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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 Yaur (1069446)

      In fact, today’s climate models suggest that future changes in extremes that cause the most damage won’t be detectable in the statistics of weather (or damage) for many decades.

      So he isn't a denier exactly. He is saying that damage from natural disasters is not a significant contributor to the damages at this point. Someone making a, data backed, nuanced argument about climate change... seems like its time to get the popcorn.

      • 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 Yaur (1069446)
          But he does talk about exactly that. Specifically about the relationship between per capita GDP and the expected death toll from natural disasters. How do you account for that if the reason isn't better, or at least more widely available, technology and preparedness. Is the counter argument that we are getting better at preventing damage from disasters faster than they are getting worse? That doesn't seem particularly different than his POV.
          • Re:Go after em Nate (Score:5, Interesting)

            by reve_etrange (2377702) on Thursday March 20, 2014 @09:01PM (#46539899)
            You've misunderstood the 538 post. The argument there is simply that higher GDP means there is more GDP available to lose. Ergo, greater losses. Its author claims that technological and preparedness advances are not significant.
            • This is a great time for one of those "all other things being equal" comparisons. Slashdot has a great piece recently that would fit for a perfect thought experiment, and said experiment actually would show why Pielke is right on this one:

              http://science.slashdot.org/st... [slashdot.org]

              Here's the experiment: Think about the differences in the infrastructure in 1859 vs the infrastructure in 2012. It's really a no brainer, a coronal mass ejection would be far more destructive in 2012. This is a perfect "all other things bei

        • Re:Go after em Nate (Score:5, Informative)

          by penix1 (722987) on Thursday March 20, 2014 @08:14PM (#46539639) Homepage

          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.

          Disclaimer: I am the State Hazard Mitigation Officer for my state...

          Having said that, I can vouch for the fact that every state gets 15% of the cost of the disaster just for mitigating future damages. Everything from acquisition / demolition and elevations for flooding to safe rooms and wind resistant construction for hurricane and tornadoes. This has been going on since the late 80's and is part of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (Public Law 93-288) as amended. Section 404 covers the Hazard Mitigation Assistance and 406 covers Mitigation for Public Assistance (infrastructure).

          http://www.fema.gov/robert-t-s... [fema.gov]

          Currently, our state has over 1,500 properties that are under deed restriction preventing any structures from being built there ever again.

          Title 44 of the Code of Federal Regulations stipulates how the Hazard Mitigation Grant programs are to be implemented.

          http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/C... [gpo.gov]

          Add to that the newly (and controversially) enacted Biggert Waters National Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012 and it makes the NFIP risk based as it should be.

          http://www.fema.gov/flood-insu... [fema.gov]

          So yes, this nation has been actively seeking ways to make communities much more resilient to natural disasters.

          And from an anecdotal point of view having been in emergency management for 15 years, I can say from personal experience that storms are getting more frequent and more powerful.

          • Re:Go after em Nate (Score:5, Informative)

            by owski (222689) on Thursday March 20, 2014 @08:29PM (#46539735)

            And from an anecdotal point of view...

            That's why we have science, because "anecdotal point of view" is completely untrustworthy.

            • by penix1 (722987)

              Well from what I am seeing from the comments here and the bitchfest going on over there the science isn't very trustworthy either...

              • by Namarrgon (105036)

                Why would a whole branch of science suddenly get untrustworthy? Did the peer review process selectively stop working, or are they all in a massive global conspiracy to sabotage their own careers, perhaps?

                Or perhaps it's just uninformed opinion that says it's untrustworthy, which has got to be one of the bigger examples of irony around.

