Liberal Arts Blog — Monday is the Joy of Math, Statistics, Shapes, and Numbers Day
Today’s topic — Cherry Picking Climate Change Data
Pundits cherry pick data. That’s what they do. Wouldn’t you? So climate change is no different than any other topic. But climate change has more “science” than other topics, making it more intimidating to a layman. Climate change also elicits strong emotional responses making it very hard to have a calm, rational discussion. Enough of a preamble. Today, a note on data omission. Are we only being shown the data that fits an apocalyptic vision? Are balanced perspectives being wrongly denounced as heretical? Experts — please chime in. Correct, elaborate, elucidate.
125,000 DEATHS FROM WARMING VERSUS 300,000 DEATHS PREVENTED (Bjorn Lomborg, first link) — are we looking at all the data?
1. “One of the few well-documented effects of climate change is more heat waves, which have made headlines around the world this summer. But global warming also reduces cold waves, which kill many more people globally than heat waves according to a new study in the Lancet.”
2. “According to the study, temperature increases over the past two decades in the US and Canada cause about 7,200 heat deaths per year. But the study also shows that warming prevents about 21,000 cold deaths a year.”
3. “Globally, the study shows that climate change annually causes almost 120,000 additional heat deaths but avoids nearly 300,000 cold deaths.”
NB: “Climate change is a real problem we should fix. But we can’t rely on apocalyptic stories when crafting policy. We must see all the data.”
CHERRY PICKING HISTORICAL PERIODS FOR COMPARISON
1. “The summary of the most recent US government climate report, for instance, said heat waves across the US have become more frequent since 1960, but neglected to mention that the body of the report shows they are no more common today than they were in 1900.” (Koonin, second link)
2. “Take the recent flooding in Germany and Belgium, which many, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, are blaming on climate change. Yet a new study of more than 10,000 rivers around the world shows that most rivers now flood less. What used to be a 50-year flood in the 1970s happens every 152 years today, likely due to urbanization, flood-control measures, and changes to climate.” (Lomborg, first link)
3. “Some rivers still flood, and reporters flock there, but more scare stories don’t mean more global flooding. The river Ahr, where most of the German flood deaths occurred, has a spectacular flow on July 14, 2021, but it was lower than deadly flows in 1804 and 1910.” (ditto)
NB: “Extreme weather events are invoked as proof of impending disaster. But the floods in Europe and China and record temperatures across regions of the US are weather, not climate — singular events not decades long trends. Both Europe and China have experienced equally devastating floods in past centuries, but these are forgotten or deliberately ignored.” (Koonin)
RELIANCE ON “MODELS” THAT HAVE SERIOUS FLAWS
1. “The latest models also don’t reproduce the global climate of the past. The models fail to explain why rapid global warming occurred from 1910 to 1940, when human influences on the climate were less significant.” (Koonin)
2. “The Summary for Policy Makers section (of the recent IPCC report) says the rate of global sea-level rise has been increasing over the past 50 years. It doesn’t mention that it was increasing almost as rapidly 90 years ago before decreasing strongly for 40 years.”
3. “Refreshingly, the report deems its highest-emissions scenarios of the future unlikely, even thought those are the ones you’re most likely to hear from media reports. The more plausible scenarios have an average global temperature in 2100 about 2.5 degrees celsius warmer than the late 1800s. The globe already warmed 1 degree since that time, and the parties of the Paris Accord arbitrarily agreed to limit further warming to another degree. But since humanity’s well-being has improved spectacularly, even as the globe warmed during the 20th century, it is absurd to suggest that an additional degree of warming over the next century will be catastrophic.” (Koonin)
NB: “Good science is characterized by detail, data, proven models and reasoned debate. That takes time. Meanwhile, we should be wary of the torrent of hyperbole that is sweeping the globe.” (Koonin)
Last three years of posts organized thematically:
Please share the coolest thing you learned this week related to math, statistics, or numbers in general. Or, even better, the coolest or most important thing you learned in your life related to math.
This is your chance to make someone else’s day. And to consolidate in your memory something you might otherwise forget. Or to think more deeply than otherwise about something dear to your heart. Continuity is key to depth of thought.