Friday Funny: Forget CO2 – US Executions “Cause” Global Warming

From the “correlation is not causation” department.

Guest Posting by Ira Glickstein

Since the Death Penalty was restored in the US in 1975, the Number of Executions per Year correlates with UAH Global Temperature Anomaly better than CO2 levels! So, if we want to reduce warming, cut the rate of capital crimes! (See graphic below.)


GW Executions 2014

In the above graphic, the black line indicates US Executions per Year from 1975 to 2013 (Source: http://www.statisticbrain.com/death-penalty-statistics/ NAACP LDF “Death Row, U.S.A., Gallup Poll, Bureau of Justice Statistics”), the blue jagged line indicates monthly UAH Satellite-Based Temperature of the Global Lower Atmosphere from 1979 through 2013 and the red line shows the running centered 13-month average (Source: http://www.drroyspencer.com/2014/02/uah-global-temperature-update-for-january-2014-0-29-deg-c/).

In an earlier WUWT posting I showed that Total US Debt (public and private) as a percentage of US Gross Domestic Product (GDP) correlates with NASA GISS US Annual Mean Temperature Anomaly better than CO2 levels! So, if we want to reduce warming, cut the debt! (See http://wattsupwiththat.com/2011/02/16/forget-co2-us-debt-causes-warming/)
GW Executions 2014

Therefore, based on the (faulty) idea that Correlation Implies Causation, we can solve Global Warming by reducing US debt and US capital crimes :^)

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78 thoughts on “Friday Funny: Forget CO2 – US Executions “Cause” Global Warming

  1. There might actually be a scientific basis for this correlation – perhaps criminals are more likely to stay indoors and watch TV if the weather is bad. All that lurking in dark shadows etc. must be a real drag if it is rainy and cold :-)

  2. So that’s why some alarmists want the death penalty for skeptics who won’t accept their science. They want the executions to cause an uptake in global temperatures and put an end to the annoying 17-year pause.

    Harry Reid says the Koch brothers are the cause of global warming. So here’s a dilemma: would global temperatures go up or down if the Koch brothers were executed? /sarc

  3. In fact correlation always indicates causation, but most don’t understand the concept. When one attempts to measure or quantify correlation one arrives at some fraction of one, where one is correlation and the fraction is some fraction of correlation: by such a definition correlation is absolute. Significant correlation of the sort that animals and babies learn from is typically better than 99% when a function is measured against time–more like 99.99%–as when we associate a sound with an event which is determined to have produced the sound. The science of statistics attempts to distinguish between correlation and non-correlation.

    E.g.: viceroy butterflies mimic foul tasting monarchs. Their numbers are kept much lower than monarch populations by the minority of birds which eat a viceroy before they taste a monarch. That is, some of these birds learn the difference between the two, and the higher the bird population that can make the distinction, the lower the viceroy population. We might say the birds carry out statistical studies of butterfly patterns when fine tuning the correlation. It would be interesting to learn of any studies in animal intelligence that did not involve correlation. –AGF

  4. agfosterjr says: May 9, 2014 at 8:39 pm
    There’s too much lag between capital crimes and executions for the long term chart to have any relevance, …

    Ice core records show an 800 to 1000 year lag between temperature and CO2 rise, so it’s too early to tell. More funding is needed.

  5. “Therefore, based on the (faulty) idea that Correlation Implies Causation, we can solve Global Warming by reducing US debt and US capital crimes ”

    No you have got it wrong, we can reduce US debt and US capital crimes by lowering CO2!

    We must bring this to the UN and IPCC’s attention!

    In the mean time Agenda 21 marches on. CO2 is only a flimsey excuse anyway.
    Read my blog on what is happening to my city and every other city, except ours has been accelerated by our devastating earth quakes.

    Roger

    http://www.thedemiseofchristchurch.com

  6. agfosterjr says May 9, 2014 at 8:59 pm
    =============================================================================
    Even the type of correlation you are talking about doesn’t suggest causation. The sound of a bowl breaking may correlate very well with seeing a bowl hit the floor, however we only can say with reasonable certainty that the bowl hitting the floor caused the sound, because we know that the sound happened after the bowl hit the ground, but this is not very obvious in normal situations. So, if we did not know better we might think that the sound caused the bowl to break. The only way we can determine which event cause the other is to know which occurred first. Even 100% correlation does not tell us what event is the cause and what event is the effect.

  7. Executions are scheduled when they are for many political and budgetary reasons and purposes, and are complex therefore. The frequency of capital crime, conviction rates, and the mean incarceration time preceding executions is a function of poverty, opportunity, and annually-variable state budget allocations for expansion of prisons, as well as the responsive utility by states of a propaganda campaign by publicizing ultima ratio deterrent. Political reasons abound too – elections can ride on whether mercy is “popular,” or, alternately, if “law and order” are the will of the majority voting demographic.
    More capital crimes occur, with consideration to criminal opportunity and impulse and the incipience of moral and wealth-predicted factors increasing the probability for criminal extremes, when climate-linked markets affect prices and employment levels, but winter “cabin fever” criminality, against family, winter “desperation” crime, linked to unemployment, and summer crime, where opportunity for travel and conditions conducive to homelessness are anti-phasic, inversely-correlated in Schwabe-phase-bound extreme years, while often concomitant sub-annually during climatically-transitional threshold years that are almost always economic restructuring periods, where innovation leads to the marginalization of a “choice” demographic.