                • Re:Go after em Nate (Score:4, Informative)

                  by TapeCutter (624760) on Friday March 21, 2014 @01:37AM (#46540941) Journal
                  Many people can't handle uncertainty. The theory is sound, more heat = more turbulance. What the IPCC has basically said is that the records are not good enough for a robust statistical conclusion either way. However it should be noted that for over a decade now the acctuaries who calculate risk factors for large reinsurers have been adding a premium for AGW damages. Their main concern is higher tidal surges during storms, such as we saw with Katrina and Sandy.
            • by houghi (78078)

              OP was well aware of that. That is why he mentioned it was anecdotial.

          • Re:Go after em Nate (Score:5, Interesting)

            by LynnwoodRooster (966895) on Thursday March 20, 2014 @10:27PM (#46540263) Journal

            And from an anecdotal point of view having been in emergency management for 15 years, I can say from personal experience that storms are getting more frequent and more powerful.

            Interesting, must just be your neck of the woods, since hurricane/cyclone frequency and energy is decreasing [policlimate.com] on a global scale. Sure, we're spotting more hurricanes/cyclones, but fewer are making landfall and are weaker as well. Perhaps our ability to spot hurricanes out at sea, and classify them correctly is what is getting better, not the actual number occurring.

            Likewise with tornadoes [noaa.gov], which have remained more-or-less constant. Damage caused by F1 to F5 tornadoes is actually dropping; it's the little guys, the F0s, that are increasing damage. Is that because there are more tornadoes? No, there are not more tornadoes. I suggest it is because there is more lightweight construction in/near tornado zones and so damage is happening where in the past it would not - nothing to damage.

        • Re:Go after em Nate (Score:4, Interesting)

          by TapeCutter (624760) on Friday March 21, 2014 @01:19AM (#46540901) Journal
          Yes, unlike Antony Watts, Monckton and other "deniers", Pielke sometimes has the balls to put his ideas into a published paper. He is "a" scientists disagreeing with the conclusions of Science in the proper way. IMO his ideas don't amount to a hill of beans but his critsizims do have the welcome affect of strengthening the existing arguments. At the end of the day, robust debate is how Science is supposed to work.
        • by N1AK (864906)
          What I found frustrating about this article is that Nate Silver nicely covered the difficulty of looking at extreme weather events in any short (less than thousands of years) timescales: If mega-storms happen on average every 20 years then it wouldn't be unusual to have a 20 year period that includes two followed by another 20 year period with none, a 10% increase in the chance of mega-storms over that period would be impossible to spot because it's simply too small a period to see that trend.

          Technology
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by saloomy (2817221)
      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? These "scientists" sound more and more like high priests from the middle ages every time I read a climate-change article. 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 s
      • 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 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 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 dryeo (100693)

        For an example of a planet that hasn't sequestered any carbon in the form of hydrocarbons or carbonate rocks, look at Venus. Personally I think it is good that so much carbon has been removed from the atmosphere that temperatures are milder then Venus and considering we have evolved during an ice house phase of the Earth I also think that we're lucky we're still in the ice house phase.
        Eventually the Earth will flip back to the hot house phase and most of the life that we know will die out, including us, bu

    • Additionally (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 20, 2014 @07:39PM (#46539445)

      Nobody is ignoring natural climate fluctuations. Nobody. The fact that the climate fluctuates naturally does not argue against anthropogenic climate change any more than the fact that the weather changes from day to day argues against the existence of seasons. How about you come back when you have an argument that hasn't already been debunked based on evidence here:

      https://www.skepticalscience.com/argument.php

    • by rasmusbr (2186518)

      It is true that the climate has changed over time and it is also true that it has been much warmer than we could ever hope to make it by burning fossil fuel and that the sea levels have been much higher than today. There is one crucial difference: that was before the apes evolved walking on two legs and complex language and eventually went on to build huge cities, most of which are only a few meters above sea level.

    • 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.

    • You didn't even RTFA, did you? Nowhere in the article does it say that Global Warming is wrong. This is about extreme storms, those strong enough to cause insured damages. That's a tangential point in regards overall climate patterns. Try reading first before accusing others of "fanaticism."
    • You're projecting your ideas onto what's happening. Full disclosure, I'm a FON (fan of Nate).

