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Three simple Words: We do not know

In a recent editorial on Watt’s Up With That, Willis Eschenbach laments the fact that climate scientists never use these three precious words: We don’t know. Imagine how this will reduce uncertainty, no more of Donald Rumsfeld’s unknown unknowns; the world would henceforth be more clearly demarcated into known knowns and known unknowns. Let’s have no more obfuscating IPCC talk of qualitative or quantitative uncertainty (page 5), no more waffly phrases such as medium evidence, high confidence or the breathtakingly equivocal about as likely or not. So let’s start demanding clear answers, just like in court: Do you know, yes or no?

Imagine how public discourse would be transformed if spokespersons in all walks of life would adopt this simple rule.

Is it going to rain in Vancouver next January?
Weather forecaster: I don’t know; we can’t predict tomorrow’s weather exactly, so how can anyone make predictions that far down the road?

Is President Obama as dangerous a threat to the United States as Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin once were?
Newt Gingrich: I don’t know, why do you ask?

Will banning fighting in hockey make for a more exciting game?
Sports commentator Don Cherry: I don’t know, there’s no real consensus among lovers of the game.

Does the rapid development of the Alberta tar sands have any negative consequences for the environment?
Prime Minister Stephen Harper: I do not know, nobody knows, which is why I have asked our scientists to exercise discretion when speaking on this matter.

Does the misuse of statistics in the 1998 Mann et al. article completely undermine the conclusions of that paper?
Steve McIntyre: I don’t really know, that National Research Council report sure raised some interesting questions.

Is there any proof that Edward Wegman and his co-workers copied text without attribution in their report on the hockey stick controversy?
Deep Climate: I have no idea., there’s always the chance it could have been an unfortunate coincidence.