This looks like an interesting report, providing a lot of context. I look forward to reading it.
However, I was frustrated to see the way in which a problematic passage from Trenberth 2012 was included.
Trenberth says question Q is poorly posed and has no satisfactory answer, but he also — first — answers Q in the negative.
As a narrative, a description of his — or our — thought process, this account is understandable and potentially helpful. But when the negative answer is reported on its own, *without* immediately including the follow-up about how the question actually has no satisfactory answer (and therefore cannot, for instance, be answered in the negative), the thrust is different, confusing, and wrong.
This incomplete parsing of Trenberth’s point, which, to add to the confusion, he is sometimes (I mean at other times, not in your report) quoted as performing himself, is problematic.
For clarity: Answering a question in the negative is not the same thing as saying that the question is ill-posed, poorly posed, or has no satisfactory answer.
Meanwhile there is a huge kerfuffle in Australia over the question of the culpability of climate change in increased bush fires. I suspect the correct position is we can’t yet be sure if climate change is enough of an effect to have increased wildfires, but increased temperatures and bigger swings between drought and deluge have to increase fire hazard in general.
I wonder if someone has done as specific a report on changes in Australia as this report. Increased heat waves and summer dryness as in Europe, for example, would be clear risk factors for fire.
But I can’t resist relating to some discussions in the comments here recently while I noticed that they are treating the uncertainty concepts slightly differently in this report than in IPCC AR5 and AR4.
In all three reports, they use two separate concepts ‘confidence’ and ‘outcome likelihood’. In AR4 both these were quantified as intervals (or very strictly read, the ‘confidence levels’ are actually defined mixed as numbers and intervals in all reports…)
In AR5 they explicitly write that the ‘confidence’ should not be interpreted probabilistically and don’t give numbers.
In the extreme weather report (page 109) the likelihood intervals are not overlapping as in the AR5 report. For example, they define 66-90% for “likely” instead of 66-100%. This looks like a mistake in the AR5 which might be due to an AR4 self-contradiction. In WG1 the intervals are overlapping. In WG2, they aren’t.
They mix up concepts ‘likelihood’ and ‘probability’ which is not the same thing. In several places they use ‘likelihood’ for future probabilities (e.g. page 25). They also use the term ‘confidence’ for both uncertainty categories: ‘Confidence in our knowledge’ resp. ‘Degree of confidence in being correct’ (page 109). Well, can anyone tell the difference?
On page 25 this leads to multiple conceptual confusion:
“For this purpose,
they recommended assessing the likelihood of a future
event using broad categories, from very high confidence –
at least a one out of ten chance, to very low confidence
– less than a one in ten chance (see Glossary).”
OK, keeping things in perspective this is a bit of technical nitpicking. But it gives a very sloppy impression in my opinion (not even mentioning the issues raised in the discussion before). The risk is that you lose confidence(sic!) in the assessments, even if it is not deserved. I’m not asserting that there is anything wrong with the underlying science.
(The report looks really good, but I have to concur on format.)
Yes, on a 1920×1080 display, in Acrobat Reader, Zoom to Page Level gets exactly one page/screen, which means that Page Down key actually works right. That yields a 74% Zoom level. Depending on your eyes and display placement, that either may or may not be eyestrain for the main text. For my eyes, the 2 closest displays are OK, but not the other 4. The footnote font size is definitely eyestrain on any of the displays. If you need something that works both on paper and online:
1) It is indeed a pain to have 2-column text, unless you can still read it when zoomed as above, since you need to scroll several times.
2) If you like to have in-line footnotes, which are much more convenient than end-notes online, unlike on paper, where they are more equal, since you can flip to endnotes while keeping your place, the footnote font size is the limiter.
3) An alternative I’ve found useful is 2-column (even 3-colum for a few special cases) landscape, as in Weird Science…
The main text is 11-pt, footnotes are 10-point, and Zoom to Page Level gives 102%, and is readable on any of my displays.
People’s mileage may vary. Better eyes help, as do bigger and higher resolution displays. But the classic portrait-orientation reports really should be rethought as they really are optimized for paper. That may be OK, if they are aimed at people who are really only comfortable with paper and that form factor, but I do suspect many readers will study them online.
This might be of some help. As you will see below, contrary to Mr. Abbott’s uniformed opinion, the data suggest that AGW is already having a discernible impact on fire activity and behaviour over certain regions of Australia.
“Examining longer-term observations at eight stations, back to the early 1940s in many cases, reveals considerable inter-decadal variability. Periods of increasing and decreasing fire weather danger are apparent in the record. The peaks of these ‘cycles’ occur roughly every 20 years and the time series might suggest that we are at (or near) a peak, although there is no physical basis on which to estimate when or to what extent a decrease might occur.
There is also evidence for anthropogenic climate change being a driver of this upswing. The current peaks in ΣFFDI are much higher than observed in past instances. There are also a greater number of VHE days at many locales. There is also the suggestion that the fire season is starting earlier. Finally, the severity and length of the recent drought [e.g. Nicholls 2006] and the associated fire danger has not been seen in the available records.”
Just published, “Divergent responses of fire to recent warming and drying across south-eastern Australia”,
“The response of fire to climate change may vary across fuel types characteristic of differing vegetation types (i.e. litter versus grass). Models of fire under climatic change capture these differing potential responses to varying degrees. Across south-eastern Australia, an elevation in the severity of weather conditions conducive to fire has been measured in recent decades. We examined trends in area burned (1975 to 2009) to determine if a corresponding increase in fire had occurred across the diverse range of ecosystems found in this part of the continent. We predicted that an increase in fire, due to climatic warming and drying, was more likely to have occurred in moist, temperate forests near the coast than in arid and semi-arid woodlands of the interior, due to inherent contrasts in the respective dominant fuel types (woody litter versus herbaceous fuels). Significant warming (i.e. increased temperature and number of hot days) and drying (i.e. negative precipitation anomaly, number of days with low humidity) occurred across most of the 32 Bioregions examined. The results were mostly consistent with predictions, with an increase in area burned in seven out of eight forest Bioregions, whereas area burned either declined (two) or did not change significantly (nine) in drier woodland Bioregions. In twelve woodland Bioregions, data were insufficient for analysis of temporal trends in fire. Increases in fire attributable mostly to warming or drying were confined to three Bioregions. In the remainder, such increases were mostly unrelated to warming or drying trends and therefore may be due to other climate effects not explored (e.g. lightning ignitions) or possible anthropogenic influences. Projections of future fire must therefore not only account for responses of different fuel systems to climatic change but the wider range of ecological and human effects on interactions between fire and vegetation.”
