Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Many Uncertainties

"Climate scientists struggle to explain warming slowdown" was the headline for a recent Reuters story. It turns out that almost none of the climate scientists predicted the lack of warming that has occurred in recent years.

Climate science has something in common with horoscopes and fortune tellers. Confidence in their predictions is higher when the results are either so vague, or so far in the future, that accuracy can't be measured. For example, we had predictions of arctic ice melting, raising the sea level by anywhere from three to twenty feet, flooding coastlines and destroying cities. When this didn't happen, predictions got fuzzy. It turns out that "global warming" can manifest itself by extremely hot weather, or by extremely cold weather. Extreme precipitation or extreme drought. More violent hurricanes, or fewer violent hurricanes. Climate scientists making predictions covered all their bases. Except now they're struggling to come up with an explanation for the lack of global warming. And, the article says, "some experts say their trust in climate science has declined because of the many uncertainties." 

"The climate system is not quite so simple as people thought," said Danish statistician Bjorn Lomborg.  

"My own confidence in the data has gone down in the past five years, said Richard Tol, an expert in climate change and professor of economics at the University of Sussex in England.

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