William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

Climate Hustle, Readers Write

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Hustling along

I was over at the UN yesterday and met Marc Marano, who interviewed me for his upcoming documentary tentatively titled Climate Hustle.

With fedora jauntily tipped back to reveal my sparkling hazel eyes, tie loosely knotted and purposely mismatching the pocket square, all counter-balanced by my genetically British teeth and Honda-sized honker, I launched into my defense of the slogan, “Actually, the science is settled.”

It is, too.

Used to be, before the tsunami of money washed over Science, drowning much common sense, a scientific precept was that when a theory made rotten predictions, the theory was condemned. The coupled GCMs around which climatology revolve have been making rotten predictions for decades. Therefore, in the days or yore, we would have said there is something wrong with the models.

And that is still so for those traditionalists among us who cling to the old ways. We say the models stink, because why? Because the models stink: they do not make skillful predictions. You would have done better with persistence. To us old timers, that means something about the models is wrong.

What, exactly, is wrong, I haven’t a clear idea. Too many tunable parameters in the models to know with any certainty. Anyway, if we knew, we’d be able to fix or adjust. We don’t know, so we can’t.

But to young whippersnappers, and especially to their worshipful followers, model accuracy means nothing. What matters more than anything is how consonant the theory which drives the models is with their “lifestyles”—or with their livelihoods.

The theory has become more important than reality. This is so true that even attacks on the theory using reality are seen by believers as confirmation of the theory. “Why is he denying my theory? He must be evil. My theory is stronger than his hate.”

A secondary problem is the expansion of democracy. Yes. Oh, yes. I know you don’t believe it, but it’s true. Somehow we have developed the idea that everything can be put to a vote. Why else do we see these bug-witted attempts to convince us of the theory’s truth because this-or-that percentage of scientists believe it? Why else would people take to the streets for “climate justice”, in hopes their mere numbers would sway?

With my fellow gloom-and-doomers and grinning curmudgeons, I see no way out of this. Comfort yourself with the thought that, except for God, nothing good lasts forever.

Readers write

At the time of writing, I have 185 emails in my Inbox, all containing ideas for posts, another 200 or so in a folder of post ideas saved for future, and 656 in a third folder called “global warming” sent in by readers, again all with material that demands my attention.

First, from the southernmost tip of the right ventricle of my heart, I thank you for these emails. Please keep them coming. Your emails make this blog work, and provide all of us which prime material.

Second, please understand when I don’t write back and say thanks. I eventually try to thank everybody and answer each question, but I am many, many months behind and I’m not confident I’ll catch up.

If I would have had a secretary, I would have had to let her go for such negligence. But as the amount of money I get from Big Oil, and from all other sources, for my avant-garde work in climate denialism is, at last count and rounded to the nearest dollar, rapidly approaching single digits, I can’t afford a secretary. So there is nobody to fire.

Oh course, it doesn’t help that I seem to taken the wrong position on every culture matter. But no matter.

I got this email this morning:

…often your website is the only interesting thing I can find upon rising and drinking my morning coffee. At other times, the fall back to statistics or assaults on specific individuals that I’ve never heard of makes me feel uninformed and is not interesting.

I enjoy posts that are “pro stuff” not just “anti stuff”. This website tips in favor of the “anti stuff” approach.

What say you about the “balance”?

Update

29 Comments

  1. I’d say “balance” like consistency is a hobgoblin of tiny minds. I frequent this blog for the clarity of thinking so often on display whether for or against.

  2. Rich,
    Emerson’s quotation is “a foolish consistency” — a wise consistency is to be desired over many things.

    Briggs,
    One aspect of this worship of models must stem from their astounding success in fluid dynamics and all of the engineering applications to which they are put. Merge the demonstrable advantages of modern technology enabled by modeling with an unrelenting hubris that believes the human mind can solve any problem and a deeply embedded longing for Eden lost and you get the Frankenstein’s Monster of Climate Science/Environmentalism.

    As for balance, you don’t need no stinking balance. Just keep it interesting.

  3. /**/
    But to young whippersnappers, and especially to their worshipful followers, model accuracy means nothing. What matters more than anything is how consonant the theory which drives the models is with their “lifestyles”—or with their livelihoods.
    – What the “young whippersnappers” don’t realized is just how connected their “lifestyles” are to the “status quo”…
    /**/

    THANK YOU, Briggs

    I AM sometimes left in the “dust” by the heavier Theological trysts but that doesn’t matter, I glean a bit by following the comments and it’s generally worth it.

  4. Your comment on your fedora and sparkling hazel eyes gave me chance to slip this in: http://www.wfla.com/story/26541120/5th-graders-at-tampas-potter-elementary-learn-to-tie-neckties-in-order-to-build-character 😉

    I actually read a global warming advocate said that 114 out of 117 models failing was a good thing because it meant they got it right in 3 cases and they are learning. One must wonder if her gynecologist had the same track record with cervical cancer testing if she’d be so excited.