Did a quick reading, a bit disappointed. Basically, the only certain thing is we will have more heat waves and less cold days. Precipitation, floods, storms, no data reliable enough to identify a trend, only some models.
I’m surprised by the ‘kerfuffle’ over wildfire attribution; the question has been studied quite a bit. Google Scholar offers up a whole bunch if you search “wildfire and climate change”.
Here’s a selection:
Wildfire in Yosemite Park (1992 study): “Univariate and multivariate analytical techniques reveal that (a) summer temperatures in the Park are increasing, (b) January-June precipitation levels are decreasing, and (c) variations in burn area within the Park are significantly related to the observed variations in climate.”
“A climatic series (1941 to 1994) from a Mediterranean locality of NE Spain was used to calculate two wildfire hazard indices based on daily meteorological data. Both fire hazard indices increased over this period, as a consequence of increasing mean daily maximum temperature and decreasing minimum daily relative humidity. These trends were observed in both mean values of the indices and in the number of very high risk days. Annual data on the number of wildfires and burned area also show an increase from 1968 to 1994, and are significantly correlated with both fire hazard indices.”
Wildfire in boreal North American and Eurasia (2009):
“…we found heterogeneous patterns of drought severity changes that were inherent to the nonuniformly distributed impacts of climate change on dryness. Notably, significant trends toward increasing summer moisture in southeastern and southwestern boreal Canada were detected. The diminishing wildfire risk in these regions is coherent with widely reported decreases in area burned since about 1850, as reconstructed by dendrochronological dating of forest stands. Conversely, we found evidence for increasing percentage area affected by extreme droughts in Eurasia (+0.57% per decade; P<0.05) and occurrence rates of extreme drought years in Eurasian taiga (centered principally on the Okhotsk–Manchurian taiga, P=0.07). Although not statistically significant, temporal changes in occurrence rates are sufficiently important spatially to be paid further attention."
“The increased fire potential is mainly caused by warming in the U.S., South America, and Australia and by the combination of warming and drying in the other regions. Sensitivity analysis shows that future fire potential depends on many factors such as climate model and emission scenario used for climate change projection. The results suggest dramatic increases in wildfire potential that will require increased future resources and management efforts for disaster prevention and recovery.”
The first two studies show the association of wildfire and climate change, and show also that that association has been known now for more than 20 years (though apparently not by Tony Abbott.) The second shows that climate change can cut both ways; under projections for precipitation, most of the Canada boreal is expected to become moister; therefore, wildfire risk should drop. The converse is true, of course, for most of the Eurasian boreal forest. Sure enough, observations are coherent with this expectation. (And for “poster child” on that score, we have the 2010 Russian wildfires. And wasn’t this summer pretty bad for that, too, FWIW?) Finally, we have a global-level analysis that quantifies the expected response as measured by a straight-forward metric of fire risk. Amazingly, Australia was expected to see more wildfire… guess Mr. Abbott didn’t know that, either. He really should try to keep up; he has responsibilities, after all.
Anyway, there is lots and lots more; the search terms here show nearly 10,000 hits. Here’s the link for a quick in; those interested can play with the search terms to find items of interest to them. (Wildfire risk where you live? The Greek fire outbreaks (the Eastern Med has long been expected to dry, as the present European report certainly highlights, and Greece had a very nasty fire outbreak in (IIRC) 2005? Strict attributional studies of wildfire?)
The insurance industry could have a vested interest in the outcome of Global Warming causes extreme weather events. First, they could argue that certain events, even if they are normal catastrophic events, would not have occurred without global warming, they may seek government reimbursement. I could also imagine an argument that governments ought to subsidize insurance, thereby increasing the marketplace, because the responsibility for increasing risks is shared even in non-risk areas.
Studies with insurance industry sponsorship or contribution should be viewed with a healthy dose of skepticism.
@#5 John L re “On page 25 this leads to multiple conceptual confusion: [...] But it gives a very sloppy impression in my opinion [...] The RISK is that you lose confidence(sic!) in the assessments, even if it is not deserved.[...]” John I totally agree with you here. Not only does this make it incredibly difficult for the public to read the summaries and the documents like this, the Journalists (ideologically pro or con) always conflate things as a result with their ‘articles’ going global, the CC Denialism activists then pick this “mis-information / confusion” only to spread it as DIS-Information in a billion anti-science blog pages world-wide which further acerbates the pre-existing confusion levels… then Lord Monckton gets 100 calls for a “paid appearance” at the next Heartland Institute, Corporate dinner, Political fund-raiser or Tea Party public forum. Or some well meaning Climate “communicator/educator” eg an pro-CC advocate such as Prof Tim Flannery in Australia stumbles on the words and speaks a technical “untruth” and is pilloriaed for it, further undermining the public’s and politicians’ true knowledge of what the IPCC etc really “meant” to say. imho, this is a key reason behind the success of the “denialist industry” and it;s success over the last 5+ years. It needs ot be nipped in the bud from the get go, and everyone in Climate Science presenting public information has to be on the same page with the same words and the exact same meaning consistently, or forget it. The science itself is complicated enough for Politicians/Policy makers to get their heads around already. Too much focus and attention cannot be placed on this one issue about the complexity in the “words” being used, in my view. best to all.
