Monday, August 29, 2016

Social Science and Climate Change: Positive Thoughts.


There are even short articles, maybe a post and a half, that make a bunnies ears twitch and his nose wiggle back and forth while muttering yeah yeah.  In this case a discussion of risk management and decision science by Paul Stern, John Perkins, Richard Sparks and Robert Knox. 

In The Challenge of Climate Change Neoskepticism, sadly not open, the authors define today's neoskepticism as

accepting the existence of anthropogenic  climate change (ACC) but advocates against urgent mitigation efforts on various grounds such as that climate models run "too hot", or are too uncertain to justify anything other than "no regrets" policies as having net benefits.  Mainstream scientists are well aware of uncertainty in climate projections.  But neoskeptics citing it to justify climate inaction marks a shift in focus in climate debates from the existence of ACC to its import and to response options
While the questions may be legitimate the inferences that the neoskeptics draw from them are unjustified.  In particular, they are assuming that risk remains static, but as Stern, et al, point out the nature of climate change is that risk is increasing, and thus the relative risk of catastrophic consequences is growing scarily fast.  Although only implied in the article, it is the nature of things that when risk increases, the central measure will only grow linearly but extreme risks in the wings will increase to a much greater extent.

When applied to climate change risk this means (and here Eli interpolates) that it will first reveal itself through qualitative and quantitative increases in catastrophic events, but that also means that attribution will be more difficult since it is the nature of wing events that statistical treatment of them is hard while on the other hand, shifts in average risks will be both slower and masked by natural variability.

As the article says, people use simple mental models to deal with uncertainty.  The challenge is to provide the public with models that
(i) are factual and not misleading (ii) use a familiar domain to explain the unfamiliar (iii) capture interest and (iv) allow for extrapolation consistent with current science.
Uncertainly has to be acknowledges together with the choices and costs growing from it if action is taken or not.  Stern et al, as Eli, consider procrastination penalties as punishing. 

They offer hypertension as an example.  It can be dealt with through changes in life style or medication or both, but it is a risk the extent of which is not known for any particular person.  While the risk is progressive, there can be catastrophic failures leading to death or disability and the condition is only slowly reversible.

The authors suggest that decision  sciences offer a way of dealing with such risks by
(i) adopting policies that  will perform robustly across various plausible futures (ii) pursuing a variety of policy strategies to increase the likelihood that some will yield good results and (iii) organizing decision making processes for flexibility and responsivenss.
Eli notes that such a response implies that not everything tried will work, and thus chooses better and faster at the cost of cheaper.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Reiner Grundmann, Daniel Sarewitz and What's His Name: Sokal Science


Following quick on the heels of Reiner Grundmann's Nature Geoscience Comment demanding that scientists go back to the barracks and leave the hard work to the social scientists, came Dan Sarewitz, telling scientists that they are killing science and need to leave the barracks and enter the real world. The competition for the longest and most verbose strawman is indeed hard and the Garudian has brought up another competitor.

ATTP has been fishing these waters, but Eli wonders whether somebunnies have  discovered the a primitive Sokal Science generator changed a couple of words and are just grinding out version after version of  "Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Climate Change", hoping no one notices.  Eli assumes that sooner or later one of the editors who, shall the Rabett say, fell for these April Fools jokes will look up from the grass and notice that all of the latest are but simple rip offs of the original.

 It is great fun ripping through the original Sokal Science article and comparing it to the recent Grundmann, Sarewitz and what's his name nonsense.  Indeed

Finally, postmodern science provides a powerful refutation of the authoritarianism and elitism inherent in traditional science, as well as an empirical basis for a democratic approach to scientific work. For, as Bohr noted, ``a complete elucidation of one and the same object may require diverse points of view which defy a unique description'' -- this is quite simply a fact about the world, much as the self-proclaimed empiricists of modernist science might prefer to deny it. 
In such a situation, how can a self-perpetuating secular priesthood of credentialed ``scientists'' purport to maintain a monopoly on the production of scientific knowledge? (Let me emphasize that I am in no way opposed to specialized scientific training; I object only when an elite caste seeks to impose its canon of ``high science'', with the aim of excluding a priori alternative forms of scientific production by non-members.
Where has Eli heard that before?

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Good Luck With That

Willey Miller continues to channel Eli




Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Eli Volunteers.


Over at ATTP's Tony B came up with the perfect non sequitur.

