Friday, September 22, 2006

Are you kidding me?

Here’s a good one. The Cato Institute published a “policy analysis” entitled: “Is the sky really falling? A Review of Recent Global Warming Scare Stories” written by Patrick J. Michaels, who has some impressive-looking climatology/ecology credentials. This “study” is not only featured on the Cato Institute’s web site, but also on the George C. Marshall Institute’s web site. (See a previous post – the top British science academy has written ExxonMobil to stop funding the GCMI because it disseminates misleading information about climate change).

Michaels’ thesis is that, for political and press-bias reasons, only the bad news about climate change gets published. His “proof” of this claim? I have to quote it in full, just so you know I’m not making this up (if you want to read the whole thing, click here .)

“It is highly improbable, in a statistical sense, that new information added to any existing forecast is almost always ‘bad’ or ‘good’; rather, each new finding has an equal probability of making a forecast worse or better. Consequently, the preponderance of bad news almost certainly means that something is missing, both in the process of science itself and in the reporting of science.”

I try to be open-minded, but that’s about the lamest thing I’ve ever seen a supposedly reputable scientist say. In print, no less. Memo to Michaels – not all slices of data are random.

Follow me on this one. Suppose your neighbor comes to you and says that he has been measuring the temperature outside his front door since June 1st. It’s now June 30th, and he says that there is a definite warming trend, because every week was warmer than the week before.

Using Mr. Michaels’ logic, however, we’d have to assume that your neighbor is withholding data, since the “odds are” that half the weeks should be colder.
There’s another explanation, of course, namely that we’re heading from spring into summer. During this time, temperature fluctuations aren’t random (half warmer, half colder).

The reason, Mr. Michaels, that almost all the studies report “more bad news on global warming” is not because scientists are suppressing half the data. It’s because global warming is actually happening.

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