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October 28, 2009

Comments

Brendan, I'm unclear as to whether your first paragraph is meant sarcastically. At first I thought it was, because of the exclamation point and because the 2nd paragraph seems to be sarcastic. OTOH Yglesias calls this article "pretty great", not sarcastically.

As a professional who has used statistics to predict future hurricane frequency, I found the AP article weak. In favor of the article, I would tend to agree with its conclusion that long-term global warming probably hasn't ended. However, here are some things wrong with the article IMHO:

-- Borenstein is obviously biased. He says a drop in average temperature over 10 years isn't really a drop. OTOH regarding the 1-year increase between 2008 and 2009, he says, "temperatures...are now rising once more."

-- He asks whether we're seeing global cooling, which is fine. He might have asked whether we're seeing an end to global warming, but not necessarily cooling, That might have gotten less unanimity.

-- Statisticians generally don't analyze statistics when they don't know what the data represents. When they do so, their conclusions are that much less reliable. (I interpret Brendan's 2nd paragraph to be making this point.)

-- Borenstein fails to address what the last 10 years tell us about the global warming models. IMHO it's now clear that the models failed badly. The models predicted continuing increases in temperature, because atmospheric CO2 has been increasing. The unreliability of the models means that we simply don't know what factors have been driving global warming.

David - Spoken like true Actuary!

Borenstein is obviously biased.

Borenstein's full quote is "Since 1998, temperatures have dipped, soared, fallen again and are now rising once more". It's a straightforward description of the record when viewed on a year to year basis. The whole point of the article is that it is not a legitimate time scale in which to judge whether global warming is happening or not.

Even if we take a simple 2-year running average, 1998 loses it's status as the "hottest" year, falling behind 2002,2003,2004,2005,2006 and 2007. Using a 5-year running average, it's the coldest period of the last 10 years.

He might have asked whether we're seeing an end to global warming, but not necessarily cooling

He didn't ask for either. He asked them to identify trends in the data set (which is a perfectly valid question). What they saw was a very clear long term increase as a function of time overlain by high frequency noise. There is no evidence in the data for an end to global warming.

Note that you could have made the same "end to global warming" argument in the years between (1984-1989) and (1990-1997). You would have been wrong then, too.

IMHO it's now clear that the models failed badly.

The 10-year running average is as close to a straight line as I've ever seen with real data. A prediction based on that alone suggests that the next 10 years will be 0.4 degrees F hotter than the last 10 years.

Jinchi, FWIW I agree with you that long-term global warming probably hasn't ended.

You are correct, and I was wrong, that the AP merely asked the statisticians to look for trends. Actually, on re-reading the article, it seems that the experts didn't rule out the possibility that there may be no current trend in global temperature. That is, some of the statisticians may have believed that the warming trend may have ended. Borenstein showed his bias by ignoring this obvious point.

I pedantically disagree with you about the meaning of "temperatures...are now rising once more." According to Wikipedia, the present progressive or present continuous describes the simple engagement in a present activity, with the focus on action in progress "at this very moment". It too can indicate a future, particularly when discussing plans already in place.

We know that the global temperature rose 0.9 deg. F between 2008 and 2009, based on whatever date or period they measure from, which I believe is January. So, Jan. 2009 was 0.9 deg warmer than Jan. 2008. However, we don't know whether Jan. 2010 will be warmer or cooler. So, we don't know whether temperatures are rising, falling or staying the same at this very moment. An accurate statement would have been "tempertures rose" rather than "temperatures are rising".

You didn't address my key point: the GW models have failed validation. Therefore, we don't know the cause of GW, let alone the solution. This is vitally important. Money spent on various carbon schemes will be wasted. Furthermore, the focus on ineffective approaches will distract us from seeking effective methods to stop global warming.

Anyone who's worried about GW should be oppose the Cap and Trade bill.

I pedantically disagree with you about the meaning of "temperatures...are now rising once more."

I don't understand why you consider this proof of bias (or your need to truncate the quote with the use of ellipses). Borenstein essentially said it was hot, then cold then hot, then cold, now it's hot again. Far from being evidence of bias, the statement on its own would lead one to conclude that there is no trend at all.

We know that the global temperature rose 0.9 deg. F between 2008 and 2009, based on whatever date or period they measure from, which I believe is January.

You're misreading the chart. The reference (or zero point) is the average global temperature between 1901 and 2000. And the data points are undoubtedly average temperatures integrated over an entire year (not January versus January or June versus June).

we don't know whether Jan. 2010 will be warmer or cooler

Again, that was the point of the article. Climate researchers don't make any predictions about this year relative to next year any more than they make predictions about whether today will be warmer than yesterday. They make predictions about this decade relative to the next decade (e.g. the period from 2005-2015 will be hotter than the period from 2000-2010, etc).

