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Paul Krugman vs. the Climate Deniers


Paul Krugman has a nice response to the variant of global warming denialism favored by the statistically illiterate.

[A] lot of climate-change denial rests on spurious short-term comparisons: you pick a warm recent year, say 1998, and say “well, the trend has been down since then.”

If you want a simple analogy to see why that’s wrong, consider daily temperatures over the course of a year. Here’s data on average daily temperatures in NYC. If you look at the months of April and May, you find that the warmest day was — April 26. So clearly it’s nonsense to say that New York’s weather is getting warmer as we move into summer ….

By Ezra Klein  |  June 29, 2009; 10:34 AM ET
Categories:  Climate Change  
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I am quite statistically literate, thank you. And have studied weather data.
Where is your data from? The label on your axis doesn't even really make sense.
And if you're really measuring data from NYC (like, where there's blacktop) please look at what the data actually means.
In cities, sure, temps have been increasing (slightly). It has to do with where you put the instrument, how many trees you have, how much blacktop there is, the population of the city, the difference in instruments (over a 100 year time span?). No smoking gun there. But nothing at all to do with fossil fuels.
Your access says: deviation in basis points from an ARBITRARY year(s). So, the graph shown above actually does what krugman is railing against...making up data to fit your point. Why not just show temperatures?
There is every reason to conserve energy and try to use more environmentally friendly fuels. There is no reason to believe that the earth is warming. The earth warms, the earth cools.
If the earth starts to cool (after implementing these policies), you're going to have every environmentalist saying: see, we were right, we needed to do all this, and it's happening. If the earth warms, the environmentalists are going to say: Oh, we're not going far enough.
In the meantime, there is NO basis in fact that one thing has to do with another, i.e., that if the earth is warming, it has to do with fossil fuels. There is no causation there, even if there might be correlation. There is way more correlation with sunspots.
It's a big scam. The environmentalists are thrilled to wreck our economy, etc. I don't see India and China and Russia doing much, and they are much worse than the US in terms of fossil fuels...

Posted by: atlmom1234 | June 29, 2009 10:53 AM | Report abuse

One of the most frustrating parts of the Climate Change discussion is the ad hominem dismissals by its proponents. Is it really all that unreasonable to request more information in what is possibly the most complex system on the planet? As far as the temperature is concerned, monthly vs yearly vs decade temperature fluctuations are obviously different. However, the comparison of April to March and the comparison of 2008 to 1998 is hardly an unreasonable one. If you pick the parameters, you can find data to support your claim. However, even though I agree the planet has been warming, that's barely half the argument, and the easy part at that. Put aside the fact that warming, while it sounds simple, has a vast array of variable that affect it, to which atlmom alluded. Next you have to prove that man created this warming, that it isn't a product of the earth's cycle. Climate Change theorists blame CO2: .04% of the atmosphere. It really couldn't possibly be anything else? It's a sad state of affairs when society demonizes that for which science was created: questioning every theory.

Posted by: BradBlasiar | June 29, 2009 11:27 AM | Report abuse

"In cities, sure, temps have been increasing (slightly). It has to do with where you put the instrument, how many trees you have, how much blacktop there is, the population of the city, the difference in instruments (over a 100 year time span?)."

THANK YOU! Everyone equates "global warming" with warmer global averages which include measurements taken at a lot of places directly affected by non-greenhouse human activity. FALSE, FALSE, FALSE.

Global warming has to do with how much temperatures change at the places where temperatures are supposedly critical (ice caps, Greenland, etc.). And to whatever extent this is happening, man's liability must be limited to the part he actually causes, and only to the extent that any such actually change worsens things rather than improves them.

If you look at it like this, and not as some political wealth-guilt thing, climate change is all hat and no cattle.

Posted by: whoisjohngaltcom | June 29, 2009 11:41 AM | Report abuse

"The label on your axis doesn't even really make sense."

Translation: I don't understand it and I can't be bothered to figure it out, so I'll choose to believe that it's nonsense.

The y-axis on this graph, as you'd know if you clicked the link, is measured in .01 degree increments, using an average of the period 1951-1980 as the baseline (Y=0). It doesn't matter what the baseline is - the curve will be the same - but it's useful to choose a fairly recent period so we can easily see the change over the past few decades.

And no, the data is not from New York City. The data is for GLOBAL temperatures, like the graph says. The reference to NYC is a different argument entirely.

The source of the data is NASA, which you would know if you'd spent as much time reading as you did writing. NASA does know that you can't take temperature series in urban downtowns. They figured that one out without your help.

Or do you think NASA spent the '80's, '90's and 00's cooking the data? That would be one hell of a conspiracy, wouldn't it?

Although you may think there's no reason to believe that the earth is warming, the overwhelming majority of professionals disagree with you.

To give just one example, the American Geophysical Union, a professional society with 50,000 members in the fields of geology, geophysics, and climate, is said this in a formal position paper in 2007:

"The Earth's climate is now clearly out of balance and is warming. Many components of the climate system—including the temperatures of the atmosphere, land and ocean, the extent of sea ice and mountain glaciers, the sea level, the distribution of precipitation, and the length of seasons—are now changing at rates and in patterns that are not natural and are best explained by the increased atmospheric abundances of greenhouse gases and aerosols generated by human activity during the 20th century."

Posted by: Bloix | June 29, 2009 11:51 AM | Report abuse

What does the data look like before 1880?

Posted by: tomtildrum | June 29, 2009 11:52 AM | Report abuse

"the American Geophysical Union, a professional society with 50,000 members in the fields of geology, geophysics, and climate..."

...and headquartered in Washington, DC -- "science" capital of the world. How objective.

Posted by: whoisjohngaltcom | June 29, 2009 1:02 PM | Report abuse


I looked over the AGU position statement. The initial statement was on 2003 with a reaffirmation in December of 2009. The first thing that jumped out was the claim "As of 2006, eleven of the previous twelve years were warmer than any others since 1850". That is clearly not true. Even the erroneous temperature from James Hanson did not show that. Besides, the Hanson temperature data was withdrawn by NASA in 2007 because it had been "corrected" by Hanson to show temperatures higher than actual. After the withdrawal, the warmest year remained 1998, but the next three warmest years occurred in the 1930's. So, by the time AGU reaffirmed their potion, that data was well known, but AUG neglected to change their verbiage.

One wonders how they managed to omit the new data nor have they acknowledged the northern sea ice had declined due to wind and currents and has now come back with a vengeance.

It is also noteworthy that the cherry picked starting period of 1850 is shortly after we had moved out to the little ice age, so one would expect warming as we emerged. Still it is hard to understand why the 1930's have been omitted in the Krugman chart.

Satellite data also shows a declining temperature since 1998, but the Krugman chart does not show that.

Never forget that Krugman will "slice and dice" anything to make whatever point he wishes to make.


Posted by: goaway41 | June 29, 2009 1:09 PM | Report abuse

What irks me the most is the lack of acknowledgement that the earth has been warmer and it has been cooler...that there are natural and demonstratable cycles and all without the byproducts of the technology of man.

Oh, and 30,000 scientists including over 7,000 Phd's are SUING AL GORE FOR FRAUD.

Posted by: ElViajero1 | June 29, 2009 1:10 PM | Report abuse

According to the above chart in 1890 the average high in the summer was 5º and it was -40º in the winter.

Then in 2005 the average high was 78º in the summer and in summer the average low was 65º.

WOW!!! that is Global Warming!!!

Posted by: elrmer | July 1, 2009 9:54 AM | Report abuse

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