A Curious Climate Analogy – Badly Reported by the NYT

Example variable speed limit sign in the Unite...

Example variable speed limit sign in the United States. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Guest essay by Kip Hansen, St Thomas, USVI

The AMERICAN METEOROLOGICAL SOCIETY just published a Special Supplement to the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society titled: EXPLAINING EXTREME EVENTS OF 2012 FROM A CLIMATE PERSPECTIVE edited by Thomas C. Peterson, Martin P. Hoerling, Peter A. Stott, and Stephanie C. Herring. [hereafter EEE2012].

Kenneth Chang at the New York Times reported on the findings in an article, “Research Cites Role of Warming in Extremes”, on 5 September 2013. In this piece, Chang includes the following paragraph, which was picked up and repeated in the Andy Revkin’s NY Times Opinion Page blog, Dot.Earth, filed under Climate Change:

“The articles’ editors likened climate change to someone habitually driving a bit over the speed limit. Even if the speeding itself is unlikely to directly cause an accident, it increases the likelihood that something else — a wet road or a distracting text message — will do so and that the accident, when it occurs, will be more calamitous.”

This is unfortunate, for two reasons: 

1) The articles’ editors said no such thing.

2) Even if they had, what Chang says just happens not to be true in and of itself.

Andy Revkin , doubling down on Chang, says: “Ken Chang’s news article in The Times ….. includes an apt analogy used in the introduction to the studies: [followed by the paragraph quoted above].” This too is unfortunately not true, for the above two reasons, an analogy can’t be apt if it wasn’t made and isn’t true, , and the fact that the analogy being referred to appears not in the introduction, but in the CONCLUSIONS AND EPILOGUE section, written by Thomas C. Peterson, Peter A. Stott, Stephanie C. Herring, and Martin P. Hoerling.

What Peterson et al actually said was:

“To help understand the difficulty of determining the anthropogenic contribution to specific extreme events, consider this driving analogy (UCAR 2012). “Adding just a little bit of speed to your highway commute each month can substantially raise the odds that you’ll get hurt some day. But if an accident does occur, the primary cause may not be your speed itself: it could be a wet road or a texting driver.” Similarly, while climate models may indicate a human effect is causing increases in the chances of having extremely high precipitation in a region (much like speeding increases the chances of having an accident), natural variability can still be the primary factor in any individual extreme event. The difficulty in determining the precise sensitivity of, according to our analogy, driving speed on risks of accidents in particular conditions (wet roads, texting drivers) can explain why somewhat different analyses of the same meteorological event can reach somewhat different conclusions about the extent to which human influence has altered the likelihood and magnitude of the event.” [EEE2012, page 64]

Point 1: The editors said no such thing:

Notice that Peterson says nothing about speed limits, nothing about speeding, and nothing about any subsequent accident being “more calamitous” – nothing at all about any of these three points. Chang makes up his own, new and improved analogy. Why? We can’t know – as a journalist, he should have reported what was actually said.

Point 2: Even if they had, what Chang says just happens not to be true in and of itself.

It is a long term, well understood fact that the safest driving speed on America’s highways is “a bit over the speed limit” – actually, more specifically, a bit over the average speed of the traffic on the road, which is often, on a wide open road, at or just a little bit over the speed limit. This is known as Solomon’s Curve, or the Crash Risk Curve, a graph that shows the least accidents happen to those who drive just a bit faster than the flow of traffic. Note that this has nothing to do with absolute speed (for example, 55 mph vs. 75 mph) but speed relative to the other cars and trucks.

So, was what was said in EEE2012 true?

“Adding just a little bit of speed to your highway commute each month can substantially raise the odds that you’ll get hurt some day.”

If you generally drive slower than the flow of traffic, if you are a strict 55 mph’er on an Interstate that flows at 67 1/2 mph, you’ll be safer if you “add a little bit of speed”, because you be involved in fewer (statistically) accidents. However, if you are recklessly already driving 75 mph on the same Interstate, and add a little bit of speed, you’ll be increasing your risk of accident and increasing the kinetic energy of any resulting crash (the last true for the 55 mph’er too).

On its face, in a plain everyday English sense, I’d say the analogy is false as used, because, well, it depends. But I’ll leave it up to the traffic engineers and statisticians — way too much wiggle-room in the phrases “just a little bit of speed” and “can substantially raise”.

My advice to journalists: Use direct quotes, stick to the facts, don’t make stuff up (and for Andy Revkin – don’t trust other journalists to have done these things, check them yourself).

My advice to Climate Scientists: Use analogies that are proven and demonstrably true – not just ones that seem true or sound nice, stick to the facts and don’t make stuff up.

