Climate Change Denialists Take Heed!
November 11, 2011 9:23 AM   Subscribe

Climate Variability and Climate Change: The New Climate Dice An excerpt from what should be a very incendiary academic paper by Hansen, J, et al: Thus there is no need to equivocate about the summer heat waves in Texas in 2011 and Moscow in 2010, which exceeded 3σ – it is nearly certain that they would not have occurred in the absence of global warming. If global warming is not slowed from its current pace, by midcentury 3σ events will be the new norm and 5σ events will be common.
posted by Renoroc (38 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
"5σ events will be common" is a self-contradictory statement, and sloppy writing. "Events that are currently 5σ in frequency will be common then" is what is meant.

We know that the right-wing pundits in the US are completely incapable of fact-based reporting on climate change, but at least the actual climate scientists should have a a competent grasp of, and use of, statistical terminology.
posted by IAmBroom at 9:42 AM on November 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


Oddly enough, IAmBroom, I managed to understand exactly what his point was.
posted by spicynuts at 9:45 AM on November 11, 2011 [17 favorites]


It's a direct quote from the abstract, IAmBroom.
posted by JohnFredra at 9:46 AM on November 11, 2011


But you got that -- my bad. Sorry!
posted by JohnFredra at 9:46 AM on November 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Fascinating document. The standard refrain has been to not associate weather with climate, but Hansen has found an approach to do just that, by looking at how anomalous the weather event is compared to a baseline period (1951-1980). Using a loaded dice roll analogy, here's his predictions for summers in the Norther Hemisphere for 2011-2020:
in this decade 5 of the 6 sides of the dice (~83% probability) will be red ("hot"). More important, two of these sides (~33% probability) will be at least into the category of dark red ("very hot", > +2σ) relative to the climatology of 1951-1980. Most important, the chances of an "extremely hot" summer (> +3σ, represented by brownish-red) seems likely to increase to the point of earning one side of the dice (~17% probability)
That is, for each year, roll a 6-sided die and apply the above loaded-dice rules to see how it will turn out. Sort of like an Avalon Hill game.
posted by stbalbach at 9:47 AM on November 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Where is this paper from, and at what stage in the review process is it?
posted by cromagnon at 9:48 AM on November 11, 2011


but at least the actual climate scientists should have a a competent grasp of, and use of, statistical terminology.

Seriously. That Hansen guy better brush up on his statistics if he wants his papers to be published in reputable journals...
posted by c13 at 9:53 AM on November 11, 2011


Dr. James E Hansen of Colombia University. Updating the Climate Science page maintained with recent papers of his and others. His book, Storms of my Grandchildren.
posted by seanmpuckett at 9:54 AM on November 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


Brian Williams said it best: “All I know is this didn’t happen when we were kids.”

That's the way to think about the issue: It's not global warming or climate change, it's a bunch of weird local disasters that didn't happen even a few decades ago. It's not going to be solved by grandiose global agreements but by straightforward improvements at the local, state and national level. The "weather sure got weird" is a narrative the press already loves and people are enthralled by.
posted by 2bucksplus at 9:55 AM on November 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


at least the actual climate scientists should have a a competent grasp of, and use of, statistical terminology.

FWIW, in my experience scientific knowledge has little correlation to writing skill. It's pretty alarming how many scientists (with advanced degrees) I've encountered who couldn't write a succinct, coherent paragraph to save their life.
posted by CosmicRayCharles at 9:55 AM on November 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


FWIW, in my experience scientific knowledge has little correlation to writing skill. It's pretty alarming how many scientists (with advanced degrees) I've encountered who couldn't write a succinct, coherent paragraph to save their life.

Corporate MarComs guy here ... wish I could favorite this a thousand times.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 9:58 AM on November 11, 2011


IAmBroom, I had the same initial reaction, but since the baseline period (1951-1980) is not changing in their comparisons, I expect that when they say 5σ, it is reference to the original baseline period.
posted by mach at 10:01 AM on November 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


Where is this paper from, and at what stage in the review process is it?
posted by cromagnon at 9:48 AM on November 11 [+] [!]


According to Hansen's blog, he refers to the paper as a "discussion" and has "no plan to submit a paper for publication".
posted by Anephim at 10:02 AM on November 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


The writing is fine here, particularly for an abstract which should be concise and quickly convey information to an expert in the field. You already knew the proper meaning, and were looking for ways to misinterpret it. Sigma is a function of a particular climate, i.e. it's sigma(c), but that also means that it's a function of an enormous number of additional variables. It is extremely common mathematical practice to leave these variables implicit when the true meaning is clear. Excessive unnecessary explicitness is also a writing sin.
posted by Llama-Lime at 10:02 AM on November 11, 2011 [6 favorites]


FWIW, in my experience scientific knowledge has little correlation to writing skill. It's pretty alarming how many scientists (with advanced degrees) I've encountered who couldn't write a succinct, coherent paragraph to save their life.
That...that sounds familiar. You're not a reviewer for Journal of Dairy Science, are you, CosmicRayCharles?
posted by wintermind at 10:03 AM on November 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oddly enough, IAmBroom, I managed to understand exactly what his point was.

