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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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Pitman says BOM don’t “fiddle” with data — it’s magical science by Elite Centres of Excellence

What is striking about Andy Pitman and Lisa Alexander’s response to the articles in The Australian, on The Conversation, is how intellectually weak it is, and how little content they have after we remove the logical fallacies. It’s argument from authority, circular reasoning, and strawmen. Hail the Gods (and don’t look over there)! They don’t question Jennifer Marohasy’s remarkable figures, they don’t even mention them at all, nor use the names “Rutherglen”, “Amberley” or “Bourke” –how revealing.

And these are the points at issue. Long cooling trends at supposedly excellent sites had been homogenized and transformed into warming trends. Rutherglen is the kind of station other stations dream to be: it has stayed in the same place according to the official documents, isn’t affected by the heat from urban growth either and is similar to its neighbors. Other stations might be adjusted to be more like it. Instead the BOM has a method that detected “unrecorded” site moves at Rutherglen by studying unnamed stations somewhere in the region. Awkwardly, someone who used to work there says the thermometer didn’t move. Hmm. Would a thinking person ask for more details and an explanation? Not if you are director of an ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science or a Chief Investigator of the same institution. This is apparently how Excellent Climate Centres work. The thermometers and trends for Rutherglen were wrong all along, off by nearly 2 degrees for 70 years. Luckily the experts finally arrived to fix them, but using thermometers that might have been hundreds of kilometers away?

It seems a bit magical. But Pitman and Alexander offer no scientific or physical reason why it makes sense for long cooling trends in raw data to be dramatically changed in stations which are supposed to be our best. Nor do they even try to explain the BOM’s lack of curiosity of decades of older data at Bourke either. Perhaps there are reasons years of historic data can’t be analyzed and combined to look at long term trends, but if there is, Pitman and Alexander don’t know it and apparently don’t care too much either.

Instead we hear that homogenization is used all over the world, but in lots of different forms, and sometimes not at all.

Data homogenisation techniques are used to varying degrees by many national weather agencies and climate researchers around the world. Although the World Meteorological Organization has guidelines for data homogenisation, the methods used vary from country to country, and in some cases no data homogenisation is applied.

Is this supposed to make us feel confident that the Australian BOM uses the “right” version, and no one should even ask questions about the details? Skeptical scientists (as opposed to Directors of Excellence) have been asking for these details of individual site adjustments for years. The BOM could have provided the answers and silenced the critics long ago. Instead skeptics were delighted when Graham Lloyd at The Australian finally managed to elicit three paragraphs of details on three sites. Pop the Champagne, eh?

To answer the critics Pitman draws on the elite gods of ClimateScienceTM to help him. Unlike other fields of science where one expert can explain things to another scientist, in BOM-science they use, wait for it, “complex methods” that apparently can’t be discussed. Besides Blair Trewin has written a “comprehensive” article. It must be good.   Likewise, annointed Climate Elves called Itsi’s are allowed to talk about which homogenisation method might be better than others, but scientists outside the fairy circle are not.

Perhaps it’s understandable that Pitman and Alexander didn’t bother explaining any of the details — they are writing for   The Conversation, after all. It’s not like it’s an educated high level audience…

Who is cherry picking?

The handy thing about climate parameters is there are plenty of trend-cherries to pick: there are maxima, mean, minima, and extremes, and they are grouped by region or state, or national memes. Hot days can be defined lots of ways: over 40C, 37C, 35C, or the 10th percentile above the monthly mean.

Luckily for Pitman and Alexandra, there was at least one example from these permutations and combinations that showed cooler trends after homogenization. That little category is “Trends in the frequency of hot days over Australia – unadjusted data using all temperature stations that have at least 40 years of record available for Australia from the GHCN-Daily data set.”

Skeptical scientists like Ken Stewart instead just looked at big basic parameters like the average minima across the country of 100 plus stations and found the adjustments warmed the trends by 50%.

This climate has a circular trend?

Circular Reasoning Prize for the day goes to this line, bolded:

If the Bureau didn’t do it (homogenisation), then we and our fellow climatologists wouldn’t use its data because it would be misleading. What we need are data from which spurious warming or cooling trends have been removed, so that we can see the actual trends.

What “actual” trends? Since the Models of Excellence are not-so-excellent at predicting the climate,  this translates to saying that broken models don’t work with unhomogenized data. (Could be a clue there, you think?)

Apparently the editors of The Conversation find argument from authority and circular reasoning appealing. (Forgive me, what well-trained academic wouldn’t?)*

The mismatch in the PR

There is another layer to this. Even if the adjustments can be physically justified with documents, the grand uncertainty in Australian datasets is never conveyed in BOM press releases which announce records that may rely on adjustments of up to 2 degrees to temperatures recorded 70 years ago. Even if the adjustments are justified, isn’t it important for the public to know how complicated it is and how fickle most of these records are when they may disappear with the next incarnation of “high quality” data?

Strawmen to mislead?

Andy Pitman is keen to suggest skeptical scientists make false accusations:

The Bureau has provided the details of how it is done, despite facing accusations that it has not been open enough.

But skeptics accuse the BOM of not documenting individual site specific explanations. In return, Andy Pitman keeps that trend going by responding to questions about Amberley, Rutherglen and Bourke without mentioning, er… Amberley, Rutherglen or Bourke.

Peer review makes scientific arguments “Valid”?

It doesn’t matter if skeptics are logical and have empirical evidence, what matters to Andy Pitman and Lisa Alexander is whether those ideas have been passed by two anonymous unpaid reviewers.

Valid critiques of data homogenisation techniques are most welcome. But as in all areas of science, from medicine to astronomy, there is only one place that criticisms can legitimately be made.  Anyone who thinks they have found fault with the Bureau’s methods should document them thoroughly and reproducibly in the peer-reviewed scientific literature. This allows others to test, evaluate, find errors or produce new methods. This process has been the basis of all scientific advances in the past couple of centuries and has led to profoundly important advances in knowledge.

