The recent letters relating to climate change highlight the positive impact actuaries can make and some pitfalls awaiting those who wish to get involved with this topic.
Actuaries' experience in data analysis, assumption setting and modelling can add some professionalism that may sometimes be missing in scientific publications. Last year, Richard Horton, editor of The Lancet, wrote: "The case against science is straightforward: much of the scientific literature, perhaps half, may simply be untrue." But it is not just biomedical research that has its problems. An article in Nature in 2005 claimed that 15% of scientists admitted to "changing the design, methodology or results of a study in response to pressure from a funding source".
Solomon Green's challenge that the Climate Change Working Party should investigate the assumptions, derivation and validity of the climate models, is therefore a fair one. This would not imply that there is anything wrong but rather that additional external review should be welcomed of models that are playing a fundamental role in how economies and societies are being managed.
One of the pitfalls awaiting the unwary actuary is epitomised by Kenneth Donaldson's reference to the paper by Karl et al, which concluded that the so-called hiatus had never happened. In the same month that his letter was published, an article was published (Fyfe et al, 2016) in Nature Climate Change contradicting this conclusion.
I look forward to actuaries continuing to make contributions on climate change that generate light and not heat.
Dermot Grenham FIA
13 March 2016