    Continuing trends toward measured global warmth interspersed with unpredictable oscillations – with predicably cyclical lagged response to precipitation-linked surpluses, indicates greater absolute, but more concentrated and inaccessible budgets with rising population and reduced life expectancy, but a greater need for deterrents if this warming leads to wealth disparity, drought-induced famine leading to increased global CPI with decreased labor value in a context of decreased labor market competition. Warfare increases with imbalance of resource distribution intra- and internationally, as budgets for warfare increase, while impetus for impoverished belligerents to incite violence increases as a response to inauspicious climate and subsequent pauperization.

  8. Tom Trevor says:
    May 9, 2014 at 9:22 pm
    “Even the type of correlation you are talking about doesn’t suggest causation.”
    And:: “Even 100% correlation does not tell us what event is the cause and what event is the effect.”
    =================================================================
    What you mean to say with these contradictory statements is that while correlation doesn’t distinguish between cause and effect it certainly does indicate cause and effect. –AGF

  9. agfosterjr says:
    May 9, 2014 at 8:59 pm
    In fact correlation always indicates causation

    Watch out for trains.

  10. agfosterjr says:
    “In fact correlation always indicates causation, but most don’t understand the concept.”

    Surely a lack of correlation can be used to indicate lack of causation but the presence of correlation can only be used to suggest possible causation.

    Cheers

    Mark

    [Mark: Thanks! I agree, and, considering the IPCC claim that CO2 is the MAJOR cause of Global Warming, I would extend your statement to say lack of STRONG correlation can be used to indicate lack of MAJOR causation. In other words, rising CO2 levels most likely have caused some percentage of the warming of the past century, but the lack of warming for some 17 years in the face of continuing rapid rise in CO2 levels, indicates that CO2 is only a minor cause of warming. I would guess natural processes and cycles are responsible for perhaps 80% of the warming, with CO2 and other human-causation responsible for the remaining 20%. Ira]

  11. scarletmacaw says:
    May 9, 2014 at 10:07 pm
    ================================
    Goes to show, 95% correlation doesn’t amount to much. –AGF

  12. Mark Fawcett says:
    May 9, 2014 at 10:14 pm

    Surely a lack of correlation can be used to indicate lack of causation but the presence of correlation can only be used to suggest possible causation.
    ================================================================
    Unless you quantify this absolute with some fraction you make no sense. Does not “100% correlation” indicate causation? Of course it does. And the phrase “100% correlation” takes for granted that “correlation” =1, i.e., is absolute. And how could you define “a lack of correlation” other than “correlation not equal to unity,” which amounts to saying “correlation not equal to correlation”? In other words, the word correlation is popularly used in the sense of “fraction of correlation” or “measure of correlation,” where the word “correlation” must ultimately and correctly retain its absolute character. –AGF

    [AGF: I have two digital clocks, A and B, and they are correlated 100% to an infinitesimal fraction of a second. Does that mean that A CAUSES B (or B CAUSES A)? Nope! Both are tuned to the National Bureau of Standards time signal, C. So C CAUSES A, and C CAUSES B. But A and B have no causal relationship with each other. I could destroy A and it would have no effect on B, and vice-versa. Ira]

  13. From agfosterjr on May 9, 2014 at 8:59 pm:

    In fact correlation always indicates causation, but most don’t understand the concept.

    I take a piss at least once before midnight, the Sun rises in the morning. This has occurred 100% of the time, the correlation is perfect.

    Now I just have to deduce the process of causation!

  14. agfosterjr says:
    “Unless you quantify this absolute with some fraction you make no sense. Does not “100% correlation” indicate causation? Of course it does. ”

    No it doesn’t.

    Another example (I do like kadaka’s) – there is a 100% correlation between people who have eaten food and who have died.

    Cheers

    Mark

  15. Mark Fawcett says:
    May 9, 2014 at 10:51 pm
    ===========================================================
    That’s pretty silly. I have eaten food and I’m still alive. “All eaters will die” is better, but the correlation is obvious: all animals eat; all animals die. You simply cannot find a case of correlation (correctly absolute) without causation. –AGF

  16. “That’s pretty silly. I have eaten food and I’m still alive. “All eaters will die” is better, but the correlation is obvious: all animals eat; all animals die. You simply cannot find a case of correlation (correctly absolute) without causation. ”

    Whether it’s silly or not is irrelevant. You say yourself “the correlation is obvious: all animals eat; all animals die” – I agree, and it’s a 100% correlation; however, you cannot then conclude that eating is fatal and so you cannot say that eating is the _cause_ of death.

    Cheers

    Mark

  17. kadaka (KD Knoebel) says:

    May 9, 2014 at 10:32 pm
    “I take a piss at least once before midnight,…”
    ==============
    There is a high road, and there is a low road, and there is a place for each.