*****

EEE2012 at http://www.ametsoc.org/2012extremeeventsclimate.pdf

Chang at http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/06/science/earth/research-cites-role-of-warming-in-extremes.html

Revkin at http://dotearth.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/09/06/assessing-the-role-of-global-warming-in-extreme-weather-of-2012

Solomon’s Curve at http://www.econ.ucdavis.edu/faculty/fzfeens/trans/Transport-lecture4.ppt , see slides 53 and 55

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79 Responses to A Curious Climate Analogy – Badly Reported by the NYT

  1. Bloke down the pub says:

    And of course, if global temperatures don’t rise as predicted then it all becomes irrelevant anyhow.

  2. Hoi Polloi says:

    My advice to Climate Scientists: Use analogies that are proven and demonstrably true – not just ones that seem true or sound nice, stick to the facts and don’t make stuff up.

    Old habits die hard…

  3. policycritic says:

    Kip Hansen,

    Andy Revkin rightly deserves this ‘bitch slap’, and he should correct it. You would have made a great editor.

  4. Jim A says:

    Ironic fact: When the speed limit on interstates was restored to 65 after years at 55, the highway death and serious accident rate went down significantly.
    Common sense reason: Drivers more alert at higher speed and not falling asleep as much.

  5. AndyG55 says:

    Ah, but the climate has been under cruise control for, like, 15 years.
    We were travelling pretty slow for quite a while back there.
    (Darn traffic, just ask the Titanic)

    Its taken quite a while to get up to a decent traveling speed.

  6. Reducing speed limits inevitably means more traffic congestion (you are on the road longer, therefore more cars are on the road at any point in time).

    To visualise this, just think of 50 mph sections on motorways at roadworks. All of a sudden, from a relatively open road, cars are driving nose to tail.

    This sort of congested traffic causes many more accidents than doing a bit over the speed limit.

  7. Greg says:

    So your advice is that scientists should stop making things up and stick to the facts. And that journalists should accurately report what is said/happened.

    Wow, that’s a brilliant idea. How come nobodies thought of doing that already?

    It sure would save a lot of time and effort.

  8. rtj1211 says:

    The first thing you must understand about journalists is that they merely convey the Party Line.

    I’ve noticed over 2 decades that a pre-determined line can enter the Press world suddenly and decisively. It’s often not based on sense, more based on egos, over-reactions etc etc. In the early 1990s, mountaineering in the UK suddenly became a ‘death sport’, with every journalist salivating at the prospect of deaths on the mountain so they could write another piece vilifying mountaineers. Mountaineers rarely kill anyone but themselves……and only do that fairly rarely.

    The party line in journalism still hasn’t rejected ‘dangerous warming’, although yesterday’s election result in Australia may represent the high point of global warming hype, as opposed to evidence-based science.

    There is nothing ‘unfortunate’ in what journalists write. They write it to get published, giving the editor what they want. They have abrogated their critical faculties to put food on the table.

    It’s the editors and publishers you need to change.

  9. Greg says:

    Jim A says:
    Ironic fact: When the speed limit on interstates was restored to 65 after years at 55, the highway death and serious accident rate went down significantly.
    Common sense reason: Drivers more alert at higher speed and not falling asleep as much.

    This is very true. If I try to drive at the official speed limit, I start daydreaming, thinking about other things, what I’m going to do later….

    A very dangerous occupation. Especially in a time when speed limits are determined not for safest driving but for fuel economy to “save the planet”.

  10. dccowboy says:

    Okay, so, if Mr Chang wanted to use the traffic accident Solomon’s curve analogy correctly, he would have to state, “The ‘least’ (lower probability of) extreme weather events occur when the Global Average Temperature is ‘a little bit’ above average?” Which appears to me to be exactly where we are right now, climate wise. ;)

    Mr Chang was simply following the example of our Commander in Chief by appending some implication of disastrous events to make his analogy appear to be ‘dangerous’.

  11. DEEBEE says:

    Perhaps Chang was just trying to add a little bit of MSG to enhance the taste and ignore the subsequent heartburn.

  12. Bob Greene says:

    “Adding just a little bit of speed to your highway commute each month can substantially raise the odds that you’ll get hurt some day. But if an accident does occur, the primary cause may not be your speed itself: it could be a wet road or a texting driver.” This was the actual quote from Peterson used by K. Hansen. Seems to be a logical fallacy since the second sentence negates the first. Maybe this is how the really smart folks come to the climate induced extreme weather event conclusion.

