A science presenter, writer, speaker & former TV host; author of The Skeptic's Handbook (over 200,000 copies distributed & available in 15 languages).

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Nigeria declared free of Ebola, but do the maths

I am glad that Nigeria is officially free of Ebola now. The story is reassuring. New outbreaks of Ebola are stoppable. But the numbers are sobering. They show how far gone the situation is in West Africa.

The index patient (as the source of the outbreak is known) arrived in Lagos, a megacity of 21 million people, on July 20th — a recipe for disaster. Over the next six weeks 19 further people were diagnosed with Ebola. The death toll was eight people, many of them health workers. Those infected generated 989 contacts, and it took 18,500 in-person, follow up visits to make sure that the virus did not spread further.

Translate those ratios to West Africa, where the latest WHO situation report shows there were 2,638 new cases between September 26 and October 17. In Nigeria, each infected person on average generated 50 contacts, and each contact generated 18 follow-up visits. This is only the roughest of ballpark estimates, but if the ratios were similar, it means that solving the spread in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea would generate 130,000 contacts and require 2.4 million follow-ups in the next three weeks. By mid November that will double. Obviously things are too far gone to use the same techniques in West Africa, and the strategy must be to strategically prioritize the actions that reduce the Ro (reproduction rate) to slow that exponential curve.

If airborne transmission occurs, it must be reasonably small. The message from Nigeria is that patients are not that infectious until they hit the late stages and are hospitalized or close to it. Dr Stella Adadevo probably saved Nigeria from disaster, but tragically died from Ebola herself. We must do more to save the heath workers. (Surely we can organize blood transfusions from survivors?)

A new study suggests three people a month will fly from West Africa with the virus if no exit screening takes place. (I’m not sure how useful that number is, given the exponential growth curve, and the non-random selection of high risk people seeking better hospitals.)

Scientific American discusses the way Nigeria controlled the outbreak. It was not rocket-science:

Keep reading  →

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Sea level rise “unprecedented” when modeling the ancient past

Kurt Lambeck at ANU scored a Climate Bingo moment in the modern media last week with declarations that the 20cm rise in sea levels last century was “unprecedented” in the last 6,000 years! But sea level is fiendishly difficult to measure thanks to rising and falling bits of land. Present day scientists argue over sea level changes in the last 10 years, yet Lambeck seems to have figured out the sea levels in 4000BC. Tricky, what.

When Nils Axel-Morner tried to figure out which modern spot in Denmark is tectonically stable he looked at 60 years of detailed data, from 40 beaches around Denmark. Lambeck has a model that kinda does all that and more. It works out the mass of the icesheets circa Tutankhamen and calculates the mantle conditions. He sorts out the geoidal bulge with assumptions about mantle viscosity to look at tectonic displacement. Hmm. Could be some uncertainty there?

This is Fig 1 from Lambeck et al 2014. Note the scales. Really. Figure how large the 15-20cm rise of the last century would look on the y axis here which doesn’t just cover 150cm, it covers 150 meters. Who would be brave enough to declare that sea levels did not rise by 15 or 20 centimeters per century at least once during the last 6,000 years?


Fig. 1. Distribution of far-field sea-level data for the past 35 ka. (A) Depth−
age relationship of all data with 2σ error estimates.

Here’s a closeup of the graph for scale. As best as I could, I marked what a one meter rise would look like (the little red dot). That’s five times the size of the warming in the last century. I searched for a more detailed graph of the last 6,000 years in the paper or the supplement, but couldn’t see one. Perhaps I missed it?

Close up of Fig 1.

The PR certainty in this is out of all proportion. See the spread on that holocene data in Australian sea levels to get a better idea of what sea level data is like. Would Lambeck really declare that in Moses day seas definitely weren’t rising at the same rate from, say, 1310 BC to 1210 BC? I ask, because in Greenland at least, things were heating up quite a bit around then. (Not that I care about the exact years, just the principle.) Lambeck has “found” a form of natural historic data smoothing. As Eric Worrall points out, when the dates of proxies are uncertain the peaks and troughs tend to blend. It is only the more accurate data today that will pick up steep rises and falls.

A case of PR Amplification?

The headlines bear little resemblance to the data or the body of the paper:

The Guardian: “Sea level rise over past century unmatched in 6,000 years, says study”

Research finds 20cm rise since start of 20th century, caused by global warming and the melting of polar ice, is unprecedented”

The paper:

Keep reading  →

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Company stops Ebola, Bureaucracy puts it on a plane

Compare the response of The Firestone Rubber Plantation in Liberia to the Hospital in Dallas, Texas.

The rubber plantation has 8,000 workers with 71,000 dependents. It  is an hour north-east of Monrovia, surrounded by Ebola outbreaks. The virus arrived on the plantation in March. Knowing that the UN and the Liberian government were not going to save them, the managers sat around a rubber tree and googled “Ebola” and learned on the run instead. They turned shipping containers into isolation units, trucks into ambulances, and chemical cleaning suits into “haz-mat” gear. They trained cleaners, and teachers, they blocked visitors, and over the next five months dealt with 71 infections, but by early October were clear of the virus. There were only 17 survivors (the same 70% mortality rate as elsewhere). But without good management, there could have been so many more deaths.

In contrast, the nanny-state takes a good brain and stops it thinking. In Texas,  trained health professionals were caught unprepared, following inadequate protocols they assumed were good enough, and even risking their own lives. A  nurse who cared for a dying Ebola patient — and knew how bad Ebola could be — still needed to phone someone to ask if it was OK to board a plane with a slightly raised temperature (99.5F or 37.5C). The official she spoke to “didn’t Google”, they just said yes because her temperature was lower than the official threshold of 100.4F. Let’s not blame her, she was doing her job, is now fighting for her life, and almost certainly did what so many others would have done. Let’s ask instead how we train workers to know that officials can sometimes get it wrong and they need to think for themselves. When the officials fail so badly, in so many ways, the failure is not single-point, or bad luck, but systemic. The nanny-state is selecting networkers and smoochers instead of decision-making leaders. Officials rarely lose their jobs and golden handshakes, or face a seriously investigative media — which would keep them on their toes. Surely either the nurse who called or the bureaucrat who answered would, if left to their own devices, have figured it was not ok to fly–but by the smothering dumbness of of bureaucracy she ended up flying.

