William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

Lovejoy’s New Attempt To Show We Are Doomed Does Not Convince

Lovejoy's new model.

Lovejoy’s new model.

We last met Shaun Lovejoy when he claimed that mankind caused global temperatures to increase. At the 99.9% level, of course.

He’s now saying that the increase which wasn’t observed wasn’t there because of natural variability. But, he assures us, we’re still at fault

His entire effort is beside the point. If the “pause” wasn’t predicted, then the models are bad and the theories that drive them probably false. It matters not whether such pauses are “natural” or not.

Tell me honestly. Is this sentence in Lovejoy’s newest peer-reviewed (“Return periods of global climate
fluctuations and the pause”, Geophysical Research Letters) foray science or politics? “Climate change deniers have been able to dismiss all the model results and attribute the warming to natural causes.”

The reason scientists like Yours Truly have dismissed the veracity of climate models is for the eminently scientific reason that models which cannot make skillful forecasts are bad. And this is so even if you don’t want them to be. Even if you love them. Even if the models are consonant with a cherished and desirable ideology.

Up to a constant, Lovejoy’s curious model says the global temperature is caused by climate sensitivity (at double CO2) times the log of the ratio of the time varying CO2 concentration, all plus the “natural” global temperature.

There is no such thing. I mean, there is no such thing as a natural temperature in the absence of mankind. This is because mankind, like every other plant and animal species ever, has been influencing the climate since its inception. Only a denier would deny this.

Follow me closely. Lovejoy believes he can separate out the effects of humans on temperature and thus estimate what the temperature would be were man not around. Forget that such a quantity is of no interest (to any human being), or that such a task is hugely complex. Such estimates are possible. But so are estimates of temperature assuming the plot from the underrated pre-Winning Charlie Sheen movie The Arrival is true.

Let Lovejoy say what he will of Tnat(t) (as he calls it). Since this is meant to be science, how do we verify that Lovejoy isn’t talking out of his chapeau? How do we verify his conjectures? For that is all they are, conjectures. I mean, I could create my own estimate of Tnat(t), and so you could you—and so could anybody. Statistics is a generous, if not a Christian, field. The rule of statistical modeling is, Ask and ye shall receive. How do we tell which estimate is correct?

Answer: we cannot.

But—there’s always a but in science—we might believe Lovejoy was on to something if, and only if, his odd model were able to predict new data, data he had never before seen. Has he done this?

Answer: he has not.

His Figure shown above (global temp) might be taken as a forecast, though. His model is a juicy increase. Upwards and onwards! Anybody want to bet that this is the course the future temperature will actually take? If it doesn’t, Lovejoy is wrong. And no denying it.

After fitting his “GCM-free methodology” model, Lovejoy calculates the chances of seeing certain features in Tnat(t), all of which are conditional on his model and the correctness of Tnat(t). Meaning, if his model is fantasia, so are the probabilities about Tnat(t).

Oh, did I mention that Lovejoy first smoothed his time series? Yup: “a 1-2-1 running filter” (see here and here for more on why not to do this).

Lovejoy concludes his opus with the words, “We may still be battling the climate skeptic arguments that the models are
untrustworthy and that the variability is mostly natural in origin.”

Listen: if the GCMs (not just Lovejoy’s curious entry) made bad forecasts, they are bad models. It matters not that they “missed” some “natural variability.” The point is they made bad forecasts. That means that misidentified whatever it was that caused the temperature to take the values it did. That may be “natural variability” or things done by mankind. But it must be something. It doesn’t even matter if Lovejoy’s model is right: the GCMs were wrong.

He says the observed “pause” “has a convincing statistical explanation.” It has Lovejoy’s explanation. But I, or you, could build your own model and show that the “pause” does not have a convincing statistical explanation.

Besides, who gives a fig-and-a-half for statistical explanations? We want causal explanations. We want to know why things happen. We already know that they happened.

