Nate Silver Challenges Climate Change Skeptics

Nate Silver seems pretty fed up with some of the ridiculous arguments made by climate change skeptics such as item from John Hinderaker:

I don’t think things are quite so bad this year, but if something doesn’t change pretty soon 2009 may go down in history, in some parts of the U.S. at least, as another year with barely any summer. Here in Minnesota and across the Midwest, temperatures are abnormally cold. I don’t know whether the phenomenon is world-wide–data that will answer this question have probably not been assembled, and may not be honestly reported–but the current low level of solar activity suggests that the cooling trend could indeed be universal.

There are two obvious problems with this line of thought. This confuses long term climate change with short term variation in weather. Even if we had a summer which was colder than average, this would say nothing about long term climate change. Hinderaker suffers from selective memory. Silver points out that, despite some recent cold days, “It’s been a completely typical summer in Minneapolis, although with one rather hot period in late June and one rather cool one now.”

Silver writes “because I’d like to see more accountability on all sides of this debate and because I’m tired of people who don’t understand statistics and because I’d like to make some money, I issue the following challenge. ”

See his actual post for the specifics but here is the key part:

For each day that the high temperature in your hometown is at least 1 degree Fahrenheit above average, as listed by Weather Underground, you owe me $25. For each day that it is at least 1 degree Fahrenheit below average, I owe you $25.

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9 Comments

  1. 1
    Fritz says:

    Depending on how average is defined, that could be a good bet to take.

  2. 2
    Sean says:

    No, the word average has a pretty clear dictionary definition behind it. There’s no “how you define” with it, especially with numbers and statistics.

  3. 3
    Fritz says:

    Sean — nope.  It’s a lot more complicated.
     
    Are we talking about “average for this day in this place since they started recording temperature here?”  How do you modify the data for changes in local conditions over the years — like whether the measuring location went from field to yard to middle of a parking lot?  Full 24-hour average or high temp vs average high temp for the day?  How do you account for if the temp was measured once a day at some random time 50 years ago but now is recorded every 5 minutes?

  4. 4
    b-psycho says:

    LOL, clever.  Nailing the exact average is highly unlikely, and since it’s about the average high temperature, by definition it’s more likely to go higher than lower.

  5. 5
    Lizette Smook says:

    Nate Silver Challenges Climate Change Skeptics – Liberal Values … http://bit.ly/EQf9M

  6. 6
    Gavin Cooper says:

    Nate Silver Challenges Climate Change Skeptics – Liberal Values …: This confuses long term climate change with.. http://bit.ly/256ri5

  7. 7
    Lizette Smook says:

    Nate Silver Challenges Climate Change Skeptics – Liberal Values … http://bit.ly/EQf9M

  8. 8
    Green Demon says:

    Nate Silver Challenges Climate Change Skeptics – Liberal Values …: This confuses long term climate change with.. http://bit.ly/256ri5

  9. 9
    prm says:

    Climate Skeptic has explained why this challenge is loaded, and also suggested how a genuine challenge could be constructed:
    http://www.climate-skeptic.com/2009/07/sucker-bet.html

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