Global Warming vs. the Outside Temperature
By Arnold Kling
Today, the high school where I teach had an “environmental awareness” seminar. I walked in during the middle, so I did not catch the woman’s name. The kids said that she had worked with Al Gore, and that many of her slides were similar to those in the movie. I tried to keep quiet, but when she started saying that the seas were going to rise by 20 feet (she even said that 40 feet was a possibility), I said that the consensus was 20 centimeters. She also explained away all the scientists who disagree with her on global warming by saying they were paid for by energy companies, just as the tobacco companies paid scientists to deny a link between smoking and cancer.
The kids did not like her very much. I think she went over the way the movie “Reefer Madness” went over when it was shown in the 1950’s. When you’re over-the-top with teenagers, they tend to resist.
But maybe her problem was that it’s so bloody cold outside. I looked up the history of heating-degree days for our area, and this page says that normal for 1961-1990 is 4046 per year. According to today’s Washington Post, we are at 3839 for the winter so far (their “normal” is 3874), and the forecast for the next ten days suggests to me that we have a good chance of topping 4046 for the winter before we hit May.
Using the heating-degree-day metric, it looks like this winter is going to turn out to be close to normal relative to 1961-1990. I know that this is only one part of the world, and this is just one season of one year. But in economics, if we were looking at a recent trend and a number came in way off that trend, that would be considered an interesting data point. If, say, the consumer price index or personal income per capita in the DC area were to come in at the average levels seen in 1961-1990, the economics profession would have some ‘splainin’ to do. We’d wonder what we have to do to our models to make the point fit.
And economics isn’t even a science.