Stability is good, but the system is so stable it’s ossified. Executives were so busy telling everyone not to worry, they forgot to worry themselves. The Firestone plantation is an inspiring story. It gives me hope.

Liberian Rubber Farm Becomes Sanctuary Against Ebola

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Weekend Unthreaded

Hope you are having fun…

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Ebola: a relentless tide we have to stop while we still can

The bad news -Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) said the disease was still out of control. Thanks to the mistake with a plane, a few US schools have closed, and whole neighborhoods are being roped off. How fast does a 19Kb string of information spread? Outside Africa, Norway has one case, Germany has had one death, one survivor, and one case. Spain has lost two, and is treating one. France and the UK have a survivor each. Today, at least, Senegal has been declared free of Ebola.

The WHO organization has admitted it botched the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

“In a draft internal document obtained by The Associated Press, the agency says “nearly everyone” involved in the response failed to notice the potential for Ebola’s explosive spread.

The agency acknowledged that its own bureaucracy was a problem, pointing out that the heads of WHO country offices in Africa are “politically motivated appointments” made by the WHO regional director for Africa.”

The good news - CSL have said they will develop a plasma product from survivor’s blood. At the moment this is the most pragmatic possible treatment. There are 3000+ survivors who have antibodies, which appear to save the lives of victims (Brantly, Writebol, an American journalist, and hopefully the Texan nurses). It could still take a long time to produce, and it all hinges on how fast it can be done. It could save the medical staff who are so at risk and so important. That would mean more medical staff and other volunteers would be happy to volunteer. Then it could be provided to some patients and their sole carer to potentially stop transmission from wiping out whole families, or leaving children orphaned, and importantly reduce the Ro rate.

CSL say the biggest problem is getting blood of survivors. Dare I suggest: pay them, and the free market will provide. The survivors will benefit. The GDP per capita in these West African nations is $400 – $800 US a year. Our money makes much more difference there than waiting to spend it on victims here.  Stop it at the source.

What will stop this if we don’t?

Evolution of viruses on a continent of one billion people and countless billion animals that may act as reservoirs and future carriers is a risk we don’t want to run. The exponential curve is relentless — there are ten million people in Sierra Leone and Liberia, and while the disease has only afflicted a tiny 0.2% of their populations so far, the only thing stopping that growing to 100% is the West. As Albert Einstein said, compound interest is the most powerful force in the universe. The number of cases doubles every 3 to 4 weeks. We may be twelve eleven doublings away from wiping out 7 million people and unleashing who-knows-what mutation on the world. Does anyone think that border control will keep that carnage within their national boundaries?  Ebola has been detected in rats, chimps, antelopes, monkeys, dogs and bats. They won’t stop at the border checkpoint.

The West is already surely a magnet for any potentially exposed people in West Africa who have a passport to get to there. If you had the means, and knew you were at risk, would you stay in Monrovia?

The latest UN Situation report – 15 October 2014 listed around 600 new cases a week in Liberia as of a few weeks ago. Ominously, the statistics are falling, but no one is happy, because it’s believed the real numbers are getting worse and the reporting is falling rather than the infections. There are around 500 new cases in Sierra Leone each week, and 200 new cases in Guinea. Approximately half the new cases are from the capitals — showing the virus is now well established in Monrovia and Freetown. There a pockets of good news. “There does appear to have been a genuine fall in the number of cases in Lofa district…”

The Australian – CSL, the Australian maker of blood-plasma therapeutics, has been asked by Bill Gates to explore whether it can develop a plasma product to treat Ebola.

Keep reading  →

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Catalyst – raising public awareness of science, or promoting big-government science instead?

The global warming segment on the ABC last night marks a new direction for the Catalyst ABC Science-unit. In the past, their method of dealing with skeptics was to pretend they didn’t exist (see the transcript of July 2013), but apparently they’ve realized they are losing the war. Is this the first time they’ve acknowledged that there is a skeptical view, and that there are questions to answer? Could be.  Perhaps it does hurt when they are repeatedly caught putting forward a biased one-sided point of view. They even interviewed Garth Paltridge and Judith Curry, with a moment of Christopher Monckton and Maurice Newman, too. But don’t get too excited. While the shift is a slight win for skeptics, there is no sign that Catalyst are any less biased, better informed or more aware of what the scientific method is. It is just a shift in PR tactics.

Anja Taylor still didn’t ask hard questions or do her research properly. Catalyst viewers would be almost as much in the dark as they were before. It is as if the point of the show was training for the ABC faithful to answer the dreaded skeptics.  Because even though skeptics were no longer completely ignored, in the end they’re still the kind of people that  “hacked” and stole things, they “seized” and “misinterpreted” information, and as Matthew England says in the last word, skeptics are “obsessed” and “they’re wrong”. (This from the man who calls the IPCC 1990 predictions “very accurate” when it is written in black and white that every mainstream dataset came in below the lowest possible estimate. When will the ABC or Matthew England right that wrong?)

Catalyst is still covering up the mistakes, errors and uncertainties with the best kind of advertising tax money can buy – -the kind of advertising that looks (in a shallow way) like it is independent reporting.

The ABC science unit almost admitted there was a pause, but in the end it was just the usual list of excuses. There was  “natural variability”, a solar slowdown, a few volcanoes, aerosols in China and the downside of the PDO. There was some pause-denial as the bottom line. “From the data he’s been analysing, Dr Trenberth sees a planet heating up just as fast as ever.”

Spot the contradiction, the missing heat is in the ocean, it’s hard to measure and we know skeptics are wrong…?

In total, aerosols and solar activity are thought to account for about 20% of the pause, but the biggest contender for where the rest of the heat is going is the one that’s hardest to measure. The oceans absorb a whopping 93% of the world’s excess heat.