  18. Mark Fawcett says:
    May 9, 2014 at 11:04 pm
    ===============================
    I could have said the correlation/causation is obvious. And it is. I never said eating is the cause of death. Rather be-cause you are human, whether you eat or not, you will die. That is the correct cause and effect indicated by the correlation. And just be-cause we may not be able to immediately determine the cause and effect indicated by some correlation doesn’t mean there is none. Darwin and Wegener can tell you all about that. –AGF

  19. agfosterjr:

    At several places in this thread (e.g. here) you have asserted

    In fact correlation always indicates causation, but most don’t understand the concept.

    OK, if you think that then I point out
    (a) All purchased bridges were sold by their owners
    And
    (b) I offer a bridge for you to buy.

    The fallacy of your claim is demonstrated by both of the examples in the above article by Ira Glickstein.

    There are two issues of relevance (i.e. correlation and coherence) because they can each and both provide information pertaining to causality.

    Correlation is a mathematical relationship between two parameters. If the correlation is known over the length of the data sets, then their correlation indicates the magnitude of a change in one parameter that is expected when the other parameter changes by a known magnitude.

    Correlation does NOT indicate a causal relation between two parameters.
    But
    Absence of correlation indicates absence of a direct a causal relation between two parameters.

    Coherence of two parameters indicates that when one parameter changes then the other parameter changes later.

    Coherence can disprove that change of one parameter causes change in the other; i.e. if change in parameter A follows change in parameter B then the change of A cannot be the cause of the change of B (because a cause cannot occur after its effect).

    So,
    1.
    absence of correlation indicates absence of a direct causal relationship
    and
    2.
    when there is a direct causal relationship then coherence indicates which of the two parameters is causal.

    Furthermore, coherence in the absence of correlation is strongly suggestive that both parameters are affected by another parameter (or other parameters).

    For example, leaves fall off trees soon after children return to school following their summer break.
    The coherence is great; i.e. both effects occur each year.
    But the effects do not correlate; i.e. the number of returning children is not indicative of the number of falling leaves.
    In this example, the time of year is the additional parameter which causes children to return to school and the leaves to fall off trees.

    So, if it is known that there is a causal relationship between two parameters. The coherence between the parameters indicates which is causal.

    Richard

  20. From u.k.(us) on May 9, 2014 at 11:07 pm:

    There is a high road, and there is a low road, and there is a place for each.

    This place is Friday Funny. I’ll get to Scotland before you do.

  21. “I could have said the correlation/causation is obvious. And it is. I never said eating is the cause of death.”

    Indeed, but the position that if A and B are 100% correlated there must exist a causal relationship between them is demonstrably false because the logical conclusion from that position coupled with the example of food/death is that eating kills you, or that a pre midnight wazz causes the sun to rise.

    However, as with all correlations if you take the position that a correlation (of any fraction up-to and including 1) has three possible explanations (it’s coincidence, it’s a causal relationship or it’s a unknown common cause) then the example arguably falls into the 1st category.

    I always work on the understanding that when we say there is a causal relationship between A and B that means a _direct_ relationship; i.e. Change A and B will change (assuming that’s the direction of cause and effect). A system where there is an underlying common cause C means that A and B are not causally linked, they are merely separate indicators of C.

    This may all come across as a tad pedantic / semantic but it’s crucial when studying / identifying correlations is the cornerstone or foundation of new research, as is often the case. If you take the position that 100% correlation must mean a causal link between two variables, when you don’t have wider / prior knowledge of the system then you are doomed to risk repeating the many similar mistakes of the past.

    However, high degrees of correlation can be used as indicators for further investigation but the fact still remains that any amount of correlation may be coincidence (nature is a bugger sometimes), indicative of a causal link or, quite commonly but not exclusively, a pointer to underlying common causes.

    Cheers

    Mark

  22. richardscourtney says:
    May 9, 2014 at 11:37 pm
    agfosterjr:

    “At several places in this thread (e.g. here) you have asserted
    In fact correlation always indicates causation, but most don’t understand the concept.”
    ===============================================================
    Wrong. I have only made the assertion once. All other instances have been others’ quotation of the same. But the assertion stands.

    “Correlation is a mathematical relationship between two parameters. If the correlation is known over the length of the data sets, then their correlation indicates the magnitude of a change in one parameter that is expected when the other parameter changes by a known magnitude.”
    ========================
    This idiosyncratic definition deprives us of any word for the traditional definition.

    “Correlation does NOT indicate a causal relation between two parameters.”
    ========================
    You’re claiming that a function is not a cause. That’s absurd.

    “But the effects do not correlate; i.e. the number of returning children is not indicative of the number of falling leaves.”
    ========================
    Here you’re introducing and mixing parameters. Inexcusable. E.g., it’s night time in my zone and it’s time to sleep. But the time zone is not indicative of the number of hours I intend to sleep.
    ====================================================================
    Mark Fawcett says:
    May 10, 2014 at 12:03 am
    “I could have said the correlation/causation is obvious. And it is. I never said eating is the cause of death.”

