I haven’t checked out Iain Dale’s CV, but I suspect it does not include a period studying statistics.  Because he seems to believe in a recent post that taking one month every ten years from one location in the UK is a sufficient reason to justify statements about the effect of carbon dioxide throughout the entire globe over a 150 year period. Yup.  Coming to a dinner party near Iain, some poor soul will be bored by the story of how we’re not warming up, because 1868 was a warm June in Oxford.

One useful consequence of this bunch of nonsense is that it led me to the Met’s collection of data.  The first thing that any statistician will notice is variability.  Taking one region at random (Kirkwall) and a month (May), the standard deviation over the period in question was 0.95 centigrade.   Given that a 2 degree warming is what is bothering people, that will happen between year 1 and year 2 around 3% of the time, anyway.  So you get a lot of real scattering.

For example, consider Stornoway.  Just taking its annual average instead of one month reduces the scattering:

Now, what about the whole UK?  One of the problems is that weather stations have been added over the years.  And they seem to have been added more in the south, so that just adding them raises the average.  In theory, I could take this into account in about 20 minutes – just adjust the averages by how much Guernsey is warmer than Glasgow, say.  But since this is aimed at a non-statistician like Dale, such activity would raise suspicions.  So I just take the 7 stations that have recorded data from 1890 to 2008, which are:


and I average over the whole year for all seven.  So, each year represents 84 data points, not 1.   In theory, this should reduce the standard deviation by a lot – but since there is a fair amount of correlation between different parts of the UK and different months in the same region, not by very much.  StDev falls to 0.45.  This is what it then looks like:

Note the equations.  The top one indicates that the slope of the line is about 0.7 C per century.  However, if you took the last 30 years of so, and did THAT line, you would get a steeper rise:

of more like 2.5 degrees per century.

Plain old extrapolation is a lousy, crude instrument.  It also only explains a portion of the movement. El Nino and all that.  The R-squared figures indicate that just 20-40% of the annual change in temperature is accounted for by that small (0.01-0.02) degree change in the average – there is a lot of Gulf Stream in there. The standard deviation each year is about 20 times as big as the creeping-up average.  This is why some idiot remembering how it was warmer a few years back is such an idiot. It is rather like someone refuting the proposition “Man U are better than Leyton Orient” with a single attempt on goal in an FA Cup 3rd round game.

I have spent all of one hour on this.  I am good with figures, and still think I would need many more hours with the global dataset to make definite claims from it – there are many pitfalls, and possibilities of skewed selection, in proving things statistically.  However, the very ease with which blundering loudmouths think they can *prove* from single data points, that there is no global warming, again proves to me that the choice of what to believe is not about the science or the stats.

It becomes increasingly clear: sceptics do not believe what they believe because of access to a better data set, an improved set of scientific techniques for treating that data, a better theory for explaining it, or indeed better ethics.  They believe it because the vastness of the Internet, and the intrinsic need for human beings to find results that confirm their own baises.  They believe it because they want to – and my post, full of graphs, is unlikely to show them otherwise.

UPDATE:  Unity on Liberal Conspiracy has done an even more convincing job here


20 thoughts on “Iain Dale reveals the depth of statistical knowledge of the denier class

  1. Its astonishing that people think what Iain has done/quoted is actually convincing.

    I’m always amazed that people also think that professional climatologists/geologists/oceanographers etc are actually really crap, and someone with a blog and a duff methodology can overturn all their work.

    People believe what they want to believe, and there are plenty of people out there, not just Big Oil, that are willing to provide the means for them to fool themselves. Oh dear.

  2. Yeah, as they put it on the Now show, they think that the chief economist of every large oil producing body might be fooled by global warming, but that TalkSport, Clarkson and Iain Dale plus his band of amateur climate sleuths might be able to see through it.

    Glad to have the data now. May do one on global temperatures soon.

  3. Your graph shows 3 years after 1998 to be warmer. Either your graph or all the others is wrong.

    You know perfectly well that Iain did not say what you claim but merely celebrated that the Met Office had, at last, made their figures available & that the alleged catastrophic warming we are experiencing was not instantly visible. Not instantly visible through my window either.

    That you have to pretend this way shows you also know perfectly well that the entire thing is an eco-fascist fraud.

  4. Hello Neil,

    I took my own method. Just 7 places in the UK. Just one hour. Just 100 times as much data as the person who Iain based his blog post on.

    Iain did not use this incredibly thin story to prove the existence of an eco-fascist fraud. That’s what we have melodramaqueens like you for. It’s good to have someone to quote who thinks what they see from their window has any bearing, it confirms what we think you believers in eco-fascism use for data.

  5. And do you recognise that either it or all the others, showing 1998 was warmer, must be wrong? 😉

    I suspect the urban heat effect may be more pronouinced in Britain because we are relatively urbanised.