Dr Kevin Trenberth
I’ve been working with the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts, and they have developed an ocean-monitoring system that synthesizes all of the information – sea-level measurements, the measurements from the floats, sensors that are measuring sea-surface temperature and so on – and that we’ve found is that after about 1999, a lot more heat is going deeper into the ocean. And this is unprecedented. Is this just a consequence of the change in the observing system or is it real? And I think we have good reason to believe that at some of this is real.

Questions Anja Taylor could have asked but didn’t:

1. Precise ocean measurements only started in 2003 with the ARGO buoys, so isn’t it meaningless to say that the warming of the ocean below the surface is “unprecedented”? The last time the PDO shifted like this the temperature of the ocean was measured by a few boats with buckets. How would we know whether that shift was any different to this one?

2. Even if we call the ARGO buoys “precise”, they only have one thermometer for every 250,000 cubic kilometers of ocean. The changes in temperature we are looking for are in the order of one hundredth of a degree. Surely no scientist would claim that this data was remotely precise enough to make claims with any certainty at this stage? Why are we imposing billion dollar costs on Australian households based on data that is so uncertain?

3. The IPCC states it is 95% confident, yet they are relying on very short period of climate data with large uncertainties, and models which are proven to be wrong. Isn’t that misleading?

Taylor also could’ve pointed out that “internal variability” is not scientifically a force like radiation. Instead it’s a coverall term for modeler ignorance, the leftover after the effects of all the bits they think they know –  natural cycles. It would be equally true to say it means “we don’t know what is going on”.

Trenberth admits there were “quite substantial discrepancies”

Apparently it’s OK for a scientist to admit there were substantial discrepancies in the past that they concealed, as long as they have an answer to them now. But these discrepancies occurred during years when the same scientists were calling skeptics “deniers” and were telling the public there was no debate. What politician would get away with admitting they had hidden and denied a budget discrepancy for years, but it was alright because they had excuses now?

Taylor seems to think concealing the model failure was fine.  Trenberth admits there was a time when they couldn’t account for the missing energy, but he said he’s found it now, and she believes him. Given that he was not publicly honest then, why is he credible now?

Dr Kevin Trenberth Given that there’s an energy imbalance, where does that energy go? How much has gone into the oceans? How much has gone into melting Arctic sea ice? Warming the atmosphere, warming up the land, changing evaporation and therefore changing clouds which can also change the brightness of the planet. And when we first did this, there was some quite substantial discrepancies that in some years we can’t account for where the energy has gone.

Where were the press releases at the time, announcing that skeptics might be right and the climate scientists had doubts? The answer is that there is one kind of scientist who only ever announces something is missing when they are telling us they’ve found it — and that’s the unskeptical kind.

Perhaps it works for gullible journalists who have a personal position rather than an open mind?

Taylor invited Matthew England to offer us his latest excuse for the pause — “extra winds”. If she had done two minutes of Googling she would have found this post, which pretty much lays out all the mistakes and assumptions built into his weak excuse and the questions she ought be asking Prof England.

  1. If the PDO can cool the Earth, it must be able to warm the Earth too. Exactly how much of the previous warming that you said was CO2 should now be attributed to the Pacific Ocean?
  2. You say these winds are unprecedented in the records, but you even admit in the paper that these records are short, and there are few observations before the satellite era starting in 1979. Given that the PDO is 60 years long, isn’t it misleading to call a particular reading “unprecedented” when we don’t even have records for one entire natural cycle?
  3. Haven’t skeptics been saying for years that the PDO affects the climate and the models were exaggerating?
  4. Perhaps the trade-winds are affecting the climate. But what drives the trade-winds? The models can’t predict the trade-winds until they understand what drives them. If it turns out to be cloud cover changes, or lunar orbits, or solar magnetic effects, cosmic ray effects, or all of the above… that means there is another whole factor or lots of them that the models did not include. Every warming factor added to the models reduces the power of CO2 as a driver. How much does this reduce your future projections by? (Or your future job prospects?)

The bottom line for Catalyst is that there is no pause and warming is coming

Global Prophets for science?

What that means is we’re currently in the phase before the next global temperature jump.

Professor Matthew England
There will be warming out of this hiatus at some point in time – whether it’s this or in five years’ time, there’s gonna be warming – and unfortunately, what we’re seeing in the models is that the warming out of the hiatus is gonna be rapid, regardless of when that hiatus ends.

If the world cools instead, as solar-based theories predict, will Catalyst admit they were wrong?

Catalyst: inaccurate, and in denial of the data?

NARRATION: But a small minority of scientists disagree.

Catalyst could have said a small minority of (certified) climate scientists disagree, but they didn’t. They said “scientists” implying scientists in general — yet survey after survey shows that two-thirds of geoscientists and engineers, 48% of meteorologists and many other hard scientists, and by the thousands, absolutely do not agree.

These kinds of careless, repeated errors could be easily checked in a few minutes with an Internet search. Is it just confirmation bias or is it PR? Whatever it is, it’s not investigative reporting.

Climategate still hurts: hide the travesty

Anja Taylor was keen to take another opportunity to remind everyone of how unimportant it was.  Indeed the  Trenberth Climategate quote was so unimportant and misunderstood they spent four paragraphs discussing it without telling the audience what the quote was. Don’t mention the travesty!

Among the Many hacked emails in the 2009 Climategate scandal was one from Dr Kevin Trenberth to a colleague. Sceptics seized on one particular sentence as written proof that climate scientists were involved in a large-scale cover-up.

Dr Kevin Trenberth
It was picked up as me saying that there was no global warming, somehow or the other, and completely misinterpreted and it just propagated all over the place – it was amazing to see.

Let’s do that quote in full, so the ABC viewers could decide for themselves.

“The fact is that we can’t account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can’t.”

The definition of travesty: ˈtravɪsti (noun)  a false, absurd, or distorted representation of something.

Anja Taylor describes this instead as “frustration” and the word “travesty” is never said. ABC viewers might be surprised to find the ABC covering up admissions of false, absurd, or distorted representations. Blog readers won’t be.

Instead of reporting the facts, Taylor reported  guesses and speculation, saying that the emails were “hacked” — something the Norfolk police tried to find evidence for, but couldn’t. The only person who knows is FOIA, and they explained they were whistleblowing, which is legally protected in the UK. Other scientific “facts” Catalyst reported included the odd meteorological event they called a “climate conspiracy storm”. (Apparently that’s what you call it when scientists accurately quote leaked emails of other scientists admitting their research is a “travesty”.)

