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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Weekend Unthreaded

Summer 2015, Margaret River, South West WA.

Queenslanders can tell us what happened. I’d like to ask MV…

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Public are not buying science “experts” opinions: AAAS survey shows 30-50% gap

There is a large gap between what the certified appointed experts say and what the public thinks on GM, Climate Change, pesticides, ethics, and sigh, on evolution. The researchers were “surprised” that  a collective pool of university educated, largely government employed scientists have a different spread of opinions to the population at large.  On climate change half of the public are skeptics that man-made effects are dominant. In the AAAS, 87% of scientists think it is. But despite twenty years of propaganda the public are not buying their message.

UPDATE: Given that 48% of Meteorologists are skeptics and survey after survey shows that two-thirds of geoscientists and engineers are skeptics, the 87% figure “across the sciences” seems hard to believe. 3748 members of AAAS took the survey — and as A.Scott points out on WUWT in comments, only 7% of the respondents were from the Earth Sciences, and nearly half were “biomedical”. Link to the survey Questions. See TdeF in comment. H/t to Michael for the tip about Scott.

The answer is not more propaganda, it’s open public debate

To resolve the gap, scientists naturally think the public needs more education. But perhaps it’s the scientists who need to learn to start reasoning and stop namecalling instead — “denier”. The public knows that isn’t science.

We never hear a climate scientist pull up colleagues for using a fallacious form of reasoning. Welcome to modern climate science. Was than an ad hom? Well, I’ll cheer you on.

The answer is not to train more obedient citizens to respect official doctrines, but to air these taboo topics in open debate. If the scientists really are right, and the evidence is overwhelming, the citizens will see their questions answered and move towards the settled science view. If science is a bureaucratized sink-hole of groupthink stuck in a dead end hypothesis, some dead-wood will go, and the gap closes toward the public.

These issues are so polarized there isn’t a forum where the best of both sides hammer it out while the crowd watches — so the gap grows. The public know they are not being told the whole story. The Internet is the closest it gets to real debate, but Unskeptical Scientists are running away.

The brand name “science” is falling

The Star of Science is tarnishing fast. Both scientists and the public are feeling down about it. When asked about U.S. scientific achievements,  in 2009 65% thought theirs were the best in the world or at least above average.  But now it is down 11 points to 54%. That’s a big fall in a short time. It seems a bit devastating that nearly half of all US citizens apparently don’t think US science is even “above average”. The land that put man on the moon isn’t sure any more if it’s better at science than, say, Venezuela.

Four out of five adults say science has improved their life and healthcare, but only 3 out of five say the same about the environment and food (would you like a cholesterol-free climate?) Diet science is up there with long range rainfall predictions. The good brand-name and goodwill of science is being eroded away.

One third say we don’t need the government for science to advance

One response surprised me — about 40% of people don’t think government investment is essential for science. I had no idea it was so high in the US and one third even say “private investment is enough”. In Australia I don’t know what those numbers would be. The idea is so strange, I’m not sure if anyone has even thought to ask. Some 61% say that government investment is essential for scientific progress, while 34% say that private investment is enough to ensure that scientific progress is made.

There is a lot to discuss with these results…

— Jo


PEW research Centre

Public and scientists express strikingly different views about science-related issues

Despite similar views about the overall place of science in America, the general public and scientists often see science-related issues through a different lens, according to a new pair of surveys by the Pew Research Center in collaboration with the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

The report finds significant differences in views on 13 science-related issues asked about in the surveys. For instance, there is a:

  • 51-percentage point gap between scientists and the public about the safety of eating genetically modified foods — 88% of AAAS scientists think eating GM food is safe, while 37% of the public believes that.
  • 42-percentage point gap over the issue of using animals in research — 89% of scientists favor it, while 47% of the public backs the idea.
  • 40-percentage point gap on the question of whether it is safe to eat foods grown with pesticides — 68% of scientists say that it is, compared with 28% of citizens.
  • 37-percentage point gap over whether climate change is mostly caused by human activity — 87% of AAAS scientists say it is, while 50% of the public does.
  • 33-percentage point gap on the question about whether humans have evolved over time — 98% of scientists say we have, compared with 65% of the public.

There is no single direction of differences between scientists and the public. By a 20-percentage point margin, citizens are more likely than scientists to favor offshore oil drilling. And by a 12-point margin, the public is more likely to say that astronauts are essential for the future of the U.S. space program.

Keep reading  →

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More Australians switched off ABC politically correct propaganda in 2014

People are bored of the sermons, the half-truths, and carefully filtered messages. Who wants to be told what to think?

