by Ross McKitrick, March1, 2019 in WUWT
Ben Santer et al. have a new paper out in Nature Climate Change arguing that with 40 years of satellite data available they can detect the anthropogenic influence in the mid-troposphere at a 5-sigma level of confidence. This, they point out, is the “gold standard” of proof in particle physics, even invoking for comparison the Higgs boson discovery in their Supplementary information.
The fact that in my example the t-statistic on anthro falls to a low level does not “prove” that anthropogenic forcing has no effect on tropospheric temperatures. It does show that in the framework of my model the effects are not statistically significant. If you think the model is correctly-specified and the data set is appropriate you will have reason to accept the result, at least provisionally. If you have reason to doubt the correctness of the specification then you are not obliged to accept the result.
This is the nature of evidence from statistical modeling: it is contingent on the specification and assumptions. In my view the second regression is a more valid specification than the first one, so faced with a choice between the two, the second set of results is more valid. But there may be other, more valid specifications that yield different results.
In the same way, since I have reason to doubt the validity of the Santer et al. model I don’t accept their conclusions. They haven’t shown what they say they showed. In particular they have not identified a unique anthropogenic fingerprint, or provided a credible control for natural variability over the sample period. Nor have they justified the use of Gaussian p-values. Their claim to have attained a “gold standard” of proof are unwarranted, in part because statistical modeling can never do that, and in part because of the specific problems in their model.