All scientific advances in the last two centuries? Tell that to Newton, Einstein, Watson and Crick. They were not peer reviewed. On the other hand these 120 scientific advances were peer reviewed, that is until someone realized they were computer generated gibberish, and un-published them.

Is that more the type of Excellence our ARC strives for?

————————————-

*Apologies to the exceptions who survive in academia.

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Scientists-of-PR jump the shark, assign “climate blame” percentage for each event

Here’s the new desperate meme about to turn your weather report into an advertisement for carbon trading. The people are not scared enough. Say hello to scientismic marketing.  It sure isn’t science.

The generators of Climate Fear start with broken models that we know don’t predict global temperatures, upper tropospheric humidity, Antarctic sea ice, and ocean heat (or much of anything else). They then use these to model the chances of individual storms, or floods — something they were not designed to do. Then they run these mistakes 5 million times with and without the magic CO2 forcing. They might as well stand back, look solemn, and pick a percentage or throw a dart.  The great thing is, only God knows the right answer. The models can’t “miss”.

Was that flood 35% due to man-made emissions? Was that tornado 50% more deadly? (Did it rain on your wedding day? Sue someone!)

Of course, New Scientist swallows the theme whole, tea-leaves and all. No hard questions asked.

A new technique connecting individual weather events with the impact of greenhouse gas emissions could bring climate change into everyday weather reports

“Well, the record-breakingly hot summer is showing no sign of cooling down. No thanks to us: the heatwave was made 35 per cent more likely by human greenhouse gas emissions.”

 The method — all based on the assumptions that models have “skill”:

To explore whether climate change was making such precipitation more likely, Schaller and her team ran a similar experiment to Stott and Allen’s. They used real-world data to simulate the season that had just passed, then stripped the data of the influence of greenhouse gas emissions and ran the simulation again. The scenario was simulated thousands of times in order to calculate the odds of getting a bout of extremely wet weather at that particular time of year.

We all know numbers and percentages make wild baseless guesses look real, so this is a good way to generate authoritative sounding press releases:

They concluded that what was a 1-in-100-year event without global warming had become a 1-in-80-year event. In other words, human emissions made the extreme levels of rainfall experienced in south-east England 25 per cent more likely.

The team’s results were published online on 30 April, just two months after the flooding abated.

If an extreme weather event occurs, researchers can look to see if the models predicted it. If it was predicted in the real-world seasonal forecast but not in the scenario which is stripped of emissions, then it was made more likely by climate change – a likelihood that can be calculated.

The big “news” here is that this new method is so much better because it’s faster. It’s not about accuracy (and never was). The real issue is the speed of propaganda:

… several studies have used similar methods (see “Blame warming?“), but they all have dealt with events long after they have left the public consciousness.

It’s a bummer when issues leave the public consciousness. The poor stupid public can’t remember floods and cyclones for more than a week. What we need is real-time climate-blame, apparently:

In the new set-up, a real-world seasonal forecast driven by data on current sea-surface temperatures will be run alongside a simulated “no global warming” seasonal forecast, in which greenhouse gas emissions have been stripped out.

Then like shooting fish in a barrel, “scientists” can look back-with-hindsight at scores of broken models to see which ones accidentally got that particular extreme event right. Monkeys and models, eh?

If an extreme weather event occurs, researchers can look to see if the models predicted it. If it was predicted in the real-world seasonal forecast but not in the scenario which is stripped of emissions, then it was made more likely by climate change – a likelihood that can be calculated.

It won’t matter to a scientismic marketer whether the “right” model is a different model each time. They won’t be issuing 39 press releases when 39 models get it wrong. They’ll just cherry pick the lucky one and we can all goo-and-ahh at how clever they are.

It is, naturally, about money and power. What UN bureaucrat could turn down the excuse to be the conduit for billions of dollars they never had to earn?

International climate talks could be affected too. At recent United Nations meetings, it has been broadly agreed that money needs to be channelled from rich nations, which are historically responsible for the bulk of emissions, to poorer nations, which tend to suffer most from the impacts of those emissions. One way to do that would be to assign compensation after a nation suffers losses due to climate change. But in order for that to work, there needs to be a way to show that an island hit by a typhoon, say, would probably have been spared if global warming hadn’t been a factor. Weather-attribution studies could provide that information.

The real issue “ultimately” is about the western paying public who simply don’t give climate fearmongers enough respect or money.

Ultimately, though, the key contribution of this work may be to get through to a general public for whom climate change has long been an abstract concept. By showing that what’s going on outside someone’s window is directly linked to climate change, researchers hope it will become obvious that what they are saying isn’t just a load of hot air.

How “abstract” is climate change? Lucky we have science magazines to make storms, floods and rain real for dumb voters who don’t understand these things going on outside the window.

The problem for Catherine Brahic is that the dumb voters do understand, they realize the climate always changes, they realize the modelers have failed, they know ice ages and hotter times have come and gone without any man-made CO2. They remember the prediction that children won’t know what snow is.

Non Scientist, long ago threw away scientific rules of logic and reason and the need for empirical evidence. Shame. It used to be an excellent magazine. Vale Nigel Calder.

I want the word scientist back. This faith in models is no better than rune stones.

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Hiding something? BOM throws out Bourke’s hot historic data, changes long cooling trend to warming

Hello Soviet style weather service? On January 3, 1909, an extremely hot 51.7C (125F) was recorded at Bourke.  It’s possibly the hottest ever temperature recorded in a Stevenson Screen in Australia, but the BOM has removed it as a clerical error. There are legitimate questions about the accuracy of records done so long ago — standards were different. But there are very legitimate questions about the BOMs treatment of this historic data. ‘The BOM has also removed the 40 years of weather recorded before 1910, which includes some very hot times. Now we find out the handwritten original notes  from 62 years of the mid 20th Century were supposed to be dumped in 1996 as well. Luckily, these historic documents were saved from the dustbin and quietly kept in private hands instead.

