Would you bet your paycheck on a weather forecast?

Dr. Thomas Sowell, a Senior Fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, summarized the problem the world faces with climate change policy:  

“Would you bet your paycheck on the weather forecast for tomorrow? If not, then why should this country bet billions on global warming predictions that have even less foundation?”

Sowell is right to be skeptical. Meteorologists can’t forecast the weather much beyond 48 hours, as the degree of accuracy diminishes rapidly with every additional day.

Yet the same weather agencies, often using the same computer models, since 1990 have said with almost absolute certainty that their 50- and 100-year forecasts are correct. They maintain this illusion today, even though all their long-term forecasts have been wrong.

Moreover, it’s not just your paycheck that you would be putting at risk. It’s reliable, affordable energy for everything you do, and for those you rely on for goods and services. It’s your living standards and future – and your children’s future.

It’s the health and well-being of every person in every modern, industrialized nation on earth – and of every person in poor developing countries who dreams of having living standards and opportunities approaching those we are blessed with.

The global warming deception worked because most people don’t know the difference between weather, climate, and meteorology. This confusion arose partly because of the historical development of each.

Climate came first, with the word originating from the Greek word for inclination. The ancient Greeks realized that the climate of a region, and how it changed through the year, was primarily determined by the angle of the Sun’s rays. Beyond that, they used evidence from experience and historical patterns.

Aristotle’s student and philosophical successor Theophrastus (371–287 BC) wrote the book Meteorological Phenomena, sometimes called the Book of Signs.

Theophrastus was not referring to astrological signs, but weather signs such as the red sky observation that is neatly summed up by the old, and generally correct, adage: “Red sky in the morning, sailors take warning. Red sky at night, sailors’ delight.”

The Greeks developed short-term forecasts based on observations made over hundreds of years. This use of long-term signs to try and determine short-term weather pervades and guides all communities because of its impact on their food supply.

This became more important when humans switched from hunter-gatherer to sedentary agricultural subsistence.

Some simple definitions are important for the public to understand.

Weather is the total of the atmospheric conditions at any given moment. It includes thousands of inputs from cosmic radiation from deep space, heating energy from the bottom of the oceans and everything in between.

Climate is the average weather conditions, and how they change, at a given location, over an extended period of time.

While one can describe “daily climate,” obtained by averaging the 24-hourly readings or averaging the minimum and maximum readings in a 24-hour period, much longer periods are normally studied by climatologists.

The choice of the beginning and end point of climate studies determines the overall trend. By “cherry picking” this time interval, you can demonstrate virtually any trend you want.

For example, the general temperature trend of the last 140 years was warming, but the trend of the last 1,000 years was cooling.

That is why the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) tried to rewrite the historical temperature record over the past millennium to eliminate the Medieval Warm Period.

It finally had to restore the Warm Period, which existed across Europe and Asia and is recorded in multiple Chinese texts from that era.

Similarly, you can study climates of various regions, although forecasting regional climate is fraught with uncertainties.

Dr. Tim Palmer, leading climate modeler at the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts, summed the situation up well in a 2008 New Scientist magazine article:

“I don’t want to undermine the IPCC, but the forecasts, especially for regional climate change, are immensely uncertain.”

Meteorology is the study of the physics of the atmosphere and is the term people associate most with weather forecasting. Meteorologists maintain that their physics is correct.

Then why are their forecasts so often wrong? The answer is inferred in mathematician and philosopher A.N. Whitehead’s comment that,

“There is no more common error than to assume that, because prolonged and accurate mathematical calculations have been made, the application of the result to some fact of nature is absolutely certain.”

The IPCC defends its long-term climate forecasts by maintaining that a weather forecast is different from a climate forecast. But climate is an average of the weather, and one cannot generate accurate results by averaging inaccurate ones.

Thus, starting in 1990, the IPCC stopped making forecasts – because they were never right. Instead, they began publishing a range of “projections” or “scenarios.” Yet, they too were hopelessly at odds with what actually happened in the real world.

Worse, the news media, climate activists, politicians, and regulators treat the “projections” and “scenarios” as predictions, or forecasts, for purposes of stirring up public anxiety and trying to justify draconian anti-fossil fuel policies.

Indeed, these failed projections underlay the extreme, economically damaging, and completely unnecessary policy prescriptions that were presented earlier this month at the UN Climate Change Conference in Bonn, Germany.

So, the answer to Sowell’s question is clear. No country – certainly not successful, developed nations like the United States or Canada – should bet a nickel of taxpayers’ money on the UN’s failed global warming predictions.

Poor, struggling, developing countries are even more strongly advised to ignore UN predictions and energy policy prescriptions – unless they want to be mired in poverty and misery for another century.

Dr. Tim Ball is an environmental consultant and former climatology professor at the University of Winnipeg in Manitoba. Tom Harris is executive director of the Ottawa, Canada-based International Climate Science Coalition.