Ed Barbar wrote: “… they may seek government reimbursement. I could also imagine an argument that governments ought to subsidize insurance …”
So basically you are arguing that because the economic losses and other destructive consequences of global warming may result in demands for government action to deal with them, we should reject the scientific evidence that such consequences are already occurring and are likely to get worse.
Where have I heard that before.
Oh, that’s right — from pretty much every denier who ever commented on a blog.
Comment by SecularAnimist — 30 Oct 2013 @ 12:06 PM
Thanks for all the comments on Australia fires. I had seen some of that but having all this in one place will help those searching for attribution evidence. Not that evidence ranks very high in the concerns of the current Australian government.
Ed: “I could also imagine an argument that governments ought to subsidize insurance, thereby increasing the marketplace, because the responsibility for increasing risks is shared even in non-risk areas.”
Ed concludes: “Studies with insurance industry sponsorship or contribution should be viewed with a healthy dose of skepticism.”
The insurance industry is in the business of spreading claims costs among a larger population than loss victims, something a skeptic must acknowledge in a productive critique of the industry. Suggesting that the insurance industry is somehow wrong in spreading claims costs isn’t useful.
Useful skepticism should also include the notion that insurance companies seek to entirely avoid paying claims. The easiest and most efficient way to do that is to ensure that claims are to the very greatest extent possible completely avoided. Public information campaigns directing potential claims beneficiaries toward behaviors minimizing claims are not dishonest and are quite in keeping with the nature of the insurance business.
More, the insurance industry indeed pushes government to better regulate activities prone to generating expensive claims. An insurance claim is a formal acknowledgement of a poor outcome, a disaster of one kind or another. Fewer claims record success in reducing the frequency of disasters. In the past the insurance industry has promoted such things as mandatory automobile safety belt installation and use. Was this a bad thing? Most of us would agree it wasn’t.
Insurance companies are uniquely positioned to record the ebb and flow of disaster by the proxy of claims payouts. Despite their best efforts to shape their markets we’ll learn a lot about climate impacts from insurance companies, as statistical margins are eaten away by forthcoming changes.
At my place, many spend their time talking to lawyers, insurance companies, and municipal engineers. These people, the executives & engineers, are no longer sitting quietly on the sidelines. They have bottom lines and communities to protect and most seem willing to do what is necessary to protect both.
We can bemoan the fact that they weren’t driven earlier to act but better late than never.
tokodave says:”For a detailed look at insurance companies and climate change visit sites like Munich Re or Lloyd’s of London. These guys have skin in the game. If they don’t come close to getting it right they lose big money.”
Actually, the insurance “game” makes its money by peddling fear. The difference between feared costs and real costs is where they make their profits; more fear = more money paid in to Munich Re and Lloyd’s. If no one feared the future, there would be no insurance industry.
Any insurance company that adopted the business model you posit would fail in a matter of a few years. Insurance companies rely on investments to make up the difference between premiums and pay outs. I would suggest talking out of your mouth rather than the orifice you currently employ.
For a detailed look at insurance companies and climate change visit sites like Munich Re or Lloyd’s of London. These guys have skin in the game. If they don’t come close to getting it right they lose big money.
Jack Maloney responded in 31:
Actually, the insurance “game” makes its money by peddling fear. The difference between feared costs and real costs is where they make their profits; more fear = more money paid in to Munich Re and Lloyd’s. If no one feared the future, there would be no insurance industry.
The people you should really pay attention to are the re-insur-ers. Munich Re is one of them, but there are others. re-insur-ers are the insurance companies that the insurance companies go to. insurance companies hedge their risk against big payouts by taking out their own insurance which they get from the reinsurers.
If reinsurers were playing the game that you claim the insurance companies are playing, namely, inflating the perceived risks in order to increase their profits, then any insurance company that saw through this game would stand to benefit by not paying the inflated prices. Furthermore, a re-insur-er that did not inflate the perceived risks would stand to benefit by undercutting the competition. What they lost in lower rates they would make up for in volume.
Let me quote from the executive summary of a document recently published by the Geneva Association:
In the non-stationary environment caused by ocean warming, traditional approaches, which are solely based on analysing historical data, increasingly fail to estimate today’s hazard probabilities. A paradigm shift from historic to predictive ri-sk assessment methods is necessary.
The members of the board of the Geneva Association consist of representatives from over a dozen major, prestigious companies from throughout the world.
I don’t trust any one insurance company or any one reinsurer. But if the perceived risks of climate change were being inflated by reinsurers someone would stand to make a great deal of money by bursting the bubble, and the reputations of those inflating the perceived risks would be greatly damaged. But nobody is bursting any bubble here. In point of fact, re-insur-ers have released a document that stresses the risks posed by climate change to their way of doing business, and a shift in paradigms is required if their industry is to survive.
Steve 32: No, I am only saying that the insurance industry depends on fear of the future. More fear = more demand for insurance.
I worked in corporate management at a major life insurance company. Insiders called one of the classic sales techniques “backing up the hearse.” It was certainly not in their interest to minimize their prospects’ consciousness of risk.
“A paradigm shift from historic to predictive risk assessment methods is necessary.” Translation: rather than calculate our premiums on known risk, we’ll just guess.
> rather than calculate our premiums on known risk
It’d be foolish to continue to base expectation on the past history, after changing the facts.
Until the middle of the 20th century, the discipline of climatology was a stagnant field preoccupied with regional statistics representing a static “normal” climate. The study of climate change (what to many climatologists seemed a contradiction in terms) was only an occasional interest of individuals …
… people saw … catastrophes as just part of the normal situation, transient excursions within an overall state that looked permanent on the timescale of human society. The job of the climatologist was to remove uncertainties with statistics, fixing the probable size of a “hundred-year flood” and so forth.
And, seriously, read that AIP page. One further quote, just to point out how outdated Jack Maloney’s position on change is. References are at the original page.