    Indeed, but the position that if A and B are 100% correlated there must exist a causal relationship between them is demonstrably false because the logical conclusion from that position coupled with the example of food/death is that eating kills you, or that a pre midnight wazz causes the sun to rise.
    ===================================================================
    The ability to come up with ridiculous causes in no way undermines the claim that correlation equates to causality. Try instead to come up with [perfect] correlation which does not demand causality. Your attempts so far have failed. Too much fuzzy thinking around here, and I’m gonna call it a night before mine gets fuzzy too.
    –AGF

  23. Why stop there, since everyone breathes before they die, breathing must be a cause of death.

  24. Blimey. How many people per annum must the US Gov have been executing during the Holocene Climate Optimum?

  25. kadaka (KD Knoebel) says:

    May 10, 2014 at 12:01 am
    =================
    I’ve enjoyed reading your comments over the years.

    Your “Scotland” reference went over my head.
    Care to explain ?

  26. Actually the theory that there is a good correlation between executions and global warming, and these are causally related, is borne out by Australia. There have been no executions in Australia for some years, and there has been no global temperature rise since 1998. Clearly, since the cessation of executions preceded the cessation of temperature rise, the rate of executions determines the temperature rise – causally related!

  27. For u.k. (us)

    kadaka (KD Knoebel) says: May 10, 2014 at 12:01 am

    “There is a high road, and there is a low road, and there is a place for each. This place is Friday Funny. I’ll get to Scotland before you do.”

    This is a reference to a barbaric (Scottish) song where rebels are returning to Scotland. The singer is going to be caught and executed – taking the high road – and hence getting to Heaven quickly, while the auditor of the song is going to walk – taking the low road – and will get to Heaven (which he considers to be Scotland) rather later

  28. From u.k.(us) on May 10, 2014 at 12:34 am:

    Your “Scotland” reference went over my head.
    Care to explain ?

    Here is the formal version, the first three lines are somewhat common in plain English. I’ve heard those lines in many shows, movies, in ways that actually don’t reference the full original at all, just play off the high road vs low road part.

  29. From Dudley Horscroft on May 10, 2014 at 1:06 am:

    (…) The singer is going to be caught and executed – taking the high road – and hence getting to Heaven quickly…

    Check the lyrics again, you got that bass ackwards.

    • kadaka (KD Knoebel) says: May 10, 2014 at 1:27 am

      I do sing bass, but I admit I got the words wrong. Well, you wouldn’t really expect a Sassenach to actually remember the words, would you? (None of my ancestors, so far as we have been able to trace, came from north of the Border – the border being the River Thames.)

  30. “Since the Death Penalty was restored in the US in 1975, the Number of Executions per Year correlates with UAH Global Temperature Anomaly better than CO2 levels! So, if we want to reduce warming, cut the rate of capital crimes!”

    That’s daft. It isn’t the crimes that cause Global Warming, it’s the executions. Abolish the death penalty and end Global Warming.

  31. Hold on, Dudly Horscroft. The last execution in Australia was in 1967, and the death penalty was abolished in all states in 1973. And Global Warming started and roared ahead for years. That proves it is the lack of a death penalty that causes Global Warming.

  32. Actually, JoNova has proof that it is all the fault of the US post office.

    joannenova.com.au/2009/05/shock-global-temperatures-driven-by-us-postal-charges/

  33. Similarly drowning incidents seem to correlate with global warming.

    AGW proponents should demonstrate their commitment by carrying a life-raft in a backpack with a whistle, blinking light, GPS-tag, week’s supplies etc. You know, no expenses speared to cool the globe. It gives them a new project and may also alleviate their oceanophobias by the same token.

  34. I have pointed out before that my sons growth correlates perfectly with global warming. His height increased every year until he turned 20 in 1996. Since then he has been roughly the same height with possibly a small amount of reduction from 6ft 6 to 6 ft 5 1/2.

    [mkelly: GREAT example of a coincidental correlation. Thanks. Ira]

  35. Be careful broadbrushing ‘criminal’, as there is the three-felonies’per-day hypothesis with a bood and website devoted.

    Post hoc is a particularly tempting error because temporal sequence appears to be integral to causality. The fallacy lies in coming to a conclusion based solely on the order of events, rather than taking into account other factors that might rule out the connection.

  36. mkelly says: May 10, 2014 at 2:53 am
    One more reason for protecting children from thermophobes with a restraining order.

  37. High road/low road; as I recall, perhaps from my childhood (Douglas Bruce from Pages, Gibsons, Coffins), the high road went above the bogs and was likely taxed/tolled. The common folk walked the low boggy road, more direct and wetter. Hence ghillies pierced brogans, tied to not be sucked off pulling knee deep from mud and quickly draining.

  38. For u.k.(us), kadaka, Dudley Horscroft …

    Loch Lomond …

    If the above video box doesn’t post correctly, then try …

  39. agfosterjr:

    I read your post at May 10, 2014 at 12:14 am which is here and purports to answer my post at May 9, 2014 at 11:37 pm which is here.