Bourke has one of the longest datasets in Australia — but the BOM, supposedly so concerned about the long term climate trends, appears to have little curiosity in the hot weather of the 1880′s and 1890′s (I talked about the amazing heatwave of 1896 here where hundreds died and people in Bourke escaped on special trains). If it had been a cool spell then, would the BOM feel more inclined to put some effort into analyzing them? All of the 50+ temperatures recorded do have a story to tell, yet they lie invisible in news reports of the 21st Century.

Perhaps most seriously, the regular BOM press releases of hottest ever records now rarely give any indication that these earlier hot records existed at all.

Ian Cole lives in Bourke, and runs the local radio station. For years, his father Neville used to do the meticulous recordings every three hours. Ian Cole feels very frustrated that he can’t broadcast any of that information to listeners in weather reports — the BOM won’t supply any data before the year 2000 to the official Weatherzone service provider. He remarked that “We keep on being told about records that are not actually records and averages that are not quite right”.

Bourke got new automated weather recorders in 1994, with a two year overlap of manual and new equipment.

Bourke raw Maxima trend:  was 1.7C cooling, now increased to a slight warming trend

Bourke raw Minima trend: was 0.53C warming, now increased to 1.64C warming trend

–These trends, calculated by Jennifer Marohasy have not been disputed by the BOM

Graham Lloyd at The Australian continues to ask the questions the BOM should have been asked for the last ten years.

The modern “trends” do not convey the temperatures that were actually recorded at Bourke.

Where is the respect for historic records?

Weatherman’s records detail heat that ’didn’t happen’

AS a child, Ian Cole would watch his father Neville take meticulous readings from the Bureau of Meteorology thermometer at the old post office in the western NSW town of Bourke and send the results through by teleprinter.

The temperature was recorded every three hours, including at night when the mercury sometimes plunged to freezing, and the data was logged in handwritten journals that included special notes to help explain the results.

For Mr Cole it is a simple matter of trusting the care and attention of his father. “Why should you change manually created records?” Mr Cole said. “At the moment they (BOM) are saying we have a warming climate but if the old figures are used we have a cooling climate.”

 Thank goodness someone saved the original notes:

Keep reading  →

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EU to change climate with hair dryers, kettles, lawn mowers

You, foolish plebian, thought that a hair dryer was for drying hair. Not so. The purpose of a hair dryer is to change the climate. Let’s stop the storms by slow-mowing the lawn. That sort of thing…

Thus and verily has the EU announced that high-power appliances may now be banned.

[Telegraph]

EU to ban high-energy hair dryers, smartphones and kettles

European Union to ban dozens of high-wattage household electrical appliances in follow-up to controversial ban on powerful vacuum cleaners

A study ordered by the European Commission, currently in draft form, has identified up to 30 electrical appliances including lawn mowers, smart phones and kettles that could be covered by the EU’s Ecodesign directive outlawing high-wattage devices.

Serfs in the EU will probably spend longer drying their hair, and more time waiting for the kettle to boil  in a quest to produce slightly less CO2. This is in the hope that less CO2 might cool a world that hasn’t really warmed for a decade and a half. It’s a case of not so much blow-drying, and more slow-drying. Likewise, stupid punters may wonder how a lower power kettle can reduce emissions. The laws of physics suggest water is heated by watts, P(W) = E(J) / t(s) and all. Hence lower watts equates to more time to reach boiling point. In the end, either you have cold tea or you use the same amount of energy and produce the same amount of emissions.

I suppose the obvious thing is for the EU to legislate that water will boil at 90C.

Methinks ultimately this will use more electricity and produce more emissions. It is possible that punters, tired of waiting, will simply boil more water at the start of the day, leaving the kettle fuller and hotter all day in between cups of tea. Likewise, 2500W fan heaters make good substitutes for hair dryers. China may start producing fan heaters that you can hold in one hand.

If there are any manufacturers left  in Europe which still export hair-dryers or small electrical goods, I guess those factories in Guandong look all the more appealing now. Shame about the jobs.

Get in now and buy modern electrical goods while you can.

On Monday many of the best vacuum cleaners available for sale in the UK will be banned as a result of the EU energy efficiency rules that prohibit the manufacture or importing any vacuums with motors above 1,600 watts.

Tesco said sales of the most powerful vacuums had soared by as much as 94 per cent for some models after the Telegraph reported consumer group Which? urging shoppers to act quickly before they sold out forever.

The EU is out of control. Send letters to your politicians now.  Don’t ask for this legislation to be amended, ask for the EU to be amended. Your nation should leave now.

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ABC invites BOM and Marohasy to speak — BOM decline, Marohasy accepts, but is cut off?

Bronwen O’Shea, ABC

UPDATED: Correction. The interview was done by a fan of John Cook, not John Cook. Notes in the post and apologies. – Jo

Hm, curious event on the ABC today. Credit to Bronwen O’Shea, host of the ABC morning radio program for the Goulburn Murray, for asking both Jennifer Marohasy and the BOM to discuss the Rutherglen temperature adjustments. Good-o, I say –  public debate and answers! (Note that link is just to their website, I have not found a copy of the interview or transcript).

But everything worked against the ABC. First the BOM chose not to even try to answer. (Hm?)  Then not long after the interview started, the line suddenly went dead and Marohasy was abruptly cut off. She waited for the call back, but it never came. What bad luck eh? Even more unlucky –  when the ABC tried to call her back they got a fan of John Cook on the phone instead*. Then, things got even worse for poor ABC listeners — because the fan of Cook mistakenly thought Rutherglen was different to the surrounding stations, but the BOM raw records say otherwise (see the graph below). UPDATED: Apologies to John Cook from Jen and myself for the error. If he wants to explain his views on the BOM and homogenization, I’m happy to post them here. – Jo

I’m sure the ABC wouldn’t want to mislead its listeners and hide serious questions about the BOM’s record of our temperatures. They are concerned about climate change after all, so for the sake of the environment I expect they’ll ask Marohasy back on to finish her points and explain why the talkback caller was wrong. [We are trying to get a transcript or copy of the interview. The ABC said they are unable to supply one.]

