Editorial: Don't panic, because the climate numbers don't add up

AP file photo.

It’s that time again. We’re being told, in breathless tones and with an edge of panic in the headlines, that the planet is on the brink of disaster. Proponents of climate change theory say we’ve once again broken a record.

Here’s how the New York Times put it: “Marking another milestone for a changing planet, scientists reported on Wednesday that the Earth reached its highest temperature on record in 2016, trouncing a record set only a year earlier, which beat one set in 2014. It is the first time in the modern era of global warming data that temperatures have blown past the previous record three years in a row.”

That’s very evocative language - the past record was trounced, and temperatures have blown past previous records.

Amazingly, no numbers are provided in the article to support such language. That’s because on closer examination, the numbers don’t.

The London-based Independent did its homework and reported actual temperatures.

“Scientists at the Met Office and East Anglia University found 2016 was 1.1 degrees Celsius warmer than the average between 1850 and 1900,” the Independent reported. “This puts 2016 only nominally ahead of 2015 by just 0.01C - within the 0.1C margin of error - but the Met Office said it was clear the planet had now experienced two years of ‘extremely warm’ weather.”

Read that closely - the temperature increase was one-tenth of the margin of error.

Forgive the apparent rabbit trail here, but remember how terrible the polls were before the presidential election? How could the polls have been that wrong? The thing is, they weren’t wrong. Many of the polls showed a narrow Clinton win, but with a winning percentage within the margin of error.

Here’s an example. An Oct. 31 poll of Michigan voters showed a Clinton lead of 6 percent. But the margin of error on that poll was calculated at 3.17 percent. That means the poll could go either way by more than three points - eliminating Clinton’s lead entirely. And when Michigan voters cast their ballots, Trump won with an extremely narrow margin of 47.6 percent to Clinton’s 47.3 percent - exactly matching that poll.

The art of polling is in interpreting the results within that margin. Pollsters and pundits made assumptions about Michigan, and felt Clinton would win the state. Looking at the same polling numbers, they could have made different assumptions and concluded the exact opposite.

Here’s how this ties in with climate change. The numbers we’re presented with are entirely inconclusive. Again, the margin of error is 10 times greater than the temperature increase.

So why are we being warned of the impending catastrophe? Because of assumptions and interpretations - not backed up by science.

Proponents of climate change just don’t seem to learn. When they inflate the data and oversell the results - in a blatant attempt to get the American public to panic, the American public yawns. So they go even more apocalyptic in their next press release.

It’s not working. If they want us to take climate change seriously, they’ll have to get serious themselves.


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