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Earth Science

Nate Silver's New Site Stirs Climate Controversy 335

Posted by samzenpus
from the hornet's-nest dept.
First time accepted submitter taiwanjohn (103839) writes "One of the first articles on Nate Silver's highly anticipated data-driven news site used flawed data to make its conclusions, according to some of the nation's top climate scientists. Silver's FiveThirtyEight published its first article about climate change on Wednesday, entitled 'Disasters Cost More Than Ever — But Not Because of Climate Change.' But climate scientists are condemning the article and its author, Roger Pielke Jr., saying he ignored critical data to produce a 'deeply misleading' result. The crux of Pielke's article is this: Extreme weather events are costing us more and more money, but that is not because climate change is making extreme weather more frequent or intense. The reason we are losing more money, rather, is because we have more money to lose. Pielke came to this conclusion by measuring rising disaster damage costs alongside the rising global Gross Domestic Product. He also cited a U.N. climate report, along with his own research, to assert that extreme weather events have not been increasing in frequency or intensity."
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Nate Silver's New Site Stirs Climate Controversy

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  • Go after em Nate (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Stumbles (602007) on Thursday March 20, 2014 @07:26PM (#46539343)
    Refreshing there is some common sense creeping into this global warming/climate change/the new name when the current one looses its umph. Naturally the pro-we-ignore-the-earths-climate-has-changed-over-millions-of-years crowd cry foul. I cannot ever recall a group of scientists like these folks be so opposed and go to the lengths they do to squelch any and all dissenting views. That is not science but fanaticism.
  • by Kwelstr (114389) on Thursday March 20, 2014 @07:28PM (#46539365)
    Most media sites are internet hacks now, posting stories for clicks, that's all they care about (alla Newsweek) and guess what, reddit is their big secret! Nate Silver was one of the very few that stuck to the data, and was trustworthy. But that was then, this is now. He has to prove his new venture is going to be accurate and truthful and not just another HuffPost type bullcrap.
  • by SuperKendall (25149) on Thursday March 20, 2014 @07:32PM (#46539397)

    Most of the complaints about the original article are suspect, and the primary and most solid complaint (technological innovations in structures) has in fact been accounted for by Pielke.

    I would trust someone vetted by Nate Silver a great deal more than anyone posting on a highly partisan site like "Think Progress" - the goal of FiveThirtyEight being to bring real and carefully considered data to have a conversation based on science, not emotion.

  • by lgw (121541) on Thursday March 20, 2014 @07:34PM (#46539413) Journal

    It's amazing how they jumped quickly on the heretic for the slightest non-orthodoxy. We've gone from grouping those who doubt that human CO2 emission costs more than eliminating it would with modern Nazis who deny the Holocaust, to burning the witch for claiming "you don't need global warming to explain this rise in costs".

    Clearly he weighs the same as a duck!

    When you start attacking people who say "I don't need your theory to explain this observation", not even doubting your theory is true, you've become a religion.

  • by Applehu Akbar (2968043) on Thursday March 20, 2014 @07:51PM (#46539501)

    As soon as the climate issue transitioned from being a scientific issue to a political cause, it has been fought according to the rules of politics, not science. It's why people line up for and against on the basis of ideology. It's why the collegial peer skepticism that is the norm all through regular science has been replaced by angry political terminology in this one instance.

  • by riverat1 (1048260) on Thursday March 20, 2014 @07:51PM (#46539505)

    Pielke Jr. is a lukewarmer. He accepts that climate science is basically right but thinks the effects won't be as bad as it's being made out to be.

    One of the criticisms I've seen of this paper is that Pielke doesn't take into account the fact that we've built more resilient structures in response to past natural disasters so the fact that the costs remain about the same means either those responses haven't been very effective or that the natural disasters have been getting worse but the additional resilience keeps the costs about the same.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 20, 2014 @07:56PM (#46539531)

    It's amazing how they jumped quickly on the heretic for the slightest non-orthodoxy. We've gone from grouping those who doubt that human CO2 emission costs more than eliminating it would with modern Nazis who deny the Holocaust, to burning the witch for claiming "you don't need global warming to explain this rise in costs".

    Clearly he weighs the same as a duck!

    When you start attacking people who say "I don't need your theory to explain this observation", not even doubting your theory is true, you've become a religion.

    This is how science works.

    Scientists debate REALLY REALLY REALLY hard about every little detail of their stuff. I mean, Pielke and Mann both agree on the big picture of climate change as is clear from their article - the just disagree on the details. But, scientists debate hard on the details.

    But this is what scientists are supposed to do (although its not supposed to be in such a bitchy, personal, nasty way - Mann always comes across as an ass). Work over every little thing until a consensus is reached. After all, thats why the general public should have some trust in scientific consensus - scientists debate so hard amongst themselves, so if they all agree on something, it must be fairly believable.

