2010-10-05 21:49:46Resources for discussing uncertainty


John mentioned he was considering doing a post on uncertainty. This I think would be an excellent matter to highlight for discussion; paraphrasing words from Terry Pratchett, uncertainty is one of a number of rakes lying hidden in the deep lawn of climate science talk, waiting for somebody to step on it and be stunned into confusion. It also tends to be overlooked, as evidenced by the Royal Society's failed attempt at clarifying understanding about climate change.

Anyway, taking my own advice from the polluting C02 thread I delved into the public comments/response bit of EPA's rulemaking procedure. This was clearly a harrowing process for EPA but has resulted in the collection of a wealth of information about how and why people misunderstand uncertainty or --less charitably-- exploit it.

See section 1.2 of "General Approach to the Science and Other Technical Issues," Common pitfalls are described, numerous sources of information on uncertainty from the general scientific perspective and as it pertains specifically to climate science may be found here:



2010-10-05 22:17:19

The EPA endangerment findings and response to comment is a huge source of information and suggestions on how to reply to skeptic arguments. They really did a good job.
2010-10-06 07:52:43Post on uncertainty
John Cook

Doug, just for the record, I think I said we should have a post about uncertainty. I never said I was gonna do it :-)

I was hoping someone would take the ball and run with it. Like a certain somebody who has pointed out some valuable resources on the EPA site.

2010-10-06 08:55:54


Oops, I misspoke! Consider that statement inoperative as written.

Yeah I could take that on, unless we've got a practicing scientist from the roster who'll step forward, somebody in a physical sciences field with measurement problems, noisy data. Point is, I can do a useful description but can't really speak with practical authority informed by lots of exposure. 

First I need to finish the glossary, a promise I've hung round my neck and which is too slowly creeping forward.

2010-10-07 01:46:10


Useful, fairly exhaustive digestion of practical implications of uncertainty here:  

Climate projections and their impact on policy and practice, Lemos & Rood, 2010