    Actually, I comfort my self with the mental image of the faithful follower living in a society where electricity and cars are virtually nonexistent. A third world country lacking sanitation, plentiful food, lousy housing and few medical services–and all the evil things capitalism created.

    I would hope no one takes offense if you don’t respond to emails. In my case, I just send what I think you might find interesting and if you don’t have time to read them or you find more interesting items, that’s fine.

    The balance: When you veer into too much religion, I stop reading that section and comments. That doesn’t mean I stop following the blog. I keep reading what I do find interesting. You have a wide variety of topics. For more “balance”, maybe a few more posts on statistics themselves? Like what is a bootstrap model and how does it work. They have one that allegedly shows nearly 5 sigma for the probability of humans causing warming. You don’t need to address the model itself, just tell us how these things work, when they work and their limitations. (You can then show us good and bad uses, for balance, of course. 🙂 )I’m sure some are in your classic posts, but it never hurts to do an update now and then. There are many statistics used in modeling and research that we rarely hear of like bootstrap and monte carlo. Branch out to lesser known statistics.

  5. Ye Olde Statisician

    September 24, 2014 at 9:53 am

    The theory has become most important than reality.

    Briggs, your enemies have infiltrated the blog again and superlativized your comparative!

  6. Briggs

    September 24, 2014 at 9:57 am

    YOS,

    Arrgh! They are gaining in strength, a sure indication that it’s time to head for the hills!

  7. Briggs:

    I would not worry about being ‘balanced’. This is not to suggest that you become ‘unbalanced’.

    Carry on writing about the things you care to write about. In the main I’ve enjoyed the humour, the insights and the chance to wrap my head around ‘chance’ in the Briggsian Universe.

    I’m not balanced myself. For example, I do not have a fedora, a tie, or a mismatching pocket square. Thinking about it, though.

  8. regarding those 656 emails , go through them and if any contain the words , might, may , could , possibly them delete them.

  9. Briggs–Equilibrium, i.e. balance, is the beginning of boredom, so let’s not yield to the PC adherents of everything is equal. Keep up the good work and KTF. By the way, only on state occasions–funerals and weddings–do I concede to the uncomfort of a tie, even if loosely knotted. However, a bolo around an open collar–that’s a different state of affairs.

  10. View from the Solent

    September 24, 2014 at 11:46 am

    First define ‘balanced’.

    Are you varied and interesting? Yes. ’nuff said

  11. Briggs, side comment: why is “Science” in your second paragraph…i.e. why the upper-case, or are you being ironic?

  12. “makes me feel uninformed ”

    Shame on you Dr. Briggs. Please be kind and stop making people feel uninformed. You are damaging their self esteem and probably causing permanent psychic trauma.

  13. Balance of good vs. bad ideas? Only favored by people with bad ideas and a warped sense of fairness, i.e. my bad idea is as good as your good idea because fairness.

  14. Somehow we have developed the idea that everything can be put to a vote.

    Well, just about everything can be, although it’s hardly a good idea to act on the outcome. Actually, the concept isn’t newly developed at all, but foundational to much of the American experience. From town meetings in early colonial times to ubiquitous online polls today, the “will of the people” is distilled. Seems obvious that flim-flammers would employ the meme to their advantage because it sounds fair. The idea of enforced fairness is more pernicious than democratic practice, however.

  15. CO2 atmospheric percentage is less than 0.04 %.

    H2O AKA water vapor is a greater greenhouse gas and present in higher percentage than CO2.

    Heat is generated by combustion creating Heat Islands prior to dissipation and radiation. CO2 is a byproduct that is absorbed by the biomass while also binding solar energy (heat). CO2is an essential gas for plants.

    Nuclear energy and geothermal release heat, but 0‰ CO2.

    Anthropogenic Global Warming is a state-sponsored religion.

  16. The models are all based on the ASSUMPTION that co2 increase leads to global warming. (Actually, these alarmists also ASSUME that water vapor is the real culprit, multiplying by two or three the temperature increase supposedly brought on by increasing co2.

    But… wait …. there is NO evidence (none, zero nada) indicating that co2 increase actually affects global temprature sufficiently to evem be discernable. (Lots of stuff may affect global temperature….. such as when I light a match… and again, when I blow it out. It’s clear I must have had some impact on global temperature, but this impact is not relevant beyond the imagination, not to the real world.

    Is there any evidence showing that co2 increase has caused global warming? It was the reverse over geologic periods. Temperature variation caused (hundreds of years later) similar variations in the co2 level. (the carbon cycle at work) From During the last few decades, as co2 has continued to increase we’ve had a cooling period (from the 40s to the 70s) and then, no temperature increase for about the last two decades.

    The alarmists point to an old experiment performed in a container which showed temp increasing as co2 was added to the container. Unlike in the open atmosphere, convection doesn’t work across the firm boundaries of a container, and the overlooked physics also indicates that, to the extent co2 could have some impact on temperature increase, that capability diminishes as the co2 level rises. Satellite measurements indicate that more heat is escaping to space than expected.

