"It is now highly feasible to take care of everybody on Earth at a higher standard of living than any have ever known. It no longer has to be you or me. Selfishness is unnecessary. War is obsolete. It is a matter of converting our high technology from WEAPONRY to LIVINGRY."
- Buckminster Fuller (h/t Suzy Waldman)

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

How we talk about extreme events nowadays

Batting Average Change: an analogy to climate change/severe events discourse. Suppose a hitter has improved batting average this year
Now you see the batter get a base hit. Somebody asks you whether the base hit was because of the improved batting average.

The alarmist says "Of course the base hit was caused by the batting average! Batting averages cause hits!"
The Polyanna says "Obviously not! In fact, the base hit has nothing to do with the batting average!"

The journalist sees that truth must be somewhere in between. SOME hits are caused by batting average, some not The wise scientist publishes a paper attributing 20% of the base hit to the improved batting average, the rest to natural variation. 

This happens every time there is a base hit. For some reason, this discourse illuminates nobody.


Gingerbaker said...

Not sure about baseball analogies since the steroid scandals. Give me a good ol' Harry Potter analogy or a Godwin invocation any day.

Michael Tobis said...

Easy to work steroids into the analogy; I decided not to.

The point is that we understand statistics well enough about sports - why are we so confused when they are about climate?

An event is part of the statistics of a system. The statistics do not cause the event in whole or in part. The aggregate of events cause the statistical measure.

Steve Bloom said...

Do we attribute a hot year to the long-term rising GMST trend? No, we attribute it to the underlying cause(s) of the trend plus, yes, natural variation. So you don't seem to have framed this correctly.