Tag Archives: Measurement bias

Mindfulness and sustainable behavior: how to find a correlation where none might exist

Since recently I discovered that there is a whole field of what is called ecopsychology. A couple days ago I started reading a paper by Amel, Manning, Scott and Koger (probably more about that later) and I wondered whether those four had previous papers as well on the subject. Apparently they had. Members of this group produced a bunch of papers with (an)other member(s). One of the those papers had the intriguing title “Mindfulness and Sustainable Behavior: Pondering Attention and Awareness as Means for Increasing Green Behavior” by Amel et al (2009). It was quite an intriguing read, hence this post.

The authors started from the observation that our rushed lifestyle separates us from nature and this let us fall back on automatic behaviors which are not necessarily sustainable. They investigated two aspects of mindfulness: acting with awareness (paying attention) and being in the here-and-now (observing sensations). The authors hypothesized that paying attention is necessary for making sustainable choices and their goal is to break through this automatic behavior with mindfulness, so people could adopt a more sustainable behavior.

The conclusion of the paper was that, indeed, “acting with awareness is significantly positively correlated with self-reported sustainable behavior”. They arrived at this conclusion by means of a survey. Participants completed two questionaires. One to test their level of mindfulness (they investigated two aspects: “acting with awareness” and “observing sensations”) and the other to test their level of how “green” they were. Greenness was measured on a scale of 7: 0 being “not green” (meaning: never choose the most sustainable option available if it’s more costly in terms of time, money, convenience, or personal preference) to 7 being “dark green” (meaning: always choose the most sustainable option available, even if it’s more costly in terms of time, money, convenience, or personal preference).

According to the authors, there was no correlation between “observing sensations” and the “self-reported Green Scale ratings”, but when they put “acting with awareness” against the “self-reported Green Scale ratings” in a graph, this was the result:

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Reliable measurements or pliable estimates?

The last three posts were mostly about the adjustments of the ocean data done in the Karl 2015 paper. This because the adjustments in ocean data had the biggest impact on the result (that there wasn’t something like a “hiatus”). Kevin Marshall of the excellent blog manicbeancounter.wordpress.com reminded in a comment on previous post that surface datasets had issues as well.

I could agree with that one, I also had written a post in the first year of blogging: Things I took for granted: Global Mean Temperature,, that described how my perception of a global mean temperature changed from believer until skeptic and why I had a hard time to believe that the (surface) datasets were accurate enough to capture an 0.8 °C increase in temperature over 160 years.

Reading it back I was a bit surprised that I wrote this already in my first year of blogging. But, in line with the Karl et al paper, there were two things that I think were missing in this early piece.

First, that the data in the surface datasets are not measurements, but estimates derived from the temperature station measurements. In a way that could be concluded from the uneven spatial coverage, the convenience sampling and other measurement biases like Urban Heat Island, Time of Observation and who knows what more. This makes that the homogenized end result will just be an estimate of the actual mean temperature.

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Counting swallows

barn-swallow

A couple days ago the first barn swallows were seen back in our country. Barn swallows stay in Belgium roughly from April until October and each autumn migrate to the to West and Central Africa. They stay there during our winter and return to Europe in Spring to breed. Many consider spring not complete without barn swallows and the sighting of the first swallows is guaranteed to get the news. Like for example (translated from Dutch):

The swallows are two days earlier than in 2013 and 2014, the big arrival is expected by the end of March. “This date is moving forward under the influence of climate change,” says Dominique Verbelen of Natuurpunt. “In 1985, for example, the arrival only started on April 5.”

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The first turning point

My story from believer to skeptic – part 2
You might see Part 1 first if you haven’t already.

Temps

Basically, both sides seemed to have proof of their case. It was definitely a confusing time, but I carried on. At that time I mostly accepted answers from the alarmist side, giving hardly any weight to the skeptic side because I questioned their motives.

Without knowing it, I learned some important lessons. Firstly, it is very difficult to change a belief, especially when it was build up and maintained for so long. Secondly, if one is focused on a negative quality of someone (real or imagined), it is not possible to consider their arguments. But this was going to change soon.

To find out more about the different standpoints in global warming, I followed many discussions online. When following such a discussion, I was directed to a site called surfacestations of Anthony Watts. On this site USHCN weather stations were documented. Volunteers surveyed the weather stations to be able to check if the station quality was in accordance with the specifications and some photo’s were taken. This information was posted on their site.

The more I navigated this site, the more I got baffled. I saw weather stations located next to air conditioner units, close to buildings and parking lots, even one on the roof of a building. These things undoubtedly will have an influence on the temperature reading. If this is the way temperatures (that prove the world is warming at an unprecedented rate) are being measured, then how reliable are these records?!?!?!

The process was at that time not completely finished, but the end result was devastating: from memory, about 80-85% of the sites were not even compliant with the regulations, only about 15-20% would have a correct temperature registration.

My thought at that time was: if this is true, I have a hard time believing this claim of unprecedented warming anymore. If this is how the raw data is collected, that unprecedented warming could well be an artifact of the way temperatures were measured. When the collected raw data is unreliable, then the result of the calculation with that raw data will be unreliable as well.

This made me looking with different eyes at skeptical sites. More and more I began to explore their arguments. At least in this one they seemed to have a valid point. The more I looked at the data behind global warming, the more my belief in catastrophic anthropogenic global warming started to crumble. At one point I really doubted the catastrophic/anthropogenic part, but the alarmist side still had a convincing argument in their sleeve.

Go to Part III