Disambiguity-Clearly Defining Terms-the Road to Reason at Climate Etc.

Today at Judith Curry's blog Climate Etc. i read a fantastic essay by Terry Oldberg titled 'The Principles of Reasoning. Part III: Logic and Climatology' It's about ambiguity in language and semantics, about clearly defining terms from the outset, about how and why we're logically stuck in the climate change mud. It's a great read, but not short.

Disambiguity, or clearly defining the words being used, is key to forming a logical argument. Terry Oldberg's essay focuses on one set of terms about climate models and the projections, but not, predictions they produce. The question of projections vs. predictions is often used to argue that the uncertainty is so huge in the climate change debate we should do nothing. This is a multi trillion dollar decision, any attempt to curb emissions or build alternatives will mean huge financial gains for some and losses for others.

Seems that the pressure to not act, to continue business as usual, is building, in part at least, because those skeptical of human caused climate change say the uncertainty of climate models makes predictions impossible. True enough, but humans can and do act on projections not just predictions. Earthquakes are an example. Here in the lower mainland of BC all buildings are built to withstand big earthquakes. That costs big bucks, we have no absolutely accurate earthquake models either, but we can build projections and we do build reinforcements.

From urban Public Health to rural crop rotation, we rely on projections to inform policy because in the real world, this world full of variables those value is derived from other variables, absolute predictions about the probabilities of naturally occurring events are impossible. The road to reasonable action runs through error bars, projections and uncertainty plus a buncha unknown-unknowns, all of which allow a clear shot by the skeptical bushwhackers. Science is better at making accurate predictions about dead things whereas living things, interconnected things, kinda baffle reductionism into settling for projections.

Following Judith Curry's blog Climate Etc. is often difficult, always interesting.