Thursday, November 12, 2009

Wall Street expert says buy stock in Campbell's Soup: The myths and logic of climate skeptics.

By Dave Rochlin - originally posted on

I just saw a short video featuring James Altucher, a weekly columnist for the Financial Times and long time Wall Street fund manager, who is bullish on Campbell's Soup and winter coats, and bearish on climate change.

Altucher is obviously a very bright guy, but he echoed a couple of the more prominent myths and erroneous arguments of climate skeptics:

"Peak temperatures world wide were hit in 1998, and the world has been cooling ever since."

This bit of urban myth is based on the data shown in the chart at left from AP. As you can see, naysayers jumped on a single high data point, ignoring basic statistical analysis and common sense. As the AP reported in busting this myth:

"The last 10 years are the warmest 10-year period of the modern record," said NOAA climate monitoring chief Deke Arndt. "Even if you analyze the trend during that 10 years, the trend is actually positiv
e, which means warming." The AP sent expert statisticians NOAA's year-to-year ground temperature changes over 130 years and the 30 years of satellite-measured temperatures preferred by skeptics....Statisticians who analyzed the data found a distinct decades-long upward trend in the numbers, but could not find a significant drop in the past 10 years in either data set.

This idea has been perpetuated by both the BBC, and inadvertanly by Freakonomics author Steven Levitt, who has been backpedaling faster than you can say "buy my book."

really knows whether the globe is heating or cooling or how much is man made and how much is just the Earth's natural cycle."

This "we can't be sure" tactic has been used before - by folks resisting DDT bans, cigarette warning labels, sulfur dixoide limits to reduce acid rain, and CFC controls to keep our ozone layer from being destroyed. The scientific evidence is pretty overwhelming, and near consensus. Does that mean that everyone agrees? Of course not.

A minority report released to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee listed 700 scientists who disagree. But a survey study of several thousand leading scientists conducted by the University of Illinois found that 97% of climatologists who are active in research believe that human activity has been a significant factor in changing mean global temperatures. (As a side note, petroleum geologists were among the biggest doubters, with only 47% believing in human involvement.) The study concluded that "the debate on the authenticity of global warming and the role played by human activity is largely nonexistent among those who understand the nuances and scientific basis of long-term climate processes."

Here are a few more recent comments from skeptics:

"I live right outside of Orlando and it is the coldest it has been since I have lived in Florida. It was 65 the other day."

Yes, but it was unusally hot in my neighborhood last week.

"The Antarctic ice sheet is actually growing."

Maybe (this is still being studied)...but increased snowfall caused by warming is the likely explanation, and overall sea ice and glacier trends are alarmingly negative, particularly in the arctic. Here is a chart from the National Snow and Ice Data Center, which tracks sea ice and glaciers.

It's a hoax. Al Gore is making millions of dollars on this issue.

As a cleantech venture capitalist, Al certainly has plenty of skin in the game. Billions of dollars are being invested in finding low carbon solutions, and there will be plenty of money made. By the same logic, however,the claims of well funded and motivated naysayers, including the US chamber of commerce and Big Oil should be rejected as well. So I guess nobody is right. Yes Al and the usual suspects might be making bank, but it doesn't mean climate change is a hoax.

Oh by the way, using Altucher's methods and logic, I observed that Campbell's Soup stock has been on a downward trend since 1998...which I guess proves that the planet must be warming.

1 comment:

  1. Just so its clear, my "methods and logic" have nothing to do with trends or anything like that. Plus all the "recent comments from skeptics" mentioned above, have nothing to do with my comments.
    -James Altucher