William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

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A Survey Of The Perceptions Of Climate Scientists 2013: No Consensus

Nothing like a balmy summer afternoon.

Earlier this year scientists were given a survey on their opinion of the state of climate science. This was administered by Dennis Bray & Hans von Storch at the Helmholtz Zentrum Geesthacht. (Bray I don’t know, but von Storch I do, vaguely).

The paper is on-line here (free registration required). Update Alternate link at Bray’s site (near the top).

The authors started with 5,947 (reasonably discovered, mostly senior folks from USA, Germany, and UK) email addresses (culled from earlier surveys), but had to toss 1,456 for invalidity. Only 286 people turned in a survey. I was one. This makes for a very dismal 7% response rate. Any conclusions drawn from this study should therefore be viewed with fish eyes, because 93% had noting to say, did not to participate, who knows why.

What follows is a summary. Most questions were on a 7-point scale, higher more confident, increased significantly, that sort of thing. I dichotomize these, with 4 (neutral) and above or 3 and lower.

Main: No Consensus

Only 8% (of the 7%) said their “confidence in the findings of climate science” decreased. Which is to say—and not for the last time—there is no consensus. Of the other 93% who didn’t turn in a survey, nobody knows. But there are at least some who aren’t so happy with the state of affairs in climatology (I’m one).

On a bright note (to me), about 36% did not agree that “climate science has remained a value-neutral science.” But no consensus.

Around 11% felt “less confident concerning the IPCC’s attribution of warming to GHS”. No consensus in the 7%.

Model Modules: No Consensus

Some 20% did not agree that “Climate models accurately simulate the climatic conditions for which they are calibrated.” No C. Same number of folks disagreed that atmospheric models deal well with hydrodynamics. Only 10% were skeptical of modeling radiation. But 26% worried about simulate vapour in the atmosphere.

And a whole 60% admitted that climate models don’t do well with “the influence of clouds.” About half had the same negative view of precipitation, and between 50-60% frowned on atmospheric convection. Gee, No C.

The same pattern repeated itself for ocean modeling, so I won’t repeat it, except to note that 24% did not think models had the “ability to couple atmospheric and ocean models.” No C again.

What about turbulence in climate models? Just under half said no confidence; 28% said nope to land surface processes; about the same were dim on sea ice. Least negative were views on surface albedo and “green house gases emitted from anthropogenic sources”; about 14% were negative on each. No C.

Model Mimicking: No Consensus

About 9% were skeptical that models were able to reproduce both “mean values for the last 50 years” and “trends for the last 50 years”. More than double that (around 21%) were skeptical about reproducing “variability for the last 50 years.” Some 24% didn’t think models did well with precipitation over the last 50 years.

Even more—37%—said the models could not reproduce “trends for the last 50 years.” And even more still (52%!) thought models blew it on “variability for the last 50 years”. Talk about no consensus! (Of the 7%.)

Model Predictions: No Consensus

Despite that half thought models stank at reproducing variability, only 25% (why not the same 50%?) or so thought models would not well predict “mean values for the next 10 years” nor would they well predict “trends for the next 10 years.” And even more, around 38%, didn’t think models will do well with “variability for the next 10 years.” No C again.

It was the same story for predicting 50 years ahead, with even more folks skeptical of models making such long-range predictions.

Predicted precipitation? 42% said no to “mean values for the next 10 years”; 54% or so said no to “trends for the next 10 years”; and around 68% said no to “variability for the next 10 years.” Out 50 years, and skepticism only grows (as it should). No C.

Sea-level rise? Around 19% said no to good predictions of “mean values for the next 10 years”. About 23% said no to “trends for the next 10 years”, and about 31% said no to “variability for the next 10 years.” As before, out 50 years and only a handful believe. No C.

Extreme events? Over half (52%) didn’t think models would do well predicting “mean values for the next 10 years.” Around 60% said no to “trends for the next 10 years” and some 66% said no to “variability for the next 10 years.” Once more, looking out 50 years produces very little confidence. No C.

The authors also asked a series of questions on regional models, which produced less agreement than the global models; indeed, the majority were skeptical on many questions. No Consensus discovered. (Of the few who bothered to answer.)

