The unprecedented heat wave that recently gripped the Pacific Northwest demonstrates a crucial fact about climate change that most people don’t seem to appreciate yet: This will not be a smooth, predictable event.

In addition to new costs that can be anticipated, climate change creates enormous risks that may result in a far higher price tag to the global economy, which greatly increases the urgency of eliminating greenhouse emissions as quickly as possible.

A meteorological event known as a "heat dome” sent the temperature at Portland International Airport in Oregon soaring to a record 116°F (46.7°C) this week. Climate change is almost certainly involved, but it isn’t as simple as average temperatures rising; scientists also believe that a warming climate can shift existing atmospheric patterns in ways that make extreme heat waves like this more likely.