On the Risk of Overstating

Two of my favorite climate scientist-communicators recently posted on the risks of overstating.

First is Simon Donner on Ketsana, the tropical storm that devastated the Philippines:

The climate policy talks in “nearby” Thailand have led to a number of sloppy media reports and climate activist statements about the role of climate change in Ketsana. For once, I actually agree with Roger Pielke Jr, that people need to stop crying wolf about climate change and extreme events. Asking about climate change after a prolonged summer heat wave that could have come right out of a doubled CO2 regional climate model simulation is reasonable. The effort to draw a link between climate change and tropical storms during a rather middling storm year (in terms of power) is scientifically questionable. When the storm in question has had such a terrible human tool, it is also a bit tasteless.

And in short order, William Connolley makes a similar point in a critique of Paul Krugman’s most recent effort:

So K is puzzled: In a rational world, then, the looming climate disaster would be our dominant political and policy concern. It could be that we don’t live in a rational world (evidence: cars kill far more people than terrorists but we aren’t about to declare an undying war on cars). But another possibility is that the evidence for a looming disaster is weaker than K thinks.