06 October 2010

Uncertainty and Ignorance: Get Used to It

Two interesting commentaries on uncertainties in climate science came my way in the past day.

First, Judy Curry has a lengthy post on climate models:
[T]he climate modeling enterprise is putting the cart before the horse in terms of attempting a broad range of applications that include prediction of regional climate change, largely driven by needs of policy makers. Before attempting such applications, we need  a much more thorough exploration of how we should configure climate models and test their fitness for purpose.  An equally important issue is how we  should design climate model experiments in the context of using climate models to test hypotheses about how the climate system works, which is a nontrivial issue particularly given the ontic uncertainties. Until we have achieved such an improved understanding, the other applications are premature and are detracting resources (computer and personnel) from focusing on these more fundamental issues.
Second, Fred Pearce (who seems willfully blind to the IPCC treatment of disasters, but I digress) tells us to get ready for more uncertainties in the next IPCC:
We are all — authors and readers of IPCC reports alike — going to have to get used to greater caution in IPCC reports and greater uncertainty in imagining exactly how climate change will play out. This is probably healthy. It is certainly more honest.