Climate change is not an all-or-nothing proposition, researcher says

Feb 15, 2013

An Ohio State University statistician says that the natural human difficulty with grasping probabilities is preventing Americans from dealing with climate change.

In a panel discussion at the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting on Feb. 15, Mark Berliner said that an aversion to statistical thinking and probability is a significant reason that we haven't enacted strategies to deal with right now.

Berliner, professor and chair of statistics at Ohio State, is the former co-chair of the American Statistical Association's Advisory Committee on Climate Change Policy, and as such, he spent two years talking with U.S. Congressional staffers about climate change.

As a result, he's come to the conclusion that Americans need to understand that climate change is a range of possible events that are more or less likely. However, the negative impacts of climate change can be reduced by taking some moderate actions today, he said.

"The general public has an understanding of tipping points, the moment beyond which things become inevitable. But as soon as you start thinking of climate change as inevitable, it's easy to throw up your hands and say, 'it's too late, so why bother to do anything?'" Berliner said. "It's like a two-pack-a-day smoker deciding not to cut back on the cigarettes, because he's as good as gone."

"The situation is not hopeless. Instead of taking an extreme all-or-nothing view about climate change, we can think of it as a spectrum of possible problems, and look for a spectrum of practical solutions that will do the most good," he said.

From his own career in climate research, Berliner sees climate change as a collection of possible events: some extreme disasters that are unlikely to happen, but still possible; and less extreme events that are much more likely.

It's the difference, he said, between the low possibility that a coastal town will flood permanently, versus the high possibility that high tides and periodic floods will force the town to close its beaches for more days during the year—a loss to valuable tourism.

It's human nature to abhor uncertainty, he said, and , like all research, is full of uncertainty. He hopes that opinion leaders will help the public understand the nature of science, and the idea that uncertainties diminish as data accumulates. There will never be a single right answer to the question "what will happen to Earth's climate?"

"One of the criticisms of climate change research is that different computer models give different answers," Berliner said. "But the key is not to pick the right climate model, but to pick the right elements out of each of the models."

As he calculates the effectiveness of potential climate change mitigation strategies, Berliner has determined one thing for sure.

"Compromise—if it leads to doing something—is better than doing nothing," he said.

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User comments : 31

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schwarz
3.5 / 5 (11) Feb 15, 2013
I'll give this article 15 minutes before twits show up with comments proving they do not understand any concept that isn't all-or-nothing.
Q-Star
3.7 / 5 (9) Feb 15, 2013
From the article:

"One of the criticisms of climate change research is that different computer models give different answers," Berliner said. "But the key is not to pick the right climate model, but to pick the right elements out of each of the models."


That can not repeated enough. It applies to all disciplines in real science.
ScooterG
2.6 / 5 (15) Feb 15, 2013
Berliner's drivel is bullsh*t on every conceivable level.
schwarz
2.8 / 5 (11) Feb 15, 2013
Wow! A whole 4 hours before someone posted showing he is incapable of udnerstanding this article.
The Alchemist
2.5 / 5 (8) Feb 15, 2013
As a risk-guru, I think its interesting, but I am not sure it is appropriate. Certainly, the climate change we are observing is real, and stats can describe it, but it begs the reality:
On one side, we need to consider the magnitudes of what are required for change-what, for example can cause a 1 degree change in the Earth's average temperature.
On the other side looking at the historicals: No one has made an incontestable case for "warming," or rather, both sides have (choose your poison), yet, glaciers are melting, currents are changing and other effects of adding energy to the environment are observables. Applying the above techniques to these observables... again, appropriate?
ubavontuba
2.6 / 5 (10) Feb 16, 2013
As a risk-guru, I think its interesting, but I am not sure it is appropriate. Certainly, the climate change we are observing is real, and stats can describe it, but it begs the reality:
On one side, we need to consider the magnitudes of what are required for change-what, for example can cause a 1 degree change in the Earth's average temperature.
On the other side looking at the historicals: No one has made an incontestable case for "warming," or rather, both sides have (choose your poison), yet, glaciers are melting, currents are changing and other effects of adding energy to the environment are observables. Applying the above techniques to these observables... again, appropriate?
Excellent points.

However, any reference to models becomes meaningless, when the actual climate isn't following any modeled predictions.

ScooterG
2.5 / 5 (13) Feb 16, 2013
I had trouble getting past the condescending arrogance exhibited in the first sentence.
schwarz
3.2 / 5 (9) Feb 16, 2013
Scooter, there is no other way to speak of people who can't do math.
VendicarE
2.6 / 5 (10) Feb 16, 2013
Poor ScooTard. Yet again, he is angered by things he is incapable of comprehending.

