Monthly Archives: August 2014

The Big Question

This post was originally published on Judith Curry’s blog. Reblogging it here for convenience.

In normal science, you get more certain the more the data turns out to fit the predictions of the theory. The IPCC and friends have come up with a method of calculating that turns this on its head: the weaker the match between predictions and data, the more certain you become. In this essay, I try to unravel the statistical gymnastics that help make this seem reasonable.

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Please give me a Nobel prize

How I wish I were a Nobel laureate, and preferably a real one. That’s the thought that runs through my head as I witness the altercation between Paul Krugman and Mark Steyn.

Background: Climate scientist Michael Mann, famous as the main brain behind the so-called hockey stick, has sued Mark Steyn. Steyn sums it up thus:
In 2012, Mann, the inventor of the global-warming “hockey stick”, decided to sue me, National Review, Rand Simberg and the Competitive Enterprise Institute, for calling his stick “fraudulent” and deriding his “exoneration” by the same Penn State administration that covered up for Jerry Sandusky.

Krugman is sure Mann is right and Steyn is wrong and tries to come to Mann’s rescue. He invokes the mighty Google to emphasize his belief that Steyn is clueless, hopeless and pathetic:

Now for the slightly encouraging news: Mann filed suit against National Review for defamation. Also encouraging is the evident inability of NR to understand how you defend against a charge of defamation. You don’t repeat the false allegations — sorry, guys, but courts also have access to Google and Nexis, and can find that all the charges have been rejected in repeated inquiries.

A lizard. Any resemblance to a person named in this post is purely coincidental.

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Emma Thompson in a place called climate change

Jo Nova waxes sarcastic about actress Emma Thompson for her “card” to Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbot: “It takes an Oscar winning actress to keep a smug face while saying something this inane. “Tony Abbott Climate Change is REAL I’m standing on it!””

Emma thompson glacier sign

There’s lots more sarcasm and even vitriol, especially in the comments: “What is it with these fools? They should just stick to acting and leave the real world to those who can think and understand the facts.”

I have nothing against Emma Thompson, but the idea of standing on climate change strikes me as a particularly ridiculous and graceless juxtaposition of concrete and abstract. It reminds me of one movie she was in, Love Actually. It has that song where instead of “love is all around us” they sing “Christmas is all around us”, making this particular bar of the song come across like a bump in the road.

Logically speaking, there is a well known problem manifested in the phrase “standing on climate change”. What she’s standing on may be affected by the local weather, but weather is not climate. The impression I get is that it’s a desperate attempt to think of something crisp and creative to draw attention to the issue. Unfortunately, it’s clumsy. As is much of climate activism, which often seems to be about pushing square pegs into round holes. If it doesn’t work, push harder. Or sometimes, if failure becomes too conspicuous, try a different peg, but without checking the shape of the hole first.

When I first read the blog post, I was thinking vaguely along these lines, so the harsh treatment of Emma Thompson seemed to me mostly self-inflicted.

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The battle of the conspiracy theories

I came across this graphic at the Facebook group I fucking love science. Even though it’s not explicit, I’m assuming that it’s about the climate change issue.

I originally planned using it for a short introduction to the subject of politicized climate science. But as I studied it, I grew increasingly fascinated, above all by what it doesn’t tell us. Above all, what does it mean? It illustrates two different conspiracy theories and asks us what is more likely, in other words, which of the two theories is more plausible.

Does this mean that these are somehow competing hypotheses about the same phenomenon? That’s far from obvious. One appears to be an attempt to explain why many people believe in anthropogenic global warming. The other seems intended to explain why many people don’t.

In principle, both could be true. Maybe global warming is a hoax and Big Oil is paying “anyone they can” to debunk it? I don’t believe that, but it’s by no means a logical impossibility. On the other hand, perhaps they’re both just fantasy. Perhaps something else entirely is going on.


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