    I notice that you did not address my offer to sell you a bridge and I am writing to determine if this was an oversight. Please note that I need the money and I am willing to sell you any bridge you want.

    Richard

  40. kadaka (KD Knoebel) says:
    May 9, 2014 at 10:32 pm
    I take a piss at least once before midnight, the Sun rises in the morning. This has occurred 100% of the time, the correlation is perfect. Now I just have to deduce the process of causation!
    ============
    pretty sure that if the sun didn’t rise in the morning, neither would you.

    [Fred: True statement, but it misses the point. If, on a particular day, kadaka did not urinate before midnight, and the Sun still rose in the morning, (or vice-versa) would you still say these two actions had a causal relationship?

    By the way, you can estimate a man's age (A) by multiplying his height in feet (H) by the number of times he urinates a day (U): A = H x U. That means U = A/H which implies that both increased age and reduced height cause more frequent urination. At the age of 75, I know that age generally causes more frequent urination, but, as far as I know, height has little or no effect.

    Based on the Ice Core record and pre-industrial age history, we know that climate change, including both Global Warming (GW) and Global Cooling, occur due to Natural Processes and Cycles (NPC). We also know that CO2 is a "greenhouse" gas that, with increasing levels, can cause Global Warming. Thus GW = A x NPC + B x CO2. So, what is the relative magnitude of A and B? Given 17 years of rising CO2 and no statistical warming, we know that A >> B. Right? Ira]

  41. Since the growth of the national debt is the most ineluctable force of the three I must conclude the national debt causes global warming and capital crime. We’re doomed. The only question is whether we will be murdered or die from heat prostration.

  42. I think in the case of execution by electric chair, that would be local warming, not global. Correlation by electrification.

    In the watermelon’s mindset, everything causes global warming, and global warming causes everything. Kind of like Homer Price’s “Eversomuch moreso”….

    With regard to CO2 capital punishment, anyone remember Halon systems for computer rooms?

  43. I don’t know Ira, it looks to me like temperature leads executions and debt. This might be grabbed up by the team to show how high temps cause these things. The relationship does indicate that definitive experiments can be carried out. We could vote the Democrats back in for two terms and as the debt rises see if we can get commensurate results. I hesitate to test the executions relationship, however.

    [Gary: Of course you are right ... EVERYTHING is caused by excessive human-caused Carbon emissions. Heat (and Cold), Floods (and Drought), Wind (and Calm), Fire (and Ice), Terrorism (and War), Capital Crimes (and Massive Public and Private Debt)! And, as Al Gore proved with his "Inconvenient Truth" movie success, it doesn't matter that the Ice Core data shows that Temperature Change (both Warming and Cooling) LEADS CO2 change (both Increasing and Decreasing) by hundreds of years. The Team will claim that human-caused Carbon is responsible. Ira]

  44. Mark Fawcett says:
    May 9, 2014 at 11:04 pm

    “”That’s pretty silly. I have eaten food and I’m still alive. “All eaters will die” is better, but the correlation is obvious: all animals eat; all animals die. You simply cannot find a case of correlation (correctly absolute) without causation. ”

    Whether it’s silly or not is irrelevant.”

    One could say eating leads to death. All this says is that the first activity is proof of being alive and then…

  45. And the Good Lord looketh down upon the world, and He decreeath that whensoever mankind takes lives, even of killers, that the world will become hotter, as in hell. And when the rate of such executions shall diminish, so shall the rate of such warming. This can easily be correlated because there is not one report of any executions taking place during the last ice age. Keep the Friday Funnies coming!!

  46. kadaka (KD Knoebel) says:

    May 10, 2014 at 1:13 am
    ============
    Thanks for the reply (and the others).
    Good to have you back.

  47. Causation, maybe not. A link? What’s so absurd about that.

    In general, I think politicians who tend to favor capital punishment also favor lax climate regulation and debt spending, when you look at their actual records and not rhetoric.

    Whereas despite the odd boondoggle, politicians who oppose capital punishment also tend to favor a functional EPA and sound spending practices.

    Naturally, in countries where all parties agree to something like ending capital punishment, the correlation stops there.

    But this doesn’t strike me as a funny fluke but rather a result of comorbid management practices.

  48. Best WUWT thread ever!

    Thank you all ladies and gentlemen for you contributions. I’m too inebriated to participate, but fortunately not too inebriated to roll around on the floor giggling hysterically. I can think of no other place that offers such incredibly dry wit and repartee when the subject matter is so uninspiring. I can only summise that the causation of such comments has a direct correlation to the intellect of the commenters. I’ll thank you once again before my stupor takes full control.

  49. Ira Glickstein wrote:
    [AGF: I have two digital clocks, A and B, and they are correlated 100% to an infinitesimal fraction of a second. Does that mean that A CAUSES B (or B CAUSES A)? Nope! Both are tuned to the National Bureau of Standards time signal, C. So C CAUSES A, and C CAUSES B. But A and B have no causal relationship with each other. I could destroy A and it would have no effect on B, and vice-versa. Ira]

    Ira, how spooky, I’d just logged back in with the intention of writing a final attempt at showing how 100% correlation can never be assumed to infer causation with an example of two digital clock readouts in a sealed black box that happen to be 5 seconds apart; so B appears to lag A and is perfectly correlated with it but on internal inspection the clocks are entirely independent; but you’d beaten me too it…

    Cheers and thanks for the feedback.