Details follow…

Doesn’t the BOM want to defend these attacks on ACORN (their new temperature record)?

Keep reading  →

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Uninformed climate amateurs ask professionals to explain their data revision

David Karoly knew he had to defend the BOM with regard to the hot questions about adjustments to Amberley, Bourke, and Rutherglen data. What he didn’t have were photos of historic equipment, maps of thermometer sites, or quotes from people who took observations. Instead he wielded the magic wand of “peer review” — whereupon questions asked in English are rendered invalid if they are printed in a newspaper instead of a trade-magazine.

Prof David Karoly, Climate Professional called people who ask for explanations poorly informed amateurs. In response, we Poorly Informed Climate Amateurs wonder what it takes to get Climate Professionals to inform us? Instead of hiding behind ‘peer review’, vague complex methods, and the glow of their academic aura, the professionals could act professional and explain exactly what they did to the data?

We discussed the mysterious transformation of Amberley and Rutherglen — where cooling trends became warming trends due to unrecorded site movements that were detected by thermometers hundreds of kilometers away. I also discussed how skeptical scientists have been asking for details for years but the BOM would not provide them. What we still don’t know is why thermometers in 1941 were recording temperatures nearly 2 degrees celcius too high at both Rutherglen and Amberley and why records this inaccurate are included in our national database? Nor do we understand why the error was not discovered for 70 years or why the BOM apparently didn’t ask the people who worked there at the time. We are grateful though, that so many RAAF planes at Amberley operated safely despite the poor equipment.

The articles by Graham Lloyd on Jennifer Marohasy’s analysis are generating debate.

Letters to The Australian 28th August 2014

Bill Johnston, former NSW natural resources research scientist, Cook, ACT

 DAVID Karoly’s response is a contradiction. He is a well-known climate activist and editor-in-chief of the Australian Meteorological and Oceanographic Journal. Independent peer-review or not, he is quoting his own stuff, which he published in the journal he edits.

His claim about amateurs is both silly and frustrating. We live in a marketing age and everybody should question everything. Joining dots is not science.

In the article he referred to, Karoly stitched together two sets of data. He chose to end one set, which was relatively continuous, in 1950. The second set, from 1910 to 2010, was the heavily homogenised Australian Climate Observations Reference Network — Surface Air Temperature data. Most ACORN-SAT series were derived by stitching together data from, for instance, now closed post offices and airports to form a single series. For some, gaps were filled using more distant stations. Karoly knows this.

He should also know that for his 1910 to 1950 comparison, most of the compared data sets were identical. They were long-term post office, pilot station and lighthouse data. Irrespective of homogenisation, close agreement could therefore be expected for those years.

Keep reading  →

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Big adjustments? BOM says Rutherglen site shifted, former workers there say “No”

The hot questions for the Australian Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) mount up. Rutherglen was one of the temperature recording stations that was subject to large somewhat mysterious adjustments which turned a slight cooling trend into a strongly warming one. Yet the official notes showed that the site did not move and was a continuous record. On paper, Rutherglen appeared to be ideal — a rare long rural temperature record where measurements had come from the same place since 1913.

The original cooling trend of  – 0.35C was transformed into a +1.73C warming after “homogenisation” by the BOM. To justify that the BOM claims that there may have been an unrecorded shift, and it was “consistent” with the old station starting  further up the slope before it moved down to the hollow.

Today retired scientist Bill Johnston got in touch with Jennifer Marohasy, with me and with Graham Lloyd of The Australian to say that he worked at times at Rutherglen and the official thermometer had not moved. It was always placed where it is now at the bottom of the hollow. That information has already made it into print in The Australian.

...

The original thermometer records suggest a slight cooling trend. The adjusted ones (red) are very different.

 

From The Australian: “Climate records contradict Bureau of Meteorology

Retired scientist Bill Johnston, who has worked at Rutherglen, said a temporary thermometer had been put on higher ground near the office of the farm but it never provided temperatures to the bureau.

“Some locals thought the ­official data was not particularly inviting for winter tourists,’’ Dr Johnston said.

“So they established a second Stevenson screen near the office on a watered lawn, near fruit trees, so it was pretty useless as a weather station.”

That BOM explanation of the adjustment (again):

Keep reading  →

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BOM finally explains! Cooling changed to warming trends because stations “might” have moved!

It’s the news you’ve been waiting years to hear! Finally we find out the exact details of why the BOM changed two of their best long term sites from cooling trends to warming trends. The massive inexplicable adjustments like these have been discussed on blogs for years. But it was only when Graham Lloyd advised the BOM he would be reporting on this that they finally found time to write three paragraphs on specific stations.

Who knew it would be so hard to get answers. We put in a Senate request for an audit of the BOM datasets in 2011. Ken Stewart, Geoff Sherrington, Des Moore, Bill Johnston, and Jennifer Marohasy have also separately been asking the BOM for details about adjustments on specific BOM sites. (I bet Warwick Hughes has too). The BOM has ignored or circumvented all these, refusing to explain why individual stations were adjusted in detail.

The two provocative articles Lloyd put together last week were  Heat is on over weather bureau  and  Bureau of Meteorology ‘altering climate figures, which I covered here. This is the power of the press at its best. The absence of articles like these, is why I have said the media IS the problem — as long as the media ignore the BOM failure to supply their full methods and reasons the BOM mostly get away with it. It’s an excellent development The Australian is starting to hold the BOM to account. (No sign of curiosity or investigation at the ABC and Fairfax, who are happy to parrot BOM press releases unquestioned like sacred scripts.)

Graham Lloyd sent the BOM a draft of his feature article for The Australian last Tuesday or Wednesday. The BOM finally replied at 5.30pm on Friday night as the last draft was almost ready to print.  I’ve copied the whole BOM response here. I explain below why this is a good response for skeptics.

The BOM rely on the usual vague wordy explanation with the unscientific reasoning that homogenization is necessary according to “international literature”. (I guess there is a consensus then, and we all know what that’s worth.) It is the scientific equivalent of saying  “we’re experts — trust us”. No one would accept that from a company accountant, why from a scientist?

