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Dumbest Climate Study Ever?!: ‘The effect of temperature on language complexity’ – Claims: ‘Climate change could reduce the speech complexity & productivity of politicians’

The peer-reviewed paper is “The effect of temperature on language complexity: Evidence from seven million parliamentary speeches” by Risto Conte Keivabu and Tobias Widmann in Cell.

Here, as the wrote them, are the “highlights” of the paper:

"Heat has been associated with decreased productivity and cognitive performance

We find warmer temperatures to reduce language complexity of politicians

In Germany, we observe a larger effect of warm days on older politicians

Climate change could reduce the speech complexity and productivity of politicians"

In this article, we leverage information on parliamentary speeches to focus on one of these outcomes: language complexity (which could serve as a potential proxy for cognitive performance).

"We examine the marginal effects of gender as studies have shown that women are more detrimentally affected by cold exposure and men are more affected by heat exposure. In Figure 3, we report results of the marginal effects of temperature on the Flesch-Kincaid score adding an interaction with gender. We observe a larger effect size of hot temperatures (>24°C) for male politicians and smaller for female politicians. ...

We believe that this study is an important first step in understanding the impact of environmental factors on language complexity leveraging large scale observational data on parliamentary speeches. Given the reality of climate change, the influence of extreme temperatures on language complexity, and more specifically on the quality of political discourse, raises significant concerns. 

https://wmbriggs.substack.com/p/is-this-the-dumbest-science-ever

Is This The Dumbest Science Ever?

Is This The Dumbest Science Ever?

If this isn’t the dumbest science ever, it’s close. The peer-reviewed paper is “The effect of temperature on language complexity: Evidence from seven million parliamentary speeches” by Risto Conte Keivabu and Tobias Widmann in Cell.

Here, as the wrote them, are the “highlights” of the paper:

  • Heat has been associated with decreased productivity and cognitive performance
  • We find warmer temperatures to reduce language complexity of politicians
  • In Germany, we observe a larger effect of warm days on older politicians
  • Climate change could reduce the speech complexity and productivity of politicians

Old people increasingly dominate Western politics. A class too fearful to let go of power, suspecting, perhaps, that if they do they will live out the rest of their short miserable lives in pain. Maybe.

Think of the shuffling senility that leads this country. Recall the speeches he plagiarized when he was more youthful, before “climate change” hit. Rich, and full of complexity, those speeches. Now pick any public appearance from the last year, a year deep inside “climate change”, and compare the content of his recent utterances, or gutterlances, with those plagiarized speeches.

What do you notice? “Climate change”, say our authors, is causing those speeches to grow dumber. It’s Science.

Let’s see how they did it.

“Climate change,” they say, “is causing a steady increase in temperatures with consequences on several dimensions of human wellbeing.” Which is not true. Which is to say, it is false. My parents flee to Michigan’s third peninsula every winter in search of a steady increase in temperature to improve their well being. Heat is not bad. I write this on a day in mid June in which we will not even see 70 F. (Even though I really really want it to.)

Speech complexity of political discourse has been studied extensively in social science research. Looking at long term developments, studies indicate that language complexity of political language has steadily decreased over the past 200 years.

One could say, as I do say, that this is because of the spread of democracy and increase in government power, which necessitates and drives a decrease in political language complexity. The greater proportion of the populace you want to coerce, the simpler your words must become. You cannot in these once United States open a speech with “Imagine you didn’t have breakfast this morning” and have any hope that all will understand you.

You can, though, get people to grasp “Be afraid! Climate change! Be afraid!”

We put forth the hypothesis that extreme temperatures negatively affect speech complexity among politicians, thereby leading to a simplification of political rhetoric.

I don’t know the stats for Europe, but Tony Heller tracks the USA and tweeted (with graph) “About 30% of the US was over 90F yesterday [19 June], which is average for the date since 1895, and down more than 50% since 1931.” Extreme temperatures are not increasing. Propaganda is. His tweet coincided with hersterical propaganda over a minor heat wave in summer.

Anyway, our authors grabbed “7,425,184 speeches from 28,523 politicians” from half a dozen or so Western countries, rated the speeches’ complexity by the “Flesch-Kincaid score”, then crammed all this into a regression, where the real magic happened.

Injected into the regression were “dummy variables using temperature bins based on the following 10 temperature ranges: <0°C; 0°C–3°C; 3°C–6°C; 6°C–9°C; 9°C to 12°C; 12°C–18°C (comfort zone); 18°C to 21°C; 21°C to 24°C; 24°C to 27°C; >27°C.”

Each of those bins gets a “coefficient” in the regression. They claim “coefficients should be interpreted as the effect of out of comfort temperature (12°C–18°C) on the speech complexity of an individual politician relative to a day in the comfort zone”.

This is hilariously asinine with nothing to recommend it. Your body’s speech-making capabilities do not respond to discrete three-degree jumps in temperature. The thing itself is absurd.

But they got—drumroll—wee p-values! Which, we guess nobody ever told them, are almost impossible not to get with sample sizes this large.

They suggest geezers are affected more by the heat. Forgetting there are now more geezers in power than times before, and that the old seek heat. A warmed-pver gerontocracy rules.

But then they say this, which gave me a spit take: “we observe the impact of heat on the Flesch-Kincaid score to be concentrated on the day of the speech, as we do not observe temperatures on the previous three days to affect our outcome suggesting an acute effect on the day of the speech.”

Given politicians read off teleprompters, and that they do not usually compose their speeches on the days they deliver them, the authors have just proved their own thesis is false, a figment of wee p-values.

The real lesson is that being intelligent does not make you smart. Stupidity is still a live possibility for every intelligent person.

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