Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Climate Analogies

(NB, It's me, the P-G)

Right. Can we stop with this "Would you board a 'plane" nonsense right now?

Here's Johann Hari with a classic of the genre:
Imagine you are about to get on a plane with your family. A huge group of qualified airline mechanics approach you on the tarmac and explain they've studied the engine for many years and they're sure it will crash if you get on board. They show you their previous predictions of plane crashes, which have overwhelmingly been proven right. Then a group of vets, journalists, and plumbers tell they have looked at the diagrams and it's perfectly obvious to them the plane is safe and that airplane mechanics – all of them, everywhere – are scamming you. Would you get on the plane? That is our choice at Copenhagen.
Now, I'm going to leave aside pulling apart the rest of the usual nonsense in this analogy (that the airline mechanics have not, in fact, been overwhelmingly proved right, that they have, in fact, spectacularly failed to predict even past crashes after they've happened, that the errors in the calculations of the airline mechanics are so egregious that they have been spotted even by the vets and plumbers and that when pressed on these egregious errors, the airline mechanics have then engaged in some rank subterfuge to cover up said errors) and focus on what Mr Hari and the warmists are NOT telling you.

It is this: the airline mechanics may indeed have your best interests at heart and they may genuinely believe (even though their calculations are a bit shonky) that the 'plane you are thinking of boarding has a 95% chance of crashing.


These, no doubt well-meaning, airline mechanics are not just suggesting that you do not board that 'plane. No: they are insisting that, instead of boarding that particular plane, you take their preferred mode of transport to your destination.

This mode of transport will:
  • cost you an astronomical sum of money more than your plane fare
  • be horrendously uncomfortable and unpleasant
  • have negligibly better chances of survival.
So yes, I would say that that would be a scam. Even if the airline mechanics are right about that particular 'plane.


Thatcher's Child said...

Maybe you should be suggesting that the aircraft technicians are telling you that you should be taking public transport for that 2 hour flight - which is going to take at least two days - now will you take the plane?

The Pedant-General said...

Well yes, only as long as that public transport option:
* costs you an astronomical sum of money more than your plane fare
* is horrendously uncomfortable and unpleasant as well as taking 2 days instead of 2 hours AND, crucially:
* has negligibly better chances of survival.

That is the deal on the table at Copenhagen and that is what Hari et al do not tell you in the analogy in question.

Mike S. said...

I notice that Hari does not make it possible to leave comments on his site. Probably wise on his part...

The Pedant-General said...

That's as maybe Mike.
Bear in mind that he writes (tosh) for the Indie and he's well known apart from (despite?) that.

And given that it's his personal site, can you imagine the kind of lunacy that would develop in the comments? As a thought experiment, try imagining CiF, but without the moderators.

Anonymous said...

I think a better analogy would be tha the airline mechanics built a vending machine in their spare time that no matter what snacks are put in the machine and no matter what buttons you push, you will always get something different, even if you push the same buttons several time in a row. What the airline mechanics will then do is tell you the twinkie is an apple.

HSLD said...

An even better analogy would be a fly by wire Airbus that had it's flight control software written by the programmers at the CRU.

The navaid database wouldn't be able to agree on a consistent method of reporting the location of airports. Navigating to runway 27 at East Midlands airport might find you ending up in the English Channel ( and aeroplanes make fucking useless boats )

The software itself would have gross errors which didn't flag up errors at compile time, or run time. The first thing you knew about it would be when the aircraft had drilled a smoking hole in the ground, because a data type had overflowed and the control surfaces started working backwards.

But rest assured, if you somehow survived the ensuing disaster then the altimeter would be reporting that the aircraft was still above ground ( rather than ten feet under it ) because a fudge factor had been applied to make the data agree with the programmers expectations, notwithstanding reality.

Nick said...

It's even more of a scam when you discover they've nicked your credit card and bought a ticket on a plane to Copenhagen, then spent it on booze, hotels and limos. The prostitutes are free apparently


Antipholus Papps said...

Johann Hari bloats what I thought to be an already-boundless hatred for journalists.

Mark said...

I beg to differ with the humble devil.

Imagine that at work, for years, things have been going missing from your desk. Pens. pencils, the odd bit of change etc. Not just you, but everybody else in the office. recently its been getting worse as more and more valuable things go walkies.

You know exactly who is doing it as does everybody else but you have no direct proof. You have cirumstantial evidence in spades which, in a court of law would bury the perpetrator.

Then one day you actually catch the little turd with his hands in your drawers.

Anonymous said...

The main objection to Hari's analogy is that (like most warmists) he characterises the argument as being scientists versus laymen, when of course there are probably as many climate specialists in the 'deniers' camp as there are in the warmists group.