      This article is about **launching a site**...it's about being "controversial" to get clicks.

      Nate Silver doesn't agree with you. He isn't fighting against some imagined climate change fanaticism or intolerance, b/c **none exists**

      Pollution hurts the environment. End of story.

      This article was about getting "clicks"...it's not trying to overturn decades of science...at best it's a "opposing viewpoint" kind of thing tha

    • Re:Go after em Nate (Score:5, Interesting)

      by pitchpipe (708843) on Thursday March 20, 2014 @08:59PM (#46539889)

      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.

      I cannot ever recall groups of people who are not experts in a field so fervently trying to discredit the experts in that field, and to disprove the science in that field, all while using anything but the generally accepted methods of that field.

      I don't see wildlife biologists using historical populations of wolves to try to disprove Einstein's theory of relativity. I don't see archaeologists using ancient mummy wrapping techniques to try to disprove the theory of solar spot formation. But here we have a political scientist using statistics from economic data to try to discredit the theory that more energy in a weather system will cause more energetic events. It's getting to be so ridiculous that I bet in the near future we *will* see a wildlife biologist using historical wolf populations to disprove that the globe is heating up, or that it is but man is not the cause, or that man is the cause but you can't do anything about it anyway, or that you could, but it's actually better for everybody so don't do anything, or please, just anything but not to burn less oil.

      You guys that deny climate change is happening (or whatever your flavor of denialism is taking on these days), do you ever wonder if by buying into what these guys are saying that you're just playing the stooge?

      • by meglon (1001833)

        I cannot ever recall groups of people who are not experts in a field so fervently trying to discredit the experts in that field, and to disprove the science in that field, all while using anything but the generally accepted methods of that field.

        Point, set, match. You don't go to a car mechanic if you're having a heart attack. Pielke isn't a actual scientist, he's a political scientist who doesn't understand real science enough to make use of it, but he has a big enough mouth and the tenacity of diarrhea of that same orifice to gather a following of other incredibly intentionally ignorant dipshits who's world view his basic stupidity confirms.

        If we're losing more money to natural disasters because we have more money in general, we be losing mo

        • by SuperKendall (25149) on Thursday March 20, 2014 @11:11PM (#46540467)

          Pielke isn't a actual scientist, he's a political scientist who doesn't understand real science enough

          He worked at the National Center for Atmospheric Research as a REAL scientist for eight years [colorado.edu]. Possibly using his mathematics degree, you realized he had one?

          You weren't actually basing your understanding on who he was based solely on what someone trying to discredit him painted him as... right? Right?? Sigh.

      • by riverat1 (1048260)

        I cannot ever recall groups of people who are not experts in a field so fervently trying to discredit the experts in that field, and to disprove the science in that field, all while using anything but the generally accepted methods of that field.

        Ahem, evolution.

    • by pepty (1976012)
      Go after em Nate? More like a struggling website launch is resorting to recycled clickbait to fill in the gaps. Launching shortly before March Madness made perfect sense, but maybe he should have stuck with sports, elections, and "other" instead of trying to generate content in so many areas.
  • by saloomy (2817221) on Thursday March 20, 2014 @07:27PM (#46539347)
    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. Aren't extreme weather events and their relative energy levels easy to gauge and track? Why is this controversial? Either there are more extreme / extremely powerful events, the average energy level increasing, or there aren't. Im sure that (like economists do for inflation), factors that are constant and not constant (like solar output) can be factored.
    • by quantaman (517394)

      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.

      Aren't extreme weather events and their relative energy levels easy to gauge and track? Why is this controversial? Either there are more extreme / extremely powerful events, the average energy level increasing, or there aren't.

      Im sure that (like economists do for inflation), factors that are constant and not constant (like solar output) can be factored.

      Those things are checkable but it's non-trivial and subject to interpretation. I don't know if there is a scientific consensus on this question but I'm pretty sure it's non-trivial.

