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The Emerson v Bolt argument on air… does Emerson not know statistics?

Posted By Joanne Nova On February 14, 2013 @ 12:55 pm In Global Warming | Comments Disabled

Is this “national debate”?

There’s been a big “todo” over a tweet made by  Trade Minister Craig Emerson saying that Andrew Bolt was wrong to claim the world hadn’t warmed for 16 years. (Which means Emerson disagrees with the UK Met boys, the latest IPCC draft report and all the major data.) Werner Brozek at WUWT went through the largest global temperature data sets:

For RSS the warming is not significant for over 23 years.
For UAH, the warming is not significant for over 19 years.
For Hacrut3, the warming is not significant for over 19 years.
For Hacrut4, the warming is not significant for over 18 years.
For GISS, the warming is not significant for over 17 years.

So Bolt was correct.

Was Emerson in denial, or is there something else going on?

In Tuesday night’s show on 2GB, Trade Minister Craig Emerson rang in to defend himself and talk with Andrew Bolt, which is admirable, but in a blink it became an exercise in extreme frustration.  It was painful.

The point of the discussion was supposed to be whether or not there was a pause of “16 years” of no significant warming. Emerson’s reply was that since this decade was warmer than the last (according to the same UK Met Boys), he was right and Bolt was wrong. This is a bit like saying 20 years equals 16 years. It’s innumerate: 20 ≠ 16. The numbers matter. In a simple test of “statistical significance”, making the test period longer and sweeping in more data changes everything (more data makes any trend “more significant”).

Emerson appeared to be in complete denial of the data, and the usual experts.  Emerson went on to argue that it was “warming” for 20 years, then 50 years, even 250 years, taking an inanity to it’s logical extreme. But warming that didn’t happen after 1997, won’t be “found” in 1982 or 1896 either. Nothing in an earlier year would change anything about the statistical significance of the pause for the last 16 years.

Emerson doesn’t seem to realize that the world could be “technically” warming in the last 16 years, but the measured change could be so small as to be insignificant. If the rise is too tiny, it could be mere chance in a noisy dataset, and no half-decent scientist would claim that the world was warming knowing that it was statistically insignificant.

Bolt fruitlessly kept trying to get Emerson to admit that there was no significant warming for 16 years. He might as well been talking in Urdu. Indeed perhaps they were talking in different languages. With Bolt talking the language of statistics, while Emerson used unscientific English and stuck to the warmist script.

Emerson has an economics background, to PhD level. Is it possible that he didn’t realize the difference between warming and “significant warming”? Don’t they teach statistics in economics?

This tiny warming trend could be meaningless noise. It’s not statistically significant, so it’s accurate to say warming has paused. Graph: David Evans | Source: Hadley UK Met Office.


Warning: more nonsense coming

Listeners ended up the twilight zone…  Emerson saying the Met office predicts warming too. Does he realize that (a) the Met office have been predicting future warming every year for the last 16 years (and look how well that worked out for them), and (b) even if they are right and it warms to freakishly hot conditions in a monster El Nino in, say, 2014, unless some kind of time-bending wormhole is fritzing current physics, there is no way that can affect the trend as measured between 1997 to 2012? Do I need to explain why?

I guess it’s OK. He’s only the Trade Minister.


Without dates and details all talk of trends is pointless

Emerson’s argument was practically innumerate, turning this into gibberish. If I ignore the numbers and dates I can say “it’s warming” and “it’s cooling” and I’m right both times!  (It’s warmed since 1680, and cooled since 5000 BC).

In the end, Emerson rather desperately seemed to be trying to show that Bolt was wrong to be a skeptic, but that’s very different from the small, exact question of warming or not in the last 16 years. Bolt was trying to keep the radio moment to one single defined point, and it seems his big mistake was in assuming that Emerson understood concepts like “statistical significance” and could rationally think about one point at a time.

Am I being too harsh? What’s the alternative? That Emerson knew exactly what he was doing and hoped he could get away with confusing the audience by pretending to answer the question by using the right keywords for the wrong reasons?

And the Labor Party calls us the deniers.

Is this what a national climate debate is? (Is a doctorate in economics worth anything anymore?)

Emerson could have ended this long ago, if he just tweeted: ‘Apologies. Bolt was right about “16″ years.  Technically, it’s warmed, but not enough to be statistically significant.’ How hard is that?


If you feel masochistic the interview can be heard here. Emerson appears about half way through the program.


A big H/t to Matt J inPerth. Thanks!

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