  13. Mike M says:

    As someone who’s been riding motorcycles for almost 50 years I’ve concluded the safest place to be on an interstate is in the left lane at a safe distance behind a 4 wheel vehicle, (let them hit the moose…). Excepting a few screwy left lane on and off ramps, (like in CT), there’s no one desperately trying to move into your lane to get off the highway and certainly no need to be on guard for anyone moving into your lane from the left. It also happens to usually be the highest speed lane which brings in the second rule; never be one to hold up a vehicle behind you – better to trust yourself to maneuver around traffic than to have to trust other people on their cell phones or texting or eating or bird watching or sign reading to maneuver around you. Going a little faster than traffic on a motorcycle is MUCH safer than going a little slower.

  14. MattN says:

    I have conversed via email with Chang before. To say his scientific understanding is lacking is an understatement. Not sure how he still has a job as a “science writer”.

  15. herkimer says:

    I agree with a previous post. If there has been no temperature increases[speed increases] for 16 years ,increasing speed is not the prime factor that is causing more severe accidents [ more extreme weather] Matter of fact, the temperatures have actually been decreasing since 2004/2005. There can be many factors that cause more severe accidents . I don’t think we have a good handle on what historically constitutes a higher than normal level of severe.accidents if we only look back at a very short period [30 years ] to compare .

  16. Kent Clizbe says:

    And if it’s not actually more dangerous, and you don’t actually raise your speed, then do like the “climate scientists” do:

    ADJUST the speedometer!

    Everyone else will think you’re going faster!

    And you can write reports on the danger of the “new” higher speed!

    It’s simple. It’s fun. It’s profitable!

  17. Gary Pearse says:

    I’m afraid this post “protesteth too much”. There is enough hanging out there on bad science (and bad journalism) to not have to nit pick faults in details with the analogy by a journalist. The homes and gardens section has just as many errors. A reader is going to spend 2 minutes reading the article and take away the message whether crafted badly or not.

  18. Sleepalot says:

    Firstly all analogies are false. This analogy is built around the word “driving”.
    [Note: The essence of driving is purpose. Driving vehicles is done with purpose. Driving GCMs is done with purpose. The atmosphere does not have purpose (intent), it is free
    (chaotic): it is not "driven"; not by man, nor god, nor GH gas.]

    In vehicles driving results in accidents whose multiple causes/ factors to be taken in to consideration in attributing blame, are difficult to quantify. Peterson is suggesting that the factors in climate models are difficult to quantify and hence is suggesting that
    alarmist GCM predictions are “accidents”, and that it’s difficult to see which factor
    caused the “accident”.

    Peterson’s analogy criticises GCM’s, which doesn’t fit the alarmist narrative, so clearly
    it had to be changed. Chang changed the analogy from “driving GCMs is like driving cars” to “climate change is like driving cars.”

    Likening climate change to poor driving is to suggest not only that we are “driving” the atmosphere (we are not) but that we are doing it poorly such that extreme weather events are “accidents” and we are to blame.

    (I’ll bet my nice formatting gets mangled by wordpress.)

  19. Kip Hansen says:

    Reply to Gary Pearse: I am a bit of a gadfly when it comes to accuracy of reporting in journalism — freely admitted. In this particular case, the journalist, Kenneth Chang, writing in one of America’s “papers of record” (NY Times, the other three being Washington Post, LA Times and Wall Street Journal, maybe add these days, USA Today), not only misrepresents a scientific paper, but misquotes it in such a way as to “sex it up”. He ends up mis-educating his readers about both climate Science and driving, You are right, of course, in the “greater picture” sense — but think where Climate Science would be today if readers and editors had publicly called out journalists for each exaggeration and Climate Scientists had policed their own, calling out their colleagues for excesses of zeal and made them issue corrections in the journals.

  20. ferd berple says:

    The longer you record the weather, the more likely you are to set a new weather record. What is changing is not the weather, rather the length of time you have been recording.

    If you sit on a beach and watch the waves, the longer you watch the more likely you are to see a wave bigger than all the waves previous. Do you from this conclude that waves are getting bigger?

    If you throw a coin long enough eventually you will get 10 heads in a row. Do you now conclude that the coin has changed?

    What we are seeing is nonsense mathematics. The science of grasping at straws.

  21. Michael J says:

    All of the discussions about extreme weather miss an important step.

    Now increased temperature might or might not cause increases in various weather phenomena, but I’ve seen no theory that claims increased C02 can directly cause extreme weather without an intermediate stage of increased temperature.

    As we’ve seen no warming for 17 years, CAGW cannot currently be affecting extreme weather — not until some warming shows up.

  22. Genghis says:

    This post reminded me of a lesson I was taught in Drivers Ed many years ago.

    The question was posed, what is the difference between two identical cars colliding head on at 100 mph or a single car at 100 mph hitting a concrete wall.. The answer is no difference at all.

    In climate terms an analogy would be what is the difference in temperature between two radiating surfaces with or without an insulator or conductor (CO2) placed between them. The answer is the same.

