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Post hoc ergo propter hoc, anyone?

The faithful just couldn’t stand the heresy of Saturday’s editorial.

“Global warming, anyone?” we asked rhetorically.

“Of course,” we teased, “one cold snap — even if it sets 20-year-records — doesn’t prove anything about the Earth’s macro-climate.

“But the spectacle of liberal politicians standing up to their waists in blizzard snowfalls, shouting over the shrieking wind to sternly warn that struggling taxpayers around the globe ‘aren’t sacrificing enough’ to fight global warming — even to insist, with a wide-eyed sincerity that would do Pollyanna proud, that ‘global warming can sometimes cause these cold snaps’ — is (depending on one’s mood) at least ironic, if not verging on the hilarious.”

Lynn could not stand it and wrote in, saying, “Observing the blizzards now occurring in the East and declaring global warming a myth as you did in your 1/09/10 editorial is akin to a Kansas farmer surveying his fields and declaring the earth to be flat.  These individual fluctuations in weather prove only that the earth’s climate is complex. …
   “Warmer and colder weather, deeper droughts, heavier floods, and mightier storms, are all consistent with current climate trends.
    “This also applies to year-to-year fluctuations.  For example, a single year during the last decade might indicate cooling, but overall, the decade was the warmest on record.”

The key word here is “record.” How long is our record? What is the proper temperature for the planet? What would be so bad about the globe warming 2 degrees, when stopping it would bankrupt the economy and make energy consumption much more costly for the poorest people?

Then there was Rodney, “Last year was the 2nd warmest year on record.  Nine of the last ten years in Las Vegas have placed in the top ten warmest on record.  There have been 51 months since Jan 2000 that have placed in the top ten warmest (may being in the top five) for their respective months.  We have not had a record low at night since June 1999.  I could go on.”

If one blizzard doesn’t make a climate, why does a decade?

All this blather about global warming being caused by mankind’s production of carbon dioxide reminds me of one of the lectures by James Hall of the University of Richmond that I’ve been listening to. I downloaded it from the Teaching Company. The course is titled “Tools of Thinking: Understanding the World Through Experience and Reason.”

In one lecture Hall outlined a whole series of logic fallacies, most with fancy Latin names. One struck a chord.

The term is “post hoc ergo propter hoc,” which roughly translates as after this, therefore because of this. So, if carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere increase and this is followed by global warming, the warming must be caused by the increase in carbon dioxide.

In fact there is a school thought — cover your eyes and ears, true believers — that global warming, whatever its cause, is followed by an increase in carbon dioxide.

Dr. Roy Spencer has postulated as much. Don’t ask me to explain it. Perhaps, in a complex environment, the two phenomenon are coincidental.


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