Pick This Cherry Right Here…
Time and again when discussing my skepticism over climate and the CO2 hypothesis, those that adhere to that story line accuse me of “cherry picking” data… Here are some thoughts about that:
Choosing to make selective choices among competing evidence, so as to emphasize those results that support a given position, while ignoring or dismissing any findings that do not support it, is a practice known as “cherry picking” and is a hallmark of poor science or pseudo-science.
— Richard Somerville, Testimony before the US House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Power, March 8, 2011.
– to choose something very carefully. (As if one were closely examining cherries on the tree, looking for the best.)
– to choose only the best people or things in a way that is not fair (usually in continuous tenses)
As a skeptic, I try to look at and analyze all data to the best of my ability. Obviously ‘climatology’ is a very broad field and includes many disciplines of science, so of course I don’t have an in depth understanding of all the material. I suspect even among scientists, few do. But digesting what I can from all angles shows obviously conflicting claims, some with fairly straightforward evidence, others much more convoluted… some based on observation or sensor data, some based on models. So where does this leave us?
– There is no doubt climate changes
– CO2 levels are rising
– Some of this is attributed to human activity
– CO2 is a mild greenhouse gas
On the other hand:
– Climate has always been variable
– Most of earth’s history has been warmer than now, and for much of it life thrived
– Over the last 5 million years, ice has repeatedly advanced and retreated
– Human industrial activity is roughly 200 years old
We know the earth has been much warmer in the past than it is now. It has also been much colder. Even the Roman and Medieval Warm Periods were nearly as warm or even warmer than today, depending on the narrative. CO2 levels have also been both higher and lower than today, totally independent of human industrial emissions.
Recent attempts to describe the climate have concentrated on establishing a link between warming and human industrial emissions of CO2. Computer models have attempted to plot the interactions between various inputs, but always revolving around the hypothesis that CO2 is the primary driver behind warming. These models often forecast sharp warming in conjunction with increased CO2 emissions from emerging economies, and often predict disastrous consequences. The problem is that the warming predicted by models has not happened. Over the last 15-18 years, CO2 emissions have skyrocketed while temperatures have stagnated. This is recognized by no less an organization than the IPCC. In their recent WG1 AR5 report, chapter 9, the evaluation of models states that there has been a 15 year pause in warming, and that 111/114 models overstated warming in predictions compared to what was actually observed, a clear indication of systemic bias. In addition, UAH satellite observations contradict warming claims based on ground based stations. And NASA has reported deep ocean warming that was hypothesized to explain “missing heat” hasn’t happened. This is especially significant because the IPCC and NASA especially are often quoted for stories on impending doom related to CO2 driven warming.
So getting back to cherry picking, I see all these contrasting and contradictory puzzle pieces, and it points to a flawed hypothesis. This doesn’t mean CO2 doesn’t play a role in warming. It doesn’t mean warming isn’t happening. It doesn’t mean I deny climate change. It doesn’t mean I claim to have all the answers. It means I see no direct link established between human CO2 emissions and a warming climate.
Those that say that I am cherry picking invariably exclude that section of the IPCC report while accepting the rest of their claims. They dismiss climate studies by eminent scientists and deride them as “deniers” simply because the conclusions they come to are at odds with the CO2 hypothesis. They gloss over the UAH data while accepting data from models that the IPCC admits have a 97% failure rate. I ask, who is cherry picking?
I look at all evidence and say it is inconclusive. Fans of the CO2 hypothesis exclude data to confirm a one sided verdict. Again, who is cherry picking? I contend I don’t have nearly enough for a bias confirmation pie… but someone does.