Painful experience drove the point home. One notorious case was the experience of firms that contracted to build dams in central Africa in the 1950s, and consulted with climatologists about the largest floods that could be expected according to past statistics. The firms then began construction, only to suffer “fifty-year floods” in each of the next three years.(28) Such experiences pulled the props out from the traditional climatology. The laboriously compiled tables of past statistics were plainly not reliable guides to the future.(29)
Jack Maloney: “I worked in corporate management at a major life insurance company.”
What a pity you didn’t learn the difference between the sales technique and the actual business model. Frankly, I would not invest in an insurance company that set premiums by “guessing”, and I rather doubt any other smart investor world either. Insurance companies have been among the most aggressive in statistical research–addressing such issues as fat-tailed distributions, Bayesian methods, etc. I’m guessing you were an MBA.
40 SecularAnimist: You are mistaken. I have made no attack on any person, in this forum or any other. Argumentum ad hominem is the logical fallacy of attempting to undermine a speaker’s argument by attacking the speaker instead of addressing the argument. For an example, see Ray Ladbury’s comment #33: “I would suggest talking out of your mouth rather than the orifice you currently employ.”
Jack Maloney appearts to be saying that insurance companies collude to artificially elevate premiums. That’s possible, but given the legal climate (at least in the U.S. and Canada), I’d need better evidence than Mr. Maloney has offered before I gave it any credence.
It’s plausible that at the retail level, insurance premiums can be inflated by exploiting anxiety, even with robust competition. Retail insurance customers (you and me) may have little access to actuarial data. It’s much less plausible WRT the re-insurance market, where the customers (retail insurers) have their own actuaries. Timothy Chase’s argument @34 is thus persuasive.
So, I’m generally suspicious of the motives and activities of businesses when it comes to shaping policy, but I’m not seeing a basis for all the grunting and snorting with respect to this foundational report.
If you’re going to develop policies for preparedness, then of course you’re going to have to have input and cooperation from a broad number of sectors at various stages. And yeah, you’ll have to keep an eye on the process to make sure it functions properly. As it stands, the contribution from the insurance industry seems pretty prosaic and straightforward. I’m not hearing the implied conspiratorial machinations, only a bunch of smirking stuff from actors who seem threatened by any movement forward on the subject.
Perhaps someone could point to something concrete about the way the report is constructed that should actually be considered untoward?
Jack Maloney appears to be saying that insurance companies collude to artificially elevate premiums.
Not at all. Premiums are not at issue, nor is collusion. Insurance companies (and industry associations) have no need to collude – it is naturally in their individual and collective interest to elevate fear of risks in order to motivate the public to buy their products.
Insurance rates are regulated in most countries, so “inflated premiums” are not likely. You needn’t raise prices to increase profits – you just need more people to believe they are at greater risk and need to buy more insurance.
Re- Comment by Jack Maloney — 3 Nov 2013 @ 4:13 PM
I don’t think anything you have said is ad hominem but then neither is Ray’s comment. Ray addressed what you said directly by claiming that it was wrong in an insulting manner. It would be ad hominem to say, for example, that you were wrong because of some unrelated negative character trait or behavior. The classic example for climate change is to denigrate Al Gore’s video because he is fat.
I had quoted (in 35) from a document by the Geneva Association:
In the non-stationary environment caused by ocean warming, traditional approaches, which are solely based on analysing historical data, increasingly fail to estimate today’s hazard probabilities. A paradigm shift from historic to predictive risk assessment methods is necessary.
“A paradigm shift from historic to predictive risk assessment methods is necessary.” Translation: rather than calculate our premiums on known risk, we’ll just guess.
But that is precisely the problem. There is no “known risk” independent of a means of knowing. Traditional historic risk assessment based upon what has happened before, given the assumption that things will remain the same, is itself a “guess” and a bad one at that. What the Geneva Association recommends consists of:
The available tools are time-dependent model forecasts which incorporate the improved observations of changes in the ocean and simulate its likely influence on the short- to medium-term future. Such time-dependent or medium-term outlooks, which go beyond historical averages, are already provided by commercial model vendors, such as Risk Management Solutions (RMS). These products represent, at least in principal, a significant improvement over simple long-term averages of historical data.
Later they state:
The selection of scenarios should include a reasonably wide range of hypothetical but scientifically justifiable scenarios, including an upper limit defining the worst case. Alongside hypothetical scenarios, a set of scenarios should also include all available and scientifically justifiable models (e.g. Ranger and Niehörster, 2012).
If congressmen coming from gerrymandered districts with campaigns financed by fossil fuel interests put climate scientists out of work, perhaps those scientists will find lucrative positions where more resources will be made readily available. Who knows? Progress in climate modelling might very well accelerate.
The funny thing about this insurance discussion is how it centers on us paying literally trillions per year for things we hope won’t happen. Indeed, given our psychology, most of us are probably pretty skilled at deluding ourselves that nothing bad is going to happen to us personally, ergo that our fear isn’t justified. Yet we pay anyway.
We’re quite ready to pay for risk reduction and psychological comfort, the ability to sleep at night.
Note: the world economy is not collapsing because we’re “wasting” our money, trillions of dollars per year, on insurance. Money after all doesn’t vanish.
Some people would like us to think that if we look at other risks and decide to pay money to reduce those, everything will be fundamentally different. Money will vanish and we’ll be wasting it.
If we’re going to be cynical about corporate motivations and money, let’s remember how the vector of trillions of dollars will move, should we choose to buy peace of mind and lower risk by addressing climate change. Also, let’s be consistent about whether we think money can vanish, or not.
Premiums are not at issue, nor is collusion. Insurance companies (and industry associations) have no need to collude – it is naturally in their individual and collective interest to elevate fear of risks in order to motivate the public to buy their products
Do insurers themselves believe that risks are elevated? Would they be willing to pay more for reinsurance (either at a higher price or at a higher volume) than they need to when they could simply pocket the profits?
