.
Dragon kings bring about catastrophic transitions. They reveal small and overlooked aspects of complex, nonlinear systems like feedback loops and tipping points. These and other unknown factors amplify disasters exponentially. For example, you get unexpected but predictable weather systems driving wildfires. They say the devil’s in the details.
The dragon lives there, too.
Terrible things are happening everywhere this summer. Climate scientists are looking at global temperatures and arctic sea ice, and they’re basically speechless. None of their models predicted any of this would happen now. They were thinking 2050 for the kind of weather we’re seeing this year. They're trying to figure out what tipped us over into... this.
They're looking for the dragon king.
We're beyond optimism and pessimism now. Nobody knows what's going to happen next. We live in the age of the dragon king now. Climate activists and scientists have been warning the world about this shift for decades, but I doubt many of us have ever heard of dragon kings.
Dragon kings defy probability.
That’s their key feature.
It’s the hidden dynamics of complex systems that give dragon kings their power, not just their unpredictability. The more complex a system, the more likely those rare possibilities become. Our climate is the mother of all complex systems. It’s a system made up of systems. If you mess with one thing, it starts chain reactions and cascades. You don’t even know it’s happening until major catastrophes start to unfold. By then, it’s too late.
Climate scientists told us about a number of tipping points that would unleash these kinds of events on a regular basis. Basically, if you push one system too far, it collapses on another one. Things that almost never happened start happening almost all the time. That’s why we’re seeing thousand-year disasters every year now, and sometimes several in one year.
We’re at the beginning of a catastrophic transition.
Dragon king theory helps us understand: These aren’t just random events. They’re part of the same destabilizing system. The same climate change that destroys drug factories puts more patients in the ER.
It's not just hurricanes anymore. It's not just droughts or heat domes. It's not just floods or pandemics. It's all of that, together. When you add it all up, you get dragon kings events where tiny variables amplify each other into catastrophes that everyone should've seen coming but didn't.
Should we give up?
But it's completely unacceptable for presidents to go around patting themselves on the back saying they've already "practically" declared a climate emergency. That tells us they don't have the slightest clue what we're dealing with. They're completely unprepared for the age we live in now.
We can't afford to keep shrugging off thousand-year disasters and calling each one "unprecedented" while making up excuses like, "Nobody could've predicted this." Actually, that's the entire point of dragon king theory. You can prepare for rare events. You just have to pay attention. That's how the world works now. We live in a time of unprecedented disasters. We have to adapt.
Otherwise, they're going to burn us alive.
In the psychology of decision-making, optimism isn’t a positive attitude. It’s a bias that leads to mistakes that get people killed. When our politicians or the media throw around the word "unprecedented," we should call them out.
Nothing is unprecedented.