Nt my pt, spicynuts. Gd writing is >> than being understandable.


I expect that when they say 5σ, it is reference to the original baseline period.


Obviously, mach, but they should have said so.
posted by IAmBroom at 10:04 AM on November 11, 2011


Internet myopia: renowned scientist predicts devastating climate change events, critique his sentence structure.
posted by T.D. Strange at 10:09 AM on November 11, 2011 [24 favorites]


Neo-con fingers are way too effective at blocking the sound of facts.
posted by clvrmnky at 10:16 AM on November 11, 2011


Obviously, mach, but they should have said so.

If its obvious, why should they point it out?
posted by memebake at 10:18 AM on November 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


This is a bit of a hybrid, and I'm not sure it's altogether a welcome one; presented like a scientific paper but with an overt view to defending a position on public policy, and content (a critique of Rick Perry?) that reads more like journalism. I don't think those categories should be blurred, however worthy the intention.
posted by Segundus at 10:20 AM on November 11, 2011


I object only on the basis that sigma has been replaced by the euro.
posted by found missing at 10:32 AM on November 11, 2011


Okay, first of all, who designed this mess? A tenth-grader taking time off his civics essay? Times New Roman, sub-Microsoft-Word text flow and layout - note to climate nerds: columns and non-default tabs are your friends, guys! - and colour-graded maps so teensy and uniform you'd have to be a myopic grad student on the twelfth floor of the Get A Life Memorial Library at St. Outta Touch U. to be able to differentiate them. Also, if I wanted to look at piles of dramatically peaked line graphs, I'd go to Yahoo! Finance, okay? I mean, come on.

Another thing, Perfesser Hansen: auto-downloading megabyte pdfs are for shitty pizza places that will be out of business next year. It's called web design, Dr. Fossil. And if you want anyone to even look at those fancy-pants "works" you "cited," embed the links, don't put 'em at the end like the bottom half of a Wikipedia page no one ever looks at. I mean, this isn't a technical discussion paper for the perusal of a small clique of professionals we're talking about here.

Look, we get it. Anthropogenic climate change has spun the world into a whole new geologic epoch and catastrophe's already upon us and meanwhile one federal political party in the most greenhouse-gas-emittingest nation on earth openly denies there's any truth to any of this. Scary stuff, guys. But it's already yesterday's news, especially with this tone-deaf layout. Either that kerning goes or I go, as Oscar Wilde might've said if he was trying to ignore any of the substance of what you're saying about climate change.

You know why Republicans don't buy climate change? Lobbyists? No way, girlfriend. It's bad design. Confusing sentence structure. Big words. Pick up a ten-year-old copy of USA Today and grab a clue, willya?

I mean, honestly. It's like these guys have never designed a popular website before or something.
posted by gompa at 10:39 AM on November 11, 2011 [18 favorites]


Those corrupt climate scientists are at it once again, with their use of split infinitives and passive voice.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:51 AM on November 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


Quoting the last paragraphs:
____________
Science cannot disprove the possibility of divine intervention. However, there is a relevant saying that "Heaven helps those who help themselves."
Science does show that business-as-usual fossil fuel emissions will cause atmospheric CO2 to continue to increase rapidly. The increasing greenhouse gases will cause the rapid global warming of the past three decades to continue, and this warming will cause the climate dice to become more and more loaded with greater and greater extreme events. The probability that this conclusion is wrong is about as close to zero as one can get.
Fortunately, it is not necessary to continue business-as-usual. In a paper that we are working on with a number of distinguished colleagues we argue that an appropriately rising price on carbon emissions could move the world to a clean energy future fast enough to limit further global warming to several tenths of a degree Celsius. Such a scenario is needed if we are to preserve life as we know it.
----------------
Climate Variability and Climate Change: The New Climate Dice
J. Hansen, M. Sato, R. Ruedy
10 November 2011
posted by hank at 11:04 AM on November 11, 2011


All right, enough about the writing (said a writer).

This derail is amusing to me and I especially heart gompa's satirical response above.

But folks: this climate change. It sucks. Our governments aren't doing enough to help stop it. What are we all going to do about it? Anyone got any useful ideas?
posted by BlueJae at 11:07 AM on November 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