  23. Claude Harvey says:

    This is what’s called, “Making a mountain out of a molehill”. Good grief, folks! The true-believers are reduced to admitting a state of uncertainty and that’s a fine development. Now, while they’re bent over, re-tying their shoes…..

  24. Mike McMillan says:

    Paul Homewood says: September 8, 2013 at 4:27 am
    Reducing speed limits inevitably means more traffic congestion (you are on the road longer, therefore more cars are on the road at any point in time).

    The number of cars on a stretch of road depends only on the car to car spacing, not the speed. Throughput is greater with increased speed at any spacing, but not the congestion. If you change spacing with speed (1 car length per 10 mph per driver ed) that reduces congestion, but about the time you pull back the proper amount, somebody will surely jump in there and you’re back congested again.

    Actually, that is a good analog to temperature. About the time we get a nice stretch of steady climate, HadCRUT and GISS jump in there and homogenize it upward again.

  25. Bob Tisdale says:

    Paul Homewood says: “Reducing speed limits inevitably means more traffic congestion (you are on the road longer, therefore more cars are on the road at any point in time).”

    That reminded me of the argument made by James May in an episode of “Top Gear” a few years ago. It was to the effect of: To stop congestion leading up to work zones where the number of traffic lanes are decreased, we need to increase speed (not reduce it) in the work zones.

  26. Bob Tisdale says:

    Kip Hansen, I had to check the Solomon Curve. I’d never heard of it.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Solomon_Curve.png

    Thanks. Now I’ll feel justified the next time I get the urge to use other cars as cones in a slalom course.

    Regards

  27. hoyawildcat says:

    Analogy is not analysis.

  28. John W. Garrett says:

    Over the years, I’ve seen Kip Hansen’s many cogent comments posted at DotEarth. It’s delightful to see that keen, rational and analytical mind appear as a WUWT essayist.

  29. Tom J says:

    There’s a very very important point to all of this. What happens, not when someone drives a bit faster, no, but when someone drives a bit slower than the overall traffic speed?

    The answer: At just 10 mph below the overall speed of traffic someone’s likelihood of being involved in a fatal accident increases a whopping 10 times.

    Why? Because anything that disrupts the smooth flow of traffic significantly increases the risk of an accident.

    If our noble climate warriors (sarc) want to use speed limits as an analogy to climate change, well, by all means let them use it. Think of the risk to the smooth flow of society, to the imposed slowdown, that their policies would genuinely impose society to. And all to appease a primitive believe in the dangers of speed, of advancement, of progress. Remember, the highest speed roads are the safest. The US Interstate Highway system is safer than all roads by a factor of about two. Moreover, the difference in the fatality rates between the speed limit free sections of the German Autobahn and the speed limited US Interstates is statistically indistinguishable.

  30. Pamela Gray says:

    I don’t fault the journalist for sexing up his report. Several of the research articles in the report also had color commentary and literary devices in their writing style. Climate science researchers seem especially prone to veering off the road of technical writing:

    “Hurricane Sandy slammed into the U.S. mid-Atlantic seaboard…”

    “To the Dutch, these cold spells come as a great relief, as they ignite hope…”

    “It is not the climate alone that creates these outcomes, but rather the climate’s interaction with extreme poverty, high endemic rates of malnutrition, limited or nonexistent governmental safety nets, and poor governance. In 2011, for example, the worst drought in 60 years combined with chronic food insecurity, high global food prices, and the actions of Somali terrorists to produce an estimated 258 000 deaths in Somalia (FEWS NET 2013).”

    These colorful phrases are designed to bring about an imaginative vividness of the situation, not the technical aspects of the situation. And it irritates me no end.

  31. Sam The First says:

    I seem to remember a good number of posts here around the time of the last couple of major tropical storms, demonstrating that there is nothing in the least extreme or unusual about current weather patterns; in fact extreme weather events have declined rather than increased.

    Surely this is what Revkin and anyone else writing on the environment in the MSM should be reporting, regardless of whether their analogies are justified or not! Why nitpick about a detail of the reporting, when the central point is completely and seriously misleading?

  32. Betapug says:

    Given that the EU is well along with the introduction of mandatory remote controlled governors to enforce speed limits, “In-Vehicle Speed Support”, the analology is quite apt.

    http://www.eureferendum.com/results.aspx?keyword=speed%20limit

  33. Eric says:

    Give Andy Revkin a break. This is not an unreasonable analogy, and it’s moderate relative to typical hyperbolic rhetoric on this topic.

  34. AlexS says:

    “The question was posed, what is the difference between two identical cars colliding head on at 100 mph or a single car at 100 mph hitting a concrete wall.. The answer is no difference at all.”

    uh!? of course there is a difference, the first is a 200mph crash the second is a 100mph crash.

