What is in a Correlation?

One of the first things taught in a science class is that correlation does not imply causation. I have heard it in the first week of both science and philosophy classes for my career as a student for one important reason: It is a logical fallacy. Correlation is defined as two things which occur together such as when the amount of moisture increases in an environment, the growth of mold spores increases. Causation is when one thing leads to another such as a bat hitting a ball and sending it in the opposite direction.  Why then, when a host of other variables is present, do people claim that increased carbon dioxide levels are the sole source for increased global average temperatures? This is one of the core arguments in Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth. In the air we breathe is nitrogen, oxygen, argon, carbon-dioxide, and methane. It is one of many variables which contribute and it seems odd to ascribe all the blame on one variable.  

I am not a scientist nor do I have a well-versed background in hard sciences. I do however possess a working and logical brain and like others accept that two events occurring together do not mean they are related.  Spurious correlations, a humorous website, highlights these relations (found here ). Everything from relating Consumption of mozzarella cheese with Civil Engineering Doctorates given to Drownings in pools correlating with the amount of Energy produced by nuclear power.

You may be asking yourself why is CO2 and heat a spurious correlation. For me, it is that there are a host of other variables at play. If the fact that one variable is increasing is enough to upset the balance of the system it would be a very unstable system. Also, I’d like to point out in the 1970’s there was a fear of a “big chill” and at this same time, CO2  was higher than it ever had been why then now is it the main reason? I have no doubt averages are increasing I just think it foolish to blame it on one factor.

This goes to show if you look hard enough you can find correlations just about anywhere and between anything. Which makes it hard to buy the argument of increased Carbon Dioxide, as small of an increase humans make, has anything to do with global temperature. 

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