If, as you say, insurance companies make money by peddling fear, are they themselves afraid? If so, why? Are they incapable of judging the extent to which they need to buy reinsurance as part of their own risk management?
If an insurance provider adopted the business practices you claim, they would not stay in business long.
Also, your attack on the study is classic ad hominem–attacking the source/motivations of the source rather then the facts and substance of the study. It doesn’t matter that the source is not a human. What matters is that you do not address the substance of the study.
OTOH, my jibe toward you is NOT ad hominem, because it does not form the basis of my argument. Rather, it is a plain, old ordinary insult.
Gee, what’s more likely…rising temperatures actually do pose increasing risks of cascading effects, as scientists tell us…or, a cabal of insurers and reinsurers are ginning up unreasonable fears per Jack Maloney?
Jack Maloney wrote: “Argumentum ad hominem is the logical fallacy of attempting to undermine a speaker’s argument by attacking the speaker instead of addressing the argument.”
Which is EXACTLY what you are doing by attacking the alleged motives of the insurance corporations, rather than addressing their argument that insured economic damages from global warming are increasing and will continue to increase.
The quote from Ray Ladbury is not an ad hominem fallacy — it is simply an insult.
Ray #50: I made no “attack” on insurance industry motivations. As a professional with public relations, advertising and sales promotion experience in the insurance industry, I pointed out that they profit by promoting fear of future events – a fact of which many posters here are in denial.
Hurling gratuitous insults from a safe distance does you and your imitators little credit.
Thanks to Timothy, Doug, Hank and others for a general discussion of what insurance is, and isn’t. My point when I brought up Munich Re, and Lloyds of London was to highlight the fact that the insurance industry is part of the free market capitalist world we live in. They are evaluating climate change because it is important from the standpoint of their ability to continue to make money for their stockholders. You don’t have to like’em, and I don’t, but insurance companies and reinsurance companies exist for sound reasons that others have explained above. If you own a car and drive, in most states, you have to have insurance coverage. There’s a reason for that.
Well, there’s the difference between you and me–I’m not looking for credit. I am much more interested in having the facts considered on their merits and not having them summarily dismissed with an ad hominem wave of the hand.
I have nothing to do with insurance other than holding the obligatory policies for a responsible adult. However, insurance is one of the pioneering fields for the use of statistics and probability. They have to be, because a tiny mistake in estimating the tails of a risk distribution can sink the whole company. So there is more to insurance than PR, promotion and sales. I would also point out that the document under discussion is not a PR, promotion or sales document, but rather a document outlining a threat to their business model. Not every raising of the alarm is alarmist.
Ray Ladbury: I did not resort to ad hominem. I made a statement of fact which is absolutely germane to discussion of insurance industry credibility on matters of risk.
As Steve Fish said in post #46, it would be ad hominem “to denigrate Al Gore’s video because he is fat,” because that fact is not germane to discussion of the video. But it is not ad hominem to point out that a British High Court Judge ruled that screening the video in British secondary schools violated laws barring the promotion of partisan political views in the classroom, saying that the film’s “apocalyptic vision” was not an impartial analysis of climate change(ABC News).
You attacked the credibility of the source rather than addressing the facts of the matter–that is classic ad hominem. Sorry, you are wrong. Hell, the Supreme Court has even defined corporations as “Persons”. Not sure how you can argue your way out of this one.
Jack Maloney wrote: “I did not resort to ad hominem. I made a statement of fact which is absolutely germane to discussion of insurance industry credibility on matters of risk.”
You continue to confuse ad hominem, which is a classical rhetorical fallacy, with plain old insults and personal attacks.
You alleged that the insurance companies have a motive — specifically, a profit motive — for exaggerating the present reality and future probability of increasing economic damages from anthropogenic global warming. And on the basis of that alleged motive, you argue that insurance industry projections of steeply increasing damages are without merit.
That is a fallacy. Believing that someone has a motive to deceive does not establish that their statements are false, any more than believing someone to be honest establishes that their statements are true.
Perhaps the insurance companies do have such a motive — or perhaps not, as several other commenters have argued. But either way, that tells us exactly NOTHING about whether insurance industry projections are sound or not.
The only way to determine that is to examine the substance of those projections — which you, interestingly enough, seem unwilling to do, preferring to tell us that those projections should be disregarded a priori without such an examination because of the insurance industry’s alleged motives.
Which is, of course, the whole purpose of the ad hominem fallacy: to distract attention from the merits of someone’s argument by directing attention to the person making the argument.
Jack Maloney wrote: “… it would be ad hominem ‘to denigrate Al Gore’s video because he is fat,’ because that fact is not germane to discussion of the video. But it is not ad hominem to point out that a British High Court Judge ruled that screening the video in British secondary schools violated laws barring the promotion of partisan political views in the classroom …”
That is correct.
And your comments denigrating the insurance corporations’ projections because they allegedly have a profit motive to exaggerate the escalating economic damages of global warming is just like “denigrating Al Gore’s video because he is fat” — or because he has a big house, or because he’s a “liberal”, or because he travels by airplane, or because he has investments in renewable energy, or because he won the popular vote in 2000.
And your comments are completely unlike the British judge’s ruling, which dealt exclusively with the actual content of the video and had nothing whatever to say about Al Gore.
If you wish to use that judge’s ruling as a model, then you need to address the actual substantive content of the insurance industry projections, and show how and why those projections are flawed or unsound.
But to say, as you have done, that those projections should be dismissed a priori because of the alleged motivations of the insurance companies is a classic ad hominem fallacy.
Ray Ladbury: The Norwegian Academy’s report relies heavily on information sourced from Munich Re’s NatCatSERVICE database. Thus pointing out the potential bias caused by the insurance industry’s dependence on worries about future risk is not an ad hominem attack – no more than if I pointed out that Senator Inhofe’s subcommittee or GWPF reports use fossil fuel industry data. In any analysis of an institutional statement, the credibility of its sources is open for discussion.