  35. Chris Edwards says:

    Of course while Mr Gore and his church leaders cruise along just below the speed of sound in their private jets we paid for he will say that 0 mph is statistically the safest speed on all highways (I would bet statistically 200 mph is very safe as I doubt there have been many fatalities on public roads at that speed but plenty stationary cars get hit, in the UK last week for one) these tyrants are just after enslaving us workers for their luxury elite lifestyle !

  36. FerdinandAkin says:

    Why? We can’t know – as a journalist, he should have reported what was actually said.

    It is clear that Kenneth Chang is not a journalist; he is an activist. It is also clear what he advocating for.

  37. FerdinandAkin says:

    Adding just a little bit of warmth to the planet over time can substantially raise the odds that we continue the current era of human development. Otherwise the plant is slipping into the next glaciation period which would be calamitous

  38. JJ says:

    Chang trades on the common perception that increased driving speed increases both the likelihood of an accident and there severity of the accident that results.

    This is not true of climate: Increased heat in the climate system may decrease both the likelihood and severity of some types of extreme weather events. ‘Global warming’ theory predicts that the temperatures of the climate system should become higher and more evenly distributed. That would reduce both the incidence and severity of extreme weather events that are due to cold and/or to differences in energy content.

    Chang uses one lie in to tell another…

  39. rabbit says:

    Heat does not represent usable energy. The ability to do work does not depend on temperature, but on temperature gradient.

    If a system is uniformly 30 C everywhere then you can not extract work from it, but if a system is 0 C at one point and 30 C elsewhere then you can, despite the fact that the system is on average cooler.

    If the main result of global warming is to warm up polar regions, then one might hypothesize — on broad thermodynamic grounds — that violent weather will decrease.

  40. Nick Shaw says:

    Simply put, most “journalists” these days, who generally lean left, suffer from poor reading comprehension (meaning what they report from their “investigation” will not necessarily reflect what they read) and their ideological bent allows them to jump to illogical conclusions.
    Most warmistas are liberals and being the nanny staters they are, exceeding the speed limit is automatically bad so, it wasn’t too difficult at all for Chang and Revkin to put their ideological two and two together to get five. ;-)

  41. davidmhoffer says:

    I want to echo what JJ and rabbit said. The major problem with this is not that the analogy was misrepresented, but that it is plain wrong.

    Physics requires that any warming due to GHG’s results in less temperature differential between day time high and night time lows, between summer highs and winter lows, and between low latitudes and high latitudes. Weather is driven by temperature differential, so a warmer world is a more tranquil world. As for high temperature extremes, since the temperature change at low temps is larger than temperature change at high temps, for every extreme high temperature event that one can attribute to warming, a larger number of cold extreme weather events must disappear. Extreme cold kills a lot more people on this planet, not to mention animals and crops, than do extreme high temp events.

    The analogy is just wrong on so many levels it hurts.

  42. Chris says:

    Jim A says:
    September 8, 2013 at 4:05 am
    Ironic fact: When the speed limit on interstates was restored to 65 after years at 55, the highway death and serious accident rate went down significantly.
    Common sense reason: Drivers more alert at higher speed and not falling asleep as much.

    What’s your source for that? This study came to the opposite conclusion: http://deepblue.lib.umich.edu/bitstream/handle/2027.42/28294/0000048.pdf?sequence=1

    “Results revealed significant increases in casualties on roads where the speed limit was raised, including a 19.2% increase in fatalities, a 39.8% increase in serious injuries, and a 25.4% increase in moderate injuries.”

  43. davidmhoffer says:

    AlexS says:
    September 8, 2013 at 8:01 am
    “The question was posed, what is the difference between two identical cars colliding head on at 100 mph or a single car at 100 mph hitting a concrete wall.. The answer is no difference at all.”
    >>>>
    uh!? of course there is a difference, the first is a 200mph crash the second is a 100mph crash.
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

    Uh, no, the original comment was correct, assuming that the two cars are of the same size, weight and general construction (and that the concrete wall represents an immovable object). Since both cars “crumple” due to the collision, the stopping distance for each is identical to hitting an immovable object. The closing speed is double of course, but the distance over which the car goes from 100 mph to 0 is the same.

  44. TomR,Worc,MA,USA says:

    Doesn’t Revkin post here periodicly? Maybe he can chime in and clarify. Go Patriots!!!

  45. highflight56433 says:

    “Paul Homewood says:
    September 8, 2013 at 4:27 am
    Reducing speed limits inevitably means more traffic congestion (you are on the road longer, therefore more cars are on the road at any point in time). To visualize this, just think of 50 mph sections on motorways at roadworks. All of a sudden, from a relatively open road, cars are driving nose to tail. This sort of congested traffic causes many more accidents than doing a bit over the speed limit.”

