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“New Warning on Arctic Sea Ice Melt” reads a headline on the BBC website. Ho hum, another global-warming alarm, right? But it turns out it’s even less alarming than you think. The “new warning” is the same as the old warning, only less urgent:

Scientists who predicted a few years ago that Arctic summers could be ice-free by 2013 now say summer sea ice will probably be gone in this decade. The original prediction, made in 2007, gained Wieslaw Maslowski’s team a deal of criticism from some of their peers.
Now they are working with a new computer model–compiled partly in response to those criticisms–that produces a “best guess” date of 2016.

Well, our best guess is that in 2015 they’ll have a new best guess of 2020; in 2019 it’ll be 2024, etc. This is what’s known, in another discipline, as “salami economics,” in which economists make repeated minor revisions to their estimates and hope you won’t notice that when added up they are a major revision.

Or let’s try this another way. Our best guess is that Wieslaw Maslowski will die before the end of the year. If he’s still alive in December, we’ll modify that and guess he’ll die in 2012. We can keep changing our guess every year. The difference between our guesses and his is that one of ours is bound to be right sooner or later.

“New Warning on Arctic Sea Ice Melt” reads a headline on the BBC website. Ho hum, another global-warming alarm, right? But it turns out it’s even less alarming than you think. The “new warning” is the same as the old warning, only less urgent:

Scientists who predicted a few years ago that Arctic summers could be ice-free by 2013 now say summer sea ice will probably be gone in this decade. The original prediction, made in 2007, gained Wieslaw Maslowski’s team a deal of criticism from some of their peers.
Now they are working with a new computer model–compiled partly in response to those criticisms–that produces a “best guess” date of 2016.

Well, our best guess is that in 2015 they’ll have a new best guess of 2020; in 2019 it’ll be 2024, etc. This is what’s known, in another discipline, as “salami economics,” in which economists make repeated minor revisions to their estimates and hope you won’t notice that when added up they are a major revision.

Or let’s try this another way. Our best guess is that Wieslaw Maslowski will die before the end of the year. If he’s still alive in December, we’ll modify that and guess he’ll die in 2012. We can keep changing our guess every year. The difference between our guesses and his is that one of ours is bound to be right sooner or later.

The Wall Street Journal, 9 April 2011