Tuesday, October 21, 2008

It's Not Just Financial Models That Are Wrong

For folks supposedly in love with "change," greenies are surprisingly impervious to new and different data, says Bjørn Lomborg in last Tuesday's Guardian (U.K.):
Have you noticed how environmental campaigners almost inevitably say that not only is global warming happening and bad, but also that what we are seeing is even worse than expected?

This is odd, because any reasonable understanding of how science proceeds would expect that, as we refine our knowledge, we find that things are sometimes worse and sometimes better than we expected, and that the most likely distribution would be about 50-50. Environmental campaigners, however, almost invariably see it as 100-0.

If we are regularly being surprised in just one direction, if our models get blindsided by an ever-worsening reality, that does not bode well for our scientific approach. Indeed, one can argue that if the models constantly get something wrong, it is probably because the models are wrong. And if we cannot trust our models, we cannot know what policy action to take if we want to make a difference.

Yet, if new facts constantly show us that the consequences of climate change are getting worse and worse, high-minded arguments about the scientific method might not carry much weight. Certainly, this seems to be the prevailing bet in the spin on global warming. It is, again, worse than we thought, and, despite our failing models, we will gamble on knowing just what to do: cut CO2 emissions dramatically.

But it is simply not correct that climate data are systematically worse than expected; in many respects, they are spot on, or even better than expected. That we hear otherwise is an indication of the media's addiction to worst-case stories, but that makes a poor foundation for smart policies.

The most obvious point about global warming is that the planet is heating up. It has warmed about 1C (1.8F) over the past century, and is predicted by the United Nations' climate panel (IPCC) to warm between 1.6-3.8C (2.9-6.8F) during this century, mainly owing to increased CO2. An average of all 38 available standard runs from the IPCC shows that models expect a temperature increase in this decade of about 0.2C.

But this is not at all what we have seen. And this is true for all surface temperature measures, and even more so for both satellite measures. Temperatures in this decade have not been worse than expected; in fact, they have not even been increasing. They have actually decreased by between 0.01 and 0.1C per decade. On the most important indicator of global warming, temperature development, we ought to hear that the data are actually much better than expected.

Likewise, and arguably much more importantly, the heat content of the world's oceans has been dropping for the past four years where we have measurements. Whereas energy in terms of temperature can disappear relatively easily from the light atmosphere, it is unclear where the heat from global warming should have gone – and certainly this is again much better than expected.
I've said the same--and Dr. Richard Keen said it far better. But a non-uniform distribution of observed variances from IPCC climate predictions is obvious evidence that the climate models used by greens get it wrong.

(via Planet Gore)

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