22 May 2015

I’m Not A Politician But… I Think The Answer is 1 in 27 Million

Posted by Dan Satterfield

Screen Shot 2015-05-22 at 3.19.30 AM

The Washington Post (and other news outlets) reported Thursday that Jeb Bush believes it is arrogant to claim that it’s settled science that humans are primarily responsible for the warming of the planet: From the Washington Post: “The climate is changing,” he said, according to The Post’s Ed O’Keefe. “I don’t think the science is clear on what percentage is man-made and what percentage is natural. It’s convoluted. And for people to say the science is decided on this is just really arrogant, to be honest with you. It’s this intellectual arrogance that now you can’t have a conversation about it even.”

One of NASA’s top experts on climate science responded with a very valid point on Twitter:

Screen Shot 2015-05-22 at 1.39.39 AMThe statement that Dr. Schmidt quoted was from the latest IPCC report, and comes the same week that NOAA and NASA announced that 2015 (so far) is the hottest year on record, while NOAA also announced that the last 12 month period has also been the warmest on record for the past 130 years. I wonder who is being arrogant here?

Let’s look at some facts instead of opinions, because while opinions hold great sway in politics, they mean little in science UNLESS you can back them up with data, test your hypothesis, show your work and get it published in a peer reviewed journal. So here is a fascinating tidbit for you. Of the 15 hottest years on record, 13 of them have been in THIS CENTURY. Now, here is a question for you. When did the planet last have a record cold year??

Answer: 1911.

It’s just a cycle you say! Well, let’s ask the following question: What are the odds that we could see 13 of the hottest years on record in the last 15 years IF it’s just a natural cycle?. Some scientists at Climate Central in Princeton decided to run the odds and they produced a little video that gives the answer:

To long, didn’t watch? The answer is 1 in 27 million.

I know a climate expert who has been told by shoppers in a grocery store (who apparently recognized him from TV), that he is “all wrong about climate change.. it’s just a natural cycle”. I guess you can learn a lot by reading the labels on a can of Del Monte Peaches, but frankly, that is what I call arrogant. I also think it is arrogant to tell every major scientific body on Earth that they are wrong about climate change, when you haven’t even bothered to sit through a college course in atmospheric physics.

The red line is the evidence that kids are playing in the pool. The blue line is the result of the water hose.

The red line is the evidence that kids are playing in the pool. The blue line is the result of the water hose.

When someone tells me that the climate “goes through natural cycles”, I am always tempted to say (and sometimes do) “Really?? It does! You mean I took all those courses in atmospheric physics, and not one professor ever showed me evidence of that? You mean those expensive textbooks I have on climatology are deficient?? Refund!, I want a refund on my tuition!” I’ve been told by fellow meteorologists and climate science experts that they have experienced the same thing.

This is really not a hard thing to understand, and the best way to think about it is to consider a backyard swimming pool that you are slowly filling with water. You’re measuring the depth every ten seconds, but the kids are already playing in the pool, and every now and then someone jumps in from the diving board, followed moments later by three kids getting out and drying off, so your depth measurements vary up and down with the waves, but when you go back and look at the depth an hour ago, and two hours before that, you quickly realize the truth: That water hose is indeed slowly filling your pool up, because you can see the real change despite the natural oscillations caused by the kids.

That is essentially what the IPCC did, and Dr. Schmidt at NASA pointed that out to Mr. Bush.

That’s the bad thing about being just a politician, because it can put you inside a bubble that makes it impossible to discern basic emotions like arrogance. I just wonder what percentage of what Mr. Bush said was based on ignorance of the subject, and what percentage was telling his listeners what they wanted to hear.

I’m not sure if science can answer that question,

but I’m no politician…