The Climate Change Pope – Part 1

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In my former blogging life, I became enamored with looking into the actual global temperature numbers.   This may seem odd to the casual observer, but you have to understand that I am a math, computer, and science guy.   In college, at one point I was a Math & Physics major, with a Chemistry, Computer Science, and Microelectronics minor.    When I finally decided to become an actuary I dropped the science, as it was no longer necessary.   But I love science and I appreciate the scientific process.

In my more than 25 years as an actuary, I have also developed a profound appreciation for taking an unbiased view of the numbers.   When you are working for a company and they are expecting you to give answers that will ultimately impact bottom line, you cannot bring preconceived biases into the equation and pretend that what you are seeing isn’t really what you are seeing.    Nor can you pretend to see something that isn’t actually there.   This would lead to bad business decisions and it would be poor actuarial practice.

I’ve always been intrigued by the stories that numbers can actually tell.   There have been a number of times where I entered into an analytical exercise expecting to see one result, which was exactly the opposite of the actual result.    Upon further consistency testing, it became evident that what I previously thought was simply wrong.   The fun part is to try and figure out why that is the case.    Being forced with the reality of the results, it usually became clear and obvious why the numbers were what they were, but before actual observation the explanation was not self-evident.

In my work on global temperature data, I was extremely disappointed by what seems to be an utter failure on the part of climate-change proponents to present the reality of the actual temperature data.   I’m not talking about climate models, or CO2 readings, or anecdotal items of some glacier melting here or there.   I’m talking about the actual data.

Anyone who really wants to dive into my past writings on this can find a plethora of posts on Digital Diatribes.   Just google that and you’ll get there.

The intent of this post isn’t to rehash all of that.   But it is worth noting what are the clear conclusions I consistently found:

  1. There is an increasing temperature trend, and it’s been pretty consistently trending up since the mid/late 1800s.   We had extremely colder weather in the 1800s, and the upward trend started before fossil fuels were an issue.   The overall trend is less than a half-degree Celsius per Century.
  2. The trend seemed to accelerate in the 80s and 90s if you focus on the short-term periods, but they really didn’t. Or if they did, it wasn’t a dramatic acceleration.   There may be a small bit of higher trend in the last few decades above expected levels, but we are talking about less than a tenth of a degree difference.
  3. Temperatures are clearly cyclical, which was the main problem with the panicked view of the up-tick in temps in the 80s and 90s.   I fitted many graphs using cyclical waves along with trend and it was clear and obvious to any serious data reviewer that this was appropriate and predictive.
  4. I ran correlation analyses against sunspot activity, and it is extremely evident that solar activity is strongly correlated on a delayed basis with temperature.   Solar cycles were more intense and shorter in the 80s and 90s, and are lengthening out now with much less activity.
  5. My predictive models – much simpler and based only on temperature numbers – have proven far more accurate than any of the more complex climate models that all the experts try to perfect.
  6. The actual historical temperature data changes. Yes, that’s correct.   The official NASA data relies on temperature monitors and what-not across the globe to estimate global temps.   They then use an algorithm to re-state the past historical data. The intent is to normalize past data to current measurement capabilities.   In theory, I get it, but the fact is that studies have been done on this and the continued restatement of this data has had the impact of lowering the actual historical measurements of temperature, which creates a higher warming trend value.   The problem is that this restatement is completely assumption-based, and is not the actual result.   It’s basically reverse-modeling of past temperatures.   Since the go-forward modeling has overstated expected temperature trends, it’s hard to accept that the past reverse-modeling has accurately captured history.

I ultimately stopped doing my climate change blog because I had reviewed it enough to become convinced that 90% of the current trend in increasing temperatures was a natural phenomenon, coming out of a previous period of colder temperatures after an extended spotless sun, known as the Maunder Minimum (I would encourage others to read about that).   There were extended warm periods in the centuries before that, well before there could be any serious argument for anthropogenic warming.   I had done enough, I figured out the story, and I could also accept that there was some potentially minor contribution to warming through human-caused greenhouse gases.   But the contributive impact of adding five-hundredths to one-tenth of a degree per Century did not register in my admittedly simple mind as anything to be even remotely concerned about.

As a member of the insurance community, I also knew first-hand how deceiving some of the stats about ever-increasing losses from storms were.   From both a frequency and severity standpoint, if you take inflation into account, as well as demographic movements, there is actually nothing remarkable about anything we’ve seen in the last 20, 30, or 40 years.    There just isn’t.   All of us in the industry know this, whether we openly say it or not.   Further, there is just more insurance being purchased on more things in more ways with more kinds of products.    It becomes a bit difficult to figure out from event to event how comparable they all are.    But we know enough to know that once you correct for the things we know with a high degree of certainty, the trend isn’t eye-popping.

Which now, as a Catholic who has taken great pains to not over-react to what the Pope says on certain things, I now get a bad case of spiritual heartburn when I hear the Pope talk about climate change.

I’ve written enough for today.   I’ll follow up more specifically on the Pope’s comments.    I can live with the spirit of many of his comments, but he has also strayed into a narrow focus as well, and quite honestly, I just think he’s wrong (not on the underlying faith and morals of stewardship, but on what he thinks stewardship means in the nitty gritty details).

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  1. Pingback: The Climate Change Pope, Part 2 | Catholic Diatribes

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