62. SecularAnimist wrote: “You alleged that the insurance companies have a motive — specifically, a profit motive — for exaggerating the present reality and future probability of increasing economic damages from anthropogenic global warming. And on the basis of that alleged motive, you argue that insurance industry projections of steeply increasing damages are without merit… that those projections should be disregarded a priori without such an examination because of the insurance industry’s alleged motives…
I argued none of those things – I only pointed to a potential conflict of interest, which is worth considering in any discussion. The conclusions you have drawn are the product of your own imaginings.
Burton found that screening the film in British secondary schools violated laws barring the promotion of partisan political views in the classroom. But he allowed the film to be shown on the condition that it is accompanied by guidance notes to balance Gore’s “one-sided” views, saying that the film’s “apocalyptic vision” was not an impartial analysis of climate change.” http://abcnews.go.com/US/TenWays/story?id=3719791
“The judge ruled that the film can still be shown in schools, as part of a climate change resources pack, but only if it is accompanied by fresh guidance notes to balance Mr Gore’s “one-sided” views. The “apocalyptic vision” presented in the film was not an impartial analysis of the science of climate change, he said. He said he had viewed the film and described it as “powerful, dramatically presented and highly professionally produced”, built around the “charismatic presence” of Mr Gore, “whose crusade it now is to persuade the world of the dangers of climate change”. http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2007/oct/11/climatechange
Accusations of ad hominem are common among blog trolls because they think they sound more erudite when responding to insults. You guys are not trolls and definitions of the fallacy are very complicated. Read some of the philosophy sites to understand the grey areas and let this go. Consider the following:
Is accusing the Koch brothers of profit motives to explain their opposition to climate science ad hominem?
Jack Maloney, you said your experience is in life insurance. Have you asked people insuring floods, or crop failures, or shipping, whether they market their product by trying to make people fearful? Because it seems to me individual insurance is weather, and large-scale insurance is climate.
Now that Jack has [inevitably] had a comment bore-holed, I will join him there to note the obvious, that his problem here is not that he is wrong — though he could be — but that he disagrees with Ray, who is a Real Climate key-holder. Ray, whom I otherwise respect, can say that Jack is talking out of his asshole and claim it’s not an ad hominem attack, and others will nod and agree with… Ray! That sort of playground argumentation: I-Know-You-Are-But-What-Am-I? is why I believe this site has become so marginalized — any grown-up who spends more than a minute here knows there’s a line you can’t cross, that there is in fact little interest in exploring the conflict of ideas but rather to promote an orthodox view. Nothing wrong with that other than claiming it’s not so, but it’s difficult to recognize the orthodox if you believe it’s the truth.
As to arguments without foundation, what the hooha is about its that participation by the insurance industry (which sits squarely in world of business where ideologues expect denial to reign) appears to lend weight to AGW. It’s like an explosion in the denialist PR armory, hence all the rapid fire blather from the usual perps.
One good thing, it has illicited some illuminating comments about how the insurance industry actually works. The bad thing is that the denialist criticisms avoid being specific (a sign of their weakness) and so reveal nothing. They are exactly designed not to be constructive and so are worthy of contempt. Beyond saying that, I won’t tone troll, but personally when I’m pissed off, I have no qualms about smacking down nihilist bullies.
> conflict of ideas
That’s why I continue to ask Jack Maloney if his experience in the life insurance industry, where he says they use scare tactics, has any general applicability to the reinsurance industry that we were talking about.
Okay, let’s take Jack Maloney at his word — he says life insurance companies like he works for try to scare people into being customers.
They’ve got the actuaries, the individuals they’re targeting don’t, so maybe Jack’s right and the life insurance industry lies about risk.
But we weren’t talking about the life insurance industry Jack represents.
We were talking about — not _individual_ insurance — but the reinsurance industry.
Now there, they have actuaries on _both_ sides, since reinsurance is selling insurance to insurance companies.
There, they know they may well be wrong about risk estimates, and because the risk is changing with climate change, the cost of reinsurance goes up.
But they have actuaries on both sides of the transaction.
Jack Maloney may be overgeneralizing from his experience scaring individuals into buying life insurance, as he says he does.
Jack, again — do you have any reason to believe the reinsurance industry is successfully scaring the insurance companies into buying too much reinsurance?
Hank Roberts: good question, but the answer should be obvious: without fear of future loss, farmers, shippers, land managers, homeowners and health care consumers would not see a need for insurance. At all scales, insurance is all about perception of risk and loss; the greater that perception, the greater demand for insurance.
The Munich Re NatCatSERVICE database focuses on financial losses from natural events. It concludes that the number of loss-relevant weather extremes has increased significantly globally, and that there is growing evidence that “at least part of” this loss-relevant increase is driven by global warming. They draw no conclusions as to what that unknown part is, or how much of it is natural and how much anthropogenic. Nor do they conclude how much of the anthropogenic part is due to population growth and urbanization, concentration of economic values, land use, water management, etc., compared with the hypothetical effects of CO2 emissions.
Annual flooding in North Dakota is a good example of why loss-relevance is an important caveat. Insurance losses in the Red River Valley and the cities of Fargo ND and Moorhead MN have grown dramatically in recent years. But much of the increased flooding has anthropogenic causes that have nothing to do with climate change:
- Urbanization: highways, streets, parking lots, sidewalks, and buildings now cover large areas of the ground that used to absorb excess rain water and snowmelt, speeding the rate at which run-off reaches rivers
Value concentration: as the cities grow, insured values become more concentrated, so an extreme weather event today can cause far more loss than an identical one 50 years ago
- Agriculture: a rapid increase in deforestation and draining wetlands and farmland (due in part to demand for corn ethanol) is speeding runoff into the river
- Flood management: rising waters that used to be able to spread out over their natural flood plains are now channeled into the river by flood walls and levees; for example, a 2010 proposed improvement to the flood defense system in Fargo could cause a 4 – 10 inch rise in floods immediately downstream from the city, according to the Army Corps of Engineers
Munich Re NatCatSERVICE bases their projections on loss-relevance rather than observed climate phenomena; two quite different things!