The ABC lost nearly 4% of its audience last year. Australians are tuning out the $1.1 billion ABC public broadcaster, and it has nothing to do with the small 5% efficiency cuts. The fall in popularity occured before the cuts. The three commercial TV channels in Australia all did much better at maintaining their popularity — despite suffering larger cuts to their budgets.

The ABC share is down to 10.08 per cent of 16 – 54 year olds. Nearly 90% of working age Australians are paying for the ABC but not watching much.  The losses in the over-55 age group, traditionally the ABC stronghold, were almost as large as the younger groups.

Is the ABC biased towards Green politics?

Christine Milne leader of  The Greens, at a rally outside Parliament House. Photo: Daily Telegraph.

“Only” 40% of ABC journalists vote Green.

The Australian, last week: Older viewers abandon the ABC

THE ABC was the worst performing television broadcaster last year, losing 3.95 per cent of group audience across all the channels before the government announced budget cuts.

Keep reading  →

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Climate Grief — Believers mourning — It’s denial and anger (but it sure isn’t science)

Those who believe the Glorious Climate Models (GCMs) are in trouble.  Many of them have spent their entire careers soaking in dire predictions, but things are falling apart — (or rather, not falling apart) — the models don’t work, the public doesn’t care, the media are not that interested, and skeptics keep winning Bloggies awards. Spare a thought for them. It’s tough out there for unskeptical people. Children still know what snow is.

Things are unravelling in believer-land and there is pain. They are witnessing “the wholesale destruction of the planet”, or perhaps the death of a hypothesis, which is nearly as bad.

Truthout, where no conspiracy is too grand, and skeptical scientists are bastards

The headline reads:

“Mourning Our Planet: Climate Scientists Share Their Grieving Process”

The 3,000 word extravaganza of psychological pain is published by an NGO aptly called Truthout (think, “LightsOut”?)

“Climate science researchers, scientists, journalists and activists have all been struggling with grief around what we are witnessing.”

There’s an angry professor calling other scientists who disagree “greedy, lying bastards” and talking of backing “you plutocrats, denialists, fossil-fuel hacks “ against the wall. Another professor blames ACD for the driving cause of her depression.

ACD, by the way, is Anthropogenic Climate Disruption. Forget Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) — it is quietly gone, buried in the backyard, thanks to the inconvenient Pause and lack of Global Warming*.

They’re trying on a new term — Anthropogenic Climate Disruption (ACD).

Climate Disruption is everywhere, more vague, scary and infinitely applicable for PR and media.

Here’s an angry professor:

My overwhelming emotion is anger; anger that is fuelled not so much by ignorance, but by greed and profiteering at the expense of future generations“, wrote Professor Corety Bradshaw, the director of ecological modeling at the University of Adelaide.

 ”I am not referring to some vague, existential bonding to the future human race; rather, I am speaking as a father of a seven year-old girl who loves animals and nature in general. As a biologist, I see irrefutable evidence every day that human-driven climate disruption will turn out to be one of the main drivers of the Anthropocene mass extinction event now well under way.”

My message to Prof Corety is that instead of being an angry scientist he could try being a logical one.

I’d say  “Listen to the instruments, rather than the subcommittees. The weatherballoons, satellites, and tide gauges are telling you that climate sensitivity to CO2 is much lower than the experts-in-unverified models are suggesting.”

Though people are stealing his daughters future, and profiteering too. I daresay they are the ones trashing the scientific method and the economy in the hope they can change the weather.

But Prof Bradshaw’s faith is as complete as his humility is completely-absent:

My frustration with these greedy, lying bastards is personal. Human-caused climate disruption is not a belief – it is one of the best-studied phenomena on Earth. Even a half-wit can understand this. [And university professors too, thinks Jo].

We can hardly argue with “science” like that, can we? The Greedy-lying-bastard Index is irrefutable.

He goes on:

As any father would, anyone threatening my family will by (sic) on the receiving end of my ire and vengeance. This anger is the manifestation of my deep love for my daughter, and the sadness I feel in my core about how others are treating her future.

He of course loves his daughter, and skeptics hate theirs dontchaknow?

Science used to be about dispassionate observations. Now, you’re a good scientist if you are  more mean and angry than the next guy:

Mark my words, you plutocrats, denialists, fossil-fuel hacks and science charlatans – your time will come when you will be backed against the wall by the full wrath of billions who have suffered from your greed and stupidity, and I’ll be first in line to put you there.

He thinks he’ll be first in line, but there’s at least a hundred haters already lined up ahead of him. And they want skeptical scientists strangled, jailed, beheaded, or on a good day, just treated as traitorous war criminals. Some fantasize about exploding skeptical kids. Get behind Greenpeace I say.