 Here’s the Amberley graph again:

This is the odd case of Amberley minima laid bare. The people living in Ipswich nearby had to wait 70 years to find out that their mornings in 1941 were really almost 2 degrees C colder than what they were told at the time.  The marvel of modern science. It’s amazing the planes didn’t crash more often.

Here’s the BOM explanation:

Amberley: the major adjustment is to minimum temperatures in 1980. There is very little available documentation for Amberley before the 1990s (possibly, as an RAAF base, earlier documentation may be contained in classified material) and this adjustment was identified through neighbour comparisons. The level of confidence in this adjustment is very high because of the size of the inhomogeneity and the large number of other stations in the region (high network density), which can be used as a reference. The most likely cause is a site move within the RAAF base.”

Translated: So the Amberley thermometer might have secretly moved (and that might be classified) but we are sure it shifted one way or the other. Even though we don’t know where it was before, or how much difference that makes, we can figure out what the thermometers should have been recording in 1941 because of other stations which are hundreds of kilometers away.

Even more strange is that the nearest ACORN station is Brisbane Aero, 50km away, which also shows a long term cooling trend. (Paul Homewood has some good graphs on that.) It seems other stations further away are better at recording Amberley temperatures than thermometers at either Amberley or Brisbane.

But hey, perhaps the runways were extended at Amberley, perhaps the thermometer moved, and perhaps the RAAF forgot to record the change. It happens. But if so, doesn’t that tell us something very important about the quality of the best 100 temperatures stations that made the grade for the ACORN data set? If the Amberley site is so bad it needs this kind of adjustment due to a theoretical and unrecorded site move, does that mean the rest of the hundreds of thermometer sites around the country are even worse?

Alternately, could it be that the Amberley cooling trend is real? If that’s the case, the BOM is actively destroying climate information contained in the data by adjusting both Brisbane and Amberley up. If climate change caused systems, like say, high pressure cells, to shift north or south, then homogenizing data with every station for hundreds of kilometers will blur out this resolution entirely. (No wonder the poor climate models don’t work, they don’t stand a chance.)

More unrecorded station moves in Rutherglen in Victoria

A cooling trend of -0.35C became a warming trend  of +1.73C.

...

Fig.5: Rutherglen minima

Source: Ken Stewart updated the ACORN raw v Adjusted graphs

The BOM says:

Rutherglen: the major adjustments in minimum temperature data are in 1966 and 1974. Both were detected through comparisons with neighbours. The nature of the change is consistent with the site moving from a location near the main experimental farm buildings (which are on a small hill) to its current location on low-lying flat ground (minimum temperatures are normally higher on slopes than on flat ground or in valley bottoms).

Translated: Special thermometers (which we don’t name) show that this site probably moved, even though that wasn’t recorded. If theoretically it used to be on a small hill near the station (it might have been) then those minimums would suddenly drop and so we have accounted for that.

Jo says: Let’s check out those neighbors (Deniliquin, Wagga Wagga, Sale, Kerang, Cabramurra)

The raw minima of Rutherglen and it’s neighbors before “adjustments”.

Thanks to Ken Stewart

 Righto. Spot the warming trend. This is “consistent” with a site that does not need a major warming adjustment.

Perhaps the Rutherglen cooling trend is real? (Does climate change cause colder minima or more frosts in rural Victoria?)

Again, as with Amberley, the message about the ACORN set is the same.

If any readers out there happen to have worked at Amberley, or knows someone who did, or have photos of Amberley which may include the white Stephenson Screen Boxes we’d be very happy to hear from you. Likewise Rutherglen or Bourke. We have some good leads on this already. Keen to hear more.

Who needs thermometers to know the temperature?

The all new world-class ACORN data set is based on imagined site moves. Using this BOM technique — if someone wanted to find a national cooling trend they could spot suspicious step changes “consistent” with unrecorded site moves at other stations. These could be adjusted down  with nameless stations anywhere within 500 km (which may or may not show cooling, that doesn’t really matter) . Et Voila. Why do we bother with thermometers? It would be cheaper to record the temperature across Australia from one computer model in Canberra.

Where are those long records at Bourke?

When it comes to Bourke, Jennifer Marohasy’s point was about the good quality historic data the BOM ignores from before 1910. In response, the BOM ignored the point about how they ignore the data.

Bourke: the major adjustments (none of them more than 0.5 degrees Celsius) relate to site moves in 1994 (the instrument was moved from the town to the airport), 1999 (moved within the airport grounds) and 1938 (moved within the town), as well as 1950s inhomogeneities that were detected by neighbour comparisons which, based on station photos before and after, may be related to changes in vegetation (and therefore exposure of the instrument) around the site.

Like the other sites above, an inhomogeneity was apparently detected through site comparisons, and “may” be related to vegetation changes. How do we know vegetation slowly changed some measurements? Other thermometers at other sites (which may be hundreds of kilometers away) got an average of a slightly different trend — luckily the BOM knows that it’s not because vegetation grew at some of those sites, or wind patterns shifted slightly bringing warmer or cooler air.

As Jennifer notes on her site:

Blair Trewin explains that up to 40 neighboring weather stations can be used for detecting inhomogeneities and up to 10 can be used for adjustments. What this means is that temperatures, ever so diligently recorded in the olden days at Bourke by the postmaster, can be change on the basis that it wasn’t so hot at a nearby station that may in fact be many hundreds of kilometres away, even in a different climate zone.

Consider the recorded versus adjusted values for January 1939, Table 1. The recorded values have been changed. And every time the postmaster recorded 40 degrees, Dr Trewin has seen fit to change this value to 39.1 degree Celsius. Why?

Let’s look at that missing 40 years of data. It was recorded with slightly different equipment – a non-standard Stephenson screen or a Glaisher Screen, but both are quality instruments.  Hence it would need some adjustment, but it is reasonable and possible to create a long term record. Probably it wouldn’t need as much adjustment to match with modern  Stephenson screens as the modern Stephenson screens need to be “adjusted” to match themselves.

