The Psychology of Belief

By Robert Romano — The National Weather Service called for a moderate snowstorm in the Washingon, D.C. area on Jan. 17.

In the evening leading up to it, I expressed some skepticism as the temperatures were hovering around 45 degrees, and typically for there to be real accumulation on the roadways, there needs to be some subfreezing weather in advance of the snowfall.

However, I was assured by friends that it was going to snow, and the drive home would be miserable, because the government said so.

Thursday morning I awoke and noted that at 7 am, it was still 43 degrees, and expressed my skepticism that we were going to have a major snow event.  Once again, I was assured that the temperature was going to drop precipitously throughout the day, and we were in for it, because the Weather Service had said so.

As I was reflecting on the conversation that occurred with someone who is very conservative politically, I was hit between the eyes with a fundamental challenge facing those who fight for limited government.

Even the most skeptical of big government, believe what the government puts out as data.

If the government says it is going to snow, it is going to snow, no matter what our objective observation might tell us otherwise.

Likewise, if the government tells us that unemployment is getting better, it must be getting better, even if the drop in the unemployment rate is wholly due to people dropping out of the workforce.

And if the government tells us that we had the warmest year in history in 2012, then it must be true, even when we have reason to question it.

Anecdotally, the weather in Washington, D.C. was warm last year, so for people who reside in the puzzle palace that governs our nation, the claim rings true.

But is it?  Maybe not.

Some meteorologists like Brian Sussman, point to changes in how and where data is collected that skew the numbers.

In his book Climategate, Sussman chronicles how concrete jungles that are our nation’s modern cities retain more heat and as a result the temperatures are warmer in those locations than before.

If your temperature data collection points become more urbanized, of course, they should read warmer.  Furthermore, if you disproportionately place your ground temperature sensing stations in more urbanized areas, you can unintentionally create a warming trend.

But climate change by nature is not as simple as a ground temperature reading, and fortunately, we also have satellites which measure temperatures free from the surface vagaries.  If both the satellite data and the ground data match, then you have a headline.

As far as the claim that 2012 was the warmest on history in the continental U.S., the satellite data contradicts the ground data.

In fact, the satellite data shows that the earth’s atmospheric temperatures have been stable over the past decade.  Something even Dr. James Hansen — who served as an adviser to Al Gore on his controversial documentary The Inconvenient Truth has had to come out and admit: “The five-year mean global temperature has been flat for the last decade, which we interpret as a combination of natural variability and a slow down in the growth rate of net climate forcing.”

Based upon this discrepancy, the question that a thinking person should ask is which data measurement tool is the most subject to outside variables that impact readings rather than giving true data.

Clearly, the ground temperature variables ranging from data collection locations and the surrounding communities increased urbanization as well as the increase in the number of collection locations and the choices for placement of them, provide significant variables making 2012 on ground weather measurements an apples to oranges comparison between the decades of data.

Even Hansen had to include this gem in his recent analysis: “An update through 2012 of our global analysis reveals 2012 as having practically the same temperature as 2011, significantly lower than the maximum reached in 2010.”

While most Americans will just accept the headlines created by the federal government’s declaration of a 2012 heat wave, and the agenda driven global warming pronouncements that followed, sometimes it is good to look behind the data.  Because as Paul Harvey used to say, when you look behind the headlines you learn, “the rest of the story.”

Robert Romano is the Senior Editor of Americans for Limited Government.

This article has 4 comments
  • Paul Young 21.01.2013 11:14 AM

    Why is it that the weathermen get paid whether they are right or wrong? I need a job like that. Think I should join the government workforce to get one?

  • pduffy 21.01.2013 12:15 PM

    And why do we need a “national weather service”? To make sure that bad meteoroligists keep their jobs forever and for eternity. Just what does this “service” do to help our lives? My local TV station can give me a bogus weather prediction just as bad as theses people, so why do we need them? CUT, CUT, CUT, all of their jobs.

  • pduffy 21.01.2013 1:21 PM

    It’s not just weathermen that get paid, no matter what their performance. The entire government employee system that is ‘unionized’ has permanent job protection by force of government taxation. Just look at the unionized public school system. Bad teachers get the same pay as good ones, and parents have no way to fire them. If you are worth your salt, you should not want to join them.

  • James H Waters Phd 21.01.2013 4:14 PM

    Robert, you’re not really suggesting that warming is not occurring, just because you can find some inconsistencies, are you? Oh, I suppose you really believe that 95+% of the world’s scientists involved in this are all in a conspiracy . . . What nonsense. Yes, one can always maintain some skepticism, but your level of doubt suggests to me that you really have an ulterior agenda here . . . Oh, could it be that you work for the chamber of commerce, directly or indirectly? After all, they sponsor this site, don’t they? Let’s see how they change their tune when global warming starts to be a negative, economically, which is already beginning to happen. Then you can attack Obama because he didn’t act aggressively on climate change in the past. You can join the army of posters to this site and other right wing front operations for big oil who claim that his real goal is to ruin the country. That’s about as plausible as the conspiracy theory you are attempting to float. What idiot thinks that because snow is predicted it has to happen? Got any more straw men? At least it’s not like religion, where no matter what happens, it was predicted.

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