Friday, August 5, 2016

Care to bet

Opponents of science-informed policy cite uncertainty as a reason to delay action. Mainstream science acknowledges and objectively quantifies uncertainty, whereas opponents often use the language of certainty. Because communication is typically more persuasive when a message is conveyed with certitude, contrary voices may appear stronger than scientific voices to the public. To redress this imbalance, we must find a way to determine whether expressed opinions represent true opinions. One longstanding method is through wagering, and this session will examine the role of bets in exposing actual beliefs related to climate change and associated risk.

Two lemmas to start:
  1.   I think that the raw data sets used in the global climate model are pretty tight.  If you want, you can argue around the edges all you want, you can find questionable area in isolated data sets, and gaps exist.   But when you take them all and use them to balance one another and try to control and characterize the levels of uncertainty, you get a pretty damn watertight set of data.
  2. The math and the worldview aren't really linear.  It can best be described as a non-intuitive mess that yields results that points in a direction with an assigned degree of uncertainty attached to the near term and medium term.
Look, we are never going to get to the A+B=C kind of equation that folks want to have before they feel the need to change their desires.  Most of the folks arguing over climate change are being asked to give up pretty big parts a life that they have carefully crafted inside a cultural milieu that actively promoted such things on the basis a science that is larded with the problemmatic accouterments that is chasing science around these days. (I would really hope that folks would take the time to read this essay and this essay by John Michael Greer as nice overviews of the tattered cloth that is science nowadays) .

The culture of the past fifty years has been an exercise in cognitive dissonance concerning the uncomfortable idea the we are fucking things up.  I would venture a guess that no one with a brain in their head really believes in a Star Trek future.  When you look at the multiple, interconnected streams of problems heading our way, even the most optimistic will hedge his bets and agree that there is a downside sitting out there.

So we are involved here in a betting game, an argument over the meaning of statistics.  The sides of the fight ranges from that fucking idiot Guy McPherson to That fucking idiot James Inhofe.

So, when I read this article the other day, I was intrigued.  Why not set up system where you could bet on the environment?   Let these silly fuckers put their money where their mouth is.  Make bets on the extent of arctic sea ice in the year.  No problem.  El NiƱo event this year and extent, put down your money with a sliding scale for  extent and strength.  How about the claim for hottest year recorded, setting this one up would be a walk on the park.

Look, the medium that most of us swim in the global economy.  The odds of supporting the population load (current and projected) without the dizzying web of interconnected systems that make up the current system are vanishingly small.  Anthropomorphic climate change and the required changes need to arrest it will translate in the real world to the simple old truism of "well, a lot of folks are going to die".

The betting system engendered will allow folks to better establish, within an economic system, the actual results of climate change.  The dollars and cents, pouinds and pennies, yuan and fen that Everyman uses to help establish the veracity of the data coming in.  My bet is that this will help everyone to come to grips with a very problematic data set and the decisions that need to be made concerning an uncertain topic.

As an aside, the problem with this is that it won't effect the true believers.  As a case in point, I have bet on the Raiders for years now.  Knowing myself, I will probably continue.  The same will probably be the case for the weather bookie industry.  Sometimes hope and belief trump empirical data.

1 comment:

russell1200 said...

"Why not set up system where you could bet on the environment?"

It seems a little bit like betting against yourself in a game of Russian Roulette. Sure you win the bet, but...

One pet peeve I have is the "complexity" argument. A lot of what is called complexity is actually specialization. Which is actually, in an odd way, at times, a simplification itself sometimes.

So its not that every solutions is always more complicated, its that they are simultaneously simplified, efficient and more (dangerously) dependent.