Climate change attribution games

The recent extreme cold snap brought forth the usual claims from climate change alarmists that humans are causing bad weather. One is tempted to simply laugh this stuff off, but these attribution studies are proliferating. They are in fact the latest phase of alarmism, so they are worthy of serious criticism.

For example, the evergreen American Meteorological Society recently released its sixth annual report that claims to document human influence on extreme weather events. This year, for the first time, they are claiming that some of these weather events could not have happened without human interference. Their absurdity escapes them.

It is therefore important to understand how these bogus attribution claims are generated, which is of course by using computer models. Climate alarmism only exists in computer generated climate models. It does not exist in physical reality.

This use of climate modeling to attribute human causes to extreme weather events is actually pretty tricky because climate models are far too crude to simulate weather events. They can’t even handle hurricanes. So there is an elaborate chain of false reasoning involved in attribution studies. Here is how it goes.

First they identify a supposedly long term trend that might be physically related to the extreme weather event in question. We only have even relatively longish term data on a few climate parameters, so this is pretty limited.

In developed countries we might have temperature, rainfall and maybe barometer pressure going back a hundred years or so, for some locations. This is really far too short to say what extremes are normal. For example, you cannot realistically determine the 100 year flood from 100 years of data. In most of the world we have from perhaps fifty years to nothing at all. These obvious limitations do not deter the attribution scientists. They take whatever they can get.

In every case the trick is to find an increasing trend that might be related to the extreme weather event in question. This trend, no matter how short, is deemed to be climate change.

Enter the climate model. This part is actually fairly easy, which is why it is so common. The trick here is that the climate models are set up so that only human influences can cause climate change. I am not making this up.

First you run the model with no human influence over past events. Guess what, there is no climate change. The observed trend does not happen in the model, because only humans can cause climate change in these models.

Then you run the model with human influence and there is the climate change trend that you are looking for, the one that supposedly explains the extreme weather event in question. The faulty reasoning is then painfully simple. It goes like this:

1. The extreme weather event is part of a climate change trend.

2. Only humans can cause climate change.

3. Therefore, humans caused the extreme weather event.

The obvious fallacy here is that natural climate change is ruled out by assumption, not by science. We are after all emerging from the Little Ice Age, among other things that are going on in nature, but this is all ignored. Plus of course trends do not cause events.

The less obvious fallacy is that there may well be no trend at all. They simply cannot determine from relatively short data sequences what natural variability looks like. The fact that records — hot and cold, wet and dry — are being broken all the time merely attests to the short term of the record.

The point is that these so-called attribution studies are multiplying. They are piling higher and deeper. Better to refute them than to laugh them off, as laughable as they may be.

Speaking of laughs, I have to include a link to one of my favorite columnists. Rex Murphy is from Newfoundland, which is sort of the West Virginia (which is where I am) of Canada, so we are not supposed to be very smart. Rex is actually the most erudite columnist I have ever seen, and I have seen a lot.

His column is titled: “Too frigid for global warming? This is why they rebranded it ‘climate change’”

When you see so-called attribution studies, keep in mind that it has yet to be shown that humans are actually changing the world’s climate. Look for the bogus assumptions.


About the Author: David Wojick, Ph.D.

David Wojick is a journalist and policy analyst. He holds a doctorate in epistemology, specializing in the field of Mathematical Logic and Conceptual Analysis.

  • Anon Anon

    These models can not predict the past let alone the future.

  • Shadeburst

    Someone told them, “The science is settled, so you might as well all go looking for other jobs.” Their reply: “We now have a hammer, so let’s go look for some nails to hit.”