    The basic assumptions in these computers models all depend on baseless assumptions. There is plenty of contradictory evidence and none supporting this implausible global warming hypothesis.

    We are experiencing a new age of witch doctors, all of whom seem to belong to the democrat party.

  17. Given the number and influence of the control freaks trying to run our lives and the grant snaffling quacks who confect bogus arguments for them, I suggest keeping up the negativity.

  18. Balance is not the same as symmetry. Carry on.

  19. Balance? We don’t need no stinkin’ balance.

  20. Briggs

    September 24, 2014 at 4:51 pm

    All,

    Just saw on Twitter:

    Climate Scientist walks into a bar, says, “A pint of…



    bitter”
    Barman: “Why the long pause?”
    Climate Scientist:

    https://twitter.com/micefearboggis/status/514821136258179072

  21. Briggs,

    Oh course, it doesn’t help that I seem to taken the wrong position on every culture matter.

    Which is a public service. It gives those of us who think you’re wrong a way to feel morally and/or intellectually superior. Without you here to serve up a daily dose of backward wrong-headedness, there would one less thing for me to be outraged about. I oft endeavor to return the favor. This XKCD cartoon sums up the symbiosis nicely: http://xkcd.com/386/

    What say you about the “balance”?

    Balance or bias? But I’m being rhetorical. Here’s my wishlist:

    1) Enough with the strawmen and over-generalizations already.

    2) Show us the actual, real-world data when you tell us that the analysis of it is wrong.

    3) In the same post (or a follow up), show us how to do the analysis properly [1].

    Here’s a good example of what I’m talking about [2]:

    https://klimaatverandering.wordpress.com/2014/02/12/spencers-grafiekengoochelarij/

    Here’s a bad example:

    http://blog.hotwhopper.com/2014/02/roy-spencers-latest-deceit-and-deception.html

    Both rebuttals address the same Roy Spencer post:

    http://www.drroyspencer.com/2014/02/95-of-climate-models-agree-the-observations-must-be-wrong/

    None of which is to say I lobby you to write only dry, academic articles — a good zinger [3] is a joy to read.

    ——————————————–

    [1] Using Classic Posts I have found examples of you demonstrating how to do things properly, usually as part of a series with illustrations of Doing it Wrong.

    [2] It’s in Dutch, but Google Translate does a fair enough job. Aside: not being able to find a rebuttal to Spencer’s graph sans ad hom in English is anecdotal evidence of a discouraging upward trend in cheap-shottery — it’s undoubtedly true that CO2 has turned many of us into raging bungholes. I also blame (in order of decreasing significance) “reality” tee vee, twitter and Richard Dawkins.

    [3] A subjective determination, of course. And one for which I have no concrete definition: I know one when I see one.

  22. Out of interest, how many on here believe that God won’t allow anthropogenic global warming to occur because of God’s promise to Noah in Genesis 8:21 –
    “Never again will I curse the ground because of humans, even though[a] every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done.”

  23. Realist: I actually have had that discussion with some religious denominations. First, it would be entirely up to God whether AGW was allowed to run out of control to the point of causing the extinction of mankind.
    Second, it would not be God destroying all living creatures, it would be said creatures destroying themselves. Not the same thing.

  24. What about the politicians (right wing – goes without saying) that believe it to be the case and hence there is no need for action?

  25. The young whippersnappers in the field seem to be ‘in denial’ about the repeated failure of their models, and carry on publishing papers making claims about “skilful predictions”.

    One usually more sensible young ws, Tamsin Edwards, said in a TED talk yesterday that “The pause in warming of the atmosphere surprised the media and public, but scientists expected it could happen in the short-term”, which makes me think of the Feynmann quote about how easy it is to fool yourself.

  26. I come here for the picture at the top of the blog. It comforts me and reminds me of my place in this world. So much information contained in one small image!

  27. Realist: I don’t see much difference between right wing politicians who believe God won’t allow AGW to destroy the earth and left wind politicians who see AGW as a way to redistribute money and care nothing about the truth of the proposition. In fact, most politicians make decisions based on anything but science. (Are you intimating that left wing politicians are godless when you say right wing believe God won’t allow this?)

    Paul: A recent paper claiming 99.999% certainty of humans causing global warming claims that theirs is the first to be able to predict periods of flat or decreasing temperatures for short periods. If scientists knew it all along, someone forgot to tell these folks.

  28. La Longue Carabine

    September 25, 2014 at 10:11 am

    Late to the party again, but I have to say thank you for the time you spend on this blog. You even responded to an email I sent, which frankly flabbergasted me because you have (I’m certain) much better things to do with your time.

    You articles are always interesting and informative, and often entertaining, even when a bit heavy.

    Again, thanks. You keep writing and I’ll keep reading.

    Oh, and you have a swell bunch of regular commenteers, if I say so myself.

  29. Still looking for that prime blog-making material, Mr Briggs?

    “Your emails make this blog work, and provide all of us *which* prime material.”

    P.S. You lost me at Aquinas. Hart’s polemic was fine.

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