    Mark

  50. A lagging correlation between executions and temperature might exist [ similar, for different reasons, to the relationship between temperature and CO2 in ice core data].

    Let us assume [and this may not be true] that there is more crime when it is warmer.
    More people out on the streets, more alcoholic drinks consumed.
    And then if it is very warm and the air conditioner is broken tempers fray etc.
    So possibly more crimes that are deemed capital in various jurisdictions.

    Assume also that most of the miscreants are arrested, tried and found guilty.
    This process takes time.
    So there should be a lag between high temperature and executions by about the average period between committing a capital offence and execution [ the average period on death row].
    In China this time would be very short.
    In the USA somewhat longer.

    [GregK: Thanks, great point. In the USA Executions generally lag the capital crime by a decade or more due to the time it takes to catch the murderer, assemble the evidence, conduct the trial, and deal with the interminable appeals and judicial reviews. But, my graphic shows that Executions increase a bit BEFORE Global Warming, and continue high a bit AFTER. Considering the decade or more delay between the capital crime and the Execution, it is clear that (if there is a causal relationship) it is capital crimes that "cause" Global Warming. Ira]

  51. Lewis P Buckingham says:
    May 10, 2014 at 12:27 am

    “Why stop there, since everyone breathes before they die, breathing must be a cause of death.”
    ==================================
    Nope. It is the cessation of breathing that causes death. There’s 100% correlation there. Everyone who stops breathing, dies, so keep breathing as long as you can ;o)

  52. Ira G. inserts at unknown time, listed at:
    May 9, 2014 at 10:31 pm

    [AGF: I have two digital clocks, A and B, and they are correlated 100% to an infinitesimal fraction of a second. Does that mean that A CAUSES B (or B CAUSES A)? Nope! Both are tuned to the National Bureau of Standards time signal, C. So C CAUSES A, and C CAUSES B. But A and B have no causal relationship with each other. I could destroy A and it would have no effect on B, and vice-versa. Ira]
    ===================================================================
    Correct of course, but it remains absurd to claim no causal relationship involved with the synchronization of your two clocks. Like claiming no causation between train cars, one in front of the engine and one behind. A good climate example is the excellent Pleistocene T/CO2 correlation: they are parallel functions of ice sheet extension. Your objection is trivial. –AGF

    [AGF: Thanks for your reply. OK, say scientists find a planet orbiting some far-away star and that planet happens to rotate on its axis once every 24 Earth-hours, in exact synchronization and 100% correlation with our Earth. The Earth or that planet could be destroyed with no detectable effect on the other. So, where is the causal connection? Caution; if you say the causal connection is that both Earth and the synchronized planet share a common origin of the Universe in the Big Bang, then everything in the Universe is causally connected to everything else, which is true, but which makes your claim that correlation implies some sort of causal connection absolutely trivial. Ira]

  53. Re. Ira G. at May 11, 2014 at 9:04 am

    There are no doubt thousands of planets in the universe which rotate with an average of within a few ms of 23 hours 56 minutes and 4.0916 seconds. A few of them might even share our mean solar day within limits. But within this huge universe I suspect there are no planets that could duplicate the earth’s rotational history to the nearest millisecond over the last 50 years or 50my. That would require cause and effect or improbable coincidence.
    Regards, –AGF

  54. Gary Pearse says:
    May 10, 2014 at 10:22 am

    Mark Fawcett says:
    May 9, 2014 at 11:04 pm

    “”That’s pretty silly. I have eaten food and I’m still alive. “All eaters will die” is better, but the correlation is obvious: all animals eat; all animals die. You simply cannot find a case of correlation (correctly absolute) without causation. ”

    Whether it’s silly or not is irrelevant.”

    One could say eating leads to death. All this says is that the first activity is proof of being alive and then…

    ====================================================================
    …the animals that don’t eat die so the cause isn’t the eating, it’s the animals!

  55. Gunga Din says:
    “…the animals that don’t eat die so the cause isn’t the eating, it’s the animals!”.

    Indeed it is the animals not the eating :-)

    The point being made was that it’s trivial to find examples of variables A and B that when, say, fed into a stats package (which has _no_ a priori knowledge of what A and B actually are) results in a correlation coefficient of 1; that is they are 100% correlated even if there is no link between them.

    Too many times in research (in pretty much any field) a high correlation (regardless of value) has been taken to mean causation with the result that the received wisdom is then ‘if you change A then you can effect B).

    Cheers

    Mark

  56. ajfosterjr says:
    “Correct of course, but it remains absurd to claim no causal relationship involved with the synchronization of your two clocks. Like claiming no causation between train cars, one in front of the engine and one behind. ”

    Once again I’m not sure if this is not down to a difference in definition. In the Ira clocks example the fact remains that A and B have no causal link (changing A does not effect B). They _do_ share a common underlying cause C, the time sync signal but the cause relationship is C A and B A.

