Monday, 26 March 2012

Disconnects in Logic (5) - Correlation & Causation

Steve Rissing writes in the Columbus Dispatch (my comments in italics)
Any one still doubt climate change?
Are we there yet?
If we haven’t entered a period of human-caused climate change yet, what will it take for us to agree that we have? Maybe events such as the following:
• Almost 1,500 U.S. high-temperature records fell in one week.
So? Did citizens complain and stay indoors to avoid the deadly heat?
• Health-care specialists warn that Chagas’ disease, spread among humans by blood-sucking insects in tropical regions, might spread as temperatures rise in the United States.
• Biologists identify mechanisms by which earlier snow melts decrease populations of a rare Rocky Mountain butterfly.
Clearly devastating for mankind. Did biologists actually identify "earlier snow melts"?
• Agricultural specialists attribute global changes in crop maturation, for example early ripening of grapes, to increased global temperatures.
Good-oh, we get the vintage earlier, and growers can take an early holiday.
• NASA releases maps showing a reduction in snow cover for North America in 2012 compared with 2011.
So North America has been seeing increases in snow cover until 2012?
• Studies suggest that the houses where 4 million Americans live on the coasts confront increased risk of storm-surge flooding by midcentury because of warming oceans.
Suggest. Not predict, project, but suggest. Is a suggested "increased risk by midcentury" proof of anything whatsoever?
• News reports say the iconic cherry trees in Washington, D.C., were in full bloom a week before the month-long National Cherry Blossom Festival started. All of these things occurred over just two days this month. No one seriously doubts that carbon-dioxide levels in the atmosphere are rising. Over the past 30 years, they have increased by 15 percent - a rate that continues to grow with no sign of stopping. No one seriously doubts that the increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is a result of burning fossil fuels and cutting and burning forests. And no one seriously doubts that global mean temperatures are rising. In the past 30 years, the global mean temperature has increased by about a half a degree Celsius. 
You're absolutely right - still waiting for your conclusion. No one would organise a Cherry Blossom Festival to start on a day when there was no blossom in sight, so the "week before" cannot be unprecedented, or likely even a full "week before". Cherry trees lead naturally to cherry-picking, like picking one warm winter as "proof".
This is the usual stuff we see touted as "evidence" - a mixture of cherry-picked "proof" and irrelevancies, and the implication that all such things are "bad". Is "earlier crop maturation" bad? Is one instance of early blooming (by a week!) of cherry-trees in Washington "bad", or proof or indication of anything? Now we come to the central argument:
Almost all scientists and related professionals who collect and analyze data about climate change or its effect on biological systems agree that the increased carbon dioxide levels cause much of the climate change and warming. The remaining climate skeptics tend to be policymakers who would rather not make policy.
No evidence as to who "almost all" are, and if "increased carbon dioxide levels" caused "much of the climate change and warming" what caused the remainder. Is "much"  the same as "most", or is it "some"? What business have "related professionals" got pronouncing on science and causation?
So how do the hold-out skeptics propose to test their hypothesis that no link exists between carbon-dioxide increases and climate-change effects? Good science demands explanations and hypotheses that can be tested.
It's not an hypothesis, it's a fact-based objection to an hypothesis that CO2 alone will cause catastrophic warming and climate change. It's your hypothesis, not ours.
An explanation that can’t be tested isn’t an explanation — it’s a dream, a belief, a political position. It might make for good campaign rhetoric, but it makes for poor public planning.
You said it brother, not me "An explanation that can’t be tested isn’t an explanation - it's a dream, a belief, a political position." Catastrophic global warming and climate change can't be tested, can't be falsified, and is therefore not an hypothesis at all, but "a dream, a belief, a political position". Great guys these catastrophists, they do all the work for you, and the best part is they don't know when they've done it.

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