Is it raising public awareness of science, or promoting big-government science instead?

Catalyst seemingly has no interest or curiosity in discussing the real scientific questions that matter, not even when they are reporting what scientists as a profession are thinking and asking. If Catalyst was there to serve the public, or the science community at large, they would not discuss Climategate emails and hide the words they were supposedly discussing. They would not praise scientists who admit they were privately in doubt while they were publicly “certain”. Nor would they accept weak post hoc answers that depend on single thermometer correctly measuring 250,000 cubic kilometers of ocean, and models that we know are wrong.

Probably lazy reporters are just serving their own personal whims, which are genuinely held but based on dinner-party discussions and fashionable trendiness rather than on logic and hard evidence. Whim-based reporting is not what the ABC was chartered to do. Nor was it supposed to just be a mouthpiece for government dependent officials to promote government dependent work.

Have Catalyst ever served the public by seriously investigating the value or success of taxpayer funded grants? Has Catalyst ever questioned whether a particular ARC grant was misused, or irrelevant, wasted, or one-sided research? Whatever the intent, the outcome is to act as paid PR for ARC-funded scientists, to help them convince the public that their taxes are well spent. “Give me more money”. “Vote for big government”.

After decades of being almost entirely reliant on public funds would anyone be surprised if ABC employees personal views don’t tend to be skeptical of government funding? There’s a kind of natural selection at work. The base-aim of most publicly funded bodies must surely be to justify more public funding. Any co-dependent on government funding is a friend indeed. The needier, the better.

The one recent time Catalyst questioned a consensus they were hounded for it. It’s hardly a surprise they take the safe big-government policy position on science.

Related posts:

h/t to Matt, Chris, J.J., Peter, & John

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Gallup poll: Voters rank “climate change” last

Despite rallies in New York, despite the relentless propaganda, the people just don’t seem to be scared anymore. In the latest Gallup Poll, Climate Change is ranked 13th out of 13 issues. As the strident messages of doom roll out, 60% of the public simply don’t believe what the professors are telling them. Science has lost a lot of its aura and credibility.

The US midterm elections are nearly here, yet the poll shows that Democrats have clear advantages in areas that … not many people care about. A victim perhaps of their success in adopting the smug concerns of inner city university graduates?

Items to the right are considered more important.

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Ebola is potentially airborne

I’ve been watching Ebola with concern. I hoped we’d have more time. We can still gain control but every week matters. What we do now will be so much easier than what we have to do if we leave it to run.

The summary: The WHO warns that there may be 10,000 new cases a week in West Africa by early December. Can you imagine trying to set up new beds to cope with that each week? Meanwhile the Centre for Infectious Disease Research has advised the CDC that the evidence suggests some airborne spread of Ebola is occurring, which may explain the toll on health workers. Sadly a second health-worker has also been infected with Ebola in Texas (and she was on flight 1143 from Cleveland to Dallas the day before – the CDC wants passengers to call.).  Sixteen members of Doctors without Borders have been afflicted, and nine have died. That team deserves medals more help.

There are different versions of airborne infections, hopefully this is in the “only just airborne” category. Just being barely airborne is not the same as, say, being spread like measles. Nonetheless, the game has changed. Healthworkers need even more serious, much more expensive masks.

Update to clarify: There is a spectrum of  “airborne spreadability”, and it may be that the virus has not suddenly changed, but has been spreading slightly through an airborne mechanism for months. If that is the case, the new awareness is good news and will help.  As reader Lawrence Cooper points out, it’s rare or even unknown for viruses to transform completely from one form of transmission to another. On the other hand it’s well known that the evolution of viruses will generally make them less deadly, but easier to spread. This is what I’m talking about. With mortality running at 70%, there is still a lot of room to reduce the death rate but ultimately kill a lot more people. There is some very ugly maths under those curves. Evolution is inevitable: more infections means more mutations. Virologists are debating it here.

We are very fortunate the virus doesn’t spread until people show symptoms. There don’t seem to be pockets of new mysterious outbreaks that spring up unexplained, which would happen if the virus was truly airborne. But it was very odd that healthworkers in close contact to patients and in protective gear were getting sick so often.

On the plus side, the outbreaks in Nigeria and Senegal may get cleared as officially over by October 20. Those two countries appear to have overcome their outbreaks. At least one epidemiologist departing Liberia sees hope for controlling the infection in the region where it first broke out. There is hope, but very little time to get control in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea. Also on the plus side, there are several promising vaccines in development, which I feel optimistic about (trials have started though delays are frustrating). Blood from survivors contains antibodies that could save people, and seem to be helping the nurse in Texas (I wonder why aren’t we doing more of this for health-care workers everywhere?). Mark Zuckerberg has donated $25 million to the Ebola cause. Good on him.

Right  now, the most useful thing we can do is help our bureaucrats to understand how fast this could get beyond control.  This is about making sure there is not a modern plague. We can do it, but we need to do it in Africa. The Ro (Reproduction number) is estimated to be between 1.5 and 2.2 at the moment. If we can bring the Ro down below one, the disease will most likely gradually fizzle out. Simple measures can still make a big difference in a land where doctors are rare.

It’s Airborne:  Breitbart reports

Medical Research Org CIDRAP: Ebola Transmittable by Air

The highly respected  Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP) at the University of Minnesota just advised the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) that “there is scientific and epidemiologic evidence that Ebola virus has the potential to be transmitted via infectious aerosol particles,” including exhaled breath.

CIDRAP is warning that surgical facemasks do not prevent transmission of Ebola, and healthcare professionals (HCP) must immediately be outfitted with full-hooded protective gear and powered air-purifying respirators.

CIDRAP since 2001 has been a global leader in addressing public health preparedness regarding emerging infectious diseases and bio-security responses. CIDRAP’s opinion on Ebola virus is there are “No proven pre- or post-exposure treatment modalities;” “A high case-fatality rate;” and “Unclear modes of transmission.”

