William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

I’ve changed my mind about global warming

The CATO ad is what got me thinking. Maybe the real reason I didn’t sign is because I knew that I might be wrong on global warming.

And if I was wrong, that meant I wasn’t right. If I wasn’t right, then I could be wrong—about a lot of things.

Luckily Gavin Schmidt and I are both based in Manhattan, so I was able to meet him over beers to express my concern.

“Gav,” I said, “Can I call you Gav?”

“No,” he said.

“Gav, I’m beginning to have doubts. Maybe all those doomsday scenarios Jim posits are real.” ‘Jim’ being James Hansen, Scientist, of course.

“Might be,” he agreed.

“And if they’re real, then that is bad news”

“The worst,” he said.

“What strikes me most is your, and Jim’s, sincerity. Your models aren’t making skillful predictions, yet you still believe in them. That kind of unshakable faith impresses me.”

He nodded. “We are firm in our convictions.”

“And I’m not,” I admitted. “At least, not anymore. My doubts about the coming catastrophe are crumbling in the face of such strong belief by so many…” My emotions were getting the best of me.

Gav reached out his hand, tenderly, and placed it over mine. “It’s OK,” he said.

“The constant skepticism and critical thinking I’ve been indulging in are wearying.” I took a sip of beer. “Truth is, I’m tired.”

Gav’s face took on that serene look that fathers get when they see in the distance their prodigal son walking through the field, finally coming home.

But as I gazed into my mug and began to realize, with horror, that even as we sat—with me about to switch allegiances—that we were exacerbating global warming.

“Bubbles!” I shouted, just as Gav was quaffing. “Carbon dioxide bubbles! In the beer!”

Gav spit out his mouthful and lifted his glass and held it to the light. Realization came to him. He put the beer down, hesitated, then stood up and backed away from the bar.

I heard him whisper, “Not that. Anything but that…”

I did a quick calculation: every pint added another one-times-ten-to-the-minus-thirty-two-point-eight-degrees Centigrade to the global average temperature. The logic was undeniable. To honestly embrace climate activism meant that I had to give up beer.

“Gav…,” I said.

He held up his hand. He knew. We stood silent for a moment. He nodded and began to walk out.

As he was leaving, there was only one thing I could say. “Bartender. Another Weihenstaphaner Korbinian Dunkel, please.”

31 Comments

  1. If you want to know what I think, or what I drink, or what my “unshakable faith” is in, you should ask, rather than making up little stories. Of course, if you’d rather tilt against windmills of your invention, please carry on.

  2. Briggs

    April 1, 2009 at 9:18 am

    Happy April 1st, Gav.

    Offer for beer still stands.

  3. jack mosevich

    April 1, 2009 at 9:25 am

    Matt: Don’t forget that fermentation in bread and wine also produce CO2. These better be banned, in addition to beer.

  4. Good God!

    Are we all being had? That can’t really be Gavin replying in such a snooty tone, that’s not the Gavin I know and love.
    I looked out all day for an April fool’s joke, I nearly fell for this one after the first three or four lines, gullible as I am.
    Glad you’re joking about this, things were getting a bit serious there, scientists arguing about words and all.
    I know it’s a serious issue, but hey, there is more than one way to skin a cat. People can’t help having their own views on what will help move the quite constipated debate.
    Talking of April fools, one of my patients plans to go back to his consultant today wearing his sling on the wrong shoulder and say I put him up to it; orthopods don’t have the best sense of humour but the largest egos in the free world. I’ll have my tin hat on. (spellchecker prefers arthropods!)

    Harold,
    I read a few of the comments. Why were they worried to find out that global warming was a hoax? They ought to have been over the moon.

  5. Hello Joy. I think there is an asymmetry in the positions, humor wise. If someone is a firm believer he is unable to make fun of himself on this subject, the only joke I have heard Al Gore make is calling people who disagree with him “flat-earthers” I thought Matt’s April fool’s joke was way more lighthearted than the one made by Gav and co.

  6. Oh is super-gavin all upset?

  7. Well, once again Gavin appropriate someone else’s idea at realclimate.

  8. I think there is an asymmetry in the positions, humor wise.

    Well, RC’s post is also very funny. And of course it is an appropriation of someone else’s idea. April Fool’s jokes have been around now for what, decades? centuries? I’d imagine that it wasn’t Gavin who invented those. Also, RC has had april jokes since its birth.

  9. Briggs

    April 2, 2009 at 5:43 am

    There has been some suggestion, sent in by a few emailers, that I—even I—added the “Gav” comment.

    I did not.