    The above is a fact. To reduce congestion, increase the speed limit, which results in less time per vehicle on the road. It is a function of driver capability and vehicle that cause an accident. Driver education/training is key to reducing accidents and fatalities. In journalism, ethics is not part of the core value set which the lack of generally is not fatal.

  46. Pippen Kool says:

    Actually traffic fatalies went up >25% in 1987 when the speed went up on the interstates. Maybe people should check the data before making stuff up.

  47. Tom J says:

    Chris says:
    September 8th, 9:29 am

    ‘What’s your source for that? This study came to the opposite conclusion: http://deepblue.lib.umich.edu/bitstream/handle/2027.42/28294/0000048.pdf?sequence=1

    Sorry, but the aforementioned research is nonsense (too kind a word for it). Fatality rates are historically measured in terms of fatalities per 100,000,000 (one hundred million) vehicle miles. That measurement has been used since the 1920s and takes into account all variables. It is the only correct measurement. For instance, if there is a stretch of road that experienced 10 fatal accidents in one year and the following year experienced an exact doubling of traffic volume with 15 fatal accidents that road did NOT become more dangerous, even though fatal accidents went up by 150%. In terms of mileage (traffic volume) that road became far safer; the motorists’ exposure to a fatal was reduced.

    But, in the research you linked to, the researchers (also, too kind a word) used solely the percentage change as illustrated above. In the 15 page PDF I could find no mention of fatalities per 100,000,00 miles of travel. Why not? Could it be because that would not have given them the result they wanted? If one looks at a graph of traffic fatalities, from the 1920s to present, on the mentioned vehicle mileage principal, they will not be able to discover the date the 55 mph speed limit was implemented or the date it was eliminated. I don’t know current rates, but in the late 1990s the fatality rate on the US Interstate Highway system stood at about 0.90 per 100,000,000 vehicle miles. Despite these being the fastest roads that rate is about 1/2 the rate of all US roads in general, and indistinguishable from the fatality rate of speed limit free sections of the German autobahn.

  48. Tagerbaek says:

    The real takeaway from this is that the alarmists, who just a few years back were shouting imminent doom from the roof-tops, are now reduced to making the weakest of weak statistical ‘could happen’ analogies. Game over, unemployables.

  49. Stephen Pruett says:

    Good journalists research the context of information from particular individuals to be sure it doesn’t just reflect the opinion of one person. However, Chang seems not to have noticed that even when warming was occurring (late 70s to late 90s), there was no increase in extreme weather. In modern times, the most extreme decade was arguably the 1930s, before AGW began. It doesn’t matter how compelling a story is told by an analogy, if it doesn’t match observed data, it isn’t apt.

  50. Mike M says:

    ” AlexS says: uh!? of course there is a difference, the first is a 200mph crash the second is a 100mph crash.”

    Kinda but not really… there are TWO cars. Max energy of deformation for one car hitting wall at 100 mph = 1/2*M1*V^2 Max energy of deformation for two cars hitting head on = 1/2*(M1+M2)*V^2. So there’s double the overall energy expended in the collision but each car (all things equal) gets HALF so no different than hitting a wall. The other way to look at it is momentum. If each weighs the same then the final velocity of either is ZERO – same as hitting a wall.

  51. I recall a statement in my Driver’s Ed class.
    It isn’t the speed limit of the highway that matters to crash rate, it is the DIFFERENCES in speed that matter. Larger differences in the velocity of cars leads to more crashes.

    Statistically, the crash rate is related to the standard deviation of the velocity of vehicles.

    If you think about it, it has to be correct. Stock car racing happens at near 200 mph, yet the cars can be inches from each other when traveling the same velocity. It is only when there is a difference in velocity in such close quarters do accidents happen.

    Accidents happen on freeways in stop and go traffic, no where near the speed limit, but large and frequent difference in the speeds between cars.

    Now, if I may make a analogy to climate, that may or may not be any better than the NYT’s, the difference in temperature between the equator and the poles will drop with global warming, according to the IPCC. A drop in the difference in temperatures will lead to a drop in extreme weather events. There, NYT, it cuts both ways.

  52. Louis says:

    “Notice that Peterson says… nothing about speeding”

    Except, of course, where he says the following:
    “much like speeding increases the chances of having an accident…”

    How do you misrepresent the quote at the same time you’re complaining loudly about others misrepresenting the quote? It’s enough to point out why it’s a bad analogy to climate. There’s no need to go overboard and risk your credibility in the process.

  53. Norm says:

    This is why ‘the scientists’ have gone from AGW to Climate change, now no way to challenge the CO2 theory.