10,0000 new cases a week by December The Guardian:

WHO warns 10,000 new cases of Ebola a week are possible

UN agency says fatality rate at 70% and that ‘a lot more people will die’ unless world steps up its response to crisis

The Ebola outbreak could grow to 10,000 new cases a week within two months, the World Health Organisation warned on Tuesday as the death toll from the virus reached 4,447 people, nearly all of them in west Africa.Dr Bruce Aylward, the WHO assistant director-general, told a news conference in Geneva that the number of new cases was likely to be between 5,000 and 10,000 a week by early December.

WHO’s regular updates show that deaths have resulted from 4,447 of the 8,914 reported cases, but Aylward said that any assumption that the death rate was 50% would be wrong. He put the death rate at 70% because many deaths are not reported or recorded officially.

Where detailed investigations have been carried out, it was clear that only 30% of people were surviving, he said, adding that the figure was almost exactly the same in the three hardest hit countries, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. “This is a high-mortality disease in any circumstances but particularly in these places,” said Aylward.

The toll on Doctors without Borders JEMS:

These people are angels.

16 Members of Doctors Without Borders Infected with Ebola, Nine Dead

Workers have had inadequate help from international community
JOHANNESBURG (AP) — International aid organization Doctors Without Borders said that 16 of its staff members have been infected with Ebola and nine of them have died.

JEMS Ebola Outbreak Coverage

Speaking at a press conference in Johannesburg Tuesday, the head of Doctors Without Borders in South Africa Sharon Ekambaram said medical workers have received inadequate assistance from the international community.

“Where is WHO Africa? Where is the African Union?” said Ekambaram who worked in Sierra Leone from August to September. “We’ve all heard their promises in the media but have seen very little on the ground.”

Four of the organization’s medical workers who had just returned from Sierra Leone and Liberia said they were frustrated, “chasing after the curve of the outbreak,” according to Jens Pederson, the aid organization’s humanitarian affairs adviser.

“To manage Ebola is not rocket science. It’s very basic infection control and very basic protection of staff,” said Pederson who said clean water, chlorine and soap were enough to disinfect an affected area.


2nd health care worker tests positive for Ebola at Dallas hospital

A second health care worker at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital who cared for Thomas Eric Duncan has tested positive for Ebola, health officials said Wednesday — casting further doubt on the hospital’s ability to handle Ebola and protect employees.

The worker reported a fever Tuesday and was immediately isolated, health department spokeswoman Carrie Williams said.

The preliminary Ebola test was done late Tuesday at the state public health laboratory in Austin, and the results came back around midnight. A second test will be conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

I’ll be back to add images and  more information, and as much good news as I can find.

Matt Ridley wrote a good article in The Australian. “Beat Ebola or face a pandemic as bad as the Black Death “

Sources: US Dept of Health  — Information  | Science Mag | Clinical features | Genome Ebola Portal | Timeline | Projection  | CDC on Ebola | Twitter #ebola |

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Global warming dumps late snow in Australia. Fires one year. Flood the next.

A major stormfront in NSW has dropped 170mm on rain on Ulladulla, ploughed down trees, drove waves 8m high onshore, and put the airport underwater in Sydney. It has carpeted the Blue Mountains in 20cm of snow. 30,000 homes lost electricity and 60 people were stuck in a train for two hours. This time last year the region was burning. Amazing photos at the Daily Mail.

Proof of man-made global warming…

h/t to Eric Worrall and Waxing Gibberish.

Image (Top) Photographer Nick Moir, SMH | (Bottom) No photographer listed, Daily Telegraph.

Story of the Fires in 2013 in the SMH  |   Story with the photos of snow Daily Telegraph

Doreatha Mackellar 1908

I love a sunburnt country,
A land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged mountain ranges,
Of droughts and flooding rains.

We hope everyone is safe.

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Patrick Moore in Australia – put this in your diary

Patrick Moore explains why, 15 years after co-founding it, he left Greenpeace to establish a more sensible, science-based approach to environmentalism.

His book: Confessions of a Greenpeace Dropout: The Making of a Sensible Environmentalist (Kindle) Paperback version

 Patrick Moore’s public appearances are set for Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra, Perth, Hobart, Brisbane and Noosa. October 22 – November 6th. Details below… some require RSVP’s. Don’t miss it!

Watch Patrick Moore’s presentation at the Heartland  International Conference on Climate Change.

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Australia becomes a climate pariah and yet tourists flock to visit the Axis of Carbon!

According to the Guardian, Australia is almost a Climate Pariah TM, and owes the world an apology for voting to repeal the Carbon Tax.

What chilling effect, I wondered, did being a pariah have on international tourists?

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, in July 2014 as the Carbon Tax was finally removed, tourists voted with their feet … and flocked to come. A record 573,100 visitors arrived in Australia from all over the world. Year on year tourism from May 2013 – May 2014 grew by 8%.

Pariah status it appears, may count for Guardian and NY Times columnists, but not so much for the rest of the world.

Josh Bornstein of The Guardian says Australia is seen as a dirty polluter. The Axis of Carbon!

“This is how the New York Times responded to the scrapping of the carbon price scheme:

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West Antarctica: more evidence it was the volcanoes that melted the ice

As I’ve repeatedly posted this year, there is a strange coincidence between geothermal activity and warming in Antarctica. We are still discovering volcanoes underwater, so we can’t pretend we have accurate data on their contribution in joules or the trends in that. On Antarctica almost all the headlines of doom and collapse come from West Antarctic peninsula or the ice sheet nearby which also happen to be over the West Antarctic Rift System. Most other places in and around Antarctica are cooling or staying the same, and sea ice is hitting record levels. “Must be CO2 then.” ; -)

Damiani et al looked at the crustal thickness beneath Thwaites Glacier, and finds it is quite thin, like that beneath the Pine Island Glacier. The researchers conclude that it is likely there is a major volcanic dome in Marie Byrd Land.

