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Uncertainty rules the day

The press reports have been unanimous:

Unfortunately, if you read the actual IPCC panel summary report, you find that, though the majority of the press stories accurately describe the report’s worst scenarios and predictions, all of them downplay the most important point of the report, that the uncertainties are gigantic and that the influence of human activity on the increase or decrease of extreme weather for the next few decades will be inconsequential. To quote the report:

Projected changes in climate extremes under different emissions scenarios generally do not strongly diverge in the coming two to three decades, but these signals are relatively small compared to natural climate variability over this time frame. Even the sign of projected changes in some climate extremes over this time frame is uncertain.

“Different emissions scenarios” are the various climate models developed by scientists and used by the IPCC as a guide for what they think will happen to the Earth’s climate over the coming decades. Some of those models assume a large growth in carbon dioxide. Others assume that this growth will be brought under control. In all cases, however, the models assume that more CO2 will cause the atmosphere to warm.

Thus, what this IPCC panel is admitting is that, based on all climate models, there is no clear pattern for either an increase or decrease in future extreme weather events, for at least the next three decades. Moreover, the models themselves suggest that the influence of “natural climate variability,” the normal day-to-day, season-to-season, and year-to-year variations of the weather and climate, will far exceed the small influence that the increase of carbon dioxide has on these extreme events.

In other words, though the climate scientists have certain opinions, based on what they know, about whether there will be an increase or decrease in extreme weather events in the future due to increase CO2, their data is completely insufficient for predicting that future reliably. Moreover, it appears from the data that any changes in the number of extreme events will merely be due to the normal statistical variations one would expect from such a chaotic system.

Or to put it more bluntly, bad weather will happen, to the same extent in the future as it has in the past.

Thus, the rest of this report is essentially bunk. Though it might give us the overall consensus of the opinions of these scientists about the future dangers of extreme weather events, those opinions are not really based on any strong scientific evidence.

Unfortunately, most of the news stories above ignored this significant point and focused instead on the report’s dire predictions. The result was a fine example of the worst sort of journalism, what I like to call press release journalism, providing the reader no information except the propaganda and spin put forth by the writer of the original press release. For example, the quote above was buried deep in the IPCC panel report, well after all the dire predictions, suggesting to me that the report’s editors were hoping that no one would notice it and would instead focus on the predictions themselves. Sadly, for most news stories, this strategy worked.

As far as I can tell, only the Global Warming Policy Foundation, one of those evil organizations that happens to be skeptical about global warming, noticed this important point. It was their press release, Natural variability to dominate weather events over coming 20-30 years, that clued me in.

Kudos to them. That they have a skeptical agenda does not bother me at all, as in the end it gives them the critical eye to see that the emperor is not wearing any clothes.

Pioneer cover

From the press release: From the moment he is handed a possibility of making the first alien contact, Saunders Maxwell decides he will do it, even if doing so takes him through hell and back.

Unfortunately, that is exactly where that journey takes him.

The vision that Zimmerman paints of vibrant human colonies on the Moon, Mars, the asteroids, and beyond, indomitably fighting the harsh lifeless environment of space to build new societies, captures perfectly the emerging space race we see today.

He also captures in Pioneer the heart of the human spirit, willing to push forward no matter the odds, no matter the cost. It is that spirit that will make the exploration of the heavens possible, forever, into the never-ending future.

Available everywhere for $3.99 (before discount) at amazon, Barnes & Noble, all ebook vendors, or direct from the ebook publisher, ebookit. And if you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner.


  • A fair amount of my professional work involves computer modeling; specifically, building energy use. Before any model is accepted for predictive use it must first be ‘calibrated’. That is, inputs must yield similar results as the known history. If a building has used x amount of energy for a given time period, then the model should show that. I haven’t seen Example One of any climate model so tested. Unless and until climate scientists provide examples of calibrated models, I’m inclined to think that the whole predictive capabilty of the ‘science’ is so much BS.

  • Kelly Starks

    I’ve done some computer modeling as well, and the danger is people trust anything from a computer, and the models are useless if your base assumptions are wrong. Every scientific paper I ever saw stated a assumption that solar output is a constant as it the radiation received by Earth. Both of these have long been known to be false.

    Give the false premises, and the inability to match resulting history (without a lot of back fitting of changes to “predict” a known past) the models are clearly worthless, but because it says “computer model” it carries way to much weight, with far to uncritical public adn press supporters.

  • LINO

    I tried to do some computer modeling, but they said that I carried way too much weight, myself.

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