On global warming

It was pretty cold this winter, at least in the UK. Lots of the anthropogenic global warming twonks (‘deniers’ or ‘sceptics’ in other places. I say call a spade an implement for moving dirt from one place to another) scoffed loudly, saying,

“It’s bloody freezing, where is this global warming of which you speak?”

I observed that in the event of a subsequent hot summer, those same twonks would be silent.

[Washington] just endured its hottest June since records began in 1872, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. So did Miami. Atlanta suffered its second-hottest June, and Dallas had its third hottest.

In New York, the weather was relatively pleasant: only the fourth-hottest June since 1872. Then again, New York is on pace for its hottest July on record.

(h/t Olive Heffernan)

Where are the twonks now?

It’s natural to associate what you observe locally–temporally or spatially–with the larger picture. A friend on facebook just commented According to the met office, its showery here just now… according to the window, its a beautiful sunny day! Even the New York Times falls into the same trap in this very article:

Yet when United States senators and their aides file into work on Wednesday, on yet another 90-degree day, they may be on the verge of deciding to do approximately nothing about global warming.

The twonks fail to understand that ‘data’ is not the plural of ‘anecdote’ (and by not wanting to change their lifestyle for the good of the race as a whole, of course).

Science is a big picture exercise. Learning about trends, the importance of robustness, all that sort of guff, is hard.

About rpg

Scientist, poet, gadfly
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3 Responses to On global warming

  1. Tom Webb says:

    Well said!
    I always liked Richard Dawkins’ idea of an ‘argument from personal incredulity’ – basically, ‘I can’t imagine how that could be the case, therefore it cannot be the case’. (Not sure if Dawkins originated it, but that’s where I first read it.) Is the phenomenon you mention perhaps the inverse of this, a kind of ‘argument from personal credulity’, or ‘I have personal experience of a local phenomenon (e.g. cold weather, magpies predating on nestlings), therefore it must be universal (i.e., no global warming, magpies cause songbird declines)’.
    Certainly, ‘excessively credulous’ seems a better label than ‘sceptic’ for those kind of people, although I’d happily go with ‘twonks’ too!

  2. Richard P. Grant says:

    Thank you, Tom.
    I think you’re right; it seems to be built-in (and yeah, I know I’m guilty of it) to assume that one’s own experience is necessarily normative.

  3. Ian Brooks says:

    I used the line “weather is not climate” this last winter when the twonks were bleating about the cold.

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