Spot any media mention of the possibility that hot lava might be to blame instead of your SUV.  Good little propaganda writers produce plenty of gloom and doom headlines of the imminent collapse of ice-sheets. Where are the journalists? For that matter — which climate scientist tries to make sure journalists present an accurate report?

h/t The HockeySchtick



The two key parts of the abstract:

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Weekend Unthreaded…

More wandering thoughts

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Very small trial appears to reverse Alzheimers symptoms

I like to keep an eye on research on keeping our brains intact (even if it’s not far past the leeches-and-arsenic stage). Here is a tiny trial showing a bit of promise. After years of testing drugs on Alzheimer plaques without much luck, as far as I can tell, this study had the radical idea of doing a bit of everything that had seemed to delay Alzheimers — like exercise, dumping the carbs, mini-fasts, fish oil, meditation and things like that. Unlike the drug trials, this one actually seemed to work and surprisingly for as many as 9 out of 10 patients (there were only ten patients, that’s not a ratio). It’s quite neat that it did work. It has lots of potential (though not much in the way of profits for big-pharma). However it was only six months long. It may not be slowing the plaques, but then if it restores functional memory, that’s  rather the point (though I worry those plaques are coming back later).

Nonetheless, if you like the idea of saving  your brain. Worth reading the list below, just so you know and pass it on to those with an interest. Anything that helps, especially when it’s low risk, has got to be news worth spreading, and if it just helps you get motivated to get moving, that’s not so bad. I suspect the exercise and dietary changes might be the key factors. Exercise seems to turn up in a lot of studies lately on mental performance…

Memory loss associated with Alzheimer’s reversed: Small trial succeeds using systems approach to memory disorders

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Renewable Energy Target costs miners millions, green electricity cost 9 – 15% of bills

Who was it that said that Renewable Energy is making electricity cheap?

The Minerals Council added up the numbers on the RET (the Renewable Energy Target) and checked the invoices. And even though “Renewable Energy” is made from the free* wind and sun, somehow, being forced to use inefficient, diffuse, and unreliable electricity costs coal miners millions.

For some reason foreign competitors didn’t voluntarily offer to match it. Perhaps they like their weather and don’t want to change it?

Cartoon with thanks and permission from Steve Hunter

Steve Hunter’s site is here.

 The Australian

RET costs causing a heavy burden: miners

MINERS have moved to counter arguments from the renewable energy industry that the target scheme is lowering electricity prices, releasing figures showing it is costing millions of dollars and comprising up to 15 per cent of total electricity bills.

A briefing sent to MPs interested in the renewable energy target debate, circulated by the Minerals Council of Australia, shows six coalmines in Queens-land and NSW paid a combined $7.7 million in RET costs last year and $7.3m in 2012.

The proportion that the RET charge made up of the total bill ranged from 9 per cent to 12 per cent last year, and between 12 per cent and 15 per cent in 2012. This is significantly higher than the 4 per cent average cost to house-holds because large users receive a discounted electricity price for buying in bulk.


Cabinet this week gave Environment Minister Greg Hunt and Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane a negotiating mandate to reach a deal with Labor that is in line with longstanding Coalition policy. This would see aluminium granted a full exemption and likely see the government push for a cut to the RET from 26 per cent of electricity demand in 2020 to about 20 per cent.

*Free, adj: Not imprisoned or enslaved; being at liberty. ;-)   Not to be confused with the Idiom: for free.

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The scientific method in 61 seconds

Thanks to Richard Feynman

h/t to Aussiute

UPDATE – an excellent comment about Feynman on vague unprovable theories

Kevin Marshall (Manicbeancounter)
October 9, 2014 at 3:52 am
In the same lecture, at around 5.10 here Feynman said something more relevent to the whole climate debate.

You cannot prove a vague theory wrong. If the guess that you make is poorly expressed and the method you have for computing the consequences is a little vague then ….. you see that the theory is good as it can’t be proved wrong. If the process of computing the consequences is indefinite, then with a little skill any experimental result can be made to look like an expected consequence.

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Missing heat not in deep oceans but “found” in missing data in upper ocean instead

Two papers on ocean heat released together today. The first says the missing heat is not in the deep ocean abyss below 2000m. The second finds the missing heat in missing data in the Southern Hemisphere instead. Toss out one excuse, move to another.

The first paper by Llovel and Willis et al, looked at the total sea-level rise as measured by adjusted satellites*, then removed the part of that rise due to expanding warming oceans above 2,000 m and the part due to ice melting off glaciers and ice-sheets.** The upshot is that the bottom half of the ocean is apparently not warming — there was nothing much left for the deep oceans to do. This result comes from Argo buoy data which went into full operation in 2005. (Before Argo the uncertainties in ocean temperature measurements massively outweigh the expected temperature changes, so the “data” is pretty useless.)

Figure 2 | Global mean steric sea-level change contributions from different layers of the ocean. 0–2,000m (red), 0–700m (green), 700–2,000m (blue). The dashed black curve shows an estimate for the remainder of the ocean below 2,000m computed by removing the 0–2,000m estimate from the GRACE-corrected observed mean sea-level time series. Seasonal signals have been removed from all curves. Curves are offset for clarity. Shading, where shown, denotes 1-sigma uncertainty of the respective  estimates.

The second paper provides the excuse that the missing heat is really in the top 700m of the Southern Hemisphere instead. The title tells us they are adding up what they don’t know: “Quantifying underestimates of long-term upper-ocean warming”. The data they use comes satellites and “simulations” of the Earth’s climate.

 Using satellite altimetry observations and a large suite of climate models, we conclude that observed estimates of 0–700 dbar global ocean warming since 1970 are likely biased low.

So we all know that this is an excellent estimate of heat accruing on a planet a lot like Earth — except that global warming didn’t pause on that planet, the upper tropospheric humidity is rising instead of falling, the sea-ice is shrinking at the south pole instead of increasing, and so on. Simulated Earth is a different planet. On that planet, the ARGO buoys are “biased low”.

Yet again, the missing heat is found in missing data:

This underestimation is attributed to poor sampling of the Southern Hemisphere, and limitations of the analysis methods that conservatively estimate temperature changes in data-sparse regions.

