January 4, 2010

Modeling for Political Gain

Justin Katz

Christopher Horner's wry observation concerning policies that rely on result modeling suggests a valuable perspective adjustment on a variety of issues, especially when it comes to the environment and the economy:

You may have seen the Washington Times' lead story reporting that, when Obama's Department of Agriculture computer model assessments of cap-and-trade's impact revealed that it would encourage farmers to plant trees for carbon credits instead of food, the administration told the modelers to change the assumptions to get a different result. ...

So the administration rushed to tell us there were problems with the models, wrong assumptions, etc. The modelers, without the intervention of politicians, had gotten it wrong, you see. But now that the pols have told them what to do, why, all will be well.

Horner then widens the picture to include climate modeling, ultimately applying the perspective that we lose all too quickly when we jump into the fray throwing bombs about scientists and talk radio talkers:

But of course, everyone knows that models predicting the weather are very reliable. Trillion-dollar-policy reliable, apparently.

The burden isn't on skeptics to prove that climatological models are wholly false; it's on those who would take economy-changing steps in order to save the planet who must prove that those particular measures will have the predicted effect on the predicted circumstances.