  54. Kip Hansen says:

    Reply to Claude Harvey (September 8, 2013 at 6:35 am): My intention was to make a molehill comment about a foothill of journalistic malpractice.

    Reply to Eric (September 8, 2013 at 7:50 am): “Give Andy Revkin a break…” You should see the links first. It wasn’t Andy’s false analogy, nor Andy’s misrepresentation. He was just fooled by thinking that Kenneth Chang had quoted correctly…Andy just failed to check original sources. So, he got a break –> “(and for Andy Revkin – don’t trust other journalists to have done these things, check them yourself).” Mr. Revkin and I correspond occasionally — and while I don’t always agree with him — we are generally collegial.

    Reply to Louis (September 8, 2013 at 11:37 am): Peterson does mix in a second bit, which is included in its entirety. Difficult to say if he is referring back to his original analogy, adding in an additional point, or if he just forgot what he started out saying. If he checks in here, we can try to clarify it with him.

  55. Gunga Din says:

    hoyawildcat says:
    September 8, 2013 at 6:47 am

    Analogy is not analysis.

    =========================================================================
    True. An analogy to communicate a point is not proof of the point.
    On the flip-side, finding a flaw in the analogy does not disprove the point.
    Show us the data so the world doesn’t trip over a tree ring.

  56. Mike M says:

    Stephen Rasey says: “I recall a statement in my Driver’s Ed class. It isn’t the speed limit of the highway that matters to crash rate, it is the DIFFERENCES in speed that matter. ”

    My driver ed teacher explained that the reason you should not tail gate is because of the difference in speed that will occur at impact because the car in front of you started braking before you did by the amount of your reaction time. I pointed out in that there exists a specific close distance however, from which the closer you get, that difference of velocity at impact starts going back down. The obvious truth of that is if you are already touching the guy’s rear bumper there will be a zero velocity difference. ( He didn’t like me… :)

  57. Gary Hladik says:

    Chris says (September 8, 2013 at 9:29 am): “What’s your source for that?”

    Here’s one:

    http://articles.sun-sentinel.com/1997-11-09/news/9711050452_1_speed-limits-statewide-fatality-rates-lave-and-elias

    The overall safety improvement was attributed to, among other things:

    1) Reducing the speed difference between speeders and compliant drivers;
    2) Luring drivers back onto safer divided highways.

    No mention of drivers being “more alert” at higher speeds. :-)

  58. Kip Hansen says:

    Reply to Gunga Din (September 8, 2013 at 12:48 pm) and hoyawildcat (September 8, 2013 at 6:47 am): My wife, who holds an Ivy League English degree, tells me that an analogy is more properly a literary device and not a device well-fitted to scientific discussion — because it is not usually factual, not meant to be an exact parallel, but poetical by nature. Thus speaketh the English Department.

    Reply to Bob Tisdale (September 8, 2013 at 6:47 am) “…I’ll feel justified the next time I get the urge to use other cars as cones in a slalom course.” Your speed range of added safety is pretty narrow, eyeballed at about 2-6% above the speed of the flow of traffic … at 65 mph that translates to 67 to 69 mph. Not so much a slalom course really. Sorry!

  59. Gunga Din says:

    Kip Hansen says:
    September 8, 2013 at 1:18 pm

    Reply to Gunga Din (September 8, 2013 at 12:48 pm) and hoyawildcat (September 8, 2013 at 6:47 am): My wife, who holds an Ivy League English degree, tells me that an analogy is more properly a literary device and not a device well-fitted to scientific discussion — because it is not usually factual, not meant to be an exact parallel, but poetical by nature. Thus speaketh the English Department.
    =======================================================================
    OT but your wife may find this of interest.
    http://rhetoric.byu.edu/figures/groupings/by%20author/bullinger.htm

  60. @Mike M 1:00 pm
    I pointed out in that there exists a specific close distance however, from which the closer you [tailgate], that difference of velocity at impact starts going back down

    Clever thinking! Of course the on the downslope the probability of impact rises quickly. So is it better to have a near zero probability of large impact, or a virtual certainty of many minor impacts by tailgating?

    Railroads are built on the later premise. There are six inches of play in a coupling. I read about an engineer instructing a trainee. “You’ve got a mile of train behind you. That means there is 60 feet of play at the last car. To reduce the jerk at the last car, start slowly to take out the play, then accelerate.”

  61. Pedantic old Fart says:

    My advice is don’t use analogies…period. By definition they don’t match the phenomenon in question. Using an analogy says you are not confident of being understood. Better to improve the clarity of the explanation.

