Less reliable than Old Ben’s Almanack?

Tim Worstall has a very interesting post over at the Adam Smith Institute blog on the validity of those temperature projections that get the IPCC so much publicity and which form the basis for all the alarmism that we hear. Two researchers who literally wrote the book on scientific forecasting have looked at the IPCC’s methodology. Tim’s post is worth quoting at length:

The essential point is that to be valid, forecasts must be more than just the expression of the scientists’ thoughts or hunches, however dressed up they are in mathematics. There are so many points in climate models where judgement must be used (for the details of many processes are as yet unknown) that it is arguable whether these models are in fact “scientific forecasts” rather than simply exceedingly complex expressions of the thoughts and hunches. Which, as James Surowiecki has repeatedly pointed out, are subject to groupthink reinforcement, most especially if each supposedly independent voice is in fact communicating with all of the others.

Running part of the IPCC report through their long developed 140 point checklist the authors find that:

Of the 89 forecasting principles that we were able to rate, the Chapter violated 72.

Their final conclusions are summed up in these two lines:

We asked, are these forecasts a good basis for developing public policy? Our answer is “no”.


We have been unable to identify any scientific forecasts to support global warming. Claims that the Earth will get warmer have no more credence than saying that it will get colder.

No, I have absolutely no idea whether the authors are right or not but it might be worth noting that Armstrong is backing his findings with a $20,000 bet on whether climate change will in fact happen or not. My real hope though is that someone actually does check and see whether they’re right or not: after all, we’re about to commit ourselves to spending trillions of dollars on the basis of the IPCC Report: shouldn’t we actually find out if it is correct first?

Good question. Another interesting thing raised by this critique is that, for all the ballyhoo about 2500 scientists being involved, the IPCC seems to be an enormous echo chamber operating outside of mainstream scientific thought. Last year, when the chairman of the National Academy of Science’s panel on Applied Statistics looked at the statistical methodology of the paleoclimatologists he found serious drawbacks (PDF link). He was, of course, dismissed for not being part of the echo chamber. This study will likely suffer the same attacks and the alarm will continue, even as before.