The Media Curmudgeon is Taken to Task

06/04/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • Charles Warner Blogger at Media; Teacher at The New School, NYU

Guest blogger Jiri Nechleba takes the Media Curmudgeon to task with the following intelligent rebuttal to my post, "Survey Shows Many TV Weathercasters Are Dumb:"

You may be right that meteorologists are dumb. Along those same lines, let's also call TV anchors dumb as well. The Brits have a better phrase for them - readers. In fact, weather people are TV personalities that present the news, and from a programming perspective they are usually selected to "entertain." There are, in fact, real meteorologists who are pretty good with science - they may not be your TV variety.

But, let's posit them stupid. Are you inferring that, because they are stupid, they must by necessity be wrong? In fact, the Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) question is, at its root, a simple binary question. Are human beings causing global warming or not? And a derivative question is, IF we are, is it significant and what are the consequences if it is.

Now, those that believe in AGW are presenting the conclusion as FACT. In reality, it is a theory that is supported by some data and analysis. Frankly, I've seen little MSM coverage of the quality of the data and analysis. I, personally, have dug around to look at how the analysis has been done, what data has been used and how that data has been massaged.

I don't think that most people who hold an opinion on this have done any detailed research. In fact, the "reality" of this is more a function of societal forces than fact -- think Foucault's concepts of the social construction of reality.

Now, you can write me off as some denier but I do think I have some creds in this debate. I went to MIT to be an astrophysicist and the only way to do that was to get two Bachelor's degrees. So, I got one in Physics (Course 8 in MIT lingo) and got another one in Earth & Planetary Sciences (Course 12). The latter degree required interesting classes like "Earth and Planetary Chemistry" where we actually built models of the chemistry and climate of various planets (including earth). They were simple models but, at their core, they were meant to understand things like what gases exist in an atmosphere, what pressures/temperatures would exist given a certain input of energy, what did that look like at different altitudes.

While I went into business, I am very familiar with a lot of the concepts and approaches that go into climate modeling. Moreover, in my professional (business) career, I have been intimately involved in modeling lots of complex problems and used many statistical methods to do so. In fact, I am considered by many to be talented in understanding how to build good quantitative models. I've built investment models, marketing models, and supply chain models that have been very successful. Moreover, many of the problems I have worked on were in noisy systems (those with high variability to signal - not unlike climate).

With that preamble, I can tell you the following:

1) The world has had significantly larger climate swings in the last 5,000, 10,000, and 100,000 years that we have seen recently.
2) The data used for climate modeling is an amalgam of different proxies that have had significant adjustments made by those analyzing them.
3) Those adjustments are as least as big as the effects the models say are occurring.
4) There are significant changes in the sample data points over time and, from what I can tell, the samples have significant bias over time (read Briffa tree ring data).
5) Very few, if any, of the papers that support AGW share authorship with pure math statisticians.

The above (save #5 maybe) are science based issues. I could list a whole bunch of issues that are more political in nature - conflicts of interest, funding, etc.

So, from my perspective, I do not see any definitive proof that AGW exists. I will also submit that making fun of stupid people who don't believe in it is no form of proof as well.