William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

Stream: What’s True and What’s False in Obama’s Latest Global Warming Claims

Today’s post is at The Stream: What’s True and What’s False in Obama’s Latest Global Warming Claims.

There is so much hyperbolic language surrounding the topic of global warming that it is becoming nearly impossible to distinguish points that are true, those that might be true or false, and those that are false. So let us take a gentle approach in the hope that we may reach what the philosopher David Hume called “the calm sunshine of the mind.”

President Obama unveiled his global warming plan yesterday. In it, he said that the earth’s climate has been changing. I am an actual climate scientist and can verify that this is true. And not only that, it always has changed. There was never, not ever, a point in the history of our planet in which the climate was static. This is such an important but always-forgotten point that it must be repeated. So let’s do that: the earth’s climate has always changed.

And always will. Nobody can stop it. That is, it is impossible to stop climate change. I mean “impossible” in its plain-English sense, as in not possible by any means.

Go there to read the rest.

I wanted to take the approach gentle. We’ll see how it works. The main logical point is this:

Another truth: we climate scientists do not know the full effect mankind has on the climate. The models we have created based on our theories of how the climate works have performed badly over a long period. This logically and necessarily implies our theories are in error. We do not know where they are in error: if we did, we could fix the models and they would work.

I have been struggling to get people to understand this—with some success. I gave a talk to a group of ordinary concerned citizens, none of whom are physical scientists, and they took the point.

The other main point is this, based on a list of claims made by the President (so many lives saved, so much money earned, etc.):

These claims are based on statistical models built on top of climate models. Since the regulations are not yet in place, the claims cannot be known to be true or false. Yet the climate models upon which the claims are based are already known to be in significant error, thus is it reasonable to conclude that these surprisingly precise health and economic claims will also be in error. And that is before we consider the error naturally present in the statistical models themselves, error which necessarily must make us even less certain. The level of confidence expressed by the President in his claims is thus unwarranted.

I’ve been making that one for years, too. It’s subtler, but more devastating. We cannot be as sure about what will happen because of changes in the climate as we are about changes in the climate. This is a point of logic, and mathematics. Indeed, the amount of confidence expressed in claims like the President has made is more than just unwarranted. It’s scandalous.

16 Comments

  1. The models we have created based on our theories of how the climate works have performed badly over a long period. This logically and necessarily implies our theories are in error.

    Let me nit-pick. You assume the models precisely replicate the theories in computer code and in fact are identical to the theories in all possible ways. But this can’t be. A defective model, one that’s unable to represent chaotic behavior accurately, for example, might be the cause of its failure, while a theory of chaotic climate behavior is correct. So “implies” may be true, but the construct strongly suggests “proves.”

    Overall, it’s a succinct article. The one thing that I’d like to see are citations for the assertions. Otherwise it’s just dueling claims. But I suspect those fell to space limitations.

  2. Briggs

    August 6, 2015 at 10:12 am

    Gary,

    Yes. Trying to fit everything into 800 words isn’t easy.

  3. My original thought was “You had to include what’s false or the piece would be blank”. (Hume never dealt with the completely irrational world of today, by the way.)

    John Cook has an absolutely idiot example of why “the climate changes naturally” is wrong. Some nonsense about how if someone found a guy dead with a knife in his back, since people died naturally in the past, that person would conclude the guy died naturally. This is absolute lunacy (I use that in the technical way, of course). Only an irrational person thinks that way. This is supposed to be one of the top guys in climate science propaganda. (See my blog for further comments John made. I’m following Bob’s lead on self-promotion in this case.)

    All claims of “saved deaths” and “reduced health problems” should be ignored. They know not what they speaketh about.

    Ever notice how suddenly children are not able to deal with weather? We played outside in 100 degree heat with 95% humidity. Maybe a study of why children are now so fragile should be undertaken.

  4. ” that same satellite data also shows that the planet has not been warming for almost twenty years”–even though the atmospheric carbon-dioxide concentration increased by over ten percent during that time.

  5. You lack only a slick video! Where are all those political action committees when we need them?

  6. Briggs, the problem is that people are not convinced by rational arguments (or by ethical ones, either–as the reactions to the Planned Parenthood videos show). So what is the solution to that deficiency?

  7. Briggs

    August 6, 2015 at 11:55 am

    Bob,

    Prayer.

