The latest salvo from the Australian in their war on science is a column from Bjorn Lomborg. Lomborg tells us:
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.
Have you noticed that Lomborg wrote a book where he said that while there had been been some environmental problems in the past, we had solved them all and nothing further needed to be done. Odd, because you would expect that we would sometimes do better and sometimes do worse than what was needed and the most likely distribution would be about 50-50. Lomborg, however, saw it as 100-0.
Of course, the trick Lomborg used in his book was cherry-picking and he’s at it again in this column:
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 0.01C and 0.1C a year.
But look at the RSS satellite temperatures below. This decade the temperatures have been more often above than below the trend line (of 0.168K per decade).
Tamino has calculated some trends and found that whether you take this decade to be the 2000s or to be the last ten years, satellite (and surface) trends are positive. To get Lomborg’s cooling trend, you have to:
- Start at the beginning of 1998, more than 10 years ago, but call it “this decade.”
- Compute the probable error using a white-noise assumption, which is known without doubt to be wrong.
- Compute a confidence interval using only +/- one sigma, when we know that a normal random variable has about a 32% chance to fall outside the +/- 1 sigma range.
One of these might be considered an honest mistake. If you’re woefully ignorant of statistics, you may not know that the noise in global temperature isn’t white.
But the others are outright dishonest. Computing a confidence interval using only 1 sigma is bound to be wrong nearly one third of the time. And starting with the beginning of 1998, referring to “this decade” as starting more than 10 years ago, is cherry-picking taken to the extreme.
The rest of Lomborg’s column is more of the same. For example:
Likewise, and arguably much more significantly, the heat content of the world’s oceans has been dropping for the past four years where we have measurements.
Actually there were errors in the instruments and the heat content has, in fact, been increasing
We are constantly inundated with stories of how sea levels will rise, and how one study after another finds that it will be much worse than what the IPCC predicts. But most models find results within the IPCC range of a sea-level increase of 18cm to 59cm this century. This is, of course, why the thousands of IPCC scientists projected that range. Yet studies claiming 1m or more obviously make for better headlines.
But the IPCC range does not include increases from accelerating ice flows. And the studies claiming 1m or more are considering such effects. Lomborg has been repeating this misrepresentation for quite some time now.