The patterns from the 1950's through 1970's sulfur controls are repeating in the ocean shipping world, where sulfur and NOx limits are being tightened. There is a mix of scrubbers and fuel shifts to LNG taking place. Of course the amounts of sulfur and human impact are much smaller. In the 1950's dozens of people died from the toxic sulfur levels in some of London's fogs. Now, the worry is long term subtle damage to the environment. It's still interesting to see steady progress while the patterns repeat.
Healthcare risk explanations will face the same kind of issues as weather forecasting. Professional weather forecasting tailors the presentation and the forecast to the user. That can cause problems after the fact because a scientific user's preferences are not the same as a public user's. These differences are usually related to differences in how predictive probabilities are understood. Healthcare will need to learn how to deal with the same problem. A patient's listening and understanding is different than the scientific understanding.
We're looking at another big North Atlantic storm. I used to deal with these professionally. We had customers that were experiencing this:
Sometimes the forecast involves "A record setting level of speculation". This phrase was used recently in a public forecast. It's amusing and helps convey uncertainty to the public. Weather forecasting includes explicit understanding and attention to presenting uncertainty and measuring accuracy in the face of uncertainty. This is not a familiar subject to the public.
When I was younger I worked for a company that had a weather forecasting division. It had both commercial and public clients. A typical commercial customer was a shipyard that needed to thread large empty ships through a narrow channel. They wanted forecasts for crosswinds at the channel, giving direction and speed. We also routed ships and aircraft around or through weather. A typical public customer was a local radio station that wanted 55 second spots for their listening area.
In both cases there was close attention paid to forecast accuracy. In the case of the commercial customer accuracy was measured against weather instruments at the channel. For the public it was measured by pollsters asking listeners about the accuracy of yesterday's or last week's forecasts. We were very aware of the difference. You would see very different forecasts for the commercial customers from the public forecasts in the same areas.
The commercial forecast accuracy measured just the ability to predict specific weather events. It was based on scientific measurement and scientific understanding of probability.
The public forecast accuracy measured the public memory, the effectiveness of the broadcast, the phrasing, and the ability to predict weather events. This is dramatically different. The public forecasts are carefully adjusted with guidance from the polls and public feedback. But when someone reviews a specific forecast and compares it with scientific measurements it is obvious that the two do not match. This reflects the difference between accurate scientific statements of probability and statements that the public understands.
Part of the difficulty, and the source for a regular stream of research reports on weather forecasting, is the inability to express uncertainty in a way that is both scientifically accurate and understood by the public. The public hears what it wants to hear, and does not have a good concept of uncertainty. It's gotten worse and worse.
Professional baseball management and weather forecasting are uncommon in requiring a conscious understanding of statistics and uncertainty as a core part of the skill. I notice this gap in the terrible difficulties that modern medicine has with discussing uncertainty and risk. Most healthcare professionals avoid statistics and uncertainty discussions at all costs. The result is statements that are neither understood by the patients nor scientifically accurate.
I expect healthcare will need to learn to use the same kind of public feedback that weather forecasters use. This will take time, but it's clear that patients are not understanding the words said by the doctors. I also expect the same kind of conflict between scientifically accurate statements and statements that are understood by the patients.