And for Walter — remember, provoking someone with a known short fuse into an angry outburst is an effective tactic once or twice, but after that person figures out he’s being used, he stops posting angry responses (for a while).
Jack could clarify the point he’s trying to make; so far he’s just repeated it in ways that tick people off.
It takes an effort to stay calm and keep the conversation going, when talking points are repeated. Not all of us can pretend calm all the time.
OK, this is verging on silly now. And Gavin, feel free to borehole this if you feel it is a distraction.
First, Jack, you argue against the FACTS presented in the study solely based on the identity of the author. You do not cite a single fact from the study that you find questionable. You do not present any other facts that challenge the report. The sole basis for your argument against the report is the source. It is THAT which makes your argument ad hominem. Note also, that I do not say that your admonition about possible bias coming from an big re-insurer is not relevant. It is. If accompanied by examples of that bias creeping into the report, it would be highly relevant and convincing.
And yes, dismissing a report just because it comes from the Heritage Foundation or GWPF or the Koch Bros or a certain Viscount is also ad hominem.
The whole point of the identification of the ad hominem attack as a fallacy by the ancients is that dismissal of facts or arguments based solely on their source is logically invalid, not to mention lazy.
So, in short, Jack, I mean no harm. If some of what I have said was harsh, I am sorry. My intent was to goad you into strengthening your argument by citing facts from the report.
Now to Walter Manny, who says, “…Ray, who is a Real Climate key-holder…”
Say what? Dude, I am merely one of many, many commenters on this site. I enjoy no special knowledge, no special access, no special favor. If I have been shown some special latitude by the hardworking climate scientists who actually run this blog, perhaps it is because I say what I say with some humor and try to remain at least glancingly on topic.
Most important, if you are looking for an “orthodoxy” here, I think you will come up empty. I would instead suggest looking for established scientific facts in the scientific literature. Stay consistent with those, and you’ll find your comments usually miss the borehole.
Steve Fish wrote: “Is accusing the Koch brothers of profit motives to explain their opposition to climate science ad hominem?”
If you are debating one of the Koch brothers in a venue that adheres to the rules of classical rhetoric, and Mr. Koch puts forth arguments and claims against the proposition that something should be done about global warming, and you respond not by challenging the content of those arguments and claims as incorrect, but by arguing that they should be dismissed a priori as false and invalid because of Mr. Koch’s motives, then you have just committed the classical rhetorical ad hominem fallacy.
On the other hand, if you have already established that the content of Mr. Koch’s claims is false — if you have shown that he is lying about climate science — then a “profit motive” might be a reasonable speculation as to why he is lying. And that, of course, is the situation regarding the Koch brothers in the real world, where they and their various puppets are spreading blatant, demonstrable falsehoods and nonsense.
The problem with Jack Maloney’s posts is that he has not even attempted to offer any evidence that anything the insurance industry has said about escalating economic losses due to global warming is actually wrong. He just keeps repeating that we shouldn’t even listen to what they have to say — because of their alleged motives.
Walter Manny@69…Perhaps I’m misunderstanding you, but without getting into the ad hominem argument, my problem with Jack Maloney’s original point is that it has nothing to do with whether, as some insurers assert, rapidly rising temperatures will result in effects that threaten lives, property and infrastructure.
Sure, all things being equal, any company will try to persuade customers they need its products. So what?
I could just as easily respond that petroleum companies will try to downplay information that might hurt sales of their products. But few would dignify that kind of exchange by calling it a conflict of ideas.
Jack, thanks for the reply but you miss my point. If all the people buying crop and flood insurance are doing so because the insurance companies are selling them based on false odds, the insurance companies make more money. But again those are individual people without actuaries being swindled by insurance companies, if they do what you claim.
But the reinsurance companies have actuaries. They should know if they’re selling reinsurance to companies that are faking the risks.
And you miss the point of the climate science — which isn’t saying the risks are higher _now_ or that the climate change signal has unambiguously emerged from background variation. That would mean every disaster related to weather could get claimed as a climate catastrophe. We know that’s not the case — Realclimate has had topics on attribution.
The reinsurance company actuaries are looking at the future risk, and they aren’t basing that on past history — why? Because: physics.
Greenhouse gases have been and are still going up, warming has barely begun changing the planet, in predictable ways.
The reinsurance companies are anticipating the change in the risks for the insurance companies. If the insurance companies are all fudging the risks they’re making more profit and won’t be losing money — right?
But the reinsurance companies look at the science and anticipate a very different world because of climate change. And they have actuaries who are statisticians and they agree the physicists are right about where we’re going.
You can’t make such a drastic change as we’ve begun to do, and assume all other things stay the same — when the numbers say otherwise.
Seriously — you’ve taken your own experience in companies selling life insurance by exaggerating risks, and claimed all the other varieties of insurance are doing the same thing.
Has nobody but you tried to bring this vast conspiracy to the public’s attention? No whistleblowers in your industry, aside from you?
I stated in post #45 that the insurance “game” makes its money by peddling fear. If no one feared the future, there would be no insurance industry. My purpose was only to point out a potential conflict of interest with the Norwegian report’s extensive use of Munich Re projections – nothing else. But the knee-jerk reactions in this forum have been swift, negative, and almost universally wrong:
“Jack Maloney appears to be saying that insurance companies collude to artificially elevate premiums.” Mal Adapted
“…a cabal of insurers and reinsurers are ginning up unreasonable fears per Jack Maloney” Walter Pearce
“…the facts…summarily dismissed with an ad hominem wave of the hand.” Ray Ladbury
“…denigrating the insurance corporations’ projections…” SecularAnimist
“…the British judge’s ruling…had nothing whatever to say about Al Gore.” SecularAnimist
“…you argue against the FACTS presented in the study…” Ray Ladbury
If anyone here bothers to read what I actually posted, they’ll find that I made no argument against the report, challenged no facts, made no allegations, accusations or attacks (ad hominem or otherwise) and hurled no insults. I only indicated a potential issue with the report’s primary data source, without drawing conclusions. If participants here would take time to read and comprehend what has actually been posted, this forum might offer more light and less heat.