      For me the issue isn't that the story is necessarily wrong, it's that it could have had the opposite conclusion and been just as convincing and justified. Silver hired a proponent of one side in a scientific debate (no idea if it's the bigger side or not), now that person is presenting his view as if it's the only conclusion once

    • by Namarrgon (105036) on Thursday March 20, 2014 @09:03PM (#46539905) Homepage

      Well, here is a major study [ametsoc.org]: 19 different peer-reviewed analyses by 70 climate scientists in 18 separate research groups. Brief summary of their findings:

      • * Climate change helped raise the temperatures during the run of 100F days in 2012’s American heat wave;
      • * drove the record loss of Arctic sea ice;
      • * fueled the devastating storm surge of hurricane Sandy;
      • * heatwaves are now four times as likely;

      However, they also found there are of course still natural events that climate change has not affected, such as:

      • * Britain’s miserable summer in 2012, which was the rainiest in a century;
      • * the Netherlands’ cold spell in 2012;
      • * the drought that devastated America’s corn belt;
      • * the droughts in Kenya and Somalia.

      TL;DR: Climate change IS affecting our weather, but only some things.

    • by a2wflc (705508)

      Detection of extreme weather events hasn't been consistent so it's hard to say for example if there are more or more powerful hurricanes now than in the 1930's. Hurricanes need an eye witness to label them. These days we see something on radar and send a plane. In the 1930's it depended on having a boat in the area or making landfall in a populated area. One result is that there are a lot more recorded cat 1 and 2s now than 100 years ago but not so many more 4s and 5s (very likely they usually made land

    • Much of the problem is that the Alarmists and the Deniers like to cherry pick the data. What they do is pick a span of time that proves their point. If you look at the last 17 years then you come to one conclusion. If you look at the last 34 years you get another conclusion. That sort of thing. This is classic bad science and both sides are doing it. It's annoying.

  • 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 TubeSteak (669689)

      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.

      Have you seen the FiveThirtyEight headlines?
      They're almost 100% clickbait.

      I have no comment about the contents of the articles,
      but the headlines are just a step above "one weird trick" type stuff.

  • 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 Yaur (1069446)
      If anything I thought it was part of his argument... cost in absolute terms is going up because GDP is going up, but going down as a share of GDP because wealth also allows us to prepare better for disasters (e.g. with better technology). I'm not in a position to say, but assuming that he hasn't doctored the data (which seems sadly common in this domain) it seems like an interesting assessment.
    • I agree, they seem to be smoothing out their response in the update but I also noticed when they were explaining Piekle's background that they failed to recognize he has a very strong environmental sciences background.

      http://sciencepolicy.colorado.... [colorado.edu]

      He worked for the National Center for Atmospheric Research for eight years and has numerous awards from many non-partisan organizations regarding climate and planetary research.

      Yet the ThinkProgress site only mentions he is a "political scientist" as it
      • by meglon (1001833)

        Yet the ThinkProgress site only mentions he is a "political scientist" as it to cast him as ignorant of the subject matter.

        Pielke earned a B.A. in mathematics (1990), a M.A. in public policy (1992), and a Ph.D. in political science, all from the University of Colorado Boulder.

  • Just like a new 'Highest Grossing' movie premier, or 'Most Expensive Flop'

    Money related comparisons need to account for inflation.

  • by quantaman (517394) on Thursday March 20, 2014 @07:58PM (#46539543)

    538's original mix, sports and politics, are both essentially spectator sports. The major interest in entertainment and people watch for the narratives. Seeking to drive interest (and appease partisans) media come up with false narratives that ignore data. This creates a lot of low hanging fruit for 538 to take the data and point out the narratives are wrong.

