Don't Base Energy Policy on Faulty Weather Forecasts

Regulations shouldn’t result form forecasts when fifth graders can predict the weather just as well as the government.


Last week, the U.S. government’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released its annual hurricane forecast for the Atlantic region.

According to NOAA, we can expect anywhere from a “normal” to “above normal” hurricane season. Some people, however, are not impressed.

Count the National Center for Public Policy Research, a free-market think tank that deals with science and environmental issues among them. "NOAA's forecast was on target last year, but it was only the second time in seven years the agency got it right,” said the group’s David Ridenour, which is putting the forecast to the test. [Check out a roundup of political cartoons on energy policy.]

"Is NOAA smarter than two fifth graders?” Ridenour asks.“Given its less than 29 percent success rate the past seven years, we sincerely doubt it. To find out for sure, we've commissioned two fifth graders to calculate the number of Atlantic hurricanes using a methodology that fifth graders use to resolve most of life's most vexing challenges."

Filmmakers Steven Crowder and Jordan Crowder have produced a video of the fifth graders, Kate and Chris, demonstrating their methodology. It is intended to remind people that forecasts based on still-evolving science, which is not exactly reliable, shouldn't be used to determine public policy.

"Forecasts are just that: forecasts. All that matters is what actually happens," said Amy Ridenour, NCPPR’s president. "We should keep this in mind as we consider whether to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. Past forecasts of rising temperatures, sea levels, and droughts, and other extreme weather events due to rising concentrations of carbon, haven't proven any more reliable that NOAA's annual hurricane forecast. Until their reliability improves, it would be irresponsible to base policy on them."

  • Check out a roundup of political cartoons on energy policy.
  • Read Rep. Darrell Issa: Obama's Bad Policy, Harmful Regulations Add to Gas Prices.