The pre treatment shows only the Post Office measures. In the post treatment the early Post Office recordings were dropped, and the airport measurements were added in recent times.

The bottom line

In all three cases above the BOM tacitly admitted Jennifer Marohasy has the calculations of the trends right, and the massive changes from raw to adjusted really happened. In all three cases the weasel words “likely”, “consistent” and “may” are used with speculative undocumented reasons for changes. How are imagined and unrecorded site moves “consistent” with the definitive certainty of headlines like “hottest ever year”?  Next time we’re told it’s another warmest September night in East Where-ever, will we hear that it’s a tenth of a degree warmer, but only according to a bunch of homogenized, adjusted thermometers which may have been 300 km away? Will anyone mention that warmer nights were reported in newspapers of the day, but they were discovered to be wrong 70 years later?
Crikey, what if thermometers today are reading too high? Do we need to wait til 2074 to figure out how hot Australia really was in 2014?

PS: Wish Jennifer Marohasy a Happy Birthday today, and if you are on the Sunshine Coast, why not do it in person from 5pm at the Sunshine Beach Surf Club tonight! (Head for the beer garden).

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Global sea level rise a bit more than 1mm a year for last 50 years, no acceleration

Here’s a novel approach. Beenstock et al  wondered if tide gauges were placed in any old spot around the world or were biased toward area where sea-level did more rising. They compared the location of tide gauges in the year 2000 to sea level rises and falls as measured by satellite altimetry. It turns out the placement seems to be independent (meaning anywhere). This is pretty important because the infernally tough thing about measuring sea levels is whether the land is subsiding or rising at the same time, and how to correct for that. If tide gauges are spread evenly (or quasi-randomly), it means we could average the lot instead of trying to correct and reconstruct each one individually. So that’s what they did – average (they did not reconstruct).

The consensus estimate is that sea-levels are rising by 2mm a year (and 3mm lately, with adjusted satellite data). Beenstock et al used 1,000 tide gauges and found global sea level rise was  more like 1mm a year (very similar to the rise Nils Axel Morner found on that stable spot in Denmark). The conclusion is that sea level is rising slowly at 1mm a year, and that it hasn’t changed, and that local sea level rises and falls are very common, and that correcting for them is risky.

Although mean sea levels are rising by 1mm/year, sea level rise is local rather than global, and is concentrated in the Baltic and Adriatic seas, South East Asia and the Atlantic coast of the United States. In these locations, covering 35 percent of tide gauges, sea levels rose on average by 3.8mm/year. Sea levels were stable in locations covered by 61 percent of tide gauges, and sea levels fell in locations covered by 4 percent of tide gauges. In these locations sea levels fell on average by almost 6mm/year.

They blame the reconstructions for the difference (adjustments strike again):

We suggest that the difference between the two estimates is induced by the widespread use of data reconstructions which inform the consensus estimates. There are two types of reconstruction. The first refers to reconstructed data for tide gauges in PSMSL prior to their year of installation. The second refers to locations where there are no tide gauges at all. Since the tide gauges currently in PSMSL are a quasi-random sample, our estimate of current GMSL rise is unbiased. If this is true, reconstruction bias is approximately 1mm/year.

This paper came out in May. H/t to especially The HockeySchtick, and Climate Depot: The paper is open access. See link below.

(Click to enlarge)

They found the placement of gauges is quasi random” — at least for recent times when there are hundreds of stations. Beenstock point out that there were not many gauges in 1900, and most of those were in areas where sea level was rising. The sampling was biased then. Hence the tide gauges from the 1800s overestimate how much sea levels rise globally.

Curious drop off in tide gauges after 2000?

Keep reading  →

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Man to live on melting iceberg for one year to urge climate change action (An unthreaded thread)

Adrift 2015: The official trailer

From Treehugger (where else?)  h/t Climate Depot

 The man pictured above is Alex Bellini, a professional adventurer and motivational speaker who plans to live alone on a melting iceberg off the coast of Greenland for one year, to emphasize the urgent need for climate change action.

Starting in spring of 2015, Bellini plans to find a suitable iceberg in the northwest region of Greenland, where he will remain for up to a year as it slowly melts. Provisioned with with 300 kilograms (661 pounds) of dried food, Bellini will shelter in a survival capsule, the Kevlar-reinforced kind used for ocean oil rigs, until it becomes too risky — at which point he will take to the sea in the capsule, floating adrift until he is rescued.

Treehugger asked:

“Crazy publicity stunt or stroke of daring genius? We’re not sure…

Jo says:

It’s neither and both –  it’s a genius publicity stunt and a stroke of crazy.

The man is a motivational speaker. Assuming he survives, (I hope he does) this’ll set him up for five years of speeches.

(Unless, of course the world cools and everyone realizes what he did was risky and pointless. He might not be such a hot ticket then.)

Keep reading  →

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The heat is on. Bureau of Meteorology ‘altering climate figures’ — The Australian

Congratulations to The Australian again for taking the hard road and reporting controversial, hot, documented problems, that few in the Australian media dare to investigate.

How accurate are our national climate datasets when some adjustments turn entire long stable records from cooling trends to warming ones (or visa versa)? Do the headlines of “hottest ever record” (reported to a tenth of a degree) mean much if thermometer data sometimes needs to be dramatically changed 60 years after being recorded?

One of the most extreme examples is a thermometer station in Amberley, Queensland where a cooling trend in minima of 1C per century has been homogenized and become a warming trend of 2.5C per century. This is a station at an airforce base that has no recorded move since 1941, nor had a change in instrumentation. It is a well-maintained site near a perimeter fence, yet the homogenisation process produces a remarkable transformation of the original records, and rather begs the question of how accurately we know Australian trends at all when the thermometers are seemingly so bad at recording the real temperature of an area. Ken Stewart was the first to notice this anomaly and many others when he compared the raw data to the new, adjusted ACORN data set.  Jennifer Marohasy picked it up, and investigated it and 30 or so other stations. In Rutherglen in Victoria, a cooling trend of -0.35C became a warming trend  of +1.73C. She raised her concerns (repeatedly) with Minister Greg Hunt.

