I am writing in response to last Wednesday’s presentation by Dr. Terry Anderson and subsequent audience questions, as covered by the Indiana Daily Student.
I am a professor of environmental science at the School of Public and Environmental Affairs, which, so far as I am aware, had nothing to do with the choice of speaker for an event that was to have been in honor of Dr. Elinor Ostrom.
Dr. Anderson’s audience seemed to disagree with his repeated statements that measuring carbon emissions is too difficult to be feasible. Dr. Anderson is an economist and may not be up on the climate news of the last decade — guidelines for national reporting have been available since 2006. At the Paris climate-change talks in December 2015, 195 nations found the task feasible.
Dr. Anderson was also asked about an exercise he published in which he plotted past atmospheric temperatures and drew a linear regression line through these notably nonlinear data to predict future temperatures. When asked about the models that climate scientists use to forecast future temperatures, Dr. Anderson replied that those scientists had “models” whereas he had “the data.”
Dr. Anderson did indeed have data — a single series of past temperatures. However, he also had a very simple model — a straight-line regression.
Thus, both Dr. Anderson and the climate scientists are using data and models. But only the climate scientists are using information about the causes of climate change and only the climate scientists are validating their models and improving them.
One could ask whether Dr. Anderson would advocate that we study risk of age-related disease by looking at rates in young people and extrapolating, in a straight line, to older folk.
Or might we want to use information related to the causes of important problems to estimate and to act on the associated risks?
School of Public and Environmental Affairs
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