    I am, of course, unable to determine whether it was the honest-to-GISS Gav we all know and love. The IP address used to post the comment is generic, but so have some of the IP addresses used by Gavins in the past who posted on this site.

    I believe the comment is genuine.

  10. Never mind Gavin and global warming, what type of beer is Weihenstaphaner Korbinian Dunkel?

  11. Bernie,

    Bavarian. Dark, thick and to my taste, a bit too sweet. Try the Hefewissbier, it is excellent.

    c

  12. Harold, I thought it was priceless, I just can’t believe that Gavin topped it by replying, “can I call you Gav?”“no,”
    “Gav…”
    And that’s not the first time!

  13. Yes Joy that was really funny, and the riposte by Gavin on the post on endangered lizards down under, was excellently fielded by WM Briggs!
    I hope your “sling on the wrong shoulder” gag was a success.

  14. Luiz Dias, I could be wrong on this, but I think the RC reply concedes on points it has ridiculed in the past. The humor is nasty.

  15. I just posted this on real Climate – awaiting moderation.

    In 1957 the BBC ran a short documentary on the positive effects of a warm winter and early spring on the spaghetti harvest in Switzerland. It was voiced-over by the great and trusted broadcaster Richard Dimbleby and is still one of the greats:

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/witness/april/1/newsid_4362000/4362667.stm

    http://edublogs.tv/play.php?vid=820

  16. The problem I see with both pro and anti AGWers, is that instead of testing all beleifs including their own…that they just look for well-stated arguments and points to buttress their re-existing opinion. This is very much a social dynamic.

    I think you actually get MORE by pressure testing your own side, own pre conceptions and then seeing that it survives the tests. This is what I did to CA when I first encountered it. I was very disappointed by the response (tribalist hatred for someone attacking their own side…they STILL can’t grok that I really am or was a skeptic). As well as some points, where I found CA had exaggerated impacts.

    Briggs…don’t wishcast like you did for the election. Try to be curious and learn instead. If youy pressure test your own assumptions and they hold up, you are so much the stronger. If you find them wrong, you benefit by knowing it.

  17. Harold,
    He laughed, but it really was the patient’s idea, honest.
    TCO,
    Sometimes commenters act as if the debate is a hockey or football match; or worse, a horse race, with talk of prediction): sometimes, it resembles one. You shout at the striker for missing, or the midfielder for losing the ball. Yes, it can be frustrating watching other people when you care who “wins” but no one’s going to blow the final whistle on this. It will go on and fizzle out. They’re not one good move away from proving beyond doubt that this is all a house of cards. That is a mirage, a fantasy, this is a twenty five year old debate now!
    What name do you use on Realclimate?
    If Gavin would ever allow ALL comments on his blog, I would have more patience in reading. This will never happen because he has not a strong enough argument and he knows it, else he’d be only too keen to bring them on. Only a politically motivated blog would find this filtering necessary. This is all the more galling when he tries to claim that he’s acting just as a dispassionate scientist, “examine the data and see where that leads”.
    Real climate is the best of AGW, apparently, so if the best doesn’t stand up to scrutiny, then I’d say it’s an open and shut case. I hope you saw this debate,
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TGa6_k00Cus
    “if you have any questions, I have a website and will be happy to answer any questions.”!! (untrue)
    “spot the fallacy” He makes too many to count; even his very first sentence contains a statement of opinion, but presented as fact; not the way to argue science when this is the entire point of your argument! His was woolly and laced with syrup in its audience condescension. His main thrust was that to use the consensus and appeal to authority argument; apart from being a fallacy, it leads to the circular argument about who the individuals are, what are their credentials, and so on. What happened to “look at the data and see where that leads” Gavin?
    He makes me so cross, he MUST know he’s spinning a yarn.

  18. Joy: I think RC is no fun with the comment control. I use this moniker (infrequently ApolytonGP if having wordpress issues). Just because Gavin is biased and/or does not allow free play discussion, does not mean that he is all wrong, a liar, or that the skeptics are right.

    P.s. Hit a double carriage return for paragraphs (so a space is in between).

    P.s.s. You don’t impress me in terms of your own comittment to honesty and truth, with being unwilling to admit that Briggs was mistaken, when even he admits it. Instead I see truculence and the elevation of team favoritism over fair referreeing.

  19. The problem, Joy, is that you too often confuse rethorical misgivings with falsehoods. I like TCO’s view on this, that is also mine’s. Skepticism works both ways, and I find Anthony Watts’ “skepticism” laughable at best. There’s a guy only skeptical against GW.

