Modeling Disasters

Coming soon to a beach near you: sharks and other hungry predators desperately seeking a food supply displaced by global warming.

It always astonishes me that a publication calling itself a “newspaper” can report as fact, leaving no allowance for the possibility of error, a story such as this: “As Waters Warm, Predators’ Hunger Games Will Get Tougher.” [Note that the online version tones it down a bit: “…predators may go hungry.” (Emphasis added.) Hedging their bets, I guess.]

Basing their study on “climate specialists'” estimates that average sea surface temperatures will rise from 1.8 to 10.8° by the end of this century—quite a range!—a group of marine scientists at Stanford have concluded:

Predators of the North Pacific Ocean – among them many sharks, whales, seals and sea turtles – will be forced to swim farther from their food supplies or go hungry as the world’s warming climate shifts their normal habitats.

And who are these “climate specialists”? The article explains:

Still another group of scientists developed complicated mathematical models linking the effects of global warming on the habitats of both marine animals and their prey. The warming forecasts came from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Ah, complicated mathematical models based on IPCC forecasts. I suppose that’s supposed to mean that non-scientists such as I shouldn’t bother my pretty little head about their accuracy.

But now that the IPCC has been making such predictions for 30 years, I think it’s fair to check in and see how good they are.

“Satellite-Era Sea Surface Temperature Anomalies Versus IPCC Hindcasts/Projections” sums them up:

The models performed—I’m looking for an appropriate word—pathetically.

Look for example at this graph showing the divergence of IPCC modeled predictions for global ocean temperature rises (in red) versus actual measurements:

The IPCC predicts less warming at the higher and lower latitudes; more in the tropics and equator. Reality has diverged almost entirely from these predictions.

Among other problems, IPCC sea temperature models do not account for El Niño/La Niña-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) patterns—critically important, of course, to the regions that are the focus of the Stanford report—the author points out that in the East Pacific Ocean—approximately 33% of the surface area of the global oceans, and where ENSO is not—sea surface temperatures have decreased since 1982; while the rest of the world’s oceans have remained relatively flat except during the periods of El Niño/La Niña. The theory that anthropogenic activity is responsible for the warming of the world’s oceans thus begs the question:

Since 1982, what anthropogenic global warming processes would overlook the Sea Surface Temperatures of 33% of the global oceans and have an impact on the other 67% but only during the months of the significant El Niño events of 1986/87/88, 1997/98 and 2009/10?

Even the IPCC’s own website acknowledges that

There have been large observed variations in sea level rise in the Pacific Ocean mainly due to ocean circulation changes associated with ENSO events.

In short, complicated mathematical models are no better at predicting the climate than they are the economy.

So why are studies citing such flawed predictions still heralded? Why does anyone listen to Paul Krugman when he continues to tout “broken window” nonsense, and how can the IPCC possibly retain its prominence as the authority on global warming when it has been so clearly wrong?

As our book, The New Holy Wars: Economic Religion vs. Environmental Religion in Contemporary America discusses, global warming and economic science are the favored secular religions today, the IPCC and Paul Krugman the high priests, with sinners buying indulgences (“carbon offsets”), blind belief winning out over rational thought—and both are equally dangerous in providing justification for increasing centralized control over almost every aspect of human activity.

Maybe experience and facts will drive them from their temples, maybe not, but we who value individual freedom must continue to fight for facts because such flawed theory is the Trojan horse of all time for control over every detail of our lives and the recipe for the total loss of liberty.

P.S. Anyone with access to Google can easily take a tour of articles and debates surrounding “IPCC models at 30” (IPCC has been modeling for 30 years, feel free to craft your own query), and come across a cross-range of links such as:

Antarctic Sea Ice Reaches Record High: IPCC Models Predicted The Opposite

NASA / IPCC Climate Models: Latest Global Temperature Data Confirm Computer Simulations Lack Of Predictive Skill

Satellite-Era Sea Surface Temperature Versus IPCC Hindcast/Projections

Mary L. G. Theroux is Senior Vice President of the Independent Institute. Having received her A.B. in economics from Stanford University, she is Managing Director of Lightning Ventures, L.P., a San Francisco Bay Area investment firm, former Chairman of the Board of Advisors for the Salvation Army of both San Francisco and Alameda County, and Vice President of the C.S. Lewis Society of California.
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