Thursday, May 04, 2006

Climate Change Response

Tommy left this comment on a post I put up on global warming

There is growing frustration among the statistical analysis people with the climatologists misrepresenting the data they find. In short, many of their most important finds have been reproduced with random numbers and the filters the climatologists used.

The globe is getting warmer, but the significance of it and the time frame reference is in dispute, and it is doubly questionable since you can get increased funding for saying there is a problem.

He is right that there is dispute in the data. There is dispute in what data is right, and even what data is relevant.

Yes, we could be wrong on global warming, just like the early anti-tobacco advocates could have been wrong on the effects smoking. But most likely we are not. Statistical probability alone points to us being right. I will try to put in non-scientific terms.

Think of it like cooking a big pot of chili (without beans, of course). You have a big pot. You add a pinch of salt (CO2). It will not change the taste. You add a pinch more. Still, no change. With each pinch of salt you add, the probability goes up that it will affect the taste of the chili. And, at some point you put in so much salt that it goes from being just right to being ruined. If you are a cook, you probably have a pretty good idea how much salt you can put in before it turns to crap. The problem is that we have no "cooks" when it comes to the climate. We are all armatures, cooking for the first time. We can guesstimate by looking at what other cooks have done and what tastes good (historical data on past climates) and try to figure out the recipe and how much salt was in the chili (CO2 amounts). And, granted, different cooks use different ingredients which will effect the amount of salt you can put in before you ruin it (differing variables). More cumin, less paprika, etc. But if you just keep adding salt, regardless of the recipe, you are eventually going to ruin the chili. There is no getting around that. And we are not adding pinchs of salt anymore. We are adding tablespoons.

There is no guarantee that the world will have dramatic changes if we keep pumping out CO2. Just like there is no guarantee that you will die a premature death if you smoke. But with each cigarette, and each pinch of salt you add to the pot, you chances of causing change increase.

Would you let your kids smoke because there is a chance that it will not adversely affect them? Of course not. Just like you would not empty a complete shaker of salt to your chili without a recipe. For me, I like the current climate just fine. I don't want to take the risk of adding anymore salt to the pot.

As for the increased funding, that is the same for saying that there is not a problem. Big tobacco spent over a billion dollars on research proving that smoking is harmless.


tommy said...

Well the climate people all claim it's getting warmer, and generating research financing as a result. The statistical analysis people keep saying "but your data doesn't show that. See, we keep duplicating it with randomly generated numbers."

Until they answer those questions, I'm very skeptical of anyone that has a financial incentive to tell me what he's telling me.

Dingo said...

We will have to disagree with the state of statistical analysis. Most of what I see comports with the research. I have not seen an opposing analysis yet that didn't have major flaws in its reconstruction of the data. Depending on the data you use, you can prove that the world is getting colder also. You have to look at the methods used as well as the data sets.