Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics!
Maybe its co-incidence, but in the same session at my computer I picked up two bits of information. A/. Greenpeace and Frogblog, the Greenie Blogsheet, have produced a frightening conjecture that if the Anadarko oil rig, now placed off the Taranaki coast, had an accident It could spread oil damage right up the west coast of the North Island all the way up to Cape Reinga and then right across the Pacific.. http://www.stuff.co.nz/taranaki-daily-news/news/9314539/Greenpeace-warns-of-oil-spill-havoc
B/. Stuff.co.nz also had a story about Irv Gordon a retired school teacher in the USA who has driven 3,000,000 passenger safe miles in one car, a 1966 Volvo. http://www.stuff.co.nz/motoring/customs-classics/9271785/One-careful-owner-3-million-miles-on-clock
Now, normally when we compare the safety of travel, by comparing accidents per passenger seat mile, the worst is motor cycles, then cars and aeroplanes come out a long way ahead on safe travel, even though every major airline crash kills a hundred or more at one go. However, does it stop us motoring to know that by the latest available N.Z. annual statistics there were close to 10,000 automotive crashes and 259 people died? No, because most of us consider ourselves bulletproof behind the wheel. We calculate our own safety factors and drive on regardless, whatever some frightened person may bleat about the possibilities.
I tried to find a figure for how many barrels of oil were spilled for every million barrels extracted, or how many oil rigs have crashed out of the total number of wells drilled, but it proved too difficult. I got all the major oil well spills, the same as I could get all the aeroplane accidents, but what does that tell us? That planes are not a safe way to travel? That if you drive a car long enough that you will be sure to have an accident?
It would be an interesting exercise to search all the Global warming articles and see how many references do not contain the iffy words ‘may’, ‘might’, ‘could’, ‘possibility’, contingency’ ‘chance’, ‘likelihood’, oh how the list goes on. However, any one of those words , without some very firm statistics behind them effectively negates any scientific merit. Will the sky fall down tomorrow? It might! And what if there is a modeling calculation behind the story? Oh yes one can model the ocean currents and how far the spill might travel if there was a spill, but does that tell us whether or not there might be an accident? No!
So, get back into your cars and trucks and burn up as much petrol as you want to, hop onto the next flight to where ever, the chances are that there will still be enough fuel to get you there, and you will not meet any oil slicks on the way.