Global Warming/Climate Change Global Issues Network

Topic: Global Warming>Comment: Exploiting uncertainty

Comment Page: The lack of understanding of the nature of computer modeling by the lay public and many policy makers.

Author: George Mobus

Creation Date: 9/5/04

Edit Date: 9/5/04



With reference to the science behind global warming, the nature and uses of computer models to assess the contribution of anthropogenic sources of greenhouse gasses to the rise in global mean temperature is very poorly understood by the general public. The fact that modelling involves inherent uncertainties has been exploited by special interests.


Even though there is growing consensus among the various computer modeling approaches regarding the likely scenarios that will obtain from various assumptions on the rate of CO2 emissions over then next century, certain politicians and special interest groups continue to claim that there remains a high degree of uncertainty in these models. They conclude, therefore, that it is unnecessary to take policy action until there is greater certainty.

This, of course, plays off of the general publics' lack of understanding of what uncertainty means in these kinds of models. Scientests, themselves, create some of this misunderstanding simply because they use cautious wording in describing their results. This is, of course, completely proper when those results are being interpreted by other scientests who understand the nature of the uncertainty being reported. Unfortunately, these same phrases can be used by the special interests to bolster their claims that "...not enough is known at this point to take any drastic action."


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  1. Exploiting misunderstanding of computer modelling - George Mobus, 9/5/2004