Averages & Climate Change

We humans are notoriously bad at mathematics, especially when it comes to statistics and applying numerical values to real-life situations.

Averages are often misleading. Don’t believe me? Consider this…

If you’re at a shooting range and your first shot goes one foot to the left of the target, while your second is a foot to the right, you haven’t actually hit anything but, congratulations, your average is a bullseye!

When it comes to climate change, there’s an abundance of thoroughly researched science converging on the conclusion that human technology has significantly changed the atmosphere since the start of the Industrial Revolution, causing it to retain more energy (heat). Don’t believe me? I don’t care. Your beliefs (and mine) are irrelevant. The beliefs of the President of the United States, however, have a huge impact on government policy and corporate action, so it’s alarming to see him tweet this.

It seems this is a perennial complaint from conservatives during winter. But complaining it’s cold in winter is like complaining it’s dark at night. It kinda misses the point.

Often, on the news, you’ll hear comments such as “climate change is expected to raise the average temperature by 3 degrees,” and it can be tempting to think this is trivial. After all, “a little of that good old fashioned Global Warming” can’t be all that bad if it’s only a few degrees.

The problem is…. this is a gross misunderstanding of averages.

Averages are notoriously misleading.

The first half of this chart varies from 4-6 while the second varies from 3-7 which means the average in both cases is a nice round 5, and this is the problem with the argument—”Oh, it’s a bitter cold winter, how can there be global warming?

The answer is, you can’t look at the average. You’ve got to look at the trends and swings, as the average will always soften the picture. The real problem when it comes to climate change is that we’re facing more extreme swings along with the warming.

Speaking of pictures… while you’re going through a bitter cold winter in the northern hemisphere, here in the south, birds and bats are dropping from the sky, having been killed en masse by the heat.

Tens of thousands of bats (2019)
Pelicans in Peru (2012)
Fish starved of oxygen during heatwave (2019)
Birds in Western Australia (2019)

It’s past time to take climate change seriously. Don’t be fooled by talk of averages or cold winters as that hides the gruesome, horrifying reality that we’re decimating the planet.

9 thoughts on “Averages & Climate Change

  1. Very good post Peter,

    I can’t quite remember the information, it has been a while since I read it (and to be honest, I have had only about 10hrs sleep in the past 4 or 5 days due to problems with my back – so my brain is functioning well below what it should be), but there was a fascinating article about how I think it was half a degree to 1 degree celcius increase in the ocean temperature can kill the growth of coral. This stops the growth of a lot of other ocean based plants, as well as several smaller based fish. Without them, bigger fish die, and so on – all of a sudden – No fish.

    There was some link as well to Pollen and Butterflies and Bees in there as well from memory, like I said it was a long time ago.

    It takes a lot to change the ocean temperature by a degree overall. So a 3 degree difference could see the destruction of all of the reefs across the planet, and the end to all of the fish. This will affect birds, fauna, bees, pollen, etc, and the world comes to a sudden halt. Once you screw with bees and pollen, the world as we know it is over.

    Great piece Peter, gets the mind thinking and starts some good conversation 😊

    Hope you and the family are doing well!!!



    • Yeah, thinking in terms of 1, 2 or 3 degrees is very shortsighted. We’ve got to start looking at the impact and how it’s escalating, and stop being so bloody stubborn 🙂

  2. Don’t the birds and bats have any kind of warning system that tells them they need to find shade and stop exercising before they collapse? It’s heartbreaking to see them fallen dead. Fish that don’t live near coral reefs are being driven to extinction from overfishing, and areas of the ocean are green with monocultures of green “weeds”, or filled with plastic trash patches the size of countries, so overheating and coral death is not the only thing leading to the end of fish.

    • These are birds and bats that have evolved to survive in Australia’s harsh environment, but the sudden spike was so radical and lasted for a week, which overwhelmed them. There were tens of thousands of each species. It’s wiped them out in some areas. The land is so dry, they don’t have much option when temperatures soar like that. They either die where they are or die trying to find water and somewhere cooler. They opted for the latter.

      At high temperatures, water loses its oxygen content and so we had tens of thousands of fish die all along the river systems. It is a complete ecological disaster. The fish suffocated. It’s crazy sad.

  3. One thought: When people grow up without a direction, or they want their lives to have meaning, it’s natural to connect with something emotionally charged, especially when they see a movement. It’s natural to want to have meaning and be part of a solution. And when one believes they’re really onto something, they’ll spend the rest of their lives pursuing their beliefs. The difficulty is to separate fact from emotions. The difficulty is to free one’s self from political an social supports, which feels so good when supported, and feels terrible when one starts to think for themselves and won’t go along to get along, at least not where real understanding lies.

    • Hey, glad to hear you enjoyed it… I actually started a sequel called Monstrous but never got more than a few chapters in before being distracted by some other story line. Perhaps when I’m a full-time writer I’ll have the luxury of revisiting that world again. Thanks for supporting independent science fiction.

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