    I think that 538 has made the mistake of believing that this low-hanging fruit exists elsewhere. When you have multiple groups of writers all trying to generate the best 2.5 hours of cable news punditry every week you're going to get a lot of easily debunked BS. When you try to apply that same once over data analysis to areas of serious scientific study you're going to be the one spewing BS.

    I hope Silver can find some additional areas of news that are in real need of analysis because trying to do original scientific research in a news article won't end well.

    • Very well put. You have nailed the issue precisely.

      This same attempt to apply facile contrarian statistical analysis to real scientific issues led to the sad flame-out of Levitt and Dubner in Super Freakonomics. You need to understand when the analytic techniques you are applying work and when they don't, and don't draw over-broad conclusions for the sake of a headline and some clicks.

    • Well, did you read the article? Because AFAICT his analysis seems good. Do you see real problems with it, or are you just guessing based on a headline? Because that would be as bad as what you are accusing him of.
      • by quantaman (517394)

        Well, did you read the article? Because AFAICT his analysis seems good. Do you see real problems with it, or are you just guessing based on a headline? Because that would be as bad as what you are accusing him of.

        I read his article and the response.

        If I recall his claims were mainly that costs had increased at the same rate as GDP (you really confident with his linear fit of that data? way too much noise) and that the IPCC had stated that extreme weather wasn't getting worse (not sure how true that is).

        The response was that he was disregarding the fact that modern structures and forecasting should reduce costs, and that some work had indicated storms were getting worse. (to which he had a counter-response taking iss

        • That post is a lot more clear than your first one, thanks
        • The response was that he was disregarding the fact that modern structures and forecasting should reduce costs,...

          What expertise do climatologists bring to this part of the discussion? This is not a question of climatology but of economics. The guys criticizing Pielke are out of their area of expertise on this.

  • My beef with Pielke's conclusions are that they are the same as regular climate "scientists"; namely that a transfer of wealth will somehow save the world. Whether it's carbon credits, or simply giving our money away to have less wealth to lose, global warming proponents simply can't come up with conclusions that allow the status quo to remain in place. When there are some conclusions that point out the advantages of oil spills, recommend increasing the number of wars waged to secure oil resources, show t

  • by oneiros27 (46144) on Thursday March 20, 2014 @08:23PM (#46539701) Homepage

    The day before this article came out, the AAAS released a report on The Reality, Risks and Response to Climate Change [aaas.org], and seems to be starting a publicity push on the topic.

    Here's what I see -- the majority of scientists believe that there are real problems with global warming, even if there may be some cyclic effects (heat kills off all the humans, they stop causing problems, everything cools back down).

    So instead we have groups trying to sow disinformation with questions about the incidence of some severe weather events (are we just monitoring better and catching more, in part because humans are in more places, or are they actually increasing), and are the increases in intensity statistically significant?

    And at this point, I've seen some data that might've been tainted (eg, temperature monitors that have had buildings encroach), but the general concensus is that yes, storms are getting worse.

    I'm not going to say his results are completely bunk, as he's likely right in that some of the problems can be explained by how and where people build (eg, in the flood plain -- but the flood plain was resurveyed and is growing in my area ... that might be because of silting up of rivers from construction, it could be because of increased rainfall))

    Where I do fault the article is for referencing a 'recent' UN report that hasn't been released yet (website says "The Summary for Policymakers will be released on 31 March 2014"), so we can't actually get to the underlying data that he's basing his claims on.

    • by rahvin112 (446269)

      The flood plain in your area likely didn't grow. What is going on with the flood plains is related to legitimate science and the history of how they were originally developed. Many many of the original flood plain maps were developed with insufficient data and information to draw the kind of conclusions the flood plain maps do. When you run into those situations you don't throw up your hands and just not produce a flood map, you just do the best you can with the limited data you have.

      Now years later work is

    • by HiThere (15173)

      It's definitely true that a lot of the problem can be explained by things being built in places that they shouldn't be. That's also clearly not the whole story.