Besides, what is a 'scientist'? Why should the opinion of (say) a biologist be granted more weight than a layman who has immersed himself in the evidence? After all, if you had appendicitis you wouldn't go to a dentist, even though he had been to medical school.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
The Pedant-General said...

Morning All.

Anon @12:53
"What the airline mechanics will then do is tell you the twinkie is an apple."

And further that since nanny insists that you must have your 5-a-day, you must eat the twinkie?

My brane hurts. I think however we agree that the aeroplane analogy is crap. :-)

Especially when they have just boarded the 'plane they have just told you is going to crash (the analogy fits exactly here: they tell us to cut our emissions, then fly more than Denmark's entire private jet hard-standing capacity into Copenhagen).

"The prostitutes are free apparently"
Au contraire, mon brave: I don't know how, but somehow the bastards will find a way to charge us for it.

Johann Hari? Bloated? What a horrible thought.

Keep up: it's me, the P-G. :-)

"Then one day you actually catch the little turd with his hands in your drawers. "
You'd have to be spectacularly unobservant, a journalist even, not to notice that someone had their hands in your drawers. Light fingered-ness from your jacket pocket might not be spotted, but your underwear? You really ought to notice something being stolen from there. :-)

Anon @9:30:
Whilst that is a point we can press further (even though you will certainly undergo surgery, you probably wouldn't let a neurosurgeon do the job), I'm not sure we want to.

One of the arguments being put forward is that, unless you happen to work at CRU and have been personally vetted by Phil Jones, you are not qualified to speak on the topic.

We have to give the warmists credit for this: at least they are consistent in their approach.

The Pedant-General said...

Anon @ 9:40

Deleted original.

If we go along with it, as I suspect we will have to, we will then be able to pop along to the pub in our 'orse'n'carts happy in the thought that [snip - mindless racism with no possible contribution to discussion]

Anonymous said...

The real trouble is that the mechanics have a vested financial interest in keeping the plane on the ground and actually have very little evidence that the plane will crash, they are pretty sure that the inflight movie won't work but that's about all, but they won't allow anyone outside their tight little circle to see the "evidence" in case they cotton on to the scam.

Nick said...

"The prostitutes are free apparently"
Au contraire, mon brave: I don't know how, but somehow the bastards will find a way to charge us for it.

Quite. You have to buy drinks on those government credit cards, then prostitutes are free

Middle Seaxe said...

Hari is one of the biggest prats on the planet.

I'll chip in a few quid to fly the fucker up to space on one of Branson's new fangled flying machines and leave him up there. CO2 emissions be damned.

neil craig said...

It falls on the implication that "climate science" is a science with a level of accuracy akin to airline engineering.

In fact what we now know as climate scientists simply aren't science they are just going through the motions for government money &what Richard Feynman called "cargo cult science"). The better analogy would be if a mob of Mystic Megs, all carrying enormous postal orders from a rival airline, approacehd you & made that prediction would you believe it.

Boy on a bike said...

It's worth remembering though that the biggest spruikers are not the "mechanics". If you take Al Gore for instance, he's the equivalent of the idiot cousin of the dishwasher that works in the cafe across the road from the airport.

Briffa outsourced all his tree data collecting to a couple of Russians. He's the equivalent of an accountant on level 6 who has been watching the mechanics in his lunch hour, and then developing computer models to predict their behaviour without ever going on the shop floor and wielding a spanner.

The Pedant-General said...

Bonus points to Boy on a Bike for our word of the day: "spruikers".

We like new words.

Neil already has a post in his honour of course.

Anonymous said...

The airline mechanics comment by John Hari totally misses the point. It should be remembered that climate change is a math’s thing (statistical analysis & projection).
A fair comparison would the EU and the auditors

big bird said...

The airline mechanic analogy works if you hear them say to you: "We have carefully studied airline crashes and we all agree we have no clue as to why the big metal bird thingy doesn't flap its wings properly sometimes."

This is followed by them asking: "Do you like my badge? It's got a picture of a donkey on it. I got it from a club when I was four and a half. I want to be clever when I grow up."

Anonymous said...

By debating this analogy, you are implicitly accepting that there is a consensus of scientists believing the catastrophic-AGW predictions. Beyond the self-refereeing clique that has been well identified, there isn't. The consensus lie must be loudly refuted every time and everywhere it is spouted.

Anonymous said...

It's worth thinking why this analogy is rubbish.

Air travel is a well understood engineering feat. The risks are pretty well understood and minimised, but they are still there. No one wants planes to crash; passengers, airlines, makers, insurance companies, etc.

There are procedures by which ground crew could ground a plane, for good reasons, not because they'd got some vague intuition.

AGW theory is nowhere near as well understood technically or in terms of risk as air travel. It is speculative.

