Climate Attribution Studies Can’t Be Trusted — New Paper

Climate Attribution Studies Can’t Be Trusted — New Paper


Benny Peiser at the Global Warming Policy Foundation asked me to investigate so-called climate attribution studies. I did. They don’t work.

Since that’s too brief a judgment, even though accurate, I expanded the critique somewhat. Here’s the press release:

A paper published today shows that attempts to blame extreme weather on human-caused global warming are “overconfident and probably wrong”. The paper, by statistician and philosopher of science Dr William M Briggs, reveals that mainstream attribution science is beset by flaws of reasoning, modelling and data.

Dr Briggs points out that most attribution claims are based around comparing simulations of the climate today to simulations of the climate as it might have been without human activity. But as he explains, this approach has a fundamental problem:

“We simply have little or no idea what the climate would have been without human activity. Moreover, we can’t ever know what it was like.”

And Dr Briggs also points out that even if we did know, it would still not be enough.

“In order to attribute individual weather events to humankind, scientists need a perfect model of the climate. They do not have this. Therefore, claims that we are responsible for any particular weather event are at best overconfident, if not plain wrong.”

Attribution studies assume that the weather has been getting worse, yet empirical observations do not support this generic assumption.

Dr Briggs’s paper is entitled The Climate Blame Game: Are we really causing extreme weather?

I owe the title to Andrew Montford, author of The Hockey Stick Illusion, and who blogs as a piece of topography known as Bishop Hill.

Download the paper here.

And then give it to those who now call global cooling global warming. I mean climate change. I mean climate emergency (thanks to reader Ann Cherry for the link).

If the elite, media, and rulers have learned anything this past year, it is that panic works. Frightening the populace allows them to gain power.

“Oh, Briggs. You exaggerate as always. Nobody really believes they’ll use dangerous global warming as a political move.”

That so?

The pandemic has given them a trial run, all right. Yep.


Leaving out all the qualifications and caveats and necessary details—meaning if you want to critique my critique you must read the paper, which is free and which don’t cost nuthin’, and not just this post—here is the main problem with climate-attribution studies.

A bad—never good!—weather event is identified, usually because it has just occurred, introducing two observation biases into climate-attribution studies: one because only bad events are examined, and the second because it uses what was just observed.

A so-called climate change model (i.e. of the current climate) is run to say the probability of the bad weather event is P_1. A second model, but this one of the “natural” climate, is run, and it says the probability of the bad weather event is P_0. The “natural” climate is, they say, that which is untainted by man.

If P_1 > P_0, the bad event is said to be caused, at least in part, by man.

Quite obviously, if the climate change model is imperfect—I mean this word strictly—it’s estimate of P_1 is useless or highly suspect. Are climate change models perfect? No, sir, they are not. They do a poor job, especially at modeling local extremes. The estimates P_1 therefore don’t have much to do with real life.

Maybe not as obviously, the natural climate model also has to be perfect. Are they? Alas, we shall never know. There is no way to check, no way at all. Ever. It is a model of what the atmosphere would look like if man never touched it. It can therefore not be checked, because man has touched the atmosphere. The estimates P_0 therefore are unknowns.

Comparing two numbers which have too much certainty does not grant certainty, it increases uncertainty.

Add to all this the very real possibility of tuning the models so juice the results in one’s favor, as I suspect some (cited in the paper) have done, and a host of other problems—like how to go about calculating P_i—we conclude climate attribution studies should not be used for any decision making.

Though it is an easy prediction to say they will be used to generate fear.

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  1. An excellent, clear, concise and professional refutation.

    Thanks for all you do!

  2. Briggs

    Thanks, Kent!

  3. MikeW

    The recent shift of Climate Change of Doom zealots from “climate change” to “climate emergency” reminds me of the Spaceballs space crew shifting from ridiculous speed to ludicrous speed. As I recall, they went plaid.

  4. Sheri

    It’s called “climate weirding”. Try to keep up.

    The only cure for this is LESS STUPID PEOPLE and less parents who don’t give a crap and politicians whodon’t, so I don’t see that a cure is even desired. People want to live in hell in what was the USA. They vote for it and maintain it. Give up. It’s what people want in the majority and even the minority. You can’t change that. People are lazy and stupid and don’t care what happens. It’s not really fear. It’s stupidity breed in through parents using propaganda schools as babysitters. It will not change until it’s intolerable and millions die. History tells us that. Argue all you want.

    The evidence is people LOVE living in hell, riots, and soon food shortages and no jobs. They love living in a hell of impending doom. It’s WHAT THEY WANT.

  5. It’s Benny Peiser, not Peisner, of the GWPF. However, I completely agree with your hypothesis!

  6. RT

    Once again, thank you for sharing your research and the published paper. My hope is others, including myself, will disseminate this information to as many connections as possible.

    With Kerry as the “Special Presidential Envoy for Climate” heading to China ( – “China wants the US to give more cash to developing countries to obtain clean technology and adapt to climate change.”) and Gore taking up the rear ( – “Al Gore Explains What COVID-19 and Climate Change Have in Common” on Seth Meyers from whom we should get our facts) what could go wrong? After all, their eminent qualifications as presidential wannabees and pseudo-scientists mean they should be the dictators of climate policy.