  62. Kip Hansen says:

    reply to Sam The First (September 8, 2013 at 7:28 am) — “Why nitpick about a detail of the reporting, when the central point is completely and seriously misleading?” My article is about 2 things: Poor journalism and, in a minor way, the use of analogy in science reporting. There are many others far more qualified than I to write about the susbstance of the BAMS supplement. My main focuses are Bad Science Journalism (including medial/health topics) and Public Ethics — everyone has to pick their battles.

  63. Kip Hansen says:

    Reply to Pedantic old Fart (September 8, 2013 at 2:51 pm) — “My advice is don’t use analogies…period…..Better to improve the clarity of the explanation.” My English Major wife agrees that scientists shouldn’t attempt analogies…so do I. Poets though….that’s another matter.

  64. Kip Hansen says:

    Reply to Gunga Din (September 8, 2013 at 1:30 pm) — My wife thanks you for the link to “Figures of Speech” Bullinger, 1898. .

  65. ntesdorf says:

    Misquoting sources and inventing facts and data are bread and butter to the Alarmist Movement. Kenneth Chang is just following in the grand tradition of the Warmist Creed. Misrepresentation is so natural to the Warmistas that they are no longer aware that they are doing it. They know that the Cause justifies all their actions.

  66. bobl says:

    Except that the analogy is correct, as the temp and CO2 rise the risk to mankind falls (More food, more oxygen, less cold) until the rise in CO2 is sufficient to negate the gains at some break-even point. This is probably the point CO2 becomes toxic to a mammals at about 40000 PPM. The climate has it’s own Solomon curve

  67. bobl says:

    From my last post the headline should read, “Revkin agrees global warming benefits mankind”

  68. CodeTech says:

    For those unaware of this, you can watch hundreds of real-world car crashes right here:
    http://www.youtube.com/user/CarCrashCompilation
    (I prefer this user’s uploads because he filters out the serious injuries and fatalities, but there are a lot of those online too)
    One thing that stands out in all those crashes is the lack of time to react. Even though something is in progress for some time before the crash, the people involved usually have little or no time between when they see it and when they are in trouble. Also, speeding itself is NOT the “cause”, but speeding in traffic and speeding inappropriately (ie through residential streets) can create mayhem. Best to always be hyper-aware of your surroundings when driving.

    bobl, is there any mechanism you can postulate that could result in 40,000ppm CO2 in the atmosphere? Other than a catastrophic event that has absolutely nothing to do with people, of course.

  69. Gunga Din says:

    Kip Hansen says:
    September 8, 2013 at 3:03 pm

    Reply to Gunga Din (September 8, 2013 at 1:30 pm) — My wife thanks you for the link to “Figures of Speech” Bullinger, 1898. .

    =======================================================================
    You and your wife are welcome.
    I did notice that not all of the ones listed give an explanation and example. This link fills in some of those gaps.
    http://www.therain.org/appendixes/app6.html

  70. Barry Cullen says:

    These little lies and 1/2 truths are what opened eyes ~25 yrs ago to all the BS and sheer lack of hard evidence behind the warmists’ hysterical claims.

    IIRC, the chance of an accident causing a death decreases until one reaches approximately the 85th %ile speed, then rapidly increases as the speed increases above that.
    BC

  71. Louis Hooffstetter says:

    “…Badly Reported by the NYT”

    What isn’t? Business as usual.

  72. JPeden says:

    Using an analogy as an argument “begs the question” and shows that you don’t have an argument.

  73. Brendy says:

    Seatbelts, airbags, antilock breaks, collision warning and avoidance systems, safe highway design – adaptation and technology save far more lives than reducing the speed by a couple of miles per hour. Of course there are always new challenges that emerge – like distracted driving – which is not caused by global warmng, by the way.

  74. aaron says:

    Leave it to Climate Jounalists to believe and perpetuate common myths.

    Next thing you know, they’ll tell you getting up to speed slowly will save fuel. That hasn’t been true for at least 20 years, since CVT and electronically controlled fuel injection become common. (If it ever was, the benefits of preventing and mitigating congestion might always have outweighed the cost of quick acceleration when there are other cars behind you.)

  75. aaron says:

    They also assume people drive the posted speed regardless of the conditions. And that people drive above the speedlimit regardless of how fast they are going.

  76. aaron says:

    AlexS, the point is that people turn to moosh in either situation.

  77. phatboy says:

    CodeTech wrote: “One thing that stands out in all those crashes is the lack of time to react”

    Yes, it’s amazing how the ‘experts’ will still tell you that driving slower gives one more time to react.
    Nothing can be further from the truth – you have as much time to react as you have, and it has no connection whatsoever to your speed.
    What makes that mindset dangerous is that it lulls drivers (as well as pedestrians) into a false sense of security.

    Speed and climate are similar in that there’s a lot of BS surrounding both.

  78. Point 3: extream weather is on the decrease, so the entire premis of the article is bogus!

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