scientific uncertainty

Are the Coronavirus Models Too Pessimistic?

Unfortunately, if anything, reality has often turned out somewhat worse than predicted.

The White House thinks coronavirus models are too pessimistic. If anything, the evidence suggests the models aren’t pessimistic enough. Their projections of future deaths have often been too low.

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Interpreting Models of Coronavirus Spread

Models are crucial to making policy decisions during the epidemic, but you have to know how to use them.

This post works through an exercise in how to use and interpret models of disease spread.   Here are the takeaways for policy analysis: You need to know about a model’s sensitivity.  Particularly in settings where the specific numbers really matter, such as forecasting how many hospital beds will be needed, it’s important to take into …

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Uncertainty in the Age of Coronavirus

There’s a lot we don’t know at this point. How should we deal with that?

Knowledge about the coronavirus is limited but growing. In the meantime, how should we cope with this uncertainty?  I can’t give you psychological advice, but I can say something about how to think about this uncertainty. How to make decisions under uncertainty is something we know a lot about from the environmental sphere. Uncertainty is …

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Can Incomplete Information Still Be Cause For Alarm?

How much comfort should people take from the remaining gaps in our knowledge of climate change.  Not much, is the answer. Scientists have learned a lot about climate, but there are still pieces of the puzzle that are yet to be filled in.  Here’s a nice picture that Nobel Laureate Mario Molina uses to show …

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Environmental Law and “The Law of the Horse”

“The Law of the Horse” is the title of the (perhaps apocryphal) treatise on the same subject.  The point of the reference is that “there’s no there there,” as Gertrude Stein might have said: the law of the horse would simply be a compendium of contract cases that happened to involve horses, tort cases that …

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Climate Change versus the Benzene Case

The Benzene Case — more properly, Industrial Union Dept. v. American Petroleum Inst. — is almost thirty years old, but is still the Supreme Court’s most important statement on risk regulation.  After considering mountains of evidence, OSHA issued a rule restricting benzene in the workplace.  Benzene was known to be a carcinogen; the evidence was …

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