Thursday, January 21, 2010

Climate v weather

Gerald Warner is obviously a man with an agenda. He is given to sweeping statements, idiotic claims and badly thought out thought experiments. He's the sort of person you don't want to meet at a party, because you'll spend the next 90 minutes listening to some sketchy argument that the ice-cubes in his gin and tonic mean we don't have to worry about climate change.

Thought experiments are not a way to do science, but as I'm writing polemic here, I can meet Gerald on his own ground. I'd like to suggest my own thought experiment to those who claim that bad prediction of local weather undermines the credibility of climate science.

Gerald's claim is:

'The line being taken among climate alchemists now is: “We admit we cannot predict whether a season will be hot or cold; we are lousy at forecasting the weather over a week, a month, a quarter or a year. But when it comes to forecasting conditions in 2030, we are infallible.”'

My response:

Imagine you come into a room on a sunny day and shut the window. How confident would you be of predicting the rise or fall in temperature in any one 1cm² section after 5, 10, 15 ... seconds? Presumably not very. But how confident would you be of the room being generally warmer in 30 minutes?

The idea that the broader a trend is the harder it is to predict is simply asinine. Would you rather bet on the average result of 10 dice or 1000? Would you rather bet on Celtic finishing in the top two of the Scottish Premiership, or on them beating Falkirk? My thought experiment doesn't show a thing about climate-change, but it should demonstrate how stupid Gerald Warner must be. A trend becomes more predictable precisely when it occurs over a longer period of time, not vice versa.

Doubting or disputing the science is all very well, it is what science does and scientists do. Trying to muddy the waters with pissweak drivelling about cold winters is just crap.