Become a fan of Slashdot on Facebook


Forgot your password?
Earth Science

Nate Silver's New Site Stirs Climate Controversy 335

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."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Nate Silver's New Site Stirs Climate Controversy

Comments Filter:
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 20, 2014 @07:36PM (#46539429)

    I'm guessing you ignored the part where he fudged the data he did use, and ignored a whole other pile of data and criticisms of his previous analyses, in order to produce this result? The reason scientists always seem to go after results like this is that results like this are pretty much always based on shit science. If you're hanging your views on shitty analyses like these, perhaps your views are wrong.

  • Re:Go after em Nate (Score:2, Informative)

    by saloomy ( 2817221 ) on Thursday March 20, 2014 @07:39PM (#46539439)
    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 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....
  • 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:

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 20, 2014 @07:42PM (#46539461)

    I'm guessing you ignored the part where he fudged the data he did use, and ignored a whole other pile of data and criticisms of his previous analyses, in order to produce this result?

    I gather you didn't read to the end where the update explained why none of what you said is true?

  • 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). []

    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. []

    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. []

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

    Well, here is a major study []: 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 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.

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

    by penix1 ( 722987 ) on Thursday March 20, 2014 @10:07PM (#46540179) Homepage

    Well then here is another piece for you...

    Every state that receives federal assistance for disaster is required by the Stafford Act to have a FEMA approved mitigation plan. It can be one of two flavors. Standard all hazards mitigation plan or enhanced all hazard mitigation plan. Larger states go for enhanced because it gives up to 20% instead of 15% but to be enhanced a state has to demonstrate a capability and dedication to running their own programs. Smaller states like mine don't have the staffing to pull that off properly so we go standard. These plans are public documents (sensitive critical infrastructure mitigation may be redacted) so check with your State Hazard Mitigation Officer who is responsible for those plans. (WV citizens can find theirs here: [] )

    Add to that each local unit of government must have an approved local plan if they want to participate in mitigation funding programs. (Again, WV citizens can use the link above for their regionalized plans).

    State plans have an update cycle of 3 years while local plans have an update cycle of 5. SHMOs nationwide have been arguing this update cycle is backwards. After all, which is more likely to change over time, local or statewide?

  • 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 []. 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 turkeyfish ( 950384 ) on Friday March 21, 2014 @12:15AM (#46540711)

    Forget the "good science"/"bad science" arguments.

    Can anyone who believes that it really isn't getting hotter explain why, if its not getting hotter all the world's glaciers and ice shields are simultaneously melting faster than at any time in geological history?

    It would seem that those arguing that its not getting hotter or all those studies demonstrating that it is is getting hotter are just a hoax, a scam or a conspiracy, have an even larger and more fundamental scientific problem on their hands. If its not getting hotter, why is all that ice melting so quickly?

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

    by riverat1 ( 1048260 ) on Friday March 21, 2014 @02:00AM (#46541013)

    If you don't like being called a climate science denier it would help to not make statements like "The predictions form[sic] the models old enough (15+ years old) to be tested have been falsified." They have not been falsified and it's apparent from that statement that you really don't understand much about how climate models work, what they are expected to predict in the first place and that your expectations of them are unrealistic.

  • by Hylandr ( 813770 ) on Friday March 21, 2014 @04:17AM (#46541351)

    Except the number of Hurricanes actually HITTING the U.S. has dwindled significantly in the last couple years. The one or two that do get through hit in more sensitive areas not prepared for it.

    Every year the NOAA has pronounced a more severe storm season that's whimpered despite naming storms they wouldn't have even considered 10 years ago. I know, because I have been watching.

    Example: []

    Found at: []

Recent investments will yield a slight profit.