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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Copenhagen: sometimes truth gets in the way of a good statistic

T he problem with statistics has always been that while figures don’t lie, liars can figure. A terrific example of this is in today’s Times on Line article about Al Gore, the former U.S. Vice-President, becoming entangled in what The Times calls “a new climate change ‘spin’ row”—though I prefer to use the term “lie”.

In a speech at the Copenhagen climate change summit, the self-styled climate change guru stated that the latest research showed that the Arctic could be completely ice-free in five years.

He tried to support his assertion by claiming, “These figures are fresh. Some of the models suggest to Dr [Wieslav] Maslowski that there is a 75 per cent chance that the entire north polar ice cap, during the summer months, could be completely ice-free within five to seven years.”

How inconvenient it must have been for Mr. Gore when Dr. Maslowski, who works at the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School in California, and who is the climatologist whose work Mr Gore was relying upon, had this to say:

“It’s unclear to me how this figure was arrived at. I would never try to estimate likelihood at anything as exact as this.”

Mr. Gore’s foot must still be firmly lodged in his mouth for he left it to his office to explain his lie. This it did by admitting that the 75 per cent figure was one used by Dr. Maslowksi as a “ballpark figure” several years ago in a conversation with Mr. Gore. So much for Mr. Gore’s assertion that “These figures are fresh.”

Does his misstatement of the truth sound familiar? It should, coming as it does after the  recent controversy over the hacked e-mails from the University of East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit. Some of those e-mails suggest that scientists have been manipulating data to support their contention that global warming is a result of human activities.

Apparently, it’s not only the scientists who are being disingenuous.

Laypersons like Al Gore and Elizabeth May, who like to parade themselves before us as climate change experts, are far too quick to gild the lily to buttress eroding support for Anthropogenic climate change.

And this is just the sort of blatant exaggeration that has moved me from being someone who until recently was agnostic about the science of man-made global warming to being a disbeliever.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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1 comment — This is a moderated blog and comments will appear when approved. Please don’t resubmit if your comment doesn’t appear immediately, and please do not post material that is obscene, harassing, defamatory, or otherwise objectionable.

  1. Nice post, and I agree with you.

    Say Russ, are you still an outspoken advocate of the HST? Because Dalton McGuinty is to, for the value added to his treasury.

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