You know when someone shouts so loudly that you can't hear them? For although his ongoing series on climate change features a provocative thematic label:
- it's not a confidence trick, simply overstatement by a committee who don't appear to understand that science is founded on the rock of uncertainty: the more it's willing to be doubted and tested, the more likely it is to be as nearly right as it can be.
The presentation of the Mail articles - for which sub-editors may have more responsibility than Rose himself - is similarly overdone, and asking to be tripped up by its own brashness. For example, crowing that global warming (of what part or element, exactly?) is only half what was predicted appears to admit an inconvenient truth, i.e. that the globe is indeed warming.
In a highly contentious area like this, there is a duty to consider style as well as content. Rose's piece, when the cross-header shrieking subsides, is more nuanced, showing that the whole issue is far more complex than just a series of forecasts about CO2 and temperature readings.
Mind you, he hasn't helped himself by jumping gleefully on the increase in Arctic ice cover as though to say, "Ha ha! Proved you wrong!" Firstly, there are also places where ice is melting, and secondly, anyone with the slightest knowledge of statistics knows that citing a single instance is no proof or disproof of anything. You have to try to find a trend.
There is a famous example in Bortkiewicz' book "Das Gesetz der kleinen Zahlen" (1898), where he studied the frequency with which Prussian cavalrymen were kicked to death by horses ("all of them", Allied soldiers would doubtless have wished 20 years later). On average it was 0.61 per year, which obviously didn't happen that way (unless the man's legs were left alive).
|von Bortkiewicz's cavalry example (visually reordered)|
One blizzard doth not an ice age make. There are many factors affecting world climate, and that's a vast subject. Even the Met Office's supercomputer can't get today's weather right every time, let alone next week's.
However, it is a scientific fact that CO2 lets through solar radiation but reflects back ground-emitted re-radiation; the way this works is clearly explicable. Similarly, water vapour from aircraft contrails - Brits may remember (coincidence or not?) the clear days we had in 2010 as air traffic was suspended when we had a dust cloud from Iceland's Eyjafjallajökull (pronounced "Jones", I understand) volcano.
Okay, there's room for debate on whether humans are largely responsible for CO2 increases; and about how other systems (e.g. vegetation) respond to any such increase; and about all the other things that cool or warm the sea and air. But there's too much yelling on both sides of the debate, and sensational contrarian reporting is not a proper corrective to over-excited AGW campaigners.
There's money being made on both sides, by lobbyists and manufacturers of cars and windmills, solar panel-makers and supermarkets flying beans in from Kenya; and by global carbon trading that seems to favour Chinese industry and American capital. As ever in war, truth has been the first casualty, and we need a more balanced contribution from the Fourth Estate and news media owners.
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