Yogi Berra, Niels Bohr and Mark Twain have all been credited with the aphorism embedded in the title of this post (to the effect that ‘predictions are difficult, …’). It seems that it was, however, a Dane who coined it, sixty or so years ago. Yes, predictions are difficult, but we make them all the time, and we like to make them in the hope of gaining desirable outcomes. Financial advisers do it, economists in Treasury do it, party-planners do it. The further ahead we predict, however, the less confident we can be about our forecast.
Climate scientists argue with this assertion, and say that while weather forecasts have a currency of a few days only, their long-term climate projections are likely to be quite accurate. After all, they will argue, we have strong confidence that winter twenty years ahead will be like winter now. And we have to have something to go on, surely! This is a reasonable argument as far as it goes, but it doesn’t go very far. Why not? Because the projections are based on what model runs say, the models haven’t been validated or verified, and their past projections have so far been overheated, to say the least. What is more, the projections are based on what are, in the scheme of things, rather small changes in temperature. And they are being used to underpin taxes and regulations of considerable scale.
The most embarrassing aspect of the models has been their complete failure to forecast the cessation of significant warming over the last seventeen years, for which the AGW scientists have no plausible explanation. Yes, the projected warming might have gone into the deep ocean, but there’s no evidence that it has done so, or trade winds might have fiddled with it somehow, or Chinese aerosols might have cooled things done even though warning was going on. All these things are possible, but there’s no evidence that they have occurred.
And all that prompted ‘Sasha’, a commenter on Anthony Watts’s WUWT website, to post a list of 107 predictions about our coming climate that had failed or seemed likely to fail. The most recent ones came from Germany, and they went back well into last century. Predictors included such climate luminaries as Arnold Schwarzenegger and Meryl Streep. Most of them were about the coming end of Arctic ice, or of snow, or of freezing winters. The earliest is worth setting out as reported: (it didn’t happen either)
107. May 15, 1989, Associated Press: “Using computer models, researchers concluded that global warming would raise average annual temperatures nationwide [USA] two degrees by 2010.”
Commenters jumped on board, offering their own examples, and all this seemed to nettled another commenter, Les Johnson, who pointed out that he himself had an even longer list, 154, of such predictions, some of which overlapped with Sasha’s. And Les Johnson’s long list led me to yet another website where I found a further 60, again with overlap. I could keep going, and did, and found even more. They are everywhere.
It’s easy enough to laugh about the way in which the orthodox AGW people love to terrify us with what will happen if we don’t mend our ways, but there’s some serious consequences here too. For example, why don’t journalists keep tabs on these statements? When I was close to newspapers in the 1960s and 1970s, that’s what you did. Any good journalist would keep a file on subjects that interested him or her, and add to it. One day you would have a story. I had files on all sorts of things, and I was only writing a weekly column.
The second serious thought is the need to publish the most egregious examples, and try to get the media to take them up. There are well-known examples, like Professor Flannery’s warning us that all the dams would be dry, or the luckless Dr Viner of CRU in England telling people that children would wonder what that snow was in the past that everyone talked about, or Dr Hansen’s warning that the Hudson would be very much higher in Manhattan and all sort of disasters would occur. There needs to be a well-organised website devoted to exactly this task.
The third is to winnow the predictions down, so that those finally included are properly referenced, with hot links to the source, the prediction clearly stated and the actual outcome, again with a hot-link, unequivocal. And of course, the predictor identified properly.
A fourth, I think, is to develop a second website that includes the airy-fairy hand-waving statements that the orthodox make that can hardly fail because they are so vague. A good example, courtesy Jo Nova, is former Commissioner Flannery: ‘everything we’re seeing is consistent with what the climate scientists have been telling us now for decades’. If what they are saying is varied enough, then he must be right. But it’s hardly helpful to know that the future is to be full of floods, droughts, fires, freezing and heat waves. So was the past.
Actually, former Commissioner Flannery is a great exemplar, and you can see why if you ask your ‘favourite search engine’, as the ABC says even-handedly, to search for ‘Flannery’s failed climate predictions’.