  8. Bob Briggs : Amen

    Another truth: mankind affects the climate. Yet every species affects the climate. Mankind, therefore, is not usual. (think you meant unusual)

    Briggs, you start out…
    “So let us take a gentle approach …”
    And finish…
    “The only other possibility is that Mr. Obama does know the true state of the climate but is willing to lie about it.”

    Intentional bait and switch? Or did you just lose yourself in your frustration?

  9. Briggs

    August 6, 2015 at 12:21 pm

    John B,

    Yes, a dratted typo. I alerted the editor yesterday, but no joy yet.

    No, the last line is a reasonable completion of the possibilities. I don’t think I left anything out.

  10. Jim Nowakowski

    August 6, 2015 at 1:15 pm

    Excellent. You don’t have to be a climate scientists to know the earth has, is and always will change. Just look around. Heraclitus, the sixth century BC philosopher, taught that all things are always in flux or change. In the Pensees, Blaise Pascal the French mathematician and physicist said, “Our nature consists in movement; absolute rest is death.” In relativity theory, an electron’s velocity or position are never observable at the same time. The uncertainty principle (also called the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle ) states the position and velocity of an object cannot both be measured exactly, at the same time, even in theory. The very concepts of exact position and exact velocity together, in fact, have no meaning in nature. So much for Mr. Obama’s beliefs rooted in science. Thanks for your post!

  11. Dr. Briggs,
    I’m sure that after you read what these concerned scientists say, you will realize that we’re all doomed.
    http://www.ucsusa.org/global_warming#.VcOqNZrbL3s

  12. Off Topic, but is there any hope for your pope?

    http://www.catholicherald.co.uk/news/2015/08/06/pope-francis-seeks-advice-from-oprah-winfrey-about-the-media-according-to-magazine/

    Yes, let’s get input from the Holy Queen of New Age Religion

  13. Ray: The first thing I note is these people are very, very guilty of conspiracy ideology. The entire oil industry is after them? I guess they don’t know about Duke, Chevron, Nextra and all the other companies with both oil and wind. IF they were really scientists, you’d think they would know that oil companies have wind plants and solar plants. You’d think they would know how many millions and millions of federal dollars the oil companies get from putting in these wind and solar plants. Makes one wonder what else they don’t know–say, how to push bad science without showing your hand.

    John(B): Sad, very sad. Even more sad is the church apparently is like Congress and just sits there and watches the church eaten up by partisan politics. Where can one find any religion left in this mess. I’m not seeing it. Money and fame are the top priorities, it seems. RIP God…….

  14. Sheri,
    Have you noticed that as more evidence accumulates that the CAGW zealots are wrong, they become more shrill and strident in supporting their beliefs? Leon Festinger wrote a book “when Prophecy Fails” and he had this to say.
    “A man with a conviction is a hard man to change. Tell him you disagree and he turns away. Show him facts or figures and he questions your sources. Appeal to logic and he fails to see your point. We have all experienced the futility of trying to change a strong conviction, especially if the convinced person has some investment in his belief. We are familiar with the variety of ingenious defenses with which people protect their convictions, managing to keep them unscathed through the most devastating attacks. But man’s resourcefulness goes beyond simply protecting a belief. Suppose an individual believes something with his whole heart; suppose further that he has a commitment to this belief, that he has taken irrevocable actions because of it; finally, suppose that he is presented with evidence, unequivocal and undeniable evidence, that his belief is wrong: what will happen? The individual will frequently emerge, not only unshaken, but even more convinced of the truth of his beliefs than ever before. Indeed, he may even show a new fervor about convincing and converting other people to his view. “

  15. People are primarily convinced by moral arguments not necessarily or even typically rational ones. However, different people have different sets of ethics. That’s why one person sees something immoral that another considers moral.

    Obama is sadly the most idiotic president in my life time. Now I though Bush was a doozy, and Jimmy Carter looked through the world with rose coloured glasses, but experience made him wiser. No such luck with Obama. It is all pure politics and ideology. He will be looked back upon rather unkindly, as the left’s version of a Chamberlain.

  16. I think a useful attack is to point out that, even if you believe the warmist models, the impact of the president’s dictat is only a .018C reduction in temperature by the year 2100.

    That’s easy for people to understand, and completely true.

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