    If there were clear evidence of catastrophic warming it would be obvious – that is why it is called catastrophic.

  6. All my study was meant to show was how much more complete a 7-place, 110 year 12-month study of the UK was that one taking 15 years, of one place, and one month. I am not such a genius that I can recreate the global figures with all the adjustments in one hour. It would be rather suspicious if I could, no?

    I thought catastrophic warming was 2-3 C over fifty years. Why do you think that should be immediately obvious? We are only meant to be 1C into this process. People hoping for the obvious: it is a classic “politician blundering into science” sort of attitude.

    Urban heat: well, 11% of the UK is built up. Wimbledon common is way colder than Putney, if you go out and look at the snow still there. Not sure why this should prove an insuperable obstacle to measurement.

  7. Well done.

    A couple of comments from eyeballing your data

    1) You can see why people worried about global cooling in the 1960s. Your data go down from the end of the war until then.

    2) When I look at that data, I see an initial flat period (to, say, 1928), then a hump 1928-68, then a decade of stagnation (appropriate for the 1970s?) and then a rise.

    Finally, if you want to listen to my views on Climate change and the industrial revolution, tune in to Channel 4, 28th December, 8pm, for the last of the Tony Robinson series on climate change.

    1. I will try to watch that!

      Yes, there seem to be some clear patterns, though I do not know the science well enough, the lags etc, to know whether the dip in the 1960s meant anything. I see this whole matter as about tail risk, rather than the averages.

      Irony piled on irony my fingers are too numb to continue . . .

  8. “As of last year it was 0.1C & falling compared to Hansen’s prediction of 20 years previously. Obviously the BBC reported this in the proper way – not.

    This is false:


    Moreover, why exactly are you bringing up Hansen’s 21 year old projections? You’d be a fool if you thought 21 year old science was cutting edge.

    “If there were clear evidence of catastrophic warming it would be obvious – that is why it is called catastrophic.”

    Wait, you think people are claiming catastrophe has already happened????? Wow, no wonder denialists suffer so much cognitive dissonance.

    (I should point out that “catastrophic” is a subjective term. Few climatologists are predicting “catastrophic warming” – the big unknown is the greenhouse gas deposits in the tundra that might get released, and if they do, then we will get catastrophic warming, but it’s pretty damn hard to predict if that will happen under current science. However, if we assume such deposits aren’t released, the likely warming of around 2 or 3 degrees doesn’t sound “catastrophic”, but the impact of that warming could be “catastrophic” (depending on your definition of “catastrophic”). Certainly plenty of people will die. I dunno how “catastrophic” the predicted effects have to be before the right can no longer shrug their shoulders at it.)

  9. Firstly while recognising your claim that it is false to say Hansen said that, as representing the absolute pinnacle of honesty of which most supporters of warming are capabl;e it is, of course, a total, complete & deliberate lie. He did say that untruth.

    Your 2nd point – predictions proving wrong can never be taken as evidence that the predictors aren’t now wholly correct is obviously silly. I assume that in another 20 years you will be saying thatthe predictions made today proving wrong don’t count & we should still believe whatever lie you are trying to sell by then. For a theory to be scientific it has to be falsifiable & the theory that Hansen is somethin g other than a charlatan is clearly falsified by this (& also by the fact that he was involved in the ice age scare previously.)

  10. Poo-pooing people pointing to old out of date predictions does leave one open to the criticism that today’s predictions will be old and out of date tomorrow; and begs the question of why should we not look at the accuracy of previous iterations when considering the accuracy of those currently being offered? Has anyone actually done any serious work on whether the predictions have become more accurate in the last 20 years, 10 years, 5 years, 2 years? Has anyone tracked predictive iteration to iteration against the empirical reality (without having to bend the prima facie data to breaking point with statistical treatments or selecting data from statistically invalid samples); if not then simply skipping to the next iteration of prediction means judgement on the accuracy of the prediction is perpetually suspended one iteration away?

  11. “n. For a theory to be scientific it has to be falsifiable & the theory that Hansen is somethin g other than a charlatan is clearly falsified by this (& also by the fact that he was involved in the ice age scare previously.)”

    well, if you subscribe to a concept of science not held in the academy since the 1960s…

    But seriously Neil, did you know that as long as your head is under the duvet, it doesn’t
    matter if your body is sticking out: if you can’t see them, they can’t see you!

  12. I do subnscribe to that concept of scienc. I don’t know what you mean about it being officially changed unless you are referring to a very silly article by Mike Hume about “post normal science” in which he says that “science” must be whatever politicians say it is.

    The serious part of your comment is simply a pointless fact free personal attack. I acknowledge it as being the best the eco-fascists can now manage.

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