Impact!: No Consensus

Around 28% didn’t think they had much to say about “the detrimental effects that climate change will have on society”.

Pay attention: The closest to a Consensus was to the question “How convinced are you that climate change, whether natural or anthropogenic, is occurring now?” Only 2% disagreed. Now, if even this banal, harmless question (“natural or anthropogenic“) cannot produce a Consensus, then what can?

About 11% were not convinced “that most of recent or near future climate change is, or will be, a result of anthropogenic causes”; about 14% were not convinced “that climate change poses a very serious and dangerous threat to humanity”. Note the words very serious.

Some 9% didn’t think we were feeling effects of a changed climate yet. But 38% said we could not “ttribute recent climate related disasters to climate change (anthropogenic or otherwise)”. Note that “anthropogenic or otherwise”.

The hardest question to summarize was this: “Since 1850, it is estimated that the world has warmed by 0.7 degrees C. Approximately what percent would you attribute to human causes?” About 10% said thirty-percent attribution or less. The peak was 26% at eighty-percent attribution. But, no consensus.

View: No Consensus

There then followed a series of questions on what interactions climate scientists had with the public. But about 60% of scientists said that adaptation is better than mitigation when dealing with climate change problems. Whoa!

Again, around 60% disagreed with the practice which some scientists employ; those who “present extreme accounts of catastrophic impacts related to climate change in a popular format with the claim that it is their task to alert the public.” (Bad news, right, Gav?) But still no consensus.

Even 33% said it was not the job of climate scientists to “be directly involved in alerting the general public about the possible socio-economic consequences to humans (health, policies, damages, economic loss, etc.) resulting from changes in the climate”

There then followed a few more questions along the same lines, all pointing to mixed views on the proper role of scientists and public policy.

Indulge Me: You can skip this section

The last few questions were of interest to statisticians. To “A description of the most probable outcome best defines” 28% said “a projection”, 64% said “a prediction”, and the rest “other.”

To “A description of a possible outcome best defines” 62% said “a projection”, 16% said “a prediction”, and the rest “other.”

To “From a scenario simulation prepared with climate models, scientists are more inclined to make” 76% said “a projection” and 18% “a prediction” and the rest “other.”

Now, since according to logic, all predictions are conditional (as all probability is condition), there is no difference in “a projection” or “a prediction.” Though I have the idea more people would like to hide behind the former, as it sounds weaker. More on this another day.

Overall Conclusion

I’m struggling to tie a theme together. Maybe readers can help me?



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North Korea’s Brilliant Climate Change Strategy

Originally seen on Real Science, and culled from the US Department of Energy (thank you, Government!), comes this informative picture:

North Korea leads the world in reductions.

North Korea leads the world in reductions.

Environmental activists are surely taking notes on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. They’re paying special attention to that master climatologist and man of the People Kim Jong-il, who assumed power, to unanimous assent—if only our Congress were as efficient!—from his pappy Kim Il-sung in 1994.

Yes, it is no coincidence that the rates of carbon usage began to plummet as Jong-jong (as he was affectionately known) ascended to the throne.

Activists credit Jong-jong’s astonishing success to that Supreme Leader’s invention of the simple “carbon lock box.” This was an ordinary box, about 1.5 meters long, and about 0.5 half meters wide and high, constructed of renewable and sustainable resources (pine planks).

This alone was brilliant, but it his next move that turned his idea into genius. Jong-jong dispatched an army of environmental agents to solicit resident of the People’s paradise to volunteer to “do their part” in the great battle against global warming. These altruistic folks—and there were many, many—literally stored away their carbon in lock boxes, forever depriving it to the atmosphere. Amazing!

That graph illustrates the kind of change we can believe it. It shows you what Government can do when gridlock is removed, when leaders are no longer restrained by pettifogging, obstructionist opposition. No filibustering in North Korean. No, sir! If only we could have the same kind of enlightened rule here.

Perhaps Kim Jong-un, the son of Jong-jong and new Supreme Leader of the People, would consent to loan us one of his issue, say his second or third born? Of course, we may have to wait a while for this gift. Jong-un had his last girlfriend machine gunned to several thousand pieces. But she had it coming.


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Ask Dr Fashion: Should I Throw Away My Jeans?

Do you really want to end up like this?

Do you really want to end up like this?