  • by grcumb (781340) on Thursday March 20, 2014 @07:59PM (#46539555) Homepage Journal

    Its sad to see these scientists cry fowl, controversy, and blasphemy at dissenters . Isn't science supposed to have opposing views, with fact-based research on multiple view points using the "scientific method" for cross-checking each-others work?

    First off: Let's leave the chickens out of this, shall we?

    Second: No, it's not sad at all. This is exactly the kind of debate we want - one where people disagree about specific and detailed issues, and respond to one another on points of fact. Yes, it's heated and the antagonism is distressful to some, but the plain fact is that this is real, healthy debate.

    I don't see propaganda, mis- and disinformation from 'high priests'; I see a bunch of pencil-liner geeks getting furious with one another over data. And I like it.

    The only thing that saddens me in all this is that people think disagreement is equivalent to enmity these days.

  • by rahvin112 (446269) on Thursday March 20, 2014 @08:26PM (#46539723)

    Scientists go after any scientist or report claiming to be scientific that violates scientific principles or that is blatantly false. It happens all the time.

    Maybe if you weren't predisposed to an answer you would realize that attack on the science might just indicate that the science is bad.

  • by riverat1 (1048260) on Thursday March 20, 2014 @08:30PM (#46539737)

    We've gone from grouping those who doubt that human CO2 emission costs more than eliminating it would with modern Nazis who deny the Holocaust ...

    The people making that connection are the climate science deniers themselves. They're just trying to redefine the meaning of "denier" to take the heat out of it. Mark Twain famously said "Denial ain't just a river in Egypt" long before there was any Holocaust denial.

  • by reve_etrange (2377702) on Thursday March 20, 2014 @09:03PM (#46539909)
    It didn't explain why it might not be true, it just asserted that it isn't. Contrary to popular belief here is a difference between bald assertion and actual argument.
  • by Urza9814 (883915) on Thursday March 20, 2014 @09:11PM (#46539947)

    It also irks me that they always point to "in-the-last-800,000-years" graph, where "in-the-last-34,000,000-years" graph from the exact same source (ice-cores), having data that is just as accurate reveals that the earth was in a period of historically low CO2 levels during the ascent of man. Until we start cold-fusing He to form C, were only releasing carbon that was at one point or another already in the atmosphere. The earth was not formed with oil reserves in place before there was an atmosphere....

    Yes, humanity evolved and developed to our current state in a period of low atmospheric CO2. Nobody really denies that. It's pretty obvious.

    But...we have no way of knowing if our current civilization -- or even the human species -- can survive a world with those higher CO2 levels. Most people would be in favor of acting to prevent massive natural disasters or the extinction of the entire human race if possible.

    Not that I'm saying humanity WOULD go extinct...I think climate change will be very painful for us, and we should try to mitigate that, but we'll survive regardless. We're pretty damn good at that. But it could certainly set us back a few hundred/thousand years....along with causing millions of deaths...so it's probably a good thing to try to avoid.

  • by turkeyfish (950384) on Friday March 21, 2014 @12:52AM (#46540821)

    Of the 20% (more like 3%) who argue that the Earth isn't getting any warmer, can anyone find even ONE who can explain why, if its not getting hotter, are virtually all the world's glaciers and ice shields melting a rates faster than seen at any time in geological history?

    How can ANY global warming denier be taken seriously, if they can't answer this question?

  • by Z00L00K (682162) on Friday March 21, 2014 @01:19AM (#46540899) Homepage

    Extreme weather cost more due to several factors:

    • Inflation.
    • More people living in sensitive areas.
    • More expensive housing in sensitive areas.

      • It's just a trade-off between ability to get an income and the risk of suffering extreme conditions.

        If the weather gets worse - it's harder to tell since you have to cover the weather for decades to see through the statistical noise. If storms hits a coastal region on average every 10 years it may still be a month between the storms and then 20 years of silence.

  • by erikkemperman (252014) on Friday March 21, 2014 @02:34AM (#46541117)

    You forgot one: more extreme weather.

    Really this is no longer an actual dispute among scientists. Or anywhere else, actually, except for the popular media in (almost exclusively) the US.

  • by riverat1 (1048260) on Friday March 21, 2014 @03:00AM (#46541183)

    Even such notable climate contrarians as the Pielkes, Sr. and Jr, Richard Lindzen and Roy Spencer will tell you that more CO2 means warming. They just disagree on how much warming there will be.

  • by Smauler (915644) on Friday March 21, 2014 @03:08AM (#46541205)

    Here's a pretty straightforward prediction : Higher levels of CO2 in the atmosphere will result in higher temperatures.

    Here's another : Burning lots of fossil fuels will increase levels of CO2 in the atmosphere.

    They're the basic premises of anthropogenic climate change science, and there aren't too many people who disagree with those statements. Predicting exact results is not easy... you don't cast doubt on evolution because it didn't predict HIV (or do you?).

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