    If the definition by which you’re approaching this discussion means that a casual relationship can include both direct and indirect links then I’d say that for a system whereby you have A and B perfectly correlated then that would very, very strongly indicate some form of causal link, either direct or common third-party. Nevertheless there is always the possibility, regardless of how small, that the correlation may be purely coincidental (and down to chance, choice of sample size, measurement resolution, choice/knowledge of variables and so forth).

    I’d also say that the conventional definition of a causal relationship (in the contexts being discussed on this thread) is a _direct_ one. However, that’s just my opinion :-).

    Also note that from my perspective we’ve been discussing correlation when measuring two variables that we have no control over (ie we just sample them as they change / occur naturally). If however you take your measurements by specifically controlling one variable and measuring the resultant change on the other (eg changing voltage and measuring current) then that’s a different story all together…

    Cheers

    Mark

  57. H.R.:

    At May 11, 2014 at 6:01 am you say

    It is the cessation of breathing that causes death. There’s 100% correlation there. Everyone who stops breathing, dies, so keep breathing as long as you can ;o)

    In keeping with the so-called ‘logic’ which thinks correlation indicates causation, I write to expand on your observation.

    If when you awake in the morning you discover you have stopped breathing then you have a problem.
    So,
    if you awake in the morning to discover that you have not stopped breathing then you do not have a problem.
    And
    when you do not have a problem then you have no reason to worry.
    Be happy.

    Richard

  58. Mark Fawcett:

    You spoil your good post at May 12, 2014 at 12:43 am by concluding

    Also note that from my perspective we’ve been discussing correlation when measuring two variables that we have no control over (ie we just sample them as they change / occur naturally). If however you take your measurements by specifically controlling one variable and measuring the resultant change on the other (eg changing voltage and measuring current) then that’s a different story all together…

    Sorry, but NO!
    We have been discussing whether correlation indicates causation: it does not.

    When an alteration to one variable is observed to repeatably induce a change in another variable then that is evidence of a causal relationship between the two variables.

    In such a situation a correlation (which may or may not be linear) may be observed between the variables, but the correlation is not evidence of the causal relationship: the observation of the repeatedly induced change is evidence of the causal relationship.

    The reason that no significant correlation may exist between the two variables is because there may be a confounding effect which reduces the confidence of the correlation to an insignificant level. In this case, either or both of the variables may be varied by the confounding effect while the effect of the causal relationship between the two variables would be much smaller than the confounding effect. In such a case the causal relationship between the two variables can be demonstrated by experiment but can usually be ignored (so is assumed to not exist) because it is overwhelmed by the confounding effect.

    Richard

  59. Richardscourtney says:
    “Sorry, but NO!
    We have been discussing whether correlation indicates causation: it does not.

    When an alteration to one variable is observed to repeatably induce a change in another variable then that is evidence of a causal relationship between the two variables.

    In such a situation a correlation (which may or may not be linear) may be observed between the variables, but the correlation is not evidence of the causal relationship: the observation of the repeatedly induced change is evidence of the causal relationship.”

    Richard, couldn’t agree more with your statements which put into clear terms what I’d meant by ‘that’s a different story’ – I’d meant to imply that it was a totally different thing to correlation / causation not that it meant correlation means causation in that case. Apologies for the misleading turn of phrase :-)

    Cheers

    Mark

  60. richardscourtney says:
    May 12, 2014 at 2:30 am

    “In such a situation a correlation (which may or may not be linear) may be observed between the variables, but the correlation is not evidence of the causal relationship: the observation of the repeatedly induced change is evidence of the causal relationship.”
    ===================================================================

    RC, let me repeat:

    agfosterjr says:
    May 9, 2014 at 9:41 pm
    Tom Trevor says:
    May 9, 2014 at 9:22 pm
    “Even the type of correlation you are talking about doesn’t suggest causation.”
    And:: “Even 100% correlation does not tell us what event is the cause and what event is the effect.”
    =================================================================
    What you mean to say with these contradictory statements is that while correlation doesn’t distinguish between cause and effect it certainly does indicate cause and effect. –AGF
    &&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&

    From the start I have claimed, and still claim, that correlation indicates causation. I didn’t say that correlation spells out any particular cause and effect. Or that it precludes a common cause for tandem effects. You write, “In such a situation a correlation (which may or may not be linear) may be observed between the variables, but the correlation is not evidence of the causal relationship: the observation of the repeatedly induced change is evidence of the causal relationship.”

    But this has no bearing on the argument. If anything, it backs up my point: one determines cause and effect through correlation, when one thinks one knows the cause. Baby flips light switch; room lights up. Baby concludes cause and effect through correlation.

    So to prevent further needless confusion, let me restate more specifically:

    Correlation indicates causation (by a consensus of definition).
    It does not distinguish between cause and effect.
    It does not preclude a cause other than what is correlated.

    If I back off from the claim of the absolute nature of correlation more problems are created than solved. E.g., what is the “correlation”? (say 95%) 95% of what? 100% correlation. Correlation unqualified is absolute. So the correct question would be, what is the measure of correlation?