Now the Australian Bureau of Meteorology has been forced to try to explain the large adjustments. Australians may finally gain a better understanding of what “record” temperatures mean, and the certainty ascribed to national trends. There is both a feature and a news piece today in The Weekend Australian.

The odd case of Amberley minima. If you live nearby the local thermometer would say that mornings now are slightly cooler for you than they were in 1941. The BOM says otherwise.

Both Jennifer Marohasy and Graham Lloyd are both doing great work here:

The Australian

Bureau of Meteorology ‘altering climate figures’

THE Bureau of Meteorology has been accused of manipulating historic temperature records to fit a predetermined view of global warming.

Researcher Jennifer Marohasy claims the adjusted records resemble “propaganda” rather than science.

After a description of some of the problems, the BOM responds to explain the adjustments. Most of it the usual argument from authority, and handwaving about how they are experts and a very complicated technique (that produces odd results) is “likely” right:

“‘BOM has rejected Dr Marohasy’s claims and said the agency had used world’s best practice and a peer reviewed process to modify the physical temperature records that had been recorded at weather stations across the country.

There’s a suggestion that the changes don’t matter much:

‘It said data from a selection of weather stations underwent a process known as “homogenisation” to correct for anomalies. It was “very unlikely” that data homogenisation impacted on the empirical outlooks.

Except we know from Ken’s work (and many others in the informal BOM audit team) that the homogenization and adjustments do affect the trends – pushing minima trends of over 100 stations up by nearly 50% compared to the raw data.

‘”In a statement to The Weekend Australian BOM said the bulk of the scientific literature did not support the view that data homogenisation resulted in “diminished physical veracity in any particular climate data set’’.

‘Historical data was homogenised to account for a wide range of non-climate related influences such as the type of instrument used, choice of calibration or enclosure and where it was located.

“All of these elements are subject to change over a period of 100 years, and such non-climate ­related changes need to be ­accounted for in the data for ­reliable analysis and monitoring of trends,’’ BOM said.

‘Account is also taken of temperature recordings from nearby stations. It took “a great deal of care with the climate record, and understands the importance of scientific integrity”.

Translated: We are careful people, “trust us”

Despite Amberley being a good station (as far as anyone can figure) it was adjusted to fit “neighbours” hundreds of kilometers away:

‘BOM said the adjustment to the minimums at Amberley was identified through “neighbour comparisons”. It said the level of confidence was very high because of the large number of stations in the region. There were examples where homogenisation had resulted in a weaker warming trend.

Amberley is near Brisbane which also shows a cooling raw trend, though other neighbours like Cape Moreton Lighthouse, Bundaberg, Gayndah, Miles, and Yamba Pilot Station have an average warming trend. (See Ken’s Kingdom) NASA’s Goddard Institute also adjusts the minima at Amberley up by homogenization with other stations. But the radius of those stations is nearly 1,000 km. These other sites may themselves have had real warming, or an urban heat island effect, or other equipment changes or relocations. It’s a messy business.

The BOM rarely portrays how complicated and messy it is, nor how much the final trends are affected by their complicated adjustment processes.

Heat is on over weather bureau ’homogenising’ temperature records

The Australian

In the case of Rutherglen its neighbours don’t show a warming trend, yet it was adjusted up:

‘In the case of Rutherglen, she says, the changes do not even appear consistent with a principle in the bureau’s own technical manual, which is that changes should be consistent with trends at neighbouring weather stations.

Keep reading  →

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Once in a life time opportunity to be an honest climate modeller — research scholarships!

This is a first! Announcing three scholarships for research-based higher degrees in Australia. Seeking Australian or New Zealand candidates who are science and engineering grads and interested in using neural nets to build climate models that work. This really is something new. Skeptical minds encouraged to apply. Please pass this on to people you think might be interested… – Jo

Once in a Life Time Opportunity to be an Honest Climate Modeller

From Jennifer Marohasy

Most critics of anthropogenic global warming, and there are many, never get the opportunity to actually have a go at contributing to climate science in a practical or tangible and constructive way.  That is, they never get to pull a lever, press a button, build a model or make a forecast.  At best they might throw rotten tomatoes by way of blog posts and comments. This is because the tools of modern climate science are very complex and generally run on super computers with restricted access.

But what if it was possible to build your own climate model on a gaming computer, with some help from artificial neural network (ANN) technology?

Artificial neural networks are a form of artificial intelligence and machine learning, that can be applied were there is an abundance of data with patterns and/or signals embedded in that data.  Artificial neural networks have application when there are problems or questions to be answered, but the relationships can’t be easily reduced to simple formula.

Keep reading  →

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EU bans good vacuum cleaners — next big kettles, hot irons?

The Climate Police are coming.

In order to cool the global climate, the European Commission has decided, with infinite wisdom, that companies shall no longer be allowed to make or import vacuums with motors above 1600 watts — which is more than half of the vacuums on the market. These are climate-dangerous machines. They couldn’t just put a health warning with pics of drowning polar bears on the 2200W ones. They must be Verboten! The new rules start on September 1st. I’m sure if they could, they’d arrange a buy-back and amnesty program for high powered vacuums too.

In EUspeak, vacuums are about to get better! Apparently, they will use less energy, save money and pick up more dust too, all that was needed was regulation. (Why didn’t they think of it before?)

The Telegraph

Consumers warned to “act quickly” before top-rated powerful vacuum cleaners sell out forever

The European Commission claims that its new rules, which are intended to help tackle climate change by cutting Europe’s energy usage, will mean consumers “get better vacuum cleaners than ever before”.

The first vacuum was made in 1860. So after 150 years of fine tuning vacuum motors, at last the gifted bureaucrat has arrived to set the engineers and customers straight.

