Nate Silver is obviously incredibly smart when it comes to modeling/statistics, but after reading the chapter about climate change, more so than before, I admire his ability to communicate effectively with his audience.  I would like to naively think that climate change deniers just have not had their “ah-ha” moment.  They haven’t read that right piece of literature that clarifies everything for them, or found that bit of information that brings everything to light.  I think Silver’s chapter on climate change should be assigned reading for every politician who will ever vote on anything even remotely related to carbon emissions, alternative energy, or measures for dealing with sea level rise.  On the day they are being sworn into office I’m assuming each politician gets a fancy pen, a bottle of champagne, and now add a copy of Silver’s book to the gift bag.  Once again, Silver is able to eloquently point out the noise confounding the signal.  Now, I’m assuming that part of the reason he is able to find the noise surrounding the signal with such apparent simplicity is 1.) Because he is extremely intelligent in his field but 2.) Maybe a little bit of it is hindsight being 20/20.  Once you’ve been able to test a climate model, and can see that it’s off by .5 degrees a century, than looking back at it your work it may be easier to find the errors in your ways.

Recently, I read an editorial in the Globe by John Sununu, an occasional contributor.  Unfortunately for John, he is my most recent scapegoat, but hey, he did it to himself.  The article was discussing the Keystone Oil Pipeline, but what sticks out in my mind was his opinion that climate change should not be part of the Keystone debate, and to further his agenda he references the blizzard in Buffalo.  I swear, the first person, this winter, that says “climate change isn’t happening because it’s cold outside” is going to get smacked.  This is exactly the noise that Silver is trying to warn us against when he is discussing initial condition uncertainty.  Long term climate change phenomena can be masked by day to day events (like a volcanic eruption, or a blizzard in November).   Nate also alludes to self-canceling predictions as a reason to why some climate change models maybe incorrect.  The models were built under a doomsday scenario, assuming carbon emissions would continue to increase.  Luckily, there has been some effort by the European Union to mitigate carbon emissions, which is the likely explanation for the errors in the IPCC’s climate change forecast.

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2 Responses to climate

  1. calynum says:

    I think this is a really interesting topic to bring up. You can do all of the statistical analysis you want and create these beautiful graphs with clear trends but people will still close their minds to these facts if they believe too much in opposition. It’s about running these analyses and spinning it to an audience that may not understand what you’ve done and explaining it to them in ways they’ll understand. Also, I’m totally with you on the deniers that talk about winter. “Global warming can’t be real because sometimes I’m cold” is akin to “If we evolved from monkeys then why are there still monkeys?”

  2. tbelford24 says:

    This was probably the only chapter of the book that I felt uncomfortable reading, as if Nate Silver was trying too hard to give credence to both sides of a debate that shouldn’t really be happening. That being said, he’s incredibly good at being objective, and staying true to his goal of analyzing the signal and the noise. Also, as an add-on to the previous comment, there’s the class Steven Colbert quote, “World hunger is over because I ate.”

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