Scientific uncertainty: When doubt is a sure thing
Is it possible to adopt a more rigorous approach to the communication
of scientific uncertainty? Jim Giles talks to the climatologists
whose pursuit of this goal has seen them dubbed the 'uncertainty
Stephen Schneider is very certain in his views about uncertainty. As
a leading climate researcher at Stanford University in California, he
has plenty of experience in dealing with it. Global temperatures are
set to rise but no one is sure by how much. And although this
warming will influence variables from biodiversity to economic
productivity, exactly how it will do so remains unclear.
Schneider cannot eliminate uncertainties from his work, but he has
little time for fellow scientists who are sloppy in expressing just
how unsure they are. He argues, for instance, that the phrase "low
confidence" should have a precise, quantitative meaning. He espouses
the use of graphical tools to illustrate where scientific
uncertainties come from. And he is adamant that statistical
confidence levels should be attached to even the most complex
Together with Richard Moss, currently executive director of the
Global Change Research Program in Washington DC, which coordinates
the US government's climate-change research, Schneider has been
pestering his colleagues about these ideas for more than five years.
With plans for a major new international climate assessment just
getting started, Schneider and Moss are gearing up to promote their
agenda once again. They also believe that other subjects that
engender both public concern and scientific uncertainty could benefit
from taking a similar approach.
Perhaps wanderer can do better than I can here--although as and
undergrad I did have a 5000 level probability math course and the
general statistics course.
My view is this is more crap based on the false premise that CO2 as a
GHG is CORRELATED to climate global temperatures--and the causal
nature of the EMF feedbacks is not understood. The biological
feedbacks form a modulating factor that on some level voids the
dynamic of uncertainty.
For instance, the connection between the archae methonogens and salt
loving archae that has existed for billions of years--as seen in
their genes, really says that climate has been modulated for billions
of years. At the very least feedbacks have netted life--otherwise
their DNA would not be here to tell us that. The uncertainty or
unpredictability lies in the stimulas--not the response, certainly
over longer timescales. Random inputs to climate do occur.
Milankovitch itself is a chaotic oscillator. But if you were to
multiply chaos times itself we are well on our ways to the gas ball
of Venus or the ice block of Mars--and quite lifeless. Therefore,
because the CO2 levels, and the changes in hydrology, get to the very
modulating feedbacks, the cause and effect is clear. When you bring
the water to the GOC, for instance, flowing down the Colorado river,
to a trickle, you are going to create fair weather conditions there
and bring regional drought. It is just a cause and effect and really
simple. More CO2? You change a highly tuned system and the way it
feeds back cirrus and alters EMFs--biologically and electrically. As
the verying outputs are understood, the margins of error will
Example. In the previous Nature article it discussed the Younger
Dryas. And cited that as uncertainty. Wrong. The Younger Dryas was
caused by a movement of the Mississippi sourcing from the GOM to the
North Atlantic--which didn't have a hydrology based biosphere . . .
yet. The GOM lost lots of sedimentation and detritus it had received
toward producing the EMF cirrus feedbacks. So things got colder.
There is nothing uncertain about how it worked . . .