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Another Global Warning

Entry 701, on 2008-02-19 at 22:23:28 (Rating 3, Politics)

Yesterday I researched an email claiming that global warming isn't real because the science doesn't indicate that its really happening. The email was from New Zealand's libertarian party (known as Act) which has a history of global warming denial (along with many other anti-environmentalist ideas) so I was immediately suspicious and I investigated the claims included in the message.

One of their claims was "The world hasn't warmed since 1998 - and 2007 will not break any records." So I had a look at the data. In some ways they are right because there was a local peak of temperature in 1998, but the claim is really completely misleading. If you graph the temperature trends (which ignore local anomalous spikes in the data) its obvious that the temperature is going up. Spikes in the data have occurred often in the past and that is typical of any measurement of a complex phenomenon but anyone familiar with stats would know how to deal with anomalous data to prevent any misinterpretation.

There were other claims in the email and I know that some of them are definitely untrue because of past research. I admit I didn't research all of them but it seems likely that I would easily refute the rest as well.

So the person who sent the email was either ignorant (maybe she hadn't plotted the data or seen a plot of the trends) or she was dishonest (she knew the claim was misleading but chose to distribute it anyway). I'm not sure which of those options is more worrying. The only good thing is that this political party has been gradually dying and is unlikely to have much to do with New Zealand's future political direction. I know that the question of whether a politician is an idiot or a liar is one that often arises with politicians of all persuasions, but I thought it was particularly obvious in this case.

So when someone says "Before we commit to the expense and economic disruption of the 'Cap and Trade' regime, we should look at the evidence" and then proceeds to look at selected bits of the evidence which support just what they want to believe, I would suggest being very skeptical. Practically every scientist supports that global warming is real and significantly influenced by human activity. Before you take too much notice of the opinions of a political party you should think carefully about whether they have the skills to interpret the data correctly, and even if they do have those skills, do they have the neutrality to make a fair interpretation. The answer on both of these in this case is an emphatic "no".

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