You didn't address my key point: the GW models have failed validation.

That's because you didn't make a point, you made a statement. I have no idea why you think the climate models have failed.

Money spent on various carbon schemes will be wasted.

Your final point presumes not only that the source of GW is unproven, but that it is in fact wrong. You've offered no argument supporting that claim.

Jinchi, you're right again. The temperature increase between 2008 and 2009 was only about one tenth of a degree. That correction makes Borenstein's claim that temperatures are now rising even sillier than I thought it was.

Jinchi, it makes no sense to spend trillions of dollars cutting CO2. when it's not proven that CO2 is the main cause of global warming. Just today it was reported that Methane has a much greater impact on global warming than previously thought according to a new study that could change the way the world tackles global warming.

In fact, even if CO2 is the cause of global warming, it's still wrong to use CO2 reduction as the means of reversing GW. See http://www.forbes.com/2009/09/20/climate-change-global-warming-copenhagen-consensus-opinions-contributors-bjorn-lomborg.html

Little wonder that five of the world's top economists--including three Nobel laureates--who gathered this month for the Copenhagen Consensus on Climate to evaluate policy responses to climate change found that global carbon taxes are a "very poor" option.

We need to find climate engineering approaches to reducing the world's temperature. These approaches could be affordable enough to actually be implemented. Also, they would help avert global warming even if CO2 turns out not to be the main cause.

Just today it was reported that Methane has a much greater impact on global warming than previously thought according to a new study that could change the way the world tackles global warming.

The study you cite (which is better summarized here) doesn't dispute that CO2 is the primary cause of global warming. Methane has long been known to be a greenhouse gas and it's emissions are included in Cap and Trade legislation. In fact, the paper directly addresses strategies for mitigation of global warming which would be included in such a bill. The first author of the study, Drew Shindell, is a common guest contributor at this site and would almost certainly disagree with you on both the science and the solution to the problem.

Your second reference is to an editorial in a conservative business magazine, written by a global warming skeptic who cites several economists (and zero climatologists) in defense of his views. Their opinions are far from universally held. Considering that economists still can't agree on the causes of the recent economic collapse, I have a hard time believing they can correctly define costs and benefits related to a phenomenon well outside their area of expertise.

Still, at least they are pretending to try. If modern Republicans were advocating reducing methane emissions, promoting more efficient technologies or even pushing the geoengineering solutions preferred by the SuperFreakonomics team, I'd be impressed. I have no doubt that there could be business-friendly conservative solutions to the problems of global warming. Instead we get an almost total denial that the problem exists, followed by those extolling the virtues of warmer weather and coupled with real world actions such as subsidizing the sale of SUV's, green-lighting of dozens of coal-fired power plants, chants of "Drill here, drill now!", billion dollar tax subsidies to oil and coal companies, opposition to solar, hydroelectric, and wind alternatives and attempts to scuttle the Clean Air legislation already on the books.

Jinchi -

I'll buy your complaints against the Reps, but the Dems are no better. In a way they're worse, because they support extremely expensive programs that won't solve the problem. Using your words, the Dems are merely pretending to try.

Famous physiscist Freeman Dyson says GW has become essentially a religion. I see lots of arguments putting GW on a moral plane, rather than a scientific one. E.g., the complaint that the US is contributing "more than our share" of greenhouse gases, so that we have a "moral obligation" to make cuts. That's fine for a religion, but science has to deal with full reality. The fact is, Cap 'n Trade won't reverse global warming. Those who say, "it's a start" or "it's the least we can do" or those who cite Gaia are dealing with faith or morality.

What really upsets me is the nonsense spoken by virtually every American politician, from Gore and Bush on down. IMHO it's very unlikely that these ignoramuses will solve the problem of GW.

BTW Bjorn Lomborg is not a global warming skeptic, nor is he a right winger. He has been a leading ecology expert in Denmark for many years. I have read in another article of his that he entirely supports the idea that GW is occurring and that man-made CO2 is the driver.

I mentioned that GW was a kind of religion. Amazingly a British tribunal has literally ruled that belief in GW could be a religion http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/11/04/green_philosophy_ok/

Nicholson argues that under the 'Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003', belief in the hypothesis of man-made global warming constitutes a religious or philosophical belief, and this affords protection from discrimination. In March, Nicholson won the right to sue from a regional employment tribunal. Grainger appealed against that decision, and Justice Burton's decision yesterday backs Nicholson, affirming his right to sue.

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