Jack can speak for himself — I know nothing about the insurance business. I was commenting on the orthodoxy I believe pervades this site (and other sites, on either “side”) and which causes it to be less relevant than it should be. Ray, in my opinion, has not only made some great contributions here, he has also made any number of comments that belong in the borehole. None reside there. This comment does, of course, but not my site, and the moderators are free to do what they like.
Re- Comment by SecularAnimist — 6 Nov 2013 @ 12:01 PM
Your statement about ad hominem argument is very good. So, if this were a formal debate there would be no talk of what comes out of which orifice, but it is not. When someone who works in insurance sales suggests that fear has been used as a sales tactic, do you really disbelieve this? Hyping ones product in search of profit is so widespread that it might be considered a component of human nature. Consider home loan sales, investment brokers, or car salesmen. In the past I have suggested to grandchildren that they go as an insurance salesman on Halloween. Trick or treat — eeeek!
78 Hank Roberts: …the insurance companies are selling them based on false odds, the insurance companies make more money. But again those are individual people without actuaries being swindled by insurance companies, if they do what you claim.
Hank: you have misrepresented what I said, and entirely missed my point. I never stated or implied that insurance companies were making false claims, exaggerating risks, inflating premiums or colluding in fraud. In fact, insurance is a heavily regulated industry in most states and countries, and any fraudulent claims would be swiftly dealt with by law.
What I said is that insurers peddle fear of risk and loss, which is absolutely true. No one buys insurance without fear of risk and loss. And it is in the insurers’ interest to emphasize perceptions of risk and loss in their marketplace. This is done by advertising, marketing, sales promotion, press releases, published reports, etc. – the same way that Budweiser peddles beer. If a national report on the health benefits of beer drinking relied almost exclusively on data from Budweiser, wouldn’t it be fair to point out the potential conflict of interest?
1)Hansen has shown that the bell curve in local T is moving rightward worldwide.
2)A similar calculation for precipitation gives analogous results (I have done this for the modern era reconstruction MERRA, and the literature exhibits this also.) I see that point 2) on page 13 of the report we are discussing states:” Meteorological and climatological measurements of
climatic change in Europe show that intense precipitation has become more severe and more frequent …”
1) and 2) are interesting to this blog. 3) does not seem to be, except insofar as one can deconvolve the climate signal in the insurance data for covered claims. I do not see how this can be easily done, since a Bangladeshi fisherman’s home, or a thousand of them, is not noticed in the insurance statements. One might of course go to great lengths, by tracing covered claim density at local level in the areas where coverage exists, but why, when we have so much climate data already. It is not as though we do not see a cyclone unless it hits an insured area, regardless of the claims of the Pielke cohort.
Why don’t just we look at the climate numbers ? Is it indeed true that increasing signal of precip and T extremes is visible in the European climate record ? Just playing with MERRA for the last 40 years seems to indicate there is something there (but not nearly as clear as the worldwide signal.) In this context, duration of hot events is important also, as point 4) on pg 13 of the report says:
“Some recent changes in the pattern of weather extremes have been considerable: in some parts of Europe, observed trends to more and longer heat waves and fewer extremely cold days and nights have been observed. Since the 1960s, the mean heat wave intensity, length and number across the Eastern Mediterranean region have increased by a factor of five or more. These findings suggest that the heat wave characteristics in this region have increased at higher rates than previously reported (Kuglitsch et al., 2010). ”
Lastly: motivations of insurance companies and their integrity, or lack thereof, are red herrings that distract from the discussion. But perhaps that was the intent.
Perhaps we should glean the information from the report itself. Stating in the introduction is that “In Europe the increase in losses from extreme weather events has been about 60% since the 1980s.” This has occurred mostly in the U.K and west-central Europe, with other regions being lower. Of these, “75% are from storms and floods,” however, “in Europe, a ubiquitous increase in observed records of annual flood maxima is not evident.” Instead, “non-climatic factors such as human settlement have increased flood-risk.” The report concludes that, “damage from floods has increased in the past, but evidence linking this to changes in physical conditions is weak, partly because of a lack of data and partly because of the role of past flood-risk management. It seems that there has been a measure of adaptation but that vulnerability has increased economic losses because there is now more and higher value stock at risk.”
There appears to be no clear-cut trend in extreme wind storms. Regarding droughts, “observations show inconsistent trends over Europe in recent decades.”
Reagarding droughts, the reports states, “Analysis of the available data suggests that, although increasing summer dryness has been observed in Central and Southern Europe since the 1950s, no consistent trends can be seen over the rest of Europe.”
From an insurance standpoint, “the increase in loss-relevant natural extreme events in Europe has been only moderate.” The reportrs does state that climate models predict an increase in some of these extreme events, so that Jack’s statement concerning fear has some basis.
There are quite a few affects that a warming climate will have on storms. It can’t not affect them can it. The profile is changed. Anecdotally it seems to me that powerful storms are spinning up much quicker.
They are also happening earlier and later. Their tracts are also changing. They are starting and traversing over wider regions due to a greater spread of warmer surface temperatures. Are they lasting longer? Seems that way. Both these means they are combining with other weather phenomena more often like what happened with Sandy.
Higher sea levels are having an impact on bigger storm surges. Their intensity certainly seems to be getting more or peaking higher at certain times.
Precipitation for less intense storms is going through the roof. Thus making those quite devastating on a region. Not only for humans but for wild life etc.
So there are all these things and a few more which are happening due to global warming.
We need to have a central reference repository that meteorologist and climate scientist can use as a base line when talking about storms and global warming. There is still too much confusion when this topic is presented to the public unfortunately.