Nate Silver Issues a Challenge to Climate Change Skeptics


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Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight, an ace prognosticator and sometimes pundit, seems to be getting a little hot under the collar when it comes to dealing with climate change skeptics. First Silver took it to George Will over his misapplication of climate data, and now Silver has turned his ire to those who mistake weather for climate.It seems a blog post out of Minnesota got Silver started. John Hinderaker at PowerLine blogged that his summer in Minnesota has been filled with cold, cold days.

I don't think things are quite so bad this year, but if something doesn't change pretty soon 2009 may go down in history, in some parts of the U.S. at least, as another year with barely any summer. Here in Minnesota and across the Midwest, temperatures are abnormally cold. I don't know whether the phenomenon is world-wide--data that will answer this question have probably not been assembled, and may not be honestly reported--but the current low level of solar activity suggests that the cooling trend could indeed be universal.

The PowerLine writer then links his own observances of weather to the trend of global warming experienced around the globe, saying:

I personally don't think that we (all of humankind, let alone we Americans) can control the weather, but for those who do think we possess that Godlike power, here's a request: can we turn the thermostat up a little?

It seems to be this last part that so upset Nate Silver. He knows, of course, that short-term weather patterns are statistically insignificant when compared with long-term trends. Therefor, the PowerLine writer's musings on his hometown's weather means next to nothing when one considers the long-term impact of dumping billions of tons of greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere, which is warming the planet.

I don't want list all the details of Silver's challenge in this post, but you can read them all here. In essence, Silver challenges skeptical bloggers to this: "For each day that the high temperature in your hometown is at least 1 degree Fahrenheit above average, as listed by Weather Underground, you owe me $25. For each day that it is at least 1 degree Fahrenheit below average, I owe you $25."

There's a few more caveats that you should pay attention to if you're interested. Any takers?

More on Nate Silver:
FiveThirtyEight Throws Out An AGW Challenge
Americans willing to pay no more than $18.75 a month to fight global warming

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