29 Comments

  1. Nicely done. Any thoughts on Risbey Lewandowsky (chortle) et al?

  2. RE: “If the [it] wasn’t predicted, then the models are bad and the theories that drive them probably false.”

    Richard Feynman put similarly:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EYPapE-3FRw

  3. I wish I could go back to all my work and compare my answers to the correct answers, get the difference, and re-publish it. As long as I describe it as being my model failed to capture, but somehow still demonstrating that my general ideas were true and that I should TOTALLY still be funded and that I’m not a hack.

  4. Does the same thing apply to a low pass filter? I’m thinking yes.

  5. I found it interesting that climate researchers kept saying “The Arctic is melting faster than we predicted” and seemed, or actually stated, that this was proof that people were causing more damage than originally believed. They were horrified if I said what this proves is the model is wrong. Which is does. Wrong is wrong, no matter if the ice melts faster or the temperature levels its climb. (Of course, the heat went into ocean—which probably should have been mentioned before the failure of the model so as to not look so shady. Plus, the scientists should have mentioned that their claim that CO2 “drives” climate really meant it is what we’re calling the driver until that fails.)

  6. “Any thoughts on Risbey Lewandowsky (chortle) et al?”

    There is a discussion of it here: http://wattsupwiththat.com/2014/07/20/lewandowsky-and-oreskes-are-co-authors-of-a-paper-about-enso-climate-models-and-sea-surface-temperature-trends-go-figure/

    Short version: If you print this paper on toilet paper, it will be useful.

  7. MattS: I found that whole line-up of authors interesting. Remember when climate science was ONLY done by experts who worked years and years in climate research and we had to listen to them because they “know”? Now, you can have a person with a degree in psychology (what part of climate change involves psychology other than selling the bogus theory to the public?) and a recent graduate (or I think Naomi has a degree now) are just the ticket. It’s crazy—how can anyone not see that all that matters is that the writers agree with the narrative? There are no qualifications other than the ability to say what is expected and not rock the boat. So much for experts, authority and science.

  8. Sander van der Wal

    July 23, 2014 at 12:55 pm

    @Ken

    Feynmann and Popper agree with each other very much indeed.

  9. The rule of statistical modeling is, Ask and ye shall receive.
    I thought the rule was “if you torture the data enough it will confess”, i.e. you’ll get the answer you want.

  10. Ray: Depends on your definition of “ask”.

  11. appropriate quote:

    “One question in science is not ‘ is this hypothetical model true’ but ‘is this model better than the alternatives’…If we believe dogmatically in a particular view, then no amount of contradictory data will convince us otherwise…” John Skilling, “Foundations and Algorithms” in Bayesian Methods in Cosmology

  12. Well, you guys just fill in the gaps with whatever pleases you. Gaps in climate science? Man has nothing to do with the climate. Gaps in physics? God. Gaps in economics? Laizzez faire.

    We’re going to fill in some of those gaps with this new satellite, but fear not, there will always be other gaps to fill with whatever pleases you – or pays you.

    JMJ

  13. JMJ…I’ll only repeat…look at the quote in my previous comment…that says it all.

  14. JMJ: And you just keep write on flinging meaningless statements and hoping to insult people into following whatever it is you’re pushing. Good luck with that.

  15. Sheri, try making a cogent argument.

    Bob, I’m not the one pretending to have the answer. I look at this very simply – anything we can do to make energy cheaper, more efficient, safer, simpler, more secure, and cleaner we should do. The problem with you guys argument is that it seems to be just shilling for Big Oil and Coal.

    JMJ

  16. JMJ: I do, for people who can return the favor.

  17. JMJ,
    “anything we can do to make energy cheaper, more efficient, safer, simpler, more secure, and cleaner we should do”

    Since this list is exactly what fossil fuels have given us, I fear that your agenda must lie else where. Who are you shilling for?

  18. “Since this list is exactly what fossil fuels have given us”

    Here we completely depart in two ways. First, the fossil fuel sector is a global behemoth that has caused wars, ruined environments, wrecked economies, bolstered kleptocrats, monarchs, despots, juntas, and totalitarians, and is a physically dirty business. Second, clinging to the status quo in the face of change is stupid.