A reader writes:

Hello,

I’ve just read “Top 10 Men’s Fashion Rules” and you’re really against to jeans. My question is, i’m a college student and 23 years old and i like to dress “more formal” than the all t-shirt and sneakers wearers around me. And i always wear dark unwashed jeans with a dress shirt, a jacket and if it’s really cold a overcoat. And generally long wingtip bluchers for shoes. So i’m almost %90 more decent dressed every single guy around me and it really helps me to get chicks and be respected anywhere. But should i throw my jeans, is it the time ? Or should i wait until i get a decent job ? I mean am i overdressing for my age and position or am i actually wrong to try and bring it down a little with jeans ? What do you say ?

My dear young man, congratulations. You have taken your first step into a land which frightens your confréres; indeed, it is a place that scares the willies out of a growing number of people. This the Adulthood.

Americans now clutch to youth long past the point of seemliness, as if nobody notices their sagging or surgically stretched skin. Those inflicted labor under the delusion that if only they dressed like post-pubescent teens, people will find them youthful.

They particularly fear that if they dressed like adults, they would have to think and act like them, too. In this they are correct, if only because those around a suit-wearer treat him differently. Someone dressing as an adult is called “Sir” instead of “Hey you.” And there is absolutely no question that women far prefer a well dressed man to a stock (“ironic”) t-shirt-and-jeans-wearing lemming.

An adult realizes that he is not only dressing for himself, but for those around him. Everybody has to look at you. Why cause people pain? Dressing well is a duty, another characteristic of Adulthood.

Now as to you. Your choice of shoes is excellent. There are two spending rules for mens clothes: never skimp in shoes or hats. Everybody instantly notices inferior quality. And nothing ruins an outfit faster than subpar foot- and head-wear (no hipster hats). Sneakers, or what we called tennis shoes, are forbidden except when running after a ball. Just don’t wear them. They are always ugly, and because of the use of neon pipping, growing more hideous each year.

Also correct are the wearing of a jacket and adult shirt. T-shirts are forbidden except as undergarments or when playing sports.

The lesson here is that much less can be spent on shirts than on anything else. Thrift stores are good hunting grounds. The jacket covers most of the shirt, a tie hides even more. Therefore a shirt’s fit isn’t as crucial. Just try to ensure the neck closes around your gullet and the sleeves come to the meat of your thumb.

To answer your main question, yes: throw away your jeans. Yours Truly does not even own a pair, but then he lives in a city. If you are in the country, again I say, throw them away. My grandfather used to show me pictures of his father and uncle fishing in the Detroit River wearing three-piece suits. It’s what people did. (This was in the late 1800s, early 1900s.)

Ever notice any of those PBS “costume” dramas? The lords and ladies out for a hunt, that sort of thing? All in suits and frocks. Looks classy, no? Jeans aren’t necessary, except if you are earnestly laboring in the field, then they are just the ticket. Otherwise, no.

You said you wear “dark unwashed jeans.” Ah, yes. A common approach, especially in the aged. An attempt to disguise jeans as something other than jeans. These jeans are often expensive because it takes many steps to create pants that aren’t pants but look like them if you’re not looking closely. You would pay less for a pair of real trousers.

You don’t have to jump right into a suit. Jacket and tie and mismatched trousers are fine, even preferred in many instances. Don’t forget the pocket square.

There will be a price to pay in teasing and odd looks from your immediate friends. But this lasts only days or weeks. You will soon discover that you are the one these fellows come to for dressing tips. And you will instantly be aware of the greater attention from ladies and increased respect of strangers.

P.S. I’d correct your grammar, but I don’t want to be accused of micro-aggression.



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The Converted Statistician

Let's see, if I divide by p...infinity again!

Let’s see, if I divide by p…infinity again!

While doing some research, my number one son found this item from Punch, Vol. 146, January 28, 1914.

THE CONVERTED STATISTICIAN.

A sudden jolt as we thundered over some points caused me to shoot a piece of bread-and-butter on to the floor. I stooped to pick it up.

“Stop a moment, please!” cried my companion. He jumped to his feet and examined it. “Ah,” said he, “buttered side downward!”

“It’s always the same,” I said, as I jerked the thing viciously out of the window. “It’s always buttered side downward.”

