Saturday, February 03, 2007

"More likely than not" is plain English enough, I think

Roger Pielke Jr. translates the "more likely than not" human influence on hurricanes from the IPCC summary:

In plain English this is what is called a "hypothesis" and not a "conclusion."

That seems like playing games with the plain English connotation that "hypothesis" is little different than a "guess" from which we cannot draw conclusions. In the real world, people appropriately draw conclusions and take actions all the time based on information that is only more likely than not to be true. RPJr might not want people to draw conclusions, but they have the ability to take IPCC's information and act accordingly.

As to the lengthy discussion elsewhere about whether the WMO's "no firm conclusion" really differs from the IPCC, it kind of reminds me of when people debate what really happens to characters in a movie after the movie ends ambiguously. There is no reality to the characters beyond what happened in the movie, so the question doesn't make much sense.

For the WMO and IPCC, the best we can guess at is the intentions of the people involved. Since some of them are the same, the 51-66% certainty range for hurricane intensity probably doesn't correspond to a "firm" conclusion, so for those people at least, there's no conflict between the two positions.

And are we mortals allowed to draw "conclusions" when the WMO forbids "firm" conclusions? How about "tentative" conclusions? Can I say that?

Some of this language parsing is getting a little ridiculous, even for a lawyer.

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