    Disclaimer – I have no vested interest in nor receive any compensation from the energy sector. My relationship with the energy sector is limited to paying for energy and voting for anyone who embraces change and progress and dismisses conservative uselessness.

    JMJ

  19. JMJ,
    A strange collection of assertions. It all reminds me of two quotes from Robert Heinlein:

    “Progress isn’t made by early risers. It’s made by lazy men trying to find easier ways to do something.”

    “Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded- here and there, now and then- are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people. Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty.This is known as “bad luck.”.”

    Are you a right thinking person?

  20. JMJ: Want to take a shot at the positive things fossil fuels have done for us?

    You can start with re-charging you iPhone for about $0.05 and taking you to McDonald’s in comfort for about $0.10.

    I’m guessing there might be even bigger benefits that it has brought society, but I will leave it as an exercise for the student.

  21. JMJ,

    Our entire modern society runs on fossil fuels. There are only two ways to significantly reduce fossil fuel consumption within the next 100 years.

    1. Build nuclear plants as fast as possible.

    2. Deindustrialize, returning to a early 18th century life style.

    Wind, solar and bio-fuels will never amount to more than a rounding error against global energy consumption without implementing #2 above.

  22. Sheri,

    A left-thinking one from appearances.

  23. Sander van der Wal

    July 24, 2014 at 7:02 am

    @MattS

    Well, solar electricity generation and air conditioners seems like a marriage made in heaven.

  24. Scotian, I would never want to be that kind of “right-thinking” person.

    Matt, fossil fuel will remain an important energy source for many years to come. This is not an all-or-nothing argument. Mine is only an argument for trying new ways of doing things.

    JMJ

  25. JMJ,

    The new ways of doing things that you support will never amount to more than a rounding error.

  26. Can we stop feeding this troll that always comes in and makes inane energy remarks and accuses everyone shilling for big oil. Let us just walk around his inanities, until he blows away or up.

  27. JMJ:

    I went to a handy-dandy website the other day to estimate the cost of getting solar panels installed on my house. It was pretty neat. I enter my zipcode, my average monthly electric bill, and voila, it tells me how much a system will cost, how much it will save me, how many pounds of CO2 wonth be produced, etc.

    Now for the catch: it would cost over $50,000 to install solar panels on my house, and would save about $60/month on my electric bill.

    Now here are some important things to keep in mind: $50,000 isn’t the real cost, because the solar power industry is so heavily subsidized. So there’s some crony capitalism for you. Remember Solyndra?

    The website also pointed out that I *might* qualify for a tax credit and if I did, the solar panels would pay for themselves in — wait for it — 15 years!
    Without the tax credit? The system would probably run past its useful lifetime before it paid for itself. No thanks.

    Here’s the link in case you want to try it:
    http://www.findsolar.com/Content/SolarCalculator.aspx

  28. Mine is only an argument for trying new ways of doing things.

    I think the relevant distinction to be made is between ‘new’ and ‘effective.’ It seems your opponents are challenging the latter, and you keep pushing the former. “Solar and wind power is demonstrably useless” cannot be refuted by “but it’s new.” Meanwhile, oil is effective, and you’re opposing it because it’s old (and you hate oil tycoons, and it ruins some environment somewhere (which ignores the fact that the post above your head has chipped away at that claim to some extent), something about oil wars, etc.).

  29. We have a friend who keeps telling us we need to put up a wind turbine and stick it to the power company. A wind turbine wired in to “sell back to the power company” costs $10,000 to $50,000 or more. My electric bill is about $160 per month. Yes, I live where it’s windy, but how many years will I have to have the turbine to even break even?

    You can use a cheap, small turbine, batteries and run 12 or 24 volt systems and save money. You can put in an inverter (an expensive one) and run 110. You might want to add solar in case the wind does blow and don’t forget the backup diesel/propane generator found in virtually every wind/solar powered home out there. You might have to use the system quite a while before recouping the cost of the system and the accompanying maintenance. Maybe it’s less than $150 a month, maybe not. And it’s you out there in −40F trying to repair the system. It’s great for developing a real sense of independence, provided you don’t freeze to death.

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