Comments (8)

  • Avatar

    Spurwing Plover


    Again we have a bunch protesting against Global Warming/Climate Change while all bundled up for the cold the irony and the hypocricy of the Go Green movement and i’ll bet they did’nt com e by Magic Carpet either

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    The warmists’ scare tactics make them the real-world Chicken Littles. They pretend to know the unknowable. They induce panic in order to steal elections.
    Ontario is the world’s worst non-sovereign debtor. (Greece, California, mere pikers). I read today that the world’s largest coal-fired generating station is being demolished. Nanticoke GS is where I learned my trade. The twin 700′ stacks are scheduled for demolition in February. Why would Ontario’s bondholders let this happen? Nanticoke GS is a tangible, valuable asset. It could be sold, for cash, to investors. I can tell you why the expensive demolition is happening now. There’s an election in June and the Liberals are making sure that no coal will be burned there again. Call it scorched earth on their way out. 4,000 MW of cheap power will be replaced by 44,000 candle power of solar panels.

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    Why is the cause of climate change so difficult to prove?

    Because science is not about “proof”. “Proof” is something we use in mathematics, where we want to prove that a conjecture is true. Mathematics is fundamentally imaginary, and we construct it in way that allows us to prove things.

    Science is a way of thinking about the natural world, not the imaginary world of mathematics. Science is primarily concerned with evidence that our hypotheses are correct (note the difference between this and proving truth).

    Because of this, science can (and does) change as we get more evidence. For example, there was tons of evidence that Newtonian physics correctly described the behavior of mass in motion. But Einstein showed that as the speed approaches the speed of light, Relativistic physics describes it more correctly.

    As for climate change, we have

    Ample evidence that earth is warming.
    We also have ample evidence that the rate of this warming is faster than has ever happened in history.
    We also have experimental evidence that the introduction of certain gasses to the atmosphere will cause the earth to warm.
    We have evidence that such gasses are indeed being introduced to the atmosphere, in massive quantities, primarily as a result of combustion of hydrocarbons.
    When we compare the current rate of warming with the theoretical rate of warming we would predict based on the rate of hydrocarbon consumption over the past 125 years, we see evidence of a close correlation.

    So, is this “proof”?

    Nope, that’s for math.

    Do we have enough evidence to conclude that the best explanation for the unprecedented global climate change we are observing is most likely caused by emissions of greenhouse gasses from combustion of hydrocarbons?

    Yes we do.

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      Hans Schreuder


      Rakooi, stop you stupid comments and open you eyes if you are capable of doing so! UN IPCC and other assorted climate alarmists all have severe tunnel vision:
      1) global warming is a bad thing;
      2) the 3% of the Earth’s yearly carbon dioxide output that is human sourced is responsible for 100% of the global warming caused by carbon dioxide. The 97% of the Earth’s yearly carbon dioxide output that is “natural” has no effect what so ever on global temperatures.
      FACT: Natural” emissions 770,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide (97% of the total) = Zero effect on global temperatures
      FACT: Human sources emissions 23,100 metric tons of carbon dioxide ( 3% of the total) = 100% of the global warming that is occurring (the global warming that stopped nearly 20 years ago by the way)
      3) In the late 20th century all of the natural forces that effect global temperatures as well as those forces that cause “climate change” ceased to operate on Earth and now in the 21st century and for the foreseeable future only the 3% of the Earth’s total yearly carbon dioxide output that comes from human sources causes all “global warming” and all “climate change”.
      Read these peer reviewed scientific papers to learn about the facts about earth and its atmosphere:

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    David Lewis


    Science is forming a theory, gathering data, and comparing them. If they match, the theory is validated, at least for now. If they don’t match, then the theory needs to be modified or scrapped. This has not happened in climate “science.”

    Unfortunately I lost the reference to the article, but the “massive quantities” of green house gasses being released by mankind is a tiny percentage of what nature releases. Yet, man’s emissions are supposed to be causing a build up in concentration. It is more reasonable for other factors to be at play.

    Rather than “experimental evidence,” what about real world evidence on the effect of carbon dioxide on warming. Forty percent of the warming blamed on man occurred between 1910 and 1941 when the CO2 level was much lower and relatively stable. For the last twenty years the carbon dioxide level has increased rapidly yet we have a pause in the warming. There is not close correlation in the details. In addition, the mini ice age, medieval warming period, and roman warm period occurred without significant changes in the CO2 level.

    We do have enough evidence to come to a reasonable conclusion, but it doesn’t support the climate change agenda.

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      Hans Schreuder


      David, the UN IPCC themselves have states, in two separate documents, that the human production of carbon dioxide is not more than 4% and likely to be only around 3% of the total atmospheric carbon dioxide content:
      Regardless of the percentage though, it is thermodynamically impossible for radiation returning to its emitter to make that emitter warmer again.
      Thus, carbon dioxide sending some of it earth-derived radiation back to earth can not possibly make earth warmer, but that point does not bother the alarmists.

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    Spurwing Plover


    What ever became of Global Cooling and the New Ice Age we were suppost to be having back in the 1970’s somethin that same liberal Rag TIME was blabbering about some 40 years ago

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    The natural carbon cycle is responsible for the bulk of the CO2 in the atmosphere, as Hans says. Like water vapor, atmospheric CO2 is between “states” . It can be absorbed by plants, rain or bodies of water, etc. Most of the naturally occurring CO2 is produced by anything that consumes biomass . Termites and microbes, mostly. This consumption increases with temperature. It follows, then, that rising temperatures would be the biggest producer of CO2, if our use of fossil fuels represents only 3% of the carbon cycle.
    This idea has been out there for some time, but gets little coverage. Global temperature rise precedes CO2 increase.

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