I am reading a speech by Michael Mann, the author of the now famous climate hockey stick, which has been criticized by statisticians and climatologists alike. In particular, I am fascinated by the claim that "there is a 95 to 99% certainty that 1998 was the hottest year in the last one thousand years."
Forgetting the problems with his analysis, and forgetting all the other evidence that we have that in the Medieval warm period, the earth was probably hotter than it was today, just look at that sentence on its face. Is there any other context where we would take a scientists near certainty about the value of a climate variable 500 years before man even started measuring it as anything but quackery? If there was a way to reasonably bet against the proposition that 1998 was the hottest year of the millennium, I would do so even as a 1:1 proposition, but would leap at the chance to take the bet at 20:1 or 100:1 odds, which is essentially what Mann is proposing when he says he is 95-99 percent certain.