We only have half-decent data on the ocean starting around 2005. But thousands upon millions of joules are arriving every day, and if some of that energy is being trapped on Earth, it must be somewhere. What incredible bad luck for climate scientists: yet again the observations are biased low, like 28 million weather balloons which underestimate heat and humidity, the 3,000 Argo buoys are underestimating ocean heat too.*** The models could not possibly be wrong …

Another recent paper by Schulz found that the first air-sea flux mooring in the Southern Ocean was recording a heat loss at a rate of -10Wm-2. That would kind of fit with the record increase in sea ice perhaps?

This is the part, below, where Durack concludes the models are probably right, and the observations are probably wrong. The black horizontal lines are the model predictions, and the diamonds in color are the observations. (Notice too that the period is 1970 to 2004, ending just as the ocean temperature starts to get measured properly for the first time.)

Figure 4 | Histogram of the observed and simulated Southern Hemisphere contribution to global OHC trends for 1970–2004. The distribution from 62 independent CMIP5 (historical) and CMIP3 (20c3m) model means (average of single model simulations) is shown in dark grey (21 CMIP3 20c3m simulations; overlaid light grey). Results from additional CMIP experiments are summarized with the MMM and one standard deviation spread indicated by small black diamonds and horizontal black lines respectively. The full ensemble MMM (dark grey) is presented as a vertical white line. Supplementary Fig. 8 shows composite single simulation distributions and Supplementary Fig. 9 shows each CMIP experiment. Models are listed in Supplementary Tables 1 and 2.

In their own words, the observations agree with each other, but not with the models.

“All but one of the four observational OHC trend estimates in Fig. 3b suggest a much smaller SH contribution, with stabilized ratios at timescales of 15 years and longer, well outside the intermodel standard deviation (0.500.63, MMM 0.56 versus 0.330.49 for observations).”

Astute reader Robbo says this is his favorite passage from Durack et al:

“Thus, it seems that our preliminary finding is robust: the SH contribution to the total upper-OHC change found in the five observational data sets is inconsistent with the CMIP model ensembles (Figs 3b and 4). The agreement between the observed and simulated SSH changes, the close correspondence between OHC and SSH (Fig. 2), and the better agreement of observed and simulated OHC for the recent Argo period (with improved SH coverage) suggests systematic model biases are not the dominant factor. We thus conclude, in agreement with previous works, that long-term observational estimates of SH upper-ocean heat content change are biased low.

If models are correct in their hemispheric partitioning of OHC changes, we can use them to guide observational adjustment over the data-sparse SH.

Thus, the data is inconsistent with the models, therefore the data is biased, and we can use models to adjust the data.

Two more Classic Climatology sentences from the Durack paper:

“we adjust the poorly constrained SH estimates (Methods) so that they yield an inter-hemispheric ratio that is consistent with the MMM [multi-model-mean] (Fig. 4). When this adjustment is applied, the various observational estimates of 35-year global upper-OHC change are substantially increased in all cases.” 

“Adjusting the poorly constrained SH OHC change estimates to yield an improved consistency with models.”

Who would have thought… after adjusting to the data to fit the models, they get a better agreement with the models.

I hear the ABC reported it as proof that it’s warming faster than we thought.

For those who want to gawk at the observations of the Southern Hemisphere heat content versus the models. Here is Fig 3 parts b, c, and d. Note how the observation lines almost all run entirely below the models.

Figure 3 | Southern Hemisphere fractional contributions to global upper-OHC or global average SSH anomaly for varying trend lengths (1–35 years). a,b, Results over 1–35-years (1970–2004) for SSH (a) and OHC (b). c,d, Results for a shorter 11-year period (1993–2004) for SSH (c) and OHC (d) duringwhich observed SSH data is available. Observed results extend to 2012 if available. Discontinuous black and grey lines extend 2004 CMIP5 values to 2012. The CMIP5MMMand one standard deviation spread are obtained from CMIP5 historical simulations.

*Satellite altimetry has its own problems. As near as I can tell, these are probably the same satellites that showed virtually no sea-level rise in the 1990s until they were calibrated against one tide gauge in Hong Kong, which is sinking compared to the four gauges around it. Durack says: “From 2005 to 2013, sea level rose at a rate of 2.78 ±0.32mmyr-1 .” Nils Axel-Morner and others like Beenstock have shown that hundreds of tide gauges around the world record an average rate of about 1mm a year or so. 182 gauges are showing a rise of about 1.6mm annually. In one location with long records and a lot of data about crustal movements of the land, Axel Morner estimates the rise is 0.8-0.9mm annually.  Llovel estimates steric sea level rise at 0.9mm.

The globally averaged steric sea level between 66° of latitude and above 2,000m depth (red curve in Fig. 1) rose with a linear trend of 0.9 ±0.15mmyr-1 between 2005 and 2013.

Either way, without adjustments, the sea level rises shown by satellites would find a lot less “heat” content.

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Australian summer maximums “warmed” by 200%

Which causes more summer heatwaves: carbon dioxide or Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) adjustments?

Ken Stewart has analyzed the adjustments used to create the all-new ACORN wonder dataset and compared them with another BOM dataset called AWAP, and finds, extraordinarily, that the trend in average summer maximums has been tripled by adjustments that the BOM imply are neutral.

Since summer maxima are the ones used to generate the most headlines in Australia, I ask again if the Bureau of Meteorology is a scientific agency or a PR group?  Increasing the trend in summer maxima would produce more headlines of hottest ever month, season, heatwave, and weekend.

In this graph Stewart splits the data into months, and compares the trends in maxima in the AWAP and ACORN datasets, across the entire nation. We see that most of the adjustments happen to data from the hottest months of the year, October to March. Even though the measured maxima in February and March are possibly cooler now than they were in the early 1900s, they have been adjusted to show warming trends.

When was the last time you heard the BOM tell you that their “hottest ever” February record depended on adjusting down the past hotter records?

Ken Stewart points out that adjustments grossly exaggerate monthly and seasonal warming, and that anyone analyzing national data trends quickly gets into 2 degrees of quicksand. He asks: What was the national summer maximum in 1926?  AWAP says 35.9C.  Acorn says 33.5C.  Which dataset is to be believed?

We might be worried about “two degrees of warming” but people living in 1926 got two degrees of cooling some 88 years after the fact.

