Thinking clearly about climate change

18 May 2005
Dave Frame, of the Department of Atmospheric Physics at Oxford University, makes a welcome intervention in a lively debate between Benny Peiser and William Connolley.

"Our beliefs about the non-linear, chaotic, multi-scale climate system tend not to fall easily into boxes labelled 'justified' and 'speculative'. Instead, beliefs about climate processes and their effects tend to fall along a spectrum were they may be more or less justified by reference to the available evidence and theory. This is important and argues for a shift in the way climate modellers work. It argues for a 'probabilistic turn' in which we seek to take uncertainty and degrees of beliefs seriously, where we can. This shift is quietly underway among the climate research community, as is evident from the increasing prominence given to probabilistic climate forecasting in conference agendas over the last five or six years. This may sounds a little irrelevant: I appreciate that worrying about the ontological status of claims about the climate system may seem like an academic’s typically pointy-headed, unhelpful response to a serious global threat, but in fact thinking carefully about the uncertainties surrounding our understanding of climate has some powerful real world implications".

Does this seem a little daunting? Don't worry: Dave's whole piece is easier than you may think, and well worth reading.

The same goes for this article from Ray Bradley, William Connolley, Michael Mann and Gavin Schmidt.


Stop the secrecy: Publish the NHS COVID data deals

To: Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care

We’re calling on you to immediately release details of the secret NHS data deals struck with private companies, to deliver the NHS COVID-19 datastore.

We, the public, deserve to know exactly how our personal information has been traded in this ‘unprecedented’ deal with US tech giants like Google, and firms linked to Donald Trump (Palantir) and Vote Leave (Faculty AI).

The COVID-19 datastore will hold private, personal information about every single one of us who relies on the NHS. We don’t want our personal data falling into the wrong hands.

And we don’t want private companies – many with poor reputations for protecting privacy – using it for their own commercial purposes, or to undermine the NHS.

The datastore could be an important tool in tackling the pandemic. But for it to be a success, the public has to be able to trust it.

Today, we urgently call on you to publish all the data-sharing agreements, data-impact assessments, and details of how the private companies stand to profit from their involvement.

The NHS is a precious public institution. Any involvement from private companies should be open to public scrutiny and debate. We need more transparency during this pandemic – not less.

By adding my name to this campaign, I authorise openDemocracy and Foxglove to keep me updated about their important work.

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