Saturday, July 07, 2007

Another apocalypse

Martin Durkin, maker of The Great Global Warming Swindle.

The media and academe (as those of us on the inside know very well) are, in the main, soft left and soft green. We like things that are natural, we think the market is cruel, and we recycle not because it's logical but because it feels right. In these circles global warming has become part of social etiquette. It is as unacceptable to question it as it is to say that you admire George W. Bush or think organic food is a con.

This is the real strength of global warming theory. It taps into the middle-class aesthetic revulsion of consumer, industrial society.

And this revulsion is as old as industrialism itself. It has inspired the Luddites, William Morris and the Pre-Raphaelites, great aesthetes such as Ruskin, nostalgics of the aristocracy, the many back-to-nature movements, anarchists, fascists and nazis, anti-capitalists of yore and today, as well as Isamic Jihadis. However, I still can't get away from the suspicion that the latest craze is more or less bound up with the undying need of the Left to tell people how to live down to the smallest and most intimate corner of their private lives.

It seems that, despite the unquestioning fidelity to the new orthdoxy of much of the media (especially the BBC), much of the public remains unconvinced. Personally, I think this is the healthiest reaction to any talk of Apocalypse, which spends so much time just round the corner that it should be arrested for loitering. But there is another instinct at play here, the one which says, how can they possibly know what's going to happen?

A sound instinct, backed up in this case from academe itself. Professor Scott Armstrong and Dr Kesten Green are specialists in forecasting techniques. They analysed chapter 8 of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's Working Group 1 report; it's the chapter that sets out the methodology used for the forecasts in the report.

Armstrong and Green rated the methodology used by the panel against 89 principles of good forecasting derived from years of research. They found that the panel report breached 72 of those principles. They concluded that the forecasts the weather was likely to change in many negative ways were worthless.

And concerning uncertainty and complexity

The more of each you have, the less sure you should be of your forecasts. Climate forecasts involve so many factors and so much uncertainty that Armstrong and Green believe they're useless.

Many people believe these complex forecasts can be trusted because computer models are used. But so much uncertainty and subjectivity is involved in the input that Armstrong and Green say the use of these computer models is just a modern version of an old practice: the use of mathematics to make personal opinions sound more impressive. (Robert Malthus's predictions on population increase and food decline, very influential in the 19th century, were presented with a lot of mathematics. They were wrong.)

(via Tim Blair)

No comments: