What the Inhofe snowball tells us about climatology, epistemology

Scientific evidence can take many forms. For example, it can come in the form of a snowball.

In the screengrab below from the floor of the U.S. Senate, the chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, James Inhofe of Oklahoma, holds a dripping, melting snowball in his hand as evidence of his contention that global warming is a liberal conspiracy concocted to undermine capitalism. (The Senate staffer looking on from the right seems a mite dubious, however.)

inhofe

Inhofe’s argument goes something like this: A snowball comes from snow; snow falls when it’s cold; a lot of snow has fallen in the northeast United States this winter. Ergo, ipso facto, global warming is a fraud and is not occurring. Also, Noah.

On the other hand, there’s contradictory evidence in this thermal map, released this week by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration:
wint2015

As you can see, there’s a lot of red on the map, indicating higher than normal temperatures from December through February. It also contains rather large areas of bright red, indicating record high temperatures in those areas. But sure enough, if you look right along the eastern seaboard of the United States, you see a patch of blue, indicating that the small part of the globe inhabited by Inhofe experienced cooler-than-normal temperatures this winter.

Thus, the snowball. And thus the reason that it is referred to as global warming, not local warming.

According to NOAA, the December-February period depicted on the map is now the warmest December-February on record, coming after 2014, which was the warmest year on record. The weather for January and February is also the warmest January and February on record. “Nine of the past 12 months have been either warmest or second warmest on record for their respective months (March and July 2014 were each fourth warmest, while November was seventh warmest),” NOAA reports.

Such evidence itself constitutes a scientific experiment. It tests how receptive — or how non-receptive — human beings can be to evidence that contradicts what they wish to believe. How open are they to changing their minds as the evidence mounts? How passionately will they continue to defend beliefs discredited by facts on the ground, in the sea, in the air? How willing are they to suspend their own independent judgment in order to remain in good standing with others of their ideological tribe?

And most profoundly, how willing are they to avoid their own short-term and relatively minor inconvenience, even if it means courting major long-term ecological, economic, political and social conflict in generations still to come?

That particular experiment has yet to be completed, but early data are not encouraging.

Reader Comments 0

699 comments
Leslie Graham
Leslie Graham

@GB101 

Oh perleeese.  Give it up with your ridiculous 'pause' myth.

It has been shown to be a fake a thousand times already.

You are talking about one dodgy satellite record and starting fromt eh absolute peak heat month of a Super El Nino as your start date.

The RSS data has been out of whack for years and you know it.
Even Roy Spencer himself admits as much:

http://www.drroyspencer.com/2011/07/on-the-divergence-between-the-uah-and-rss-global-temperature-records/


Stick to the 10,000 thermometers and the 3,600 ARGO buoys if you want accurate data. And every single major data set on the planet shows 2014 as the warmest year since the end of the Holocene Climatic Optimum over 6,000 years ago beating the 2005 and 2010 records by a margin of 0.07C and 0.05C respectively.

It beats your favourite cherry-pick Super El Nino year by a full 0.11C!

Last year's favourite  "No warming"(TM) myth is totaly busted.

Have a good 2015 - you all stay cool now you hear.

Stan_Dup
Stan_Dup

Ironic that BibleThumper Inhofe doesn't recall that, in his version of history, the earth was originally designed for only two people to inhabit.

Stan_Dup
Stan_Dup

Please, AJC, add a button or an option to sort the comments from oldest to newest. I would like to follow the comments for the day in sequence.

Tuna Meowt
Tuna Meowt

Penses, I also posted a takedown of your Volokh post on the SAE thread from yesterday.  It's near the top, and so should be easy to find.


Paul42
Paul42

Still have a whole bunch of people on this forum who think  greenhouse gases do not absorb or emit radiation.  They also still believe you can introduce heat into a system without affecting the temperature.

All righty then!

SFM_Scootter
SFM_Scootter

@Paul42 Still have folks here that think they know what others folks think too!  LOL

Penses
Penses

@SFM_Scootter 

Paul is apparently VERY good at that. I think he might do well with his own "psychic network" (something like Paul's Psychic Hotline). ;-)  

Paul42
Paul42

@Penses

If you go back to the beginning, I've asked specific bloggers those questions when they've reposted their 'this manmade stuff is nonsense" posts.  Got back to the basics.  They were really, really good at saying 'this climate change is nonsense" but they never addressed the basic, foundational points.

So, if you think that by telling us all that there is no man-made temperature change, yet never telling us how increasing heat in a system does not lead to temperature change means a person has to be a psychic, well, I suppose I'm just missing their point.

encroachtinishia
encroachtinishia

Bookman's response of using the thermal map is just as bad as the snowball.


Show us the data from 100 years ago, even 50 years ago.  Apples to apples, not 'simulated' or 'enhanced' by those with an agenda.  Otherwise it's anicdotal data.

Tuna Meowt
Tuna Meowt

@encroachtinishia "Apples to apples, not 'simulated' or 'enhanced' by those with an agenda."


So how'd the rejectionists enhance that data?  I understand what their agenda is, but how'd they 'enhance' the map, exactly?


Cupofjoe
Cupofjoe

If a small group of scientists fudge their numbers, does that mean that all science is unreliable?

Answer depends-  do you want to be part of a test group based on flawed cancer study?  A better way to approach is to trust and verify including listening to dissenters- especially dealing with lives and secondly with billions of $s that will be largely wasted.

LogicalDude
LogicalDude

" What if we spent all that money cleaning up the environment for nothing!  It was all hoax!"

LeninTime
LeninTime

@penses

That would be like going on the "Shark Tank" with a half-baked product and few sales and asking for a 3 million dollar investment.  

***

This suggests a strange view of investment.  

Would the investment simply be a zero sum game where either climate change was vindicated or all of the money would go down the drain? 

Would it all be simply wasted? 

Penses
Penses

@LeninTime 

We are over 18 trillion dollars in debt and you wonder why it is not okay to burn a few more trillion? You missed the point. NO shark would invest in such a product. Similarly why should anyone expect us to invest in radical AGW policies without solid evidence (not just a correlation) for GW? 

LeninTime
LeninTime

@Penses 

We are over 18 trillion dollars in debt and you wonder why it is not okay to burn a few more trillion?

***
Where does that debt come from?  What is it issued to support? What does it bring about in the world? 

Is debt only significant in balance sheet terms? 



Tuna Meowt
Tuna Meowt

@Penses @LeninTime "Similarly why should anyone expect us to invest in radical AGW policies without solid evidence (not just a correlation) for GW?"


List the "radical" policies you speak of, along with the scientists who have propounded and continue to advocate for them, please.


Tuna Meowt
Tuna Meowt

@Penses @Tuna Meowt First link, rejected.  It's nothing but a screed, and as I expected, it doesn't cite *scientists* who have propounded those "radical" policies you're so evercised over.


Second link, rejected, same reason.  It's another screed, but from the opposite side.  And once again, no scientists propounding "radical" ideas.


Third link, same treatment, same reason.


Care to try again?

fedup52
fedup52

radical attempts to reduce pollution (especially a naturally occurring chemical compound like CO2)

+++++

Salt is a naturally occurring chemical in our body.  It so happens not to long ago some body was murdered by adding too much salt in their diet. 


Conclusion too much of anything can kill you.


Same goes with CO2.

Cupofjoe
Cupofjoe

From HL today if you work from NASA or have a degree from Harvard you should not be questioned-

good to know. 




Penses
Penses

@LogicalDude 

"I've reviewed the science, and it is my conclusion (along with SCIENTISTS WHO DO THE RESEARCH) is that man is a significant contributor to climate change.

I'm asking for SCIENTIFIC evidence for other conclusions.Thanks for actually posting any scientific research that you've reviewed.  My main goal is to try to find people who are looking for scientific solutions, not just parroting a party line.

Unfortunately, all the ones (so far) who doubt climate science conclusions seem to be somehow the ones on the political right-wing of American politics."

We should all of us be more skeptical of things we are told, LD. When, for example, some AGW researchers take it upon themselves to falsely summarize the findings of GW studies to read that 97% of all scientists believe something they don't, you'd be stupid not be be skeptical of the "science".

It is really not hard to find what you are asking for on the Internet. Perhaps one of the best alternate explanations for the global warming we have been seeing is solar activity. Here is but one article I found in a quick search:

http://www.forbes.com/sites/larrybell/2011/09/20/sorry-but-with-global-warming-its-the-sun-stupid/

My position has always been this: it would not surprise me if mankind was at least partly responsible for recent global warming and I therefore support cheap and efficient attempts to reduce pollution (for health reasons as well). But I do not support costly and radical attempts to reduce pollution (especially a naturally occurring chemical compound like CO2) when it might turn out that mankind's contribution to global warming is negligible. THAT would be really dumb. That would be like going on the "Shark Tank" with a half-baked product and few sales and asking for a 3 million dollar investment. 


Tuna Meowt
Tuna Meowt

@Penses @LogicalDude "My main goal is to try to find people who are looking for scientific solutions, not just parroting a party line."


Exactly what "party's "line," as you say, is being "parroted?"


Who's responsibie for pressing the point and for what reasons do they press it?


You seem to accuse those who believe that ACG is occurring to be doing so without evidence, and yet you appear to be presuming without proof that there's some shadowy mechanism that's advancing the notion of ACG for some nefarious purpose.


How's your unproven scenario any more logical than theirs?


LeninTime
LeninTime

@Penses @LogicalDude 

That would be like going on the "Shark Tank" with a half-baked product and few sales and asking for a 3 million dollar investment.  

***
You say that like the millions invested would simply be wasted.

How do you know that?

LogicalDude
LogicalDude

@Penses @LogicalDude Thank you for your response. 


I doubt the sun is as important of a contributor to climate change, since I've actually studied Astronomy (to the graduate level.)  The article quotes solar cycles as a significant contributor, but no mention on why this is causing rapid rise in global temperatures in the last few decades.  It's more important for 11 year cycles of sun-spot activity. 

The other conclusion "the sun significantly affects climate" is a "no duh" conclusion.  Without the sun, there would be no climate. 


Since this is a link to a Forbes article, not a scientific research paper, I'll take the conclusions in the article with a grain of salt. 


I agree with you that steps must be taken to reduce pollution.  Others (who doubt climate science) make it sound like any steps to reduce pollution is "jobs killing regulation" when in fact, we've had continuous regulations for the health of all of us. 

Penses
Penses

@Tuna Meowt 

"Exactly what "party's "line," as you say, is being "parroted?"

I can't say with certainty; ask the poster I was quoting ;-) 

"You seem to accuse those who believe that ACG is occurring to be doing so without evidence, and yet you appear to be presuming without proof that there's some shadowy mechanism that's advancing the notion of ACG for some nefarious purpose."

I wouldn't draw hard and fast conclusion from appearances (or perceptions). Please show where I have EVER said that AGW advocates don't offer "evidence". As to motivations for their positions, my view is that people of all stripes and educational backgrounds are subject to the same propensity to believe strongly in things for which there is NOT conclusive and indisputable proof. Surely, you must know that from history. Science becomes a kind of pseudo-religion when people belief strongly in and argue for things they CANNOT prove. Is that nefarious? No. It is being human, warts and all.

"How's your unproven scenario any more logical than theirs?"

Well...your conception of my "scenario" (as indicated above) is imagined. So I don't know how to answer your question.   

Penses
Penses

@LogicalDude 

"Since this is a link to a Forbes article, not a scientific research paper, I'll take the conclusions in the article with a grain of salt."


Of course it isn't. But does it not point you to the scientific "evidence" you seek?

Penses
Penses

@Nick_Danger 

Did I say that? Did I say that because some climatologists "fudge" the truth, chemistry is therefore unreliable? But I would wonder why they would knowingly fudge the truth if the truth was conclusively on their side. It SUGGESTS the PARTICULAR "theory" being advanced may not be all that valid. Why else would they do such a thing?

LogicalDude
LogicalDude

@Tuna Meowt @Penses @LogicalDude


Party line being parroted: 

"A snowball comes from snow; snow falls when it’s cold; a lot of snow has fallen in the northeast United States this winter. Ergo, ipso facto, global warming is a fraud and is not occurring"


fedup52
fedup52

@LeninTime That is what happens when US politics takes a sharp turn to the right.  Business people  in this world loose all confidence in us.


I will bet many US companies side with Europeans.


In short Progs are good


Cons are bad for business.

LeninTime
LeninTime

@fedup52 

All true, but that's not how the narrative will get written. 

It will be seen as having happened under Barack Obama's watch. And Obama is of the 'left' don't you know.

Thus justifying an even further swing to the right.

Nick_Danger
Nick_Danger

Of course Climate Change is a hoax!  Look at this snowball!

td1234
td1234

@honested What do you have to say about the NASA scientist rejecting global warming? 

Tuna Meowt
Tuna Meowt

@td1234 @honested "What do you have to say about the NASA scientist rejecting global warming?"


What was said scientist's field of study?


If he or she was a mechanical engineer, then what does it matter?


td1234
td1234

@Tuna Meowt Since climatology is a fairly new field that has not proven itself as a valid field and engineering, physicists and chemist have then I know which one I am going to believe.

Tuna Meowt
Tuna Meowt

@td1234 @Tuna Meowt Well, my dad's a microbiologist who taught and researched at the university level for 45 years, but I'm not likely to place 100% trust in his scientific judgment when he's talking about something out of his field.


The fact that you're willing to trust scientists who are operating out of their field of specialization casts doubt on your judgment, as well as the judgment of those on whom you rely.


td1234
td1234

@Tuna Meowt @td1234 Science does not claim to be correct 100% of the time so to place total belief in them 100% of the time is just plain stupid.