This analogy is turning things round. There you are about to do something which you've done before and found to carry no unacceptable risk. A a group of people turn up, represent themselves as aircraft mechanics and trot out an unlikely scare story, which they can't explain properly, and which if you accept it, will cost you a lot of lost time and money.

F0ul said...

That's a good point, there is a consensus of grant funded academics from CRU, the Met office and NASA who agree that what their UN and EU funders what to happen really is happening!

I guess its the UN who put the CON in CONsensus!

microdave said...

Adaptation of an old joke - If the CRU had written the software for Airbus, their aircraft would never make it from the terminal building to the runway, let alone get airborne!

They do float reasonably well though - in the Hudson river, at least....

The Pedant-General said...

Anon @4:51

"By debating this analogy, you are implicitly accepting that there is a consensus of scientists believing the catastrophic-AGW predictions."

Yes and no. Your point is generally welcome, but perhaps a touch misplaced here.

I am making the specific point that, even if there were a consensus (which is denied) and even if this "mob of Mystic Megs" were right (which is hotly denied), the analogy would STILL be rubbish.

My point is that we can attack warmist reasoning in terms that are utterly clear to those who remain undecided.

I submit that such reasoning can be more effective for its simplicity and the undeniable correctness of its message, where a boiler plate recitation of a skeptics creed could detract from that message.

Anonymous said...

The other place where the analogy breaks down is the question of responsibilty. Aircraft technicians advising passengers not to fly on a plane because they thought it had a 90% chance of crashing, would be in very deep water if their claims were baseless.

It's not clear that Climate Alarmists will suffer any consequences. If you consider that many seem to be attempting to put in place an irreversible political agenda, rather than save the planet, they probably don't care.

Anonymous said...

oldbilbobaggins says...

'Airplane analogies' don't work for me, either. I earned my crust, in a different century, operating aircraft for HMG and I grew constitutionally wary of overconfident aircraft engineers and what they were wont to tell me.

There was a step-change in the quality of advice when they had to fly in the things they serviced. Too many of today's AGW 'engineers' have never earned a crust, or supported a family, in the real world - and, yes, I've met my share of them.

I remind myself that '95% 'safe' or 'reliable' means that 1 in 20 occurrences will be unsafe. That's not good enuff to have me drinking at that well.

Improve that by at least 2 orders of magnitude, and I'll listen harder.

DocBud said...

Some of those "vets, journalists, and plumbers"


ThousandsOfMilesAway said...

This just in from WUWT...

Greenland ice core definitively proves the hockey stick graph is *correct*

In your face, holocaust deniers



The Pedant-General said...


Thanks for link - that's a cracking read.

Just so we don't get "confused" (c Lord Stern 2009), however, I should remind everyone that the Hockey Stick has TWO important characteristics:
1. The "blade", of sharply rising temps post 1900 or thereabouts.
2. The "shaft", which requires to be flat where the MWP ought to be.

BOTH of these are vital: without 1) you have no warming. Without 2) the warming is not unprecedented.

Item 2) has been just as contentious as item 1). The ice core data here knackers item 2.

Anon @ 8:51pm
"It's not clear that Climate Alarmists will suffer any consequences. If you consider that many seem to be attempting to put in place an irreversible political agenda, rather than save the planet, they probably don't care."

That's the entire point of my post.

Nick said...

It's all part of the cherrypicking.

Here are some examples. When temperatures were high in 1998, the alarmists were tally ho, GW is here.

Now, when people use 1998 as a start point, its wrong from the GW side. The temperature was abnormally high and you can't use it as a start point.

Now if I made a prediction in 2000 as to how temperatures go, then the comparison has to be with post 2000 temperatures. GW proposers don't like that, instead they want temperatures prior to 2000 include. The analogy is betting on a horse rate after its started and you know who the fallers are. Tests must be a priori against data that doesn't exist.

Likewise with graphs starting circa 1900. That's a major cherry pick. The claim for GW is that temperatures are abnormal. Post 1900 is the era of higher CO2. They are ignoring the normal period and just saying look, temperatures have risen, its abnomal. No looking at the data when its normal, that is hidden

Bill Sticker said...

I like it. The more these guys write crap like that, the more ridiculous the whole Man made climate change boondoggle appears in the public eye.

DocBud said...

You want crap, Bill, try this odious creep:


"Your dad's job is to try to stop the government making laws to reduce Australia's carbon pollution. He is paid a lot of money to do that by big companies who do not want to own up to the fact that their pollution is changing the world's climate in very harmful ways."

He recently stood in the Higgins by-election here in Aus where he got soundly beaten. Having failed to persuade the adults, he is now going after his intellectual equals (I'm assuming this is intended for pre-schoolers).