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The future of climate alarmism is bogus statistics

Posted By Joanne Nova On November 14, 2009 @ 1:58 am In AGW socio-political,Global Warming | Comments Disabled

Dr David Evans and Joanne Nova

The temptation is all too strong. How many bureaucrats would work just as hard to show that their department was less important, less necessary, and less deserving of funding? It’s the fatal trap of socialist management. The incentives are wrong.

When governments are faced with poor reports, but they write their own report cards, they have many options to upgrade their “score”. It’s insane to think that people might not take every opportunity they can to improve their mark. They are human.

Big problems like inflation, unemployment, national growth, or global temperatures can be “improved” two ways –one way takes tough decisions and years of work, and the other way takes a quiet statistical summit, a white paper and an in-house training weekend. It’s easier to “solve” big problems by changing the way you measure them. By changing definitions, methods of interpreting the data, or through sheer statistical chicanery it’s possible to issue press releases with the words “improvement”, “better than expected” or at least “figures have plateaued”.

For example, the inflation of the 1970s was partly “cured” by defining inflation as the consumer price index (CPI), then changing the way that CPI is measured in ways that lower the CPI. Today, the US CPI is about 3 percentage points lower than it would be if the method of 1980 was used. Another example is unemployment, where governments continually refine what counts as “unemployed” so as to lower the unemployment number.

There doesn’t need to be a conspiracy. There is constant pressure and rewards in one direction and very little incentive to “find” or “discover” errors that increase the CPI. It’s a ratchet effect. Dozens of incremental changes slowly ratchet the CPI figure endlessly downwards.

It’s hard to measure prices. There is a lot of room for tweaking. You’d think arithmetic addition would be enough, but apparently it’s better to do it geometrically. Did you know? It doesn’t work like that for us at the checkout. And the quality of goods is improving, true, but how do you compare a modern personal computer with one from 1990? Someone has to decide just how much better the new computer is. That’s open to interpretation, and that interpretation affects welfare payments. Seriously, if someone decides a modern PC is worth, say, ten old ones, then their price effectively “falls” tenfold; the CPI “falls”, and so do future social security cheques. It’s sophisticated theft.

There is excellent summary of John Williams work “auditing” the CPI numbers through his site Shadow Statistics, in a way, he is the “Steve McIntyre and Anthony Watts” of US economic statistics. If you are not aware of how deep the “adjustments” go, and how much those numbers are transformed, get ready to be shocked.

Governments are going to have the same temptation with global temperature, mismeasuring it to make it appear to be rising faster than it really is.

There will be tremendous pressure on those who measure global temperature to show a rising temperature. The minister who commissions a report that finds that CO2 is minor may be right, but he or she is also now a minister of a smaller department. Likewise if Directors of Climate Institutes announce a finding that there is less reason to fear carbon, they are also announcing their own budget cut.

The organizations that measure temperature are in government control. No private group has an interest in measuring global temperatures over the decades required. The government organizations that measure temperatures will tend to produce the answers the government needs. Anyone with a passion to find the adjustments that cool the statistics will feel like they wade through mud uphill; all that hard work and yet no one will get excited. Rewards will be muted. People who do not comply with the unspoken culture will be effectively forced out of those organizations—their careers will stall, or they won’t be hired in the first place if they don’t have the right “attitude”. The staff will self select. Only true believers, for whom the ends justify the means, and those with a sufficiently flexible attitude to truth, will survive and thrive in those organizations.

Think a future of systematic cheating of temperature data to justify taxes, profits, and world government is too cynical? It’s already started:

  • 89% of official ground-based thermometers used to measure temperatures in the USA violate siting requirements—because they are too close to an artificial heat source. NOAA has a $4billion budget but it took a team of volunteers to go out and do the site surveys that NOAA ought to have done. Thanks to Anthony Watts.
  • More than half of the worldwide official temperature-measuring stations are at airports, near radiating heat sources like tarmac, and even in the wash of jet exhaust. Land-based thermometers are mainly measuring increased urbanization and increased air travel.
  • Since 2003 the ARGO network has used the most advanced temperature sensors in the ocean, but the results have already been adjusted “up”. 3,000 buoys roam the world’s oceans, continually diving down to measure temperatures and radioing back the results. To the surprise and annoyance of the government climate organizations, Argo initially showed ocean cooling. Soon afterwards, the buoys giving the coolest results were excluded from the network – their results were simply omitted. Maybe this was a legitimate correction, but like almost all the “adjustments” on any equipment effectively increase “measured” warming. This is not random…
  • The Briffa Hockey Stick Graph effectively “adjusted” down all the temperatures for the last 1000 years thanks to one freak tree that grew wildly fast in the last 15 years. Somehow hundreds of reviewers at the IPCC didn’t look at the data or include all the other studies that disagree. Any implication that this graph was “expert”, verified, or carefully checked, was therefore so baseless it was equivalent to fraud. Again, despite billions in research budgets for climate research, we wouldn’t know about the entirely invalid nature of this graph if it weren’t for the work of a dedicated volunteer – Steve McIntyre.

How would any one person know if global warming is occurring?

People simply don’t notice changes as small as 0.5°C, the amount of global warming over the last century. Even if you thought it was cooling, those with control of the statistics could explain that it was just “regional variation”. It’s beautiful: this scam could go for decades.

Even if snow falls earlier than usual and temperatures are noticeably cooler, what’s to stop a dedicated searcher “finding” warming in the vague tropics, or the deep ocean, or in the upper troposphere? The only thing stopping them is the work of volunteers. This is a crazy way to run civilization.

Cross posted with CFACT as Government-has-the-wrong-incentives

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