Derek Mancinho’s Aug. 27 letter questioning climate change talks about data reporting.
As a statistician, I would note that it is not true that “if the original data set contains only whole numbers … then so must all results”. I’ll skip the academic lecture, but averages are more precise than are raw data values, even with rounding. Climate scientists’ reporting methods are proper.
Mr. Mancinho also says to “follow the money, follow the politicians”. This advice is good. Doing so suggests that the force behind climate change denial is almost exclusively money and politics—on the side of those who stand to lose if coal and gas are regulated and discouraged.
Almost nothing today is 100 percent free of money and politics, but the science of climate change is predominantly honest science done by trained professionals trying to figure out what is going on with our planet.
Climate deniers commonly appeal to a few contrarian scientists for support. Bright and passionate individuals may offer alternate views that improve overall understanding in certain particulars. Only rarely, though, will they overturn fundamental relations corroborated by massive amounts of research and analysis.
As an example, perhaps the greatest statistician of the Twentieth Century, R. A. Fisher, argued strongly against the idea that tobacco causes health problems because no clinical trials could ethically be run to prove the connection. Evidence over the years is nonetheless unequivocal—smoking increases your chance of lung cancer and heart disease. Also, over the years the tobacco industry tried hard to cast doubt on these links.
The parallel between this example and the current climate debate is spot on. In fact, the Heartland Institute, a leading advocate of climate change denial, also has a long history of denying the consensus view of tobacco-related health problems.