Sunday, April 18, 2010

sizing up the seismic advice

The problem with conveying scientific predictions through the media is, as Richard Black noted this week, the lack of caveats and small print. We look to the news for facts rather than best guesses. Especially in the only bit we all read, the headlines.

Some journos don't even notice this is a problem and actually rail against the scientific world about it. George Monbiot spotted Melanie Phillips doing it.

The latest report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (which collates the findings of climatologists), is, she complained, “studded with weasel words” such as “very likely” and “best estimate”. These weasel words are, of course, what make it a scientific report, rather than a column by Melanie Phillips.

So it is that last autumn a Guardian headline told us

Forecasters Predict Mild Winter

Yet in the article the Met Office forecaster gave it a couple of qualifiers before mentioning the likelihood of an uncommonly cold winter

Early indications are that it's looking like temperatures will be near or above average, but there's still a one in seven chance of a cold winter – with temperatures below average.

This sort of 'Met Office predicted a warm winter' thing, in turn, led to a chorus of climate deniers saying in various places that we can't trust the Met Office's climate modelling, and from there we can extrapolate that the concept of anthropogenic climate change is just made up by them because they're Marxist killjoys who want bigger research grants.

This evening, the government continued to ground planes across the UK after Met Office forecasts said it won't be safe to fly due to an invisible cloud of dust from a thousand miles away.

So, go on all you aviation loving carbon-whore climate deniers who think the Met Office's advice is so worthless. Put your money, and your entire anatomy, where your mouth is. Hire a plane and fly yourselves straight into it. Please.

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