It is time to stop quivering in our boots in pointless fear of the future and just roll up our sleeves and build it.
- Ray Pierrehumbert

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Headscratching About the Attribution Question

We need to find smarter ways to talk to the public about what we know and what we suspect about severe events in a changed climate

India just had its second-worst (in terms of mortality) heat wave.

Is this because of climate change?

If it had been unambiguously worst, would that change your opinion? To what extent, and why?

Statistical reasoning is fraught on the fringes.

That said, according to Reuters via Emily Atkin at Climate Progress
[T]he country’s minister of earth sciences did not mince words about what he says is causing the disaster.

“Let us not fool ourselves that there is no connection between the unusual number of deaths from the ongoing heat wave and the certainty of another failed monsoon,” Harsh Vardhan said, according to Reuters. “It’s not just an unusually hot summer, it is climate change.”
While he said it was too soon to directly attribute India’s current heat wave to climate change, University of Georgia atmospheric sciences program director Marshall Shepherd agreed that climate change is having an influence on many extreme heat events across the world.
This all seems like rhetoric, ducking the question of causality, sounding strong to the masses but feeble to the scientifically adept.

I'd say this is due to the framing of the problem. We need to find smarter ways to talk to the public about severe events in a climate change context. The whole language of "causality" is fraught, and can be attacked in innumerable ways. We need a stronger effort at making what we do know about these issues accessible.

So it appears that Indian pre-monsoon season of this year of 2015 is not totally without precedent.

Therefore, it doesn't desperately need explanation in the way, say, this does:

(Texas summer scatter plot via N-G)

That all said I am very relieved that the (often deadly) Indian pre-monsoon season of this year is not totally without precedent, that it appears to be ending, and that the suffering was not even more severe than it was. If anyone is reading this in affected parts of India, please accept my sympathies.

1 comment:

Tom said...