The University of Adelaide must be proud of his vocabulary-of-names. Still, it’s not like we could expect him to understand the risks involved with models. Professor Corety Bradshaw is the director of ecological modeling at the University of Adelaide.

 In a post-modern post-science world Touchy-Feely scientists are all the go

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Climate change will hit “Everywhere” harder than “rest of world”

The Prophets of Doom are still at  The Guardian (and the CSIRO)

Climate change will hit Australia harder than rest of world, study shows

The first paragraph contains the word “could”. It’s all a guess based on models they already know are broken:

Australia could be on track for a temperature rise of more than 5C by the end of the century, outstripping the rate of warming experienced by the rest of the world, unless drastic action is taken to slash greenhouse gas emissions, according to the most comprehensive analysis ever produced of the country’s future climate.

But wait, will Australia — a rich, low population country with a temperate climate and surrounded by ocean — really be hit harder than the polar regions, the poor, those closest to rising seas and those living in cyclone zones?

A new website called ClimateChangePredictions is keeping track of the “hardest hit” predictions and can’t find a consensus on this one:

“Rural Australians will be the hardest hitby climate change according to Professor Steve Vanderheiden from the Charles Sturt University (CSU)”

“Sydney’s urban areas to be hit hardest by global warming” — ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate Sytem Science

“Climate change is faster and more severe in the Arctic than in most of the rest of the world”

There seems to be consensus in the developed world that Africa will be the hardest hit or most affected region, due to anthropogenic climate change.

Bangladesh is one of the hardest hit nations by the impacts of climate change.

Keep reading  →

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Nominate your favourite blogs for the 2015 Bloggies — How many categories can skeptics win?

Click to nominate your favourite blogs

Bloggies nominations are open but only til Sunday this week. There is still no Science and Technology category, after 2013 when 4 out 5 finalists were skeptics. Protest by nominating science blogs for all the other categories that apply. As I’ve asked before:

Do these dumb awards matter?  They bring in new traffic, and help bloggers tick credibility boxes with the media and with donors. So yes. If you bother (I know it’s a chore) it is a way to say thanks and to put your favourite sites further up the rankings lists. Think of it as a way to alert more people to the sites you feel deserve more attention. It’s free advertising for them. You might have a bit more sway if you also tick the box “I’d like to be on the panel of voters who choose the finalists”.

They may have axed the Science and Technology Category because too many skeptics kept winning it, but that only meant skeptical blogs won in other categories.  The blogs you visit every day may not be just science blogs, but politics, education, entertainment, and topical blogs. They may also be New, Secret, Humorous, Groups, and they may be well designed, and well written. What I’ve said before still applies:

 You might think the blogs in your usual science circle are not Education, Topical, Group, Secret, or Business blogs, but when you look at the past finalists (eg for Education: Science is beauty, or AMS Graduate Student)  you will see that science blogs easily fit. In terms of science education, skeptical bloggers are doing more for the history and philosophy of science, the scientific method, statistics, rhetoric, and paleohistory than any national curriculum. Are skeptics blogs well known and promoted by the media, or are they all a best-kept secret? Which skeptic blogs started in 2014 and are new?

 Nominations close on Sunday evening. To nominate click here, fill in at least three different URLs. But you can nominate any blog for several categories as long as they suit the category.

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Man-made adjustments transform cooling to warming in Paraguay, South America

It’s not fossil fuels causing global warming, it’s man-made adjustments. Stop the adjustments!

In South America, there are hardly any rural land thermometers. GISS tells us the area is warming (see the map below). Paul Homewood looked at the raw data. There are only three rural stations currently operating in the area, Puerto Casado, Mariscal, and San Juan, and they all show a raw trend that falls. As in so many other situations, after adjustments, all three show a rising trend. The changes are breathtaking. In Mariscal raw temperatures of 25.5C turned out to be “really” 22.5C. (Those 1950 thermometers were hopeless ;-) ). In San Juan Bautista, and Puerto Casasdo the  old thermometers get adjusted down by around two degrees. Perhaps there are reasons for the adjustments, but if old thermometers so so bad, and station changes have made such a difference, why does any scientist pretend we can calculate global temperatures accurately?

The GISS map of South America. Left: The warming. Right: The NOAA map showing “grey” areas with no coverage. See Notalotofpeopleknowthat for source links.

Paul Homewood describes what he found when he compared the raw data with the official set: Massive Tampering With Temperatures In South America. This is just one of his three graphs. They are all show similar transformations.

Christopher Booker discusses the implications in: Climategate, the sequel: ‘How we are STILL being tricked with flawed data on global warming’.