      Still, I don't know how I'd approportion the "blame". Sometimes you need both to happen before there's a disaster, sometimes one alone suffices. Sometimes even both together don't yield a disaster. Weather is chaotic. So is climate, though the scale is different. But even in chaos there are attractors. You don't often get snow in June (North o

  • by rahvin112 (446269) on Thursday March 20, 2014 @08:57PM (#46539883)

    Nate made a name for himself doing statistical analysis on events where there are generally two possible outcomes and a fairly limited numbers of possible ways to get there. Sports, voting, etc are ALL yes or no answers with very very limited possible ways to get there.

    Real science on the other hand frequently involves situations where the answer isn't really known and the possible ways to get there are infinite. So rather than evaluating whether the local voters will vote for candidate A or candidate B is an entirely different situation than evaluating whether climate change is increasing the cost of disasters. There are two variables in the first and good data (such as polling) indicating how people in general will vote. With solid statistical analysis this type of situations should be fairly easy to predict IF your data collection is good. He made his name by doing better data picking than the others.

    Climate change disaster levels on the other hand is an entirely different game. Because this is all rather cutting edge science, whether the frequency or size of disasters has gone up (at this time) is a question of open debate in the scientific community. This paper makes blatant assumptions about which side of this debate is right then proceeds to use that assumption as the basis to draw firm conclusions. This isn't good science and it's not good data analysis. Consensus is needed in science if you are going to rely on the conclusions to make predictions on other data sets. And that's exactly the problem, there isn't a yes or no answer to the question there was an assumed answer. There is evidence indicating things and certain scientists may agree or disagree about what that evidence indicates and in time after much research the scientific community will reach a consensus and we'll likely have the real answer with hard evidence at that point.

    Nate should stick to what he's good at, fixed data sets with yes or no answers. He apparently doesn't have the scientific background to realize that not all scientific conclusions drawn in papers are either right nor are they the consensus of the community. After all, any jackass can write a paper and draw conclusions and be completely wrong or even fake data, in fact it happens all to often.

    • by iluvcapra (782887)

      Sports, voting, etc are ALL yes or no answers with very very limited possible ways to get there. Real science on the other hand frequently involves situations where the answer isn't really known and the possible ways to get there are infinite

      That's about right. There's a sort of basic ontological fallacy in an article like this. Just because we can construct a question like "To what extent is climate change responsible for the cost of disasters?" it doesn't necessarily follow that it can be answered quan

  • by kf6auf (719514) on Thursday March 20, 2014 @09:05PM (#46539917)

    The evidence claims that so far, there hasn't been an increase in monetary cost of natural disasters relative to GDP. I'll let other, more informed people tackle this factual issue.* My problem is purely based on faulty logic; at the end of the article, the author extrapolates that this trend of disaster damage being correlated with and caused by increases in GDP will continue indefinitely. But the only evidence cited for the conclusion that climate change won't ever cause increased natural disasters actually says that US tropical cyclones won't significantly increase in frequency and severity for several decades; I found nothing about winter storms/polar vortex, crop loss due to drought, sea level rise, etc. and I'm not even sure how accurately you can extrapolate to tropical cycles in other places, not to mention many of us hope to still be around in several decades. I appreciate that Nate Silver is a great statistician, but this is going to go downhill really quick if the conclusions of articles posted on his site are only tangentially related to the actual statistics.

    *The other disappointing thing is that the author has claimed this before, has been refuted, and hasn't changed his argument even so much as to mention the points made by various people who had rebuttals.

  • ... in the face of dogma.

  • When I wander around with eyes closed, I hit my head on walls. It is not because my eyes are closed, but because there are too many walls.

  • by riverat1 (1048260) on Thursday March 20, 2014 @10:10PM (#46540193)

    Someone (in this case Pielke, Jr.) writes up their research then others with expertise in the field get to criticize it, hopefully producing something better ultimately. What is irritating is criticism from people who obviously don't know what they're talking about.