 Persons such as Mosh, ATTP and Eli could surely spike the guns of those making these claims by offering to work with the claimant in turning their information into a paper of a standard capable of being peer reviewed, but leave the actual submission to the claimant.
Don't know about those other guys, but Wiley speaks for Eli



Friday, August 19, 2016

Risk, Hazard and Jill Stein

The difference between Hazard and Risk bedevils the public driven by journalists, politicians and grifters with agendas.  Combinations of the three are not uncommon in Eli's experience.  Cancer risk is the playground most populated.  A recent article in Science by Kai Kupferschmidt (go ahead, it is open) lays this out

Officially released at 3 p.m. EST on 15 June, the news immediately raced around the world, spread by hundreds of websites. Judging by reader comments, many found it reassuring, whereas others were spooked. The message: Coffee doesn't give you cancer after all, but very hot drinks might, according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the cancer research arm of the World Health Organization.
But scientists grumbled that the hot drink verdict left the public none the wiser, because IARC couldn't say how big the risk is.  
So the IARC has now moved coffee from "possibly carcinogenic" to  "not classifiable as a carcinogen", which, of course in click bait country is taken as "maybe carcinogenic".  Proving something not something or other is about impossible, there is only a single material that the IARC classifies as "probably not carcinogenic", and not a few willing to say that "probably not" means maybe.

There are any number of folk willing to claim that all chemicals are carcinogenic.  This has lots of downsides because folk think that all chemicals, foods, what nots have the same risk profile, which means they avoid to their detriment many things that can benefit them, and indulge in many things that they should be using a ten foot pole to avoid.  Eli is not the only Rabett to have noticed
It has become a recurring pattern: an IARC announcement, followed by confusion, controversy, and criticism. In October 2015, IARC made headlines when it declared processed meat a carcinogen, putting it alongside plutonium and smoking in its classification scheme. Statisticians and risk communication experts, however, were quick to point out that the risk was very low. A few months earlier, IARC announced that glyphosate, the world's most widely used herbicide, was “probably carcinogenic,” a verdict that helped fuel efforts to ban the chemical in the European Union, but was at odds with that of many other agencies, including BfR and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Jill Stein is only an issue because of the remote possibility that she may tip the US election to Donald Trump in one state or another.  That and the annoyance that her Jill Boys (aka former Bernie Bros) cause in places where no sane bunny goes, AKA Twitter.  So Eli has been in a set two with a bunch of em who are leaning on Stein's tweet
Chris Mooney had a fine take down of this going into detail and ending
Any presidential candidate, from Trump to Clinton to Stein, has every right to dig in and explain all of this. Moreover, that candidate could easily justify the conclusion that we have good reason to worry that sea level rise by 2100 could be considerably worse than the IPCC suggests — if we don’t get our acts together. That is the way the sea level rise story is trending these days. br />

But what’s more questionable is to cite only a worst case scenario, without explaining the state of the evidence or scientific opinion overall.
Of course, the three meter by 2050 comes from the extreme estimate of Hansen et al, which has been well discussed pretty much everywhere, the operative paragraph being
We hypothesize that ice mass loss from the most vulnerable ice, sufficient to raise sea level several meters, is better approximated as exponential than by a more linear response. Doubling times of 10, 20 or 40 years yield multi-meter sea level rise in about 50, 100 or 200 years. Recent ice melt doubling times are near the lower end of the 10–40-year range, but the record is too short to confirm the nature of the response.
Everybunny else remotely suspected of having a clue thinks maybe 2 m at most by 2100 and much less by 2050, which is bad enough, but Stein cherry emphasizes a ten year doubling rate.  So, Eli is trying to arrange a bet with Steve Bloom and maybe Brad Johnson (nah, Brad is too clued in but he is not above confusing hazard with risk).
Oh yeah Jill Stein got into trouble trying the same finesse confusing hazard and risk on vaccination and homeopathy

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Sinking Santa


Eli, as the bunnies know, has been wondering about 2016 Arctic sea ice.  As Neven and Jim Hunt point out there is a large storm blowing up there which is doing interesting things.  Today there is blue water up to 85N in a large area on the Siberian side.  More to the point it looks like Santa's workship is flooding, with broken ice up to the pole, to the extent that a small sloop could probably make it (perhaps with some aid from a large icebreaker here and there)



Since toy shipping has to start in September to reach the children in December, this is indeed a threat to Christmas.  Santa (Jim Titus) many years ago prerecorded a message:


If you don't see the player your browser does not support the audio element. Listen here

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Slight blogging break for Brian

I probably won't be blogging for a few weeks, but I'm sure Eli will find carrots to chew on.

If any of you solve climate change while l'm gone, please leave a note. We wouldn't want to forget how to do it if needed again.