    If this claimed consensus of definition is not accepted, then I must revise: perfect correlation always indicates causation.

    Does that help? –AGF

  61. agfosterjr says:
    May 12, 2014 at 12:51 pm

    For sake of argument, let me agree that PERFECT correlation of A and B implies CAUSATION of the form A CAUSES B, or B CAUSES A, or some other common thing C CAUSES A and C CAUSES B.

    OK, what if A and B are NOT PERFECTLY correlated? Say 95% or 90% ? say way less than 90% ?

    In my graphic examples of Number of US Executions vs UAH satellite global temperature anomaly (1979 thru 2013), and my earlier example of US Public and Private Debt as a percentage of GDP vs NASA GISS temperature anomaly (1880’s to 2011) the correlation is visually appealing, but not quantified. My purpose was to show that Executions and Debt were BETTER CORRELATED with temperature anomaly than Atmospheric CO2 levels which NASA GISS, the IPCC, and the whole Climate “Hockey Team” claim is the MAJOR CAUSE of Global Warming.

    We know, from the basic physics of the Atmospheric “Greenhouse” Effect, that Atmospheric CO2 IS A REAL CAUSE OF WARMING, but we (Skeptics) doubt the strength of that CAUSATION. My point is that the strength of CAUSATION (I.e, climate sensitivity to CO2) has been overestimated by the Climate Team by a factor of two or three or more.

    I did not think that anyone would believe that Executions or Debt had a STRONG CAUSAL connection to warming. Their CAUSAL connection, if it exists at all, is quite WEAK. Therefore, if Executions and Debt have a STRONGER CAUSAL connection than CO2, which is what my graphic demonstrates, then the CAUSAL connection between human-caused CO2 must be very weak, indeed. QED

    Ira

  62. Ira Glickstein, PhD says:
    May 12, 2014 at 5:08 pm

    You were probably not the author of the subheading: “From the “correlation is not causation” department,” but from there I took my cue: this is a common fallacy. Similar to such dicta as “nothing is absolute,” or the modified, “the only absolute is that nothing is absolute.” Such Hollywood philosophy as Wikipedia’s entry http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Correlation_does_not_imply_causation
    is inexcusable coming from a science whose raison d’etre is the fact that correlation does imply causation. In fact typical definitions in effect equate correlation with causation. E.g., the first one Google brings up (without hitting ENTER):

    cor·re·la·tion
    ˌkôrəˈlāSHən/Submit
    noun
    a mutual relationship or connection between two or more things.
    “research showed a clear correlation between recession and levels of property crime”
    synonyms: connection, association, link, tie-in, tie-up, relation, relationship, interrelationship, interdependence, interaction, interconnection; More
    STATISTICS
    interdependence of variable quantities.
    STATISTICS
    a quantity measuring the extent of interdependence of variable quantities.
    ===========================================================
    “interdependence of variable quantities”? = correlated values, functions of each other, effects of causes.

    “a quantity measuring the extent of interdependence of variable quantities”? OK, definition #2, maybe, but this is better called “correlation coefficient.” Because as an abstraction, “correlation” is better taken as an absolute.

    I hardly take issue with your method; I wasn’t responding to your post but to the subtitle noted above, and the fallacy it implies. I especially liked the statistical study of malaria posted last November http://wattsupwiththat.com/2013/11/07/new-study-shows-malaria-has-little-to-do-with-climate-but-more-with-household-size/
    where by checking various correlation rates the authors apparently narrowed the cause to the number of family members sleeping in the same room. This is an extension of what the birds do when learning to distinguish between edible and inedible butterflies. We practice statistics because statistics have relevance in the real world. They relevance only because correlation does imply causation.

    Thanks for your post and comments. –AGF

  63. richardscourtney says:
    May 12, 2014 at 2:09 am

    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2014/05/09/friday-funny-forget-co2-us-executions-cause-global-warming/#comment-1634070

    That expansion was all a good chuckle. Thank you. sir!

    P.S. I got that one from my father. His wry observation was that coroners went to a lot of unnecessary fuss when the actual cause of death obviously was that the deceased stopped breathing. Sadly, he stopped breathing in 2008, but I still use his line when I can… always brings a smile to my face.

    H.R.

  64. richardscourtney says: May 12, 2014 at 2:09 am
    H.R.:
    At May 11, 2014 at 6:01 am you say
    “It is the cessation of breathing that causes death. There’s 100% correlation there. Everyone who stops breathing, dies, so keep breathing as long as you can ;o)”

    But if there is 100% correlation, and it is not evidently coincidence, then can you properly say whether A causes B or B causes A?

    In H.R.’s example, would it be just as true to say that death causes cessation of breathing?

    Consider – “death” can be considered to be total cessation of brain function. Following this, all inputs to the chest muscles cease, and breathing stops. So death causes cessation of breathing.

    Further, consider a patient in an Iron Lung. Breathing has stopped – the Iron Lung does the necessary pumping of air in and out of the lungs, so the patinet survives (it is hoped). So here cessation of breathing has not caused death! QED,

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