“This life is slow suicide, unless you read.”Herman Wouk

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Conlawprof and Climate Change



IPCC5 (follow up)

I usually respond more promptly, but for reasons I make clear below, there were prudential reasons for a short delay.

On August 17, 2019, on Conlawprof, Professor AAA wrote:

So, no, not all rivals are equal. But you do still have to have a framework to believe anything. There are no facts—or at least, you can do nothing with them—without first having a framework. And because rival frames CAN be accredited (roughly equal), unlike the climate change example, much of what you find in ordinary political disputes reduces itself simply to reasonable disagreement. That’s why we settle them with elections. These disagreements are not over “facts,” but rather with how to perceive them (what to make of their significance). [emphasis added by Tillman]

On August 18, 2019, on Conlawprof, I wrote:

[Professor AAA] wrote: “unlike the climate change example”.

So does that mean that the climate-change-related laboratory/experimental models have worked—that they have accurately predicted (within reasonable bounds) future climate change—e.g., the path of mean surface temperature globally? Isn’t the consensus that they are not quite spot on? Maybe off by an order of magnitude or more?

I did not comment whether or not global warming is real, ongoing, and/or substantial. I did not comment on how much of it (if any) is driven by human activity. And I did not comment on what consequences (if any) are most likely to flow from it, and how dire (or, possibly, how favourable) those consequences might be. My comments went exclusively to the reliability of climate models and their ability to predict observed outcomes accurately.

On August 18, 2019, on Conlawprof, Professor BBB wrote:

Your note reveals a common misunderstanding of the predictive models. First, the models tend to under-predict. That is, the observed macro-effects exceed what the models predict. The models and reports also tend to under predict global temperatures. (The IPCC noted that “the [observed] level of warming in 2017 was 0.15°C–0.35°C higher than [predicted] average warming over the 30-year period 1988–2017.”) [citing: <https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/chapter/chapter-1/ (accessed August 18, 2019).>]

I note that Professor BBB adds the word “predicted”. It is not in the original quotation. I checked the original quotation in IPCC5, and it struck me—generalist though I am—that he had inadvertently inverted the meaning of the quoted material. But not being expert, and realizing that different minds might reasonably disagree about such things, I promptly wrote my friends at the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Secretariat. I asked:

Chapter 1 has the following statement: “Likewise, given that the level of warming is currently increasing at 0.3°C–0.7°C per 30 years (likely range quoted in Kirtman et al., 2013 and supported by Folland et al., 2018), the level of warming in 2017 was 0.15°C–0.35°C higher than average warming over the 30-year period 1988–2017.” Could you clarify this—is that saying 2017 temperatures were higher than the observed average warming from 1988-2017, or that 2017 temperatures were higher than the predicted average warming from 1988-2017?

A few hours ago, I received the following response:

Dear Mr Tillman,
Thank you for your interest in the work of the IPCC. The sentence refers to warmer than observed average warming.
Best wishes,
Mxolisi Shongwe
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Secretariat
World Meteorological Organization
7 bis, Avenue de la Paix
P.O. Box 2300
1211 Geneva 2
SWITZERLAND

In other words, the quoted passage from IPCC5 had nothing to do with predictive models. It was a mere comparison between two data sets: a 2017 dataset and a pre-2017 dataset. In order to make the quotation relevant to my point, Professor BBB manipulated the quotation by adding the language in brackets. In doing so, he mistakenly departed, dare I say it, from the report’s original intent, and in my (generalist’s) view, from the report’s original public meaning.

Anyone can make a mistake. I am hopeful that Professor BBB will come to see the issue my way in whole, or at least, in part, but that’s not why I have taken the time to write this response after several days’ passage. Instead, I address the corps of people on this listserv who reading Professor BBB’s comment thought it made good sense. If you thought it made sense, why not consider what other things you might also believe in error relating to this and other issues? See generally Seth Barrett Tillman, Blushing Our Way Past Historical Fact And Fiction, 114 Penn St. L. Rev. 391, 409 (2009),

It is just a thought.

Seth

Seth Barrett Tillman, Conlawprof and Climate Change, New Reform Club (Aug. 21, 2019, 12:44 PM), <https://reformclub.blogspot.com/2019/08/conlawprof-and-climate-change.html>. 

Here is part 2: Seth Barrett Tillman, Part 2, Conlawprof and Climate ChangeNew Reform Club (Aug. 22, 2019, 8:35 AM), <https://reformclub.blogspot.com/2019/08/part-2-conlawprof-and-climate-change.html>. 

Here is part 3: Seth Barrett Tillman, Part 3, Conlawprof and Climate ChangeNew Reform Club (Aug. 23, 2019, 7:05 AM), <https://reformclub.blogspot.com/2019/08/part-3-conlawprof-and-climate-change.html>. 



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