26 February 2011

Bringing it Home

Writing at MIT's Knight Science Journalism Tracker, Charles Petit breathlessly announces to journalists that the scientific community has now given a green light to blaming contemporary disasters on the emissions of greenhouse gases:
An official shift may just have occurred not only in news coverage of climate change, but the way that careful scientists  talk about it. Till now blaming specific storms on climate change has been frowned upon. And it still is, if one is speaking of an isolated event. But something very much like blaming global warming for what is happening today, right now, outside the window has just gotten endorsement on the cover of Nature. Its photo of a flooded European village has splashed across it, “THE HUMAN FACTOR.” Extreme rains in many regions, it tells the scientific community, is not merely consistent with what to expect from global warming,  but herald its arrival.

This is a good deal more immediate than saying, as people have for some time, that glaciers are shrinking and seas are rising due to the effects of greenhouse gases. This brings it home.
We recently published a paper showing that the media overall has done an excellent job on its reporting of scientific projections of sea level rise. I suspect that a similar analysis of the issue of disasters and climate change would not result in such favorable results. Of course, looking at the cover of Nature above, it might be understandable why this would be the case.


  1. The AGW calamity community has stared at the moon of CO2 so long they are convinced they see men, blue cheese and crackers for the men to eat, on the moon.

  2. Well,if natural disasters remain "an act of God" it's hard to find anyone to sue for damages.

  3. With the risk of quoting someone whom I am not supposed to quote, Demitris Koutsoyiannis, reknowned hydrologist, mentioned in a recent email the following.

    "I do not believe there is consistent upward trend in extreme precipitation and flood. Trends exist, in some stations upward and in some downward. But these are natural for one familiar with the Hurst-Kolmogorov behaviour. In our recent GRL päper we demonstrate, based on data and not on models, that there are no systematic upward trends in floods in Africa: "Results indicate that 65 out of 79 [locations] did not show significant (p ≤ 0.05) trends, while of the remaining 14, only 4
    had increasing trends." Note the proportion 10:4 of decreasing to increasing trends and also note that if HK statistics were used, even these 14 trends would be most probably deemed insignificant (the purpose of this paper was not to explore the HK behaviour, which however from first glance is apparent in the "trendy" stations)."

    The paper Koutsoyiannis refers to here was published in 2010 (18 November)

    I also know quite a few colleagues who have little trust in precipitation from climate models. Hence, that challenges the possibility of attribution using climate models as was done in the Nature papers, and I thought the authors provided little evidence to prove that models actually can be used for the attribution of precipitation changes.

    Cheers, Jos.

  4. Roger, I think the idea is, lets just pack up our bags, leave science (and rational thought, too), and go home?

  5. The Nature paper is the wet dream of the insurance industry - all the anxiety with none of the risk.

  6. Meanwhile, the planet isn't getting warmer like the models predict, the ice isn't melting like the models predict and oceans aren't rising like the models predict.

    But how can you organize a good hysterical fear mongering campaign so you can push your agenda without hysterical fear mongering ?

    You can't. So we get Nature and its fictional accounts of Antarctic warming and scary weather events.

    The Insurance industry must be loving this . . . the greenies carrying their water for them.

  7. Sure there's a lot of uncertainty with regards to actual attribution of disasters but if there's any admission of this you just know that the denialists™ will exploit it to convince the public climate change isn't real. The public is too stupid so we need to bend the rules and overstate the confidence, the stakes are too high; there's no time for accuracy! It's a little thing we call the "precautionary principle".

  8. nice summery . . . and such a concise expression of the practice of modern climate science vs the Headlines that result.

    "“When your results represent the output of four computer models, fed into a fifth computer model, whose output goes to a sixth computer model, which is calibrated against a seventh computer model, and then your results are compared to a series of different results from the fifth computer model, but run with different parameters, in order to show that flood risks have increased from greenhouse gases…” you cannot pretend that this is “a valid representation of reality”, let alone “a sufficiently accurate representation of reality to guide our future actions”.


  9. I strongly recommend people take a few minutes to read this analysis of the possible drivers for the Nature article...


    It puts things into a different context.

  10. For german readers only.
    Well, you can use translators :-)


  11. So is this article by Nature an example of predistortion?