Tag Archives: Faulty Comparison

Hornsdale Power Reserve: the mouse that stopped the elephant from falling

After writing previous post, the RenewEconomy article kept going through my mind. The author of the article suggested that the response of the Hornsdale Power Reserve to a tripping coal fired power unit was extraordinary, when in reality it was insignificant in the grand scheme of things. I wondered why on earth the author was so lyrical about what was in fact a poor performance…

Then it suddenly struck me. It might well be a misinterpretation of how the event was represented.

Let me explain.

There were two graphs presented in the article. The first one is the frequency versus the response of the Hornsdale Power Unit and it stood central in previous post. There is however a second graph in the article and it is this graph that could easily lend itself to misinterpretation. It shows the sharp decline of the tripped coal unit combined with the response of the Hornsdale battery:

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Imagine that 11,000 doctors tell you that you are dying of cancer…

When I looked at the stats of my previous post a couple days ago, I noticed that there were quite some visits coming from Twitter. However, when I looked at the tweet linking to my post on my own twitter account, I didn’t see that many views and hardly any engagements, so only few clicked the link. These stat views definitely didn’t come via my own tweet. This prompted me to search for the distribution of the link to my previous post on twitter.

I quickly found some twitter accounts that picked up the link to my previous post. Two of them were interesting, these are both replies on tweets about (alarmist) articles from the Guardian and the Independent.

This is the tweet that originated from the Independent:

The tweet stated that a sane person would not need more convincing than the 11,000 scientists backing up the “report” (it is actually a viewpoint). He took the list of 11,000 “scientists” as a confirmation that we are in a climate emergency (and maybe even are too late already). I am pretty sure that the tweep didn’t look at that list…

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Realists need not apply…

Continuing from previous two posts on the “interview” of Nic Balthazar, something that was clear from the beginning was that Balthazar was not very keen on “realism”. I certainly can understand why and will explain it later in this post. One of those realists that Balhazar looked down on is a certain “climate critic” (whatever that may be) (translated from Dutch):

A climate critic was in De Morgen (Belgian newspaper) this weekend and he said two things a) that two percent [sic], that is not enough anyway, also we should not cheer about it. Even if we get there, it would be far too little and 2) [sic] there are many other important things for many people on this planet, namely, do I survive today? Do I survive this week?

My first thought was that it must be Bjørn Lomborg. He got, to my surprise (and that of many others), interviewed in that (left-wing) newspaper only about two weeks ago. I knew that Lomborg indeed claims that there are more important things than climate, but then, as far as I knew, he didn’t claim that “two degrees is not enough/far too little”.

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The doctor’s analogy again: the climate is like a child with a diagnosed cancer

The doctor’s analogy is frequently used in climate change communication. In most cases, it goes like this: “Wouldn’t you go with the advises of your doctor when he tells you …?” or “When you have cancer would you go to a cardiologist?”. Last Sunday I saw that doctor enter the analogy in a different way in the interview of Nic Balthazar in the current events program “De 7de dag” (see previous post) (translated from Dutch):

Screenshot of “de 7de dag” of December 16, 2018. Nic Balthazar: making the doctor’s analogy

You should really have to compare to, an unpleasant comparison, the doctors come and they say, madam and sir, your child has cancer. At the moment, it could still be contained, we can operate, do chemo therapy, everything. It is going to cost, it will be difficult, hard and all, but we can get that child to recover. And when you now talk about our economy, we can really come out of this better. We can, with renewable energy, cleaner air, end up in a much safer life in geopolitics. But it will be difficult. Would that father and mother then say, yes but, pfff, it’s a bit too expensive? No, they will not do that. We [sic] are going to say: whatever it takes. Just look at Music for Life, everything is possible at that moment. And yet we do not do it, and an annoying comparison, one single child that have cancer, but we are talking about all the children of the world.

and also later this emotional appeal (translated from Dutch):

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The doctor’s analogy: people defer to the expert consensus of climate scientists

Another term that I recently learned is “False Equivalence” (when two things are proposed as being equal, although there are substantial differences between the two). Reading the Skeptical Science article “97% consensus on global warming” that I discussed in previous posts, I spotted one right away. It is the good ol’ doctor’s analogy.

This is how it is explained in the article:

Expert consensus is a powerful thing. People know we don’t have the time or capacity to learn about everything, and so we frequently defer to the conclusions of experts. It’s why we visit doctors when we’re ill.

Which is all true. Expert consensus is indeed a powerful thing. It is also true that people are not able to learn about everything and, in things we don’t know much about, we turn to people who (seem to) know more about it. One such example is going to a doctor when being ill. Not everybody is able to get a degree in medical science, so when we feel ill, we turn to those people who got such a degree. For the record, I will happily go to a doctor when I am ill, knowing that medical science, while not perfect, is rather reliable and if I listen to the advice of the doctor, chances are that I get well again.

My eyes started to roll when the author of the article states that:

The same is true of climate change: most people defer to the expert consensus of climate scientists.

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Belgium fossil-fuel free in nine … err … ten steps

While looking for more information on the fossil-fuel free in nine steps campaign (see previous post), I encountered a similar looking campaign: ten measures to ban fossil energy to the past. It was similar because nine of the ten measures/steps were identical in both campaigns, though they were placed in a different order. Unlike the webpage of the nine steps campaign, this page was actually dated. The ten-measures list was published on November 17, 2016. A week after the US elections.

This made me curious about the relationship between the nine- and the ten-steps campaign. Did the nine-steps campaign came first and was one step added in order to come to the ten-steps campaign? Or did the ten-measures campaign come first and did it morph it into the nine-steps campaign by one measure being tossed out? I needed to find the date of this nine-steps campaign.

Then I got the idea to look into the source of the page. Some webpage generators write the publish date into the meta data of the header, maybe this was also the case here. Looking into the page source, it became clear that they use the WordPress Wunder theme and, yes, the creation date was in there.

The creation date of the page is November 16, 2016 at 12:28.

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“Climate Risks” as conclusive as the link between Smoking and Lung cancer?

Via the Cliscep post “Don’t call me an alarmist,” says alarmist, I landed on this livescience article: Treading the Fine Line Between Climate Talk and Alarmism. It is an op-ed written by Sarah E. Myhre about climate change communication and her wish not being called an alarmist.

One thing that caught my attention in the op-ed was this statement:

We would never fault an oncologist for informing patients about the cancer risks that come with smoking. Why would we expect Earth scientists to be any different, when we’re just as certain?

It is not clear from the text what we should expect from those Earth scientists. Luckily, the links goes to an article in Scientific American, titled “Climate Risks as Conclusive as Link between Smoking and Lung Cancer”. So apparently, she means that the Earth scientists know as much from climate risks as medical scientists about the link between smoking and lung cancer…

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