“No, there you fall into a common error,” protested the other. “You may take it that fifty-seven per cent. fall buttered side upward, and only forty-three per cent. buttered side downward.”

“H’m,” I said dubiously.

“You must pardon me for my officiousness,” he went on, “especially as I have now no reason to be interested in such things. But habits are strong.”

I looked at him curiously. “Habits?” I said.

“Yes, habits. For years I kept an accurate record of every slice of bread-and-butter I saw fall to the ground. I had better explain myself. Nearly all my life, you must understand, I have maintained the view that the generally accepted theory of the ‘cussedness of things’ is all wrong. You know that to most people ‘cussedness’ is the governing factor of life.”

“Rather!” I agreed.

“Well, I disbelieved it, and I set to work to collect materials for a book which was to prove my case. For years I incessantly gathered statistics on the subject. Do I bore you?”

“Not at all,” I assured him.

“The results were extraordinary. Take, for example, catching trains. It is highly important that you should catch a train at short notice. In nine cases out of ten, you will say, your taxicab breaks down, or your tram is held up by a block in the traffic, or the current fails on the Underground.”

“Certainly it does.”

“On the contrary—I am speaking from memory, but I think my figures are accurate—the taxicab only breaks down in 1.5 per cent. of cases; with the tram the percentage rises to 1.8; with the Underground it falls to .2.”

I gasped.

“Or take the case of studs,” he went on. “You drop a stud, and it promptly and inevitably rolls away into some quite impossible hiding-place. So most of us believe. As a matter of fact it only does so approximately three times out of a hundred. Or bootlaces. If you are exceptionally late in the morning; your bootlace always snaps, you say. Not at all. It breaks in such circumstances only four times out of a possible hundred. And with bicycles, to take another example. If ever you get a puncture, you fancy that it always occurs on some occasion when you are sorely pressed for time. Again, not at all. Out of a hundred punctures only seventeen are sustained at such unfortunate moments.”

“You seem to have studied the subject pretty deeply,” I remarked.

“Oh, my dear Sir, I cannot myself recall a tithe of the material I collected. I carried out my inquiries in every conceivable direction. Suppose we take the obscure case of a—let me see—of a burglar. This was one of my most difficult researches. A burglar will assure you, if you happen to be in his confidence, that every time he enters a house, at a moment when absolute quiet is from his point of view essential, a door slams, or a pot of jam falls off a shelf, or a—a canary commences to sing loudly, or there occurs one of a hundred other unlucky noises he will name. As you may imagine, my investigations into this problem were extraordinarily difficult. But the result was a triumph. In only .375 per cent. of cases is our burglar disturbed by an unexpected noise for which he is not himself responsible. As for the specific examples given, the results here are even more striking. The pot of jam, for instance, only falls down in, I think, .0025 per cent. of cases, the canary bursts into song in only .00175 per cent., and so on.”

“It is astonishing,” I admitted. “I must certainly obtain a copy of your book. Perhaps——”

“I never published it,” he interrupted. “As a matter of fact I became converted.”

“Converted?” I exclaimed in amazement. “In the face of all your statistics?”

“Yes,” he said meditatively. “I remember the occasion well. It happened a few months ago, in early Spring. I had just completed the last chapter of my book, and I laid down my pen with a sigh. There before me lay all the statistics I had so laboriously collected, neatly tabulated and arranged with the proper explanatory notes and diagrams. It was finished after all these years! I can assure you it was an emotional moment. I don’t know if you have ever brought a great work to a successful conclusion; if so, you can understand my feelings.”

“I can imagine them,” I said.

“Well, I opened the French windows and stepped out into the garden to calm myself. It was a lovely March day, I remember, sunny and fresh, and I paced up and down the garden till my emotions subsided and I gradually recovered my self-control. Then I went indoors again.”

The train slowed down and he began to gather his things together. “While I was gone,” he said sadly, “the wind blew my manuscript and the best part of my notes into the fire.”

“How excessively unfortunate!” I murmured sympathetically. “And this converted you to the ‘cussedness’ theory?”

“Yes,” said he, as he stepped down to the platform. “It was the only book I ever wrote, and it was burned practically to a cinder. It works out you see, at exactly 100 per cent….”


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