Although it has been emerging for seven years or more, one of the most extraordinary scandals of our time has never hit the headlines. Yet another little example of it lately caught my eye when, in the wake of those excited claims that 2014 was “the hottest year on record”, I saw the headline on a climate blog: “Massive tampering with temperatures in South America

After telling us about Homewoods work, Booker describes how dubious so many of the surface temperature sets are:

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Weekend Unthreaded

Limestone beach cave, 3hrs north of Perth, WA | Click to enlarge.

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The polarisation of the climate debate has gone too far, says Matt Ridley

Are we all intelligent adults in the room –  can we discuss the weather without calling people names?

The state of the national conversation is pathetic.

Matt Ridley, best selling science writer, PhD, elected to the UK Parliament did the unthinkable and switched to become skeptical of carbon crisis a few years ago. This week he wrote about that transformation and the different behaviour of skeptics and those who disagree with them…

UPDATE: Attacking the man takes on an especially blunt meaning today. Bishop Hill reports that in comments Gary Evans, a Guardian author (aka Bluecloud) laid out his best scientific argument. Should that not be [Matt] Ridley’s severed head in the photo? Where else but that paragon of progressive ethics: The Guardian? Such is the intellectual parry of gullible believers: We would actually solve a great deal of the world’s problems by chopping off everyone’s heads. Why are you deniers so touchy? see More Greenpeace Death Threats?  Nice of him to prove Ridley’s point.

From My Life As a LukeWarmer: Matt Ridley

In the climate debate, paying obeisance to climate scaremongering is about as mandatory for a public appointment, or public funding, as being a Protestant was in 18th-century England.

Matt used to believe (like so many of us did):

I  was not always a lukewarmer. When I first started writing about the threat of global warming more than 26 years ago, as science editor ofThe Economist, I thought it was a genuinely dangerous threat. Like, for instance, Margaret Thatcher, I accepted the predictions being made at the time that we would see warming of a third or a half a degree (Centigrade) a decade, perhaps more, and that this would have devastating consequences

 When he initially switched there was a genuine conversation. People did try to engage him in long exchanges, but he gradually grew more and more skeptical, and the conversation just got more and more silly.

Then a funny thing happened a few years ago. Those who disagreed with me stopped pointing out politely where or why they disagreed and started calling me names. One by one, many of the most prominent people in the climate debate began to throw vitriolic playground abuse at me. I was “paranoid”, “specious”, “risible”, “self-defaming”, “daft”, “lying”, “irrational”, an “idiot”. Their letters to the editor or their blog responses asserted that I was “error-riddled” or had seriously misrepresented something, but then they not only failed to substantiate the charge but often roughly confirmed what I had written.


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Marble Bar’s hottest day? Today might reach 49.1C again like it did 110 years ago

Will it be a hottest record at one of the hottest towns in the world today? The forecast for Marble Bar, Western Australia, is 49C. The record for Marble Bar stands at 49.2C or 120.5F recorded in 1905 and 1922. I guess if we give up our cars and airconditioners the temperatures in Marble Bar will go back to these ideal conditions?

Thermometer-spotting: the temperature has varied up and down.| The BOM page for Marble Bar: 48.3C at 2.54pm but the highest was 48.9C at 2:46 (8 minutes earlier?). | At 3:30pm the current temp is 48.4C but the highest as listed as 49C at 3:12pm. |  Now at 3:50pm the temperature has fallen to 47.9C and it looks like the peak was reached just short of the old record.

Overexcited journalists get 50C into headlines already

Marble Bar record heat 1905

Sat Jan 14, 1905

At least one journalist is so excited he predicted it’s “highly likely” one of the towns in the area will hit the magic 49.5C which can be rounded up to 50C! (Seriously, Anthony Sharwood says that. Marvel at the power of odd versus even numbers and rounding conventions. It is not as though our modern media can report to one decimal place in a headline after all.) And who needs rounding, or even a measurement? That same headline today already assumes the BOM are wrong and it will hit 50C. “It’ll reach 50 degrees in parts of Western Australia today”. Hey, it might turn out to be right.(It didn’t). This article also gets the record maximum wrong saying it was 48.6C in 2008. It’s on the site, but frustratingly it’s not clear which newspapers it was printed in or how many people saw it. Andrew Burrell from The Australian also gets 50C into the headline:“Pilbara miners brace for 50C scorcher “ and “Weather records set to tumble with temperatures in WA tipped to hit 50C “. How many people in Australia will already think 50C happened, even if it doesn’t.

UPDATE: 6pm — the BOM observations page shows no towns making 50C in WA. Marble Bar was the hottest.

At least, the BOM, WA Today, The Australian and the ABC have printed the old record correctly as 49.2C.

Historic hot days in Marble Bar

Here are historic newspaper stories of the day the 120F records were set:

Keep reading  →

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