Stats and stories

Growing up around my dad, I learned a valuable lesson: “Sometimes its better to keep the peace.” He always said this after he and his wife were done arguing, and even though it was clear that he was right, he would just let it go because continuing the fight would do nothing except cause more aggravation.

That lesson always pops into my head when I feel the desire to talk about certain topics. And one of these “keep the peace” topics is Anthropogenic Global Warming (ie, man is causing the earth to warm). I’m a skeptic on the subject … meaning I don’t think it’s met the scientific burden of proof to be called “fact.” But, when I talk about the subject, I do it like how some racist assholes talk about people of different races — in a hushed voice and to those who feel the same way as they do.

But sometimes it’s hard to keep the peace. I’m constantly bombarded by people lobbing all kinds of ridiculousness on this subject. Fires in Russia? Must be AGW! (Despite the fact that there’s written records of it happening since 1298, and it’s happened several times since the 1900s.) Highest temperatures since 1850? AGW! (Then what caused the high temperatures in 1850, since AGW is believed to have started impacting the Earth in the 1950s?) Carbon Dioxide caused carnivores to shrink! I mean, if it can be traced back to or linked to CO2 or the AGW cause, it has. Trust me. If it were any other topic (like if a church linked all social ills to people who didn’t go to church), people would be laughing.

No poop me, please

But the reason I’m relatively quiet about my skepticism? If you write about it or talk about it, it usually produces a very visceral, negative response. Insults, insinuations and accusations usually follow. By being skeptical that man is driving climate change, some will call me a “denier.” (False. I’m not denying anything … I’m saying I have doubt in the AGW claims.) Others feel that I put on an SS uniform in the morning and then hop in my leaded gas/coal-fired hybrid SUV to go to work. They think my job involves taking a shit on baby seals and wiping my ass with polar bear fur while formulating new and inventive conspiracy theories about how the environmental movement is trying to enslave us all. And at the end of my supposed day, I burn styrofoam and plastic containers as a sacrifice to Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and Sarah Palin (the Republican Goddess of Fertility, since she so full of shit) and feed people from third-world countries the ashes.

And none of this is even close to being true.

See, just because I don’t believe that Al Gore (the Democratic God of Fertility, also because he’s remarkably full of shit) and his posse of “saviors” doesn’t mean that I don’t believe in living in harmony with nature. And also, just because I’m a skeptic doesn’t mean that I don’t think man’s activities have NO impact on the Earth (obviously, we do). I read a lot on environmental science. I love a lot of green projects. I’ve never owned a car that didn’t have a 4-cylinder engine. I’m a “green-ish” guy by choice — meaning that when the concept is clear, workable and produces long-term cost savings, I’m all about it. Dual-flush toilets to save on water use? On the agenda for next year. A light colored roof to save on summer cooling costs? Done deal when my current roof goes bad. Push mower? Again, as soon as my gas mower dies, done.

No poop on Earth, please

Deep down, I’m all about efficiency and conservation. I’d rather work with Mother Nature than try to overcome her (whenever possible). So hey, if we can efficiently generate power from windmills, go for it! Solar? On board! Electric cars? Sign me up! All of these still need a LOT of work before we can replace fossil fuels (and right now, they have more problems than benefits), but it’s a start. And all this without believing the “We’re all going to die!” hoopla.

Now, one of the sites on climate change that I love to read is called “Watts Up With That.” It’s a science-oriented blog … and I admit, some of the technical aspects of the topics they cover are over my head. However, what I really love about this site is the comments, because that’s where the real food for thought comes into play. Debate is encouraged (unlike at a lot of “warmist” sites), as long as both sides are respectful about it. And sometimes, watching the debates is like watching talented fighters go at it: You may not know every little strategy that they’re employing, but you do know when a solid hit has landed.

So, about a week ago, the folks at WUWT put up a really interesting post: some respected statisticians went and took climate guru Michael Mann’s (adjusted, not raw) data that he used to create the hockey stick graph, analyzed it and basically said, “This is essentially worthless.” The paper says nothing about global warming, but rather is an indictment on the methods and statistics that Mann employed to compile his results. (And you’ll notice on the linked page, there’s links to responses to the paper — some supporting, some rejecting — read and make up your own mind.)

I was really happy to see that published. Really happy. The post drew over 1,000 comments for WUWT, which means it really struck a cord with folks on both sides of the issue. For me, this just reinforced my belief that the “science” we’re being fed about this issue isn’t robust, nor settled. One of the things that always bothered me about Mann and his work was that he won’t share his data/methods with skeptics. Now, one of the things that I was taught was that if you have a hypothesis, you must test it; the test has to be repeatable; the test has to be repeatable by others; the test’s results must be verifiable and consistent; and the results must stand the test of time. Others MUST scrutinize the idea and data to look for other factors that may affect the results. But with Mann and crew, this isn’t possible (he won’t share with others) … so it becomes a “trust us, it’s happening” issue.

Trust us, it'll work.

Well, honestly, I’m not a trusting guy.

I mean, would you believe it if a tinfoil company produced a study advocating that the wearing of tinfoil hats to reflect sunlight could combat global warming, but said the data for their study had been lost? Or that they weren’t going to share it with other groups because some would attack their studies? Or how about if a medical company claimed that 3/4 of us were going to die in twenty years if we didn’t take Drug X (which was enormously expensive to buy), and that there simply was no time for the FDA to check their research to verify their claim?

Undoubtedly some people would, because some people will believe anything.

But most of us wouldn’t believe either one of them. We’d be skeptical. And we’d have good reason to be.


5 Responses to “Stats and stories”

  1. 1 Mike
    August 26, 2010 at 8:57 am

    Obviously, the car that takes your ss-uniform-clad ass to work every day is powered by spotted owls and baby seal tears. Not coal and gasoline as you led us to believe.

  2. August 28, 2010 at 4:05 pm

    I was just arguing about this with my Dad last weekend. For whatever reason, he’s on the global warming bandwagon. While, I agree with you. Sure, humans impact the world around them and we shouldn’t pollute or foolishly use resources, but has global warming occurred? I’m not saying it has or hasn’t, I just don’t know. Climate seems like it should be studied from data going back thousands to millions of years, not just hundreds.

    • August 29, 2010 at 9:50 am

      Well, if you look at the Earth’s history, it has spikes of cold and spikes of hot. That’s one of the debating points of the subject … where does one “start” to see temperature trends — because that starting point alters the graph on whether we’re getting colder or getting warmer. Start at the beginning of the warm cycle, and it supports the “we’re getting warmer” notion. Start at the beginning of a cooling cycle, and it supports the “we’re getting cooler” camp. But there’s other cyclical climate events that also affect this, and yadda yadda yadda.

      There was a video of a professor speaking using the ice cores as a reference, which shows that the earth has been colder more than its been warm, that we’re in the middle of a warm spike, and we should be thankful for it.

  3. August 31, 2010 at 4:47 pm

    This was very enjoyable. It pleases me that our thoughts regarding said argument are very much in line. Also, it’s good to see some new posts.

    • August 31, 2010 at 5:03 pm

      Thanks Greg. I admit, I’ve been slacking throughout the summer. You know how some people shut down in winter to the cold and lack of sun? I do the same thing, except in summer and because of too much sun.

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