    “But it was as President Barack Obama’s second secretary of state (succeeding Hillary Clinton) that he [John Kerry] made his biggest mark on climate action. Kerry didn’t just sign the 2015 Paris Agreement on behalf of the United States, he was instrumental in convincing other nations—some of which were initially very reluctant—to sign onto it as well. Now, as Biden’s special presidential envoy for climate, Kerry will once more marshal his considerable diplomatic skills as the United States seeks to rejoin the Paris Agreement and an international coalition that has had to act on climate change without our participation for the last four years.”

  7. john b()

    Bishop Hill was one of my goto sites

    It’s no longer updated very much

    Last post was mid 2019

  8. Uncle Mike

    Very well done. Reasonable, rational, logical — calm, cool, collected — straightforward, unemotional, non-accusatory — plain English, completely understandable, unassailable.

    Of course, the barking loon bats who live on victimhood and hate the human race will not be swayed. We could easily ignore them if they weren’t in charge of the government, Media, schools, and industry…

  9. Dean Ericson

    But Briggs, what about a man farting in Texas that causes a typhoon in Tai Pei which causes an infestation of mutant lac bugs in Myanmar causing a military junta in Albania that destabilizes South Georgia Island that erupts in volcanoes in the Azores that brings about acid rain in Timbukthree that causes the price of hydroponic tomatoes to skyrocket and leads to World War Three?! Huh? Did you ever think of that? Didn’t think so. Only the Dictatorship of the Billionaires can prevent it. All moral men agree. And, there is a computer model that proves it. Science, daddio!

  10. Dean Ericson

    You see, my comments are alway thread killers.

  11. Dean Ericson


    Dadgum it.

  12. Dean Ericson

    Bloody hell.

  13. Thomas Fisher

    Dean you are a winner! I’ll reply when I stop laughing! Unfortunately, you speak the truth of the stupidity of all of this!

  14. C-Marie

    Thank you, Dr. Briggs!! I understood some of your paper. Really appreciate all that you do!!
    God bless, C-Marie

  15. CCC

    Obligatory shout out to Steve McIntyre and

  16. Milton Hathaway

    Maybe this “climate emergency” overreach is a good sign. They have gone from hectoring to downright shrillness. It can take a few sentences to recognize smarmy preachiness, but shrill is an immediate turn-off. If they have to keep changing the name of their crisis to get people to take it seriously . . . say, what do you think they’ll go with next? I’m thinking “Climate Meltdown”.

    I do think a distinction has to be made between the climate emergency overreach and the Covid-19 overreach: there are lot of white-collar workers who enjoy working from home (a strong argument can be made that the transition was long overdue); there are a lot of blue-collar workers who enjoyed the extended vacation coincident with a bump in take-home pay; there are a lot of 401Ks that grew mightily in value. The germophobes are fellow travelers, of course, as they appreciated having their expertise finally mainstreamed. It was mostly the voiceless who suffered, children in particular, or the unaware who died prematurely by forgoing preventative care, or the stressed who were barely coping before.

    In contrast, the prescribed solutions to the climate emergency promise a more equal-opportunity pain. For example, imagine if the Covid-19 diktats had caused the price of gas to double. And don’t forget that the Covid overreach was always presented as temporary, whereas dealing with the climate emergency demands permanent changes in lifestyles. Covid has paved the way for bigger power grabs? I think it has done just the opposite.

    With regards to not adopting the enemy’s terminology, I’ll make an exception for “Climate Emergency”, as the ever-changing name has become a self-parody.

  17. Chris R

    It’s currently a Climate Emergency, but as that also doesn’t seem to impact the psyche with enough fear, soon it shall be referred to as a Climate Catastrophe……until of course you turn off your TV and look out the window!

  18. vcx

    A strong suspect in the weather phenomena is the massive habitat and species loss in the tropical areas like the Amazon forest. There are large scale deforestation projects for lumber and grazing land (Its not good grazing land) which has done significant damage. To make matters worse there are many habitats in degrading or destroyed conditions all over the world. The weather is strongly influenced by the Earth’s habitats and ecosystem, this is likely a contributing factor. Of course the state sponsored media is not going to mention this since they have zero intention of actually fixing any problems, rather they would milk misleading terms like “global warming” and “climate change” for all they are worth. Their only goal is making opportunities to grift.

    Also take a look at the Great Pacific garbage patch. The problem is that very little money is actually making it to biologists that could do something about fixing the environment despite the fact that many jobs are now controlled by the government. There are a multitude of regulations and restrictions that make it very hard for anything to actually be achieved. The climate change narrative is entirely disingenuous, but please do not assume there aren’t real issues worth addressing which have been largely overshadowed by separate political agendas.

  19. Terry Oldberg

    Attribution of the outcome of an event to the outcome of a prior event is an application of the post hoc fallacy. This is the argument that goes:

    After this

    Therefore, because of this.

  20. Andrew

    “obligatory shout out to Climate Audit and Steve Macintyre”! Yep!
    What a hero!
    Check his Tweet from December 3rd about having three vaccinations and awaiting the J & J when available in Six months time if required.

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