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Models, birds everywhere

15 Jul 2020 | News Roundup

Models are everywhere in public policy today, from financial projections to climate change to measures to combat disease. But there are two residual problems. First, even if fed accurate data they tend to make wildly inaccurate predictions. And second, they are often fed inaccurate data. In the latter category, we wish to note that a new estimate of songbirds in Alberta suggests that there are four times as many as previously believed, or in some cases 10. Which sounds like a lot and makes you wonder how solid the other inputs are.

Actually the third problem is that sometimes the researchers don’t even believe their own data, or say they don’t, when it goes against their expectations. The piece cited the exploded notion of a massive decline in North American birds since 1970, and went on that even if there are far more birds now than we thought, “researchers say… they don’t change the overall declining trend of the province’s boreal songbirds.” Right. In the wacky world of climate alarmism, just because birds aren’t vanishing doesn’t mean birds aren’t vanishing. But would you know such a thing if you don’t know how many there are now or how many there were then?

It’s not just birds. Back in 2015 a major study suggested that the total number of trees in the world was not 400 billion but three trillion. Again when you consider the complex feedbacks that models must attempt crudely to replicate between production of CO2, greater plant growth, conservation of soil and soil moisture in consequence of leaf cover and so on, it’s kind of important to the story. Now a new study says greater growth of shrub birch and such plants in the Arctic may not sequester as much carbon as hoped for, so even if you know the number of trees with reasonable accuracy you’re far from understanding all of it. But we don’t even know if we do.

So next time someone tells you what the temperature will be in, say, Britain or Nuuk in the year 2100 to a decimal place, tell them it’s for the birds.

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