Monday, January 24, 2011

The Economist Brings the Snark

No, not Eli's friend Dick. Required reading starting with

OUR topics this morning are global warming, evolution and feathers. Let's start with the warming. Despite a frenzied last-minute drive involving snowstorms in Europe and the eastern United States, planet Earth failed to save itself from another last-place finish in 2010: once again, it was the least cold year on record. . .

By itself, as we always say, one hot year doesn't prove anything. The fact that every one of the twelve hottest years on record has come since 1997 is a little harder to wave away. 2010 was also the wettest year ever, corresponding to the expectation that higher heat means more water vapour. . . . It is of course possible that global warming plateaued this year; it's also possible that it plateaued this morning. One can always hope! For now, though, this is the basic shape of things:
and ending with
As to why George Will buys this stuff, I have no explanation. Maybe, in the internet age, we're all effectively getting our memories wiped every week or two, and it's as if we don't remember the sequence of events; everything is presented simultaneously. Or maybe we selectively wipe our own memories of the sequence of events when they threaten to prove inconvenient to our interests or our ideological predispositions.
Ta

6 comments:

David B. Benson said...

George Will has gone emeritus as the saying is these days...

Timothy Chase said...

Thank you for pointing out that essay! It definitely lifted my mood.

a_ray_in_dilbert_space said...

That was a great essay. The only thing I would have added was that when Hansen made his confident predictions in 1988, he was doing what a scientist is supposed to do: make verifiable predictions based on the evidence. Now, granted, the science was nearly a century old at that point, but still, that was where the evidence pointed enequivocally, so an unequivocal prediction is the only choice.

The really sad thing is how much Hansen's prediction stands out in an age of weasle words and equivocation. Hansen understands that there are far worse things than being wrong. Being vague is one of them. Comparing him to bullshitters like Lindzen and Spencer really points out how Lilliputian the latter are. You can't even get Lindzen and Spencer to say specifically whether they think clouds cause El Nino. They sound like a damned Unitarian talking about God.

Wrong is correctable. Bullshit is hopeless.

Horatio Algeranon said...

Good scientists are a lot like tree-trimmers:

They aren't afraid to go out on a limb, but only when it looks like it's a strong one.

Penguindreams said...

David: Will has been writing the same sort of things on climate since 1992. (Look up his impending ice age in the 1970s claims.)

Rattus Norvegicus said...

Damn good pro-science essay. Thanks.