We could have been working on climate change and remediation of coastal regions to cope with rising sea levels with major economic stimulus and addressed the recession at the same time if there had been enough people in Washington with both vision and willingness to spend money. Build dikes, restore coastal wetlands, invest in factories building solar and wind power, put significant money into carbon sequestration technology - while building industrial capacity to do these important chores and putting people back to work. I believe that a national focus on addressing both climate change and the effects of climate change (rising sea levels, more severe storms) done with the urgency we brought to going to the moon or the Manhattan Project would be worthwhile. I know it's a political impossibility. My fantasy is a grass roots demand for such projects that might actually bring enough public pressure to bear to make it happen.
posted by leslies at 11:22 AM on November 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Well, BlueJae, given that, per DOE via Washington post, and I quote: "The world pumped about 564 million more tons (512 million metric tons) of carbon into the air in 2010 than it did in 2009. That's an increase of 6 percent. That amount of extra pollution eclipses the individual emissions of all but three countries - China, the United States and India, the world's top producers of greenhouse gases." It also happens to be the largest increase ever.
So we are not, and will not do anything about it. I suggest taking pictures of nature and printing them out on archival quality paper, so that you will have at least something to show to your grandkids.
posted by c13 at 11:28 AM on November 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


"5σ events will be common" is a self-contradictory statement, and sloppy writing. "Events that are currently 5σ in frequency will be common then" is what is meant.

I think "will be" is a fair abbreviation for "will become," but what a weird derail. As gompa deftly noted, climate change deniers won't change their tune because of better fonts or Web layout.

That's the way to think about the issue: It's not global warming or climate change, it's a bunch of weird local disasters that didn't happen even a few decades ago. It's not going to be solved by grandiose global agreements but by straightforward improvements at the local, state and national level. The "weather sure got weird" is a narrative the press already loves and people are enthralled by.

I think we all kinda knew that no one would do anything real about climate change until it did become about "the weather."

My fantasy is a grass roots demand for such projects that might actually bring enough public pressure to bear to make it happen.

Yeah, again, won't happen until climate change becomes personal, i.e. the weather changes. I'm hoping it doesn't happen too late.
posted by mrgrimm at 11:42 AM on November 11, 2011


Could this, in fact, be a rejected paper?
posted by Segundus at 11:47 AM on November 11, 2011


Here is a link to the root directory where his paper is stored. There are multiple works related to climate change and other musings.
posted by Renoroc at 12:02 PM on November 11, 2011


This doesn't seem to be a rejected paper. More of an informal report.

In the blog post I mention above, where Hansen calls it a "discussion" not intended for publication, he also says, "We made this analysis to address the question ('how long must we wait until the charlatans are smoked out?') raised in It's a Hard-Knock Butterfly's life."

Hansen has most of his actual publications in the scholarly publications and other publications sections of his personal website. The essay under discussion is listed under communications.
posted by Anephim at 12:26 PM on November 11, 2011


OK, sorry all for the derail. I'm cranky, and the paper is important.
posted by IAmBroom at 1:16 PM on November 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


I don't think "informal reports" usually have co-authors, abstracts and lists of references. Editorially, I think it probably is unpublishable in a scientific journal, but it looks as if that was the intention. I would guess that Hansen and co were unwilling to rewrite without the non-science parts, which is a shame, because valid, important science deserves proper publication.
posted by Segundus at 1:22 PM on November 11, 2011


BlueJae: Anyone got any useful ideas?

Germany may be onto something with this. It's seems like a rather brilliant reuse of existing structures. Lots of energy for little additional investment. I'm would imagine that this approach is feasible wherever there is shuttered mining operations.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 2:28 PM on November 11, 2011


Hairy Lobster: It makes sense to build wind near coal mines where there has also been coal power stations becasue that will significantly reduce the need to build transmission lines, and that is likely to be a major source of costs with new energy sources. Apart from that the pumped storage is old tech, storing energy this way means losing about 20% of the RE generated so the economics of it can be pretty poor. It is interesting that they are using it as a large scale heat source however, Germany is one of the more advanced nations in terms of considering renewable heating as well as electricity and I'm interested to see how this develops.
posted by biffa at 2:52 PM on November 11, 2011


> But folks: this climate change. It sucks. Our governments aren't doing enough to help stop it. Anyone got any useful ideas?

Don't do what most if not all governments are doing, which is trying to get the world economy back on the growth track. Countering climate change requires the exact opposite, a long period of contraction. It's actually quite a good test: any government or individual who yammers (heatedly!) about countering warming but is also full of advice and proposals for re-heating the economy is a fraud who is only talking the talk because it's popular.
posted by jfuller at 4:07 PM on November 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Well, that's a cute bit of defeatism there, c13. As a fellow climate pessimist (and as someone who has certainly read not only that WaPo article, but many, many other depressing articles and studies on climate change -- hell, I've written depressing articles on climate change) I understand your attitude. But as a parent I don't consider myself as having the luxury of throwing up my hands and giving up on the future, thanks. It may be a nice comfortable position for you. But someday my son is going to ask "What did you do to try to stop this?" and I do not believe he will appreciate an answer of "Nothing. I was too depressed about it to bother trying."

jfuller, what if said individual is yammering on about trying to improve the economy by boosting investment in the renewable energy? Last I checked wind turbines and solar panels have to be built by someone.
posted by BlueJae at 8:11 PM on November 11, 2011


Okay that was supposed to be "the renewable energy sector."
posted by BlueJae at 8:12 PM on November 11, 2011


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