Today’s Must-Must-Read: Mark Buchanan: Climate Change? Nothing to Worry About… If You’re Happy to Ignore Physics

Mark Buchanan: Climate Change? Nothing to Worry About… If You’re Happy to Ignore Physics: “Cliff Asness and Aaron Brown…. Fortune magazine ran an article about the Asness-Brown paper under the title ‘Top hedge fund manager: Global warming isn’t a danger.’…

…Asness and Brown undertook a certain intellectual exercise, motivated by their impression that lots of people believe that the record of temperatures over the past century, taken by itself, implies that we face dangerous climate change. They show that it doesn’t, but readily admit that climate scientists don’t just work from this one set of recent temperatures, but use lots of other data too, and also take everything we know about the physics of the Earth system into account as well…. My concern is… with the potential for misunderstanding on the part of others… like the editors at Fortune (it would appear), may actually prefer to mis-understand. Asness and Brown themselves… have also complained about the misleading perspective furthered by Fortune….

Usually, the more information one brings to bear on a problem, the better one does on that problem…. This situation is directly analogous to the analyses offered by Asness-Brown (Team A) and climate scientists around the world (Team B). It’s not that Asness and Brown don’t know about all this other information, of course. It’s just that, in the present paper, making the most accurate prediction IS NOT their purpose. They limit their analysis to the temperature record from 1880 to the present because, as they see it, lots of people mistakenly believe that this temperature record alone is strong evidence for rapid and highly problematic rising temperatures over the next century…. Their analysis aims to stop such confusion, by showing quite clearly that simple mathematical extrapolation of the temperature record alone does not suggest such rapidly rising temperatures. They… acknowledge that… other information might very well lead to a very different conclusion. But that’s another matter, and not the topic of their paper….

The editors at Fortune … completely missed the point. I’m quite certain a few other people will miss it as well. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Asness-Brown draft soon becomes widely cited within certain circles as delivering a definitive disproof to claims of rapid warming…. I think (and so I believe do Cliff Asness and Aaron Brown) that the projections of Team B, the world’s climate science community, ought to be considered as likely to be the more accurate.

March 30, 2015

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