Three ways to not graph the adjustments that matter

The BOM created a new “adjustments” page which appeared a few weeks ago, after questions from skeptics Jennifer Marohasy, David Stockwell, Bill Johnston, and Ken Stewart were raised in The Australian newspaper.

The BOM show the next graph to convince us that their adjustments are neutral. But there are several problems. The graph  does not show the effect that adjustments have on seasons, or on maxima and minima. The BOM claim the AWAP data is “unadjusted”, but their CAWCR Technical Report No. 050 calls it “partially homogenized”, which in most scientist’s books is a rather un-raw and adjusted state.

The graph as usual starts in 1910, so ignores the hot historic records from 1880-1900. This older data is more difficult to combine with new data, but some of it was recorded on modern equipment. Yet the BOM shows no curiosity or interest in these historical records, as we’ve seen at Bourke, Rutherglen, Hay, Omeo, Bendigo, Alice Springs, Melbourne, Carnarvon and NewcastleBOM adjustments change cooling trends to warming trends because stations “might” have moved!

How honest are the BOM being about the impact of their adjustments with a graph like this?

The BOM use “mean temperatures” from two different adjusted data sets to claim that their adjustments don’t matter.

BOM ACORN Adjustments

Comparison between adjusted and unadjusted temperatures

Both adjusted and unadjusted temperatures show that Australia’s climate has warmed since 1910. Since 1955 adjusted and unadjusted data are virtually identical. It is also during this time that most of the warming has occurred in Australia.

The graph below shows temperature trends since 1910 from the unadjusted temperatures from more than 700 locations (AWAP), together with those that have been carefully curated, quality controlled and corrected for artificially induced biases at 112 locations (ACORN-SAT).

Note that “mean” temperatures lose a lot of the data that matters about our climate. The maxima and minima can both be more extreme, yet the mean can remain the same. What matters to the man in the street are the daily maxes and min’s — not the “average” which is a mere half way point between the peaks of the day. It doesn’t represent the true average temperature of the day because it doesn’t take into account the hours of hot or cold temperatures under the daily curve. “Mean trends” however could be useful if you’ve made adjustments to the maxes and mins, but want to make it look as though they don’t matter. Just sayin’…

Table of percentage changes to Trends in AWAP versus ACORN

(Click to expand)


On Stewart’s site there is discussion about the value of quadratic trends versus linear trends, but the main point is that the BOM use quadratic trends, so Stewart copied their approach. As far as I’m concerned, all trends from either AWAP or ACORN are hopelessly compromised. Both are area-weighted, gridded data, neither are “unadjusted”, and there are far too many anomalies, and adjustments that can’t be justified with documentation. These are statistical creations.

If we want to reduce temperatures across Australia in the next 100 years, the cheapest and most effective way to do it is with adjustments not windmills. Solving our temperature problems might be a simple as setting up a new BOM.

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Imaginary hottest “fingerprints” found in extreme weather by failed models

Finally, for only the 87th time, climate modellers have uncovered the definitive proof they’ve been finding in different forms every year since 1988.

ARC extreme unscience – corrected at no cost to the Australian taxpayer. Click for a big printable copy.

They seek, and find, the most excellent propaganda they can pretend is science. Look, this is the specific handprint of non-specific climate-change! Everything bar climate-sameness is proof the climate changes. How inane? The unscientific vagueness gives this poster away as being more about propaganda than about communication of science.

… in a special edition of the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, examining extreme events around the world during 2013, a series of papers home in on the Australian heat waves, and identify a human influence.

Using short, noisy records, with flawed and adjusted data, it is possible to run broken climate models and show “definitively” that current heat-waves and hottest years are due to man-made emissions. And if you believe that, you could be gullible enough to be a Guardian journalist.

That is, climate models that do not include solar factors like magnetic fields, solar winds, cosmic rays, solar spectral changes, or lunar effects are able to rule out all these natural forces, and the others we don’t know about yet. This is the magic of one-sided modeling which  didn’t predict the pause, and was wrong about humidity, rainfall, drought, and clouds too.  They don’t work on regional, local, or continental scales. They didn’t predict polar conditions, and they failed on upper tropospheric patterns (see Storch et al, 2013; Paltridge et al, 2009;  Anagnostopoulos et al, 2010;  Sheffield et al, 2012; Miller et al, 2012;  Koutsoyiannis et al, 2008; Previdi and Polvani, 2014; Christy et al, 2010;  and Fu et al, 2011).

My favorite witchdoctor quote comes from David Karoly, who tosses all pretense of scientific demeanor to the wind:

“We often talk about the fingerprint of human-caused climate change when we look at extreme weather patterns,” said David Karoly, professor of meteorology at the University of Melbourne’s School of Earth Sciences. “This research across four different papers goes well beyond that.

“If we were climate detectives, then Australia’s hottest year on records in 2013 wasn’t just a smudged fingerprint at the scene of the crime, it was a clear and unequivocal handprint showing the impact of human-caused global warming.”

It’s unequivocal! Praise the Lord!

Sorry, wait, … are we talking about man-made emissions of CO2, or “global warming”? Are we being accidentally vague Tim Radford?

… they did find that global warming doubled the chance of severe heat waves in Australia—making extreme summer temperatures five times more likely, increasing the chance of drought conditions sevenfold, and making hot temperatures in spring 30 times more probable.

And they reckoned that the record hot year of 2013 would have been virtually impossible without global warming. At a conservative calculation, the science showed that the heat of 2013 was made 2,000 times more likely by global warming.

Thus does gibberish flow. If global warming was due to natural causes, would it increase heatwaves? Could be…

Since the models are proven failures, when they can’t find extreme weather “without the influence of CO2″ the only conclusion we can draw is that taxpayers are wasting money on poseurs who pretend to be scientists and climate models that omit the real causes. We know it’s not CO2 and we know it’s not the minor changes in solar radiation, so…it’s something else.

This is argument from ignorance (“we don’t understand the climate, but we can’t think of anything else it could be and we don’t want to”):

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Weekend Unthreaded

… look out for a request from TonyfromOz and entertainment from Appattullo

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