"Berliner's drivel is bullsh*t on every conceivable level." - ScooTard

Look at it this way ScooTard. Yo umay have two models of a apring. The first sums up what you were taught in public school, that force is proportional to the displacement as a string is stretched.

The second model computes the amount of deformation if the spring is stretched past the point of deformation.

Both are valid models when used in their intended operating regime, even though one may produce results that are different than the other.

Spring "experts" AKA children in this case, know which is best to use and when.

You on the other hand, claim that it is "bullshit".

That is why we are constantly laughing at you.
VendicarE
2.5 / 5 (8) Feb 16, 2013
That is your failure, Tardie... Not ours.

"I had trouble getting past the condescending arrogance exhibited in the first sentence." - ScooTard

Maintaining your own internal state of ignorance through any means possible, seems to be your primary goal.
VendicarE
2.3 / 5 (9) Feb 16, 2013
UbVonTard remains steadfast in his objection that Climate Models are not predicting the weather.

"However, any reference to models becomes meaningless, when the actual climate isn't following any modeled predictions." - UbVonTard

The fact that Climate Models are not designed or expected to predict the weather is unfathomable to him.

It is all part of his mental disease.
ScooterG
2 / 5 (12) Feb 16, 2013
Scooter, there is no other way to speak of people who can't do math.


A lot of people struggle with math - that don't mean sh*t.

Can you train a horse? shoe a mule? fly a helicopter? play guitar? build a set of cabinets? I'm guessing there are thousands and thousands of things you DON'T excel at.

Your pompous arrogance is nauseating.
ScooterG
2 / 5 (12) Feb 16, 2013
That is your failure, Tardie... Not ours.

"I had trouble getting past the condescending arrogance exhibited in the first sentence." - ScooTard

Maintaining your own internal state of ignorance through any means possible, seems to be your primary goal.


Ha!

The enviro-nazi's want us to believe in global warming but somehow cannot convince us.

That is your failure, Tardie... Not ours.
ubavontuba
2.3 / 5 (9) Feb 16, 2013
Uba remains steadfast in his objection that Climate Models are not predicting the weather.

"However, any reference to models becomes meaningless, when the actual climate isn't following any modeled predictions." - Uba

The fact that Climate Models are not designed or expected to predict the weather is unfathomable to him.

It is all part of his mental disease.
LOL. Gee, I don't see me using the word "weather" in there anywhere. Ergo this concept of mixing weather and climate comes from you.

There we have it. Proof the Vendispambot can't distinguish between the concepts of weather and climate! LOL.
Claudius
2.1 / 5 (7) Feb 16, 2013
There are lies, damned lies, and statistics.

Read the book "How to Lie with Statistics"

Statistical correlations to not translate into causation. There is an inverse correlation between the number of pirates in the world and global temperature, for instance.
The Alchemist
2.4 / 5 (7) Feb 16, 2013
[Excellent points.

However, any reference to models becomes meaningless, when the actual climate isn't following any modeled predictions.


I agree, I confess I am not asking questions I don't already know the answers to... It (the world) has been follwing my very simple model for many years.
@Scooter, if you'd like an intuitive model, that requires no math to "get the picture." Applying simple math give a better iteration, selecting a region, more so, and so on... Keep in mind, it's envisioned for climate change, not weather prediction.
http://www.facebo...4557455/
Jo01
3 / 5 (10) Feb 16, 2013
"There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics." (Mark Twain?)

"One of the criticisms of climate change research is that different computer models give different answers," Berliner said. "But the key is not to pick the right climate model, but to pick the right elements out of each of the models."
I couldn't think of a better anti science statement that that.

J.
VendicarE
3.2 / 5 (9) Feb 16, 2013
I can do all of those things.

"Can you train a horse? shoe a mule? fly a helicopter? build a set of cabinets?" - ScooTard

As well as solve differential equations.

I am a very model of a neo-modern major general.

What is the cause of your intellectual failure?
VendicarE
2.8 / 5 (9) Feb 16, 2013
Joe thinks that science provides one equation for every situation.

I invite him to provide the equation that characterizes a simple spring though it's normal operating range as well as through it's deformation range.

"I couldn't think of a better anti science statement that that." - Jo01

Mental defectives like Joe remind us that for many people, profound ignorance is an accepted way of life.

VendicarE
3.2 / 5 (9) Feb 16, 2013
What makes you think that you have to use the word "weather" in a comment about weather?

"LOL. Gee, I don't see me using the word "weather" in there anywhere" - UbVonTard

Do you intend to remain an idiot for the rest of your life?
VendicarE
3.2 / 5 (9) Feb 16, 2013
Rocks like ScooTard demand they be convinced.