    I don’t enjoy reading RC, but that is completely independent from the notion of truth, untruth. Gavin could be the most horrible human being and W.M Briggs the finest, and the first could be right and the second wrong.

    I also take discomfort at the huge bias Mr Briggs had in the election wishcasting. It’s very easy to be closed in echo-chambers and really believe the world is going to behave as our own voice dictates it will, and be unaware of it.

    To avoid this, one should take a deep breath and spend more time in opposite advocating territories.

    This is why, for instance, I read Lubos’ economic analysis, although I think they are utter (self-snipped).

  20. Briggs

    April 6, 2009 at 9:30 am

    Let’s clarify, Luis. To call the wishcasting mistake “huge” is an overstatement.

    I did—probably, and only probably—get the initial conditioning information incorrect. The post-convention evidence probably did not put the chance of a McCain victory as high as I had it (from the marginals of the survey). Which is why I then provided a graph showing the various amounts of wishcasting over a range of chances.

    The original conclusions I reached after supposing the conditioning information were still right. That is, liberal Obama supporters wishcasted more than conservative ones. Older wishcasted more than younger. Obama supporters—and McCain ones—did wishcast, maybe to the same degree. That is what the picture I provided in my “mistake” posting showed.

    However, your other point is correct. I am a sweetheart, and far more lovable than old Gav, but that doesn’t make me always right. Just mostly so.

  21. TCO,
    I’m not in anyone’s team, or here to impress you. The statement,
    “Just because Gavin is biased and/or does not allow free play discussion, does not mean that he is all wrong, a liar, or that the sceptics are right.”
    Whilst true in itself, is obviously not what I said.
    Gavin’s statement on the IQ2 debate that I quoted is blatantly untrue. He does not happily answer questions, He doesn’t even allow them to be posted. Word press is irrelevant.

    A trivial post about statistical method of showing wishcasting has nothing to do with AGW and it’s wrong to confuse these two arguments. Who would change their mind because someone else did? I am happy with what I wrote, sorry if this is strange. Maybe you thought I agreed with Briggs by default? If you think Briggs made an error, here’s a challenge for you:

    Write down in your own words in no more than three sentences what the error was, exactly. It clearly can’t be done. Then go and read what I wrote and see if you can find where my remarks contradict your idea of where Briggs was wrong. If you can show me this, I will be convinced that you understand where, exactly the “maths” error was. For sure, if there is a mistake in the maths, I will agree. Anything more is trivial gainsaying thus:

    I should agree with you, why?
    Because “soldiers are dying on this globe”;
    Because I agreed with Briggs and he then said he made a mistake;
    Because I am a “silly billy”;
    Because if I don’t agree, you’ll call me untruthful or ‘truculent’;
    “Because because because because because!
    Because of the wonderful things he does”?

    Seriously, TCO,to use your line of thinking, there are wonderful things going on out there, herds of wildebeest sweeping majestically across the plane! Giraffes eating leaves in the savanna; snowy Alpine peaks waiting for their first ski tracks; bacon frying; coffee bubbling; giant turquoise waves crashing onto powdery shores where on flower draped maidens abide (;to name a few although you can keep the maidens, I’ll haveTarzan; and Tea IS brewing right now!
    And you want me to toe your virtual line and say I was wrong against my concience?

    Paragraphs? there is a good reason why I started leaving these out but I will put them back.

  22. And the plane sweeps heroically across the wildebeest while the wildebeest sweep majestically across the plain!

    Luis,
    The debate is over.

  23. How sad. A funny April Fools post became “The Ignorant-yet-know-it-all Joy & Foul-and stubborn TCO Show”.

  24. And, TCO, after all of that you expect people to take you seriously? You’ve just made yourself an April fool of another kind.

  25. Briggs

    April 7, 2009 at 5:04 am

    All,

    I’ve had to remove comments from a user who has used unnecessarily abusive language.

  26. ”And seeing ignorance is the curse of God,
    Knowledge the wing wherewith we fly to heaven”
    And blessed with both, I’m in an angellic knot and haven’t had time to polish my new horn.

  27. I’ve had to remove comments from a user who has used unnecessarily abusive language.

    I’ve the nastiest feeling that it was TCO :p.

    Joy,

    The debate is over.

    I know what you mean, but that is irrelevant. My point stands.

  28. The original conclusions I reached after supposing the conditioning information were still right. That is, liberal Obama supporters wishcasted more than conservative ones

    I still don’t agree with you there. And I don’t mind that I have not any degree on statistics and you are a statistics teacher and book writer, though I know that degrades the importance of my disagreement.

    I don’t think you were asking the right questions when you derived your numbers. But that discussion is over.

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