  • Much of the problem is that the Alarmists and the Deniers both like to cherry pick the data to prove their favorite theory. What they do is choose a span of time that proves their point.

    If you look at the last 17 years then you come to one conclusion. If you look at the last 34 years you get another conclusion. That sort of thing.

    This is classic bad science and both sides are doing it. It's annoying.

    • by dave420 (699308)
      Very true. However if you look at the un-cherry-picked data, you see that there is still warming, and all the evidence points to it being mainly due to humanity's CO2 output. Alarmists and deniers can both sod off. AGW is real. Let's not pretend it isn't, or overstate the effects.
  • A few weeks ago, Roger Pielke Jr wrote this [newrepublic.com] in response to similar attacks on him by John Holdren.

    BTW, the United Nations report he mentions comes from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the group which shared a Nobel Prize with Al Gore.
  • If "pro" is the opposite of "con" then what is the opposite of "progress"?

    The biggest problem I have with man made global warming scare is that the solution always seems to be bigger government and more taxes. These AGW alarmists go running to Congress to ban this or tax that but neither will really decrease AGW. The way to decrease AGW, if it exists at all, is to create alternatives. Give us something better and people will naturally gravitate toward it because it will be in their best interest to do so.

    By creating legislation to bar people from doing something does not prevent people from breaking the law. Getting caught with the wrong kind of toilet or light bulb in your house is unlikely and there is no real punishment for doing so. So people will break the law. However, if you can convince people that using the wrong kind of toilet or light bulb costs them money then you have a convert.

    What Congress has done is made it difficult to produce energy that is both low in carbon output and profitable. They shut down power plants and coal mines, and stopped issuing permits to drill for oil and gas on federal land. What happened? We buy our oil from other countries where they don't care about spilling oil into the ocean. We put high voltage power lines into Mexico where they don't care how many people die from inhaling the coal soot.

    What we should do instead is allow for the creation of alternatives. There has not been a new nuclear reactor built in the USA for four decades. There might be some new ones being built now but all they do is build new reactors on the same site as the old ones. We need nuclear power. Without nuclear power we must choose between the status quo, continued reliance on fossil fuels, or reverting to a caveman lifestyle.

    I find it laughable about how people will claim that wind and solar will save the environment and give us all the energy we need. Windmills have been shown to kill endangered Golden Eagles and Bald Eagles but Congress lets that happen because wind power is good. Except that wind power does not make a profit. Its economic viability exists only because of taxes, taxes derived from profitable coal energy. Solar power is no different, it kills birds by blinding or burning them and is only held up by taxing the coal industry.

    What happens if Congress is successful in driving the coal industry out of business with taxes? The subsidies for wind and solar energy goes away. Energy prices will triple and people will have to choose between freezing or starving to death. Same goes for gasoline and diesel fuel taxes. If the gasoline and diesel fuel taxes go away then we have no money for the roads.

    I believe AGW is a farce. I believe this because the actions of Congress show me that they are not serious about it so therefore they have not been convinced. If they were convinced of the existence of AGW they would not be acting as they do. If they thought that AGW was a real threat to the environment then they'd be building nuclear power plants. If they were concerned about the environment they they would not be building windmills that kill endangered species. What they have shown me is that their greatest concern is growing the size of government. What better way to grow government than to build an economy that depends on government?

    Subsidies mean people must do as the government says or they don't have a job. Taxes takes money only from those that know how to make money. The best thing that subsidies can do is take money from those that know how to make money and give it to those that know how to make money, which is no better than not taxing them in the first place. But subsidies don't always give money to those who know how to make money, but it does give money to those who know how to do what the government wants.

    If Congress was serious about AGW then they'd stop taxing and spending. Instead they'd provide a legal and economic environment where people with the best ideas on saving the environment and the economy thrive. A good start would be to allow nuclear research to happen. They don't have to give them money, just permission to conduct their work.

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