"The enviro-nazi's want us to believe in global warming but somehow cannot convince us." - ScooTard

As scientists we know many things about rocks among them...

We know that rocks can not be convinced because Rocks doe not think.

We also know that rocks hold no opinions that are relevant.
ScooterG
1.7 / 5 (11) Feb 16, 2013
"@Scooter, if you'd like an intuitive model, that requires no math to "get the picture." Applying simple math give a better iteration, selecting a region, more so, and so on..."

Ummm..well, thanks, but I do fine with math, and I already "get the picture" - just not the picture you would like.

The involvement of Gore, Richardson, and a few others in global warming indicates to me a high probability of scam. (regarding global warming), that's all the math I need to know.
schwarz
3.5 / 5 (8) Feb 16, 2013
"that's all the math I need to know"

No, Scooter, if you want to comment here and be treated with respect, you need to know a whole lot more math, and more importantly, you need to show respect towards the math that you don't know.

Otherwise, piss off.
The Alchemist
2 / 5 (8) Feb 16, 2013

Ummm..well, thanks, but I do fine with math, and I already "get the picture" - just not the picture you would like.

The involvement of Gore, Richardson, and a few others in global warming indicates to me a high probability of scam. (regarding global warming), that's all the math I need to know.

Excellent statement actually, no need to get defensive in me... I don't have a picture I want anyone to have, just an accurate and intuitive model that I'd like people to think about.
I must admit, I got suckered in by "A Global Warning" until pretty recently. That CO2 is going up is true. But from my own "math" I find it needs to go up or down about 10x before there is an impact. Water (which was removed from wiki when I tried to post it as one) as a greenhouse gas easily trumps CO2 in many ways. CFCs allowing radiation in caused much more problems... but I digress...
Anyway, my model is intuitive, draw your own conclusions, but keep a fresh outlook. Peace.
deepsand
3.7 / 5 (6) Feb 17, 2013
I must admit, I got suckered in by "A Global Warning" until pretty recently. That CO2 is going up is true. But from my own "math" I find it needs to go up or down about 10x before there is an impact.

Then your calculations are faulty.

Water as a greenhouse gas easily trumps CO2 in many ways. CFCs allowing radiation in caused much more problems

Immaterial to the incremental effect of CO2.

Anyway, my model is intuitive, ...

There in lies your problem.
VendicarE
3.3 / 5 (7) Feb 17, 2013
It is a shame that you don't know enough math to compute that probability.

"indicates to me a high probability of scam." - ScooTard

So like any common chimp, you resort to guessing.
ubavontuba
2 / 5 (8) Feb 17, 2013
"There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics." (Mark Twain?)

"One of the criticisms of climate change research is that different computer models give different answers," Berliner said. "But the key is not to pick the right climate model, but to pick the right elements out of each of the models."
I couldn't think of a better anti science statement than that.

J.
Excellent.

"...pick the right elements out of each of the models." Yeah, no big deal. It's as easy as picking the right lottery numbers! I do it all the time! LOL.

Only fools would take this example of (I hesitate to use the word...) "science" seriously.

ubavontuba
2.1 / 5 (7) Feb 17, 2013
I can do all of those things.

"Can you train a horse? shoe a mule? fly a helicopter? build a set of cabinets?" - ScooTard

As well as solve differential equations.

I am a very model of a neo-modern major general.

What is the cause of your intellectual failure?
LOL. You can't do any of those things, as you haven't eyes to see, legs to stand on, or hands to hold the tools.

Spambots like Vendispambot are foisted on the world by the AGWite faithful.

If their science is so valid, why do AGWites need childish insult spewing programs, like Vendispambot, to proselytize their faith?

ubavontuba
2.1 / 5 (7) Feb 17, 2013
What makes you think that you have to use the word "weather" in a comment about weather?
LOL. What comment about weather are you even talking about?

Do you intend to remain an idiot for the rest of your life?
LOL! You would know all about being an idiot. LOL.

Spambots like Vendispambot are foisted on the world by the AGWite faithful.

If their science is so valid, why do AGWites need childish insult spewing programs, like Vendispambot, to proselytize their faith?

ScooterG
1.4 / 5 (8) Feb 17, 2013
It is a shame that you don't know enough math to compute that probability.

"indicates to me a high probability of scam." - ScooTard

So like any common chimp, you resort to guessing.


No need to guess, just look at their history.
ScooterG
1.5 / 5 (8) Feb 17, 2013
@ The Alchemist

"no need to get defensive in me..."

You are correct - my apologies.