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.