EUspeak describes the marvel of how lower wattage equals the same power, and will cost less too:

In a blog last year, European Commission spokesman Marlene Holzner wrote: “Vacuum cleaners will use less energy for the same performance – how much dust they pick up. This will help consumers to save money and make Europe as a whole use less energy.”

(Just think: poor German engineers  laboured under the delusion that power was measured in Watts.  ;-) ) If less watts is good, then even less is even better. In 3 years vacuums will be cut down to 900W.

The average power of a vacuum on the market in Europe at the time was 1,800 watts. This will have to be halved within the next three years, as the limit of 1,600 watts will be reduced to just 900 watts from September 2017.

And I’m wondering if two 900W vacuums can be used in series? Can you buy modular vacuums, plug them together…?

But imagine that, it’s another free market failure. The dumb punters kept buying big inefficient vacuums that did not work well. Mere citizens, it seems, do not have the intellect to know when their carpets are sucked properly, or their money wasted. Now thanks to the Glorious Insight of Politicrats that vexacious problem will be gone. Though consumer groups like Witch? claimed that many of the banned models were the most popular and rated as “best buys”. (What would they know?) Mere moms and dads hoovering after the kids for decades are amateurs. The EU commissars know how to vacuum!

…Which? said that many of the models that its reviewers rate as the best on the market will fall foul of the rules.

Of seven “best buy” ratings awarded by its vacuum cleaner reviewers since January 2013, five of them have motors of more than 1,600 watts, it said.

The limitation of wattage comes in a package of other regulations, some of which may or may not be sensible. But, as always, it gets packaged together in radiant auras — there is never any quid pro quo, no cost-benefits and nothing is compromised:

Ms Holzer said: “As a result of the new EU ecodesign and labelling regulations, consumers will also get better vacuum cleaners. In the past there was no legislation on vacuum cleaners and companies could sell poorly performing vacuum cleaners.

“Now, vacuum cleaners that use a lot of energy, that pick up dust poorly, emit too much dust at the exhaust of the vacuum cleaner, are noisy or break down pre-maturely will not be allowed on the market anymore. This means a better cleaning experience and less time and money spent on vacuum cleaning.”

BBC news discusses the fallout:

Hoover – based in South Wales – said that most of its cleaners were in that [banned] category.

It has been replacing its models since July with less powerful versions, but a few are still left on the shelves.

Elements of the directive – known as 2009/125/EC – are being challenged by the Dyson group.

So Europeans may have dustier carpets in the future, and large European appliance makers will presumably be opening factories in Asia (if they haven’t already done so). One of the few things we know for sure from this directive is that if the rest of the world wants big vacuums, they won’t be buying European made ones.

More importantly I wonder, how did this happen so fast? Seventy years ago Europeans were fighting for freedom, now they’ve giving it away. It’s like the heady days of soviet shopping – get your State mandated light-bulb and permitted vacuum today! Do it for your country…

Does no one have the energy to protest?

 

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New paper shows solar activity is linked to the Greenland climate even 20,000 years ago

This new paper by Adophi et al uses beryllium, oxygen and carbon isotopes from Greenland ice cores right back as far as the depth of the last ice age, 22,500 years ago, and finds there is a link between solar activity and the climate. It follows these proxies of temperature and solar activity as the planet warmed to the start of the Holocene 10,000 years ago.

It is gaining attention in The Daily Mail, with the headline:

Is the SUN driving climate change? Solar activity – ‘and not just humans’ – could be increasing global warming, study claims

During the last glacial maximum, Sweden was covered in a thick ice sheet that stretched all the way down to northern Germany and sea levels were more than 330ft (100m) lower than they are today, because the water was frozen in the extensive ice caps.

‘The study shows an unexpected link between solar activity and climate change,’ Dr Muscheler said in a press release.

‘It shows both that changes in solar activity are nothing new and that solar activity influences the climate, especially on a regional level. 

Dr Joanna Haigh, Professor of Atmospheric Physics at Imperial College London, tells MailOnline that the research is interesting but people should not jump to any conclusions.

‘This is a very nice careful piece of work which provides evidence from Greenland, over a period 10,000-25,000 years ago, consistent with a picture that has emerged from other studies looking at changes over more recent times,’ she says.

‘This shows that when the sun is less active winters are likely to be warmer in Greenland and colder in Northwest Europe.

‘It is not easy to draw any conclusions from this work with regard to the sun’s role in global warming or the recent slowdown in warming of global air temperature.’ – The Daily Mail,

The grudging acknowledgement comes couched in odd terms. The sun might be a little bit more important, but it’s not the most important factor, it just does something to this odd incidental thing called atmospheric circulation.

There is still a lot of uncertainty as to how the sun affects the climate, but the study suggests that direct solar energy is not the most important factor, but rather it indirectly affects atmospheric circulation.

‘Reduced solar activity could lead to colder winters in Northern Europe,’ said Dr Muscheler.

‘This is because the sun’s UV radiation affects the atmospheric circulation. 

We can’t draw any conclusions except this small last note:

‘The study also shows that the various solar processes need to be included in climate models in order to better predict future global and regional climate change.’

What about that 95% certainty then?

Getting down to the nuts and bolts, Adolphi et al find that the climate in Greenland appears to be influenced by solar cycles. They theorize the mechanism involves those very wiggly “meridional” wind patterns (which swing in loops far to the south or north, and drag hot weather up from the tropics or send cold blasts down from the arctic.) During solar minima there appear to be more of those “blocking” type wave patterns, and they remark that this is similar to what we see today during solar minima, even though the climate regime would be quite different in an ice age.

Greenland is not global of course. But in terms of national billion-dollar policies, it’s yet another paper suggesting that the reason modern climate models don’t work is that they don’t understand the sun’s role in the climate. Which scientist says they are 95% sure CO2 caused the modern warming? Of course, it’s a trick question.

Here we present the first reconstruction of solar activity variations for the end of the last glaciation from 22.5 to 10 kyr BP (thousand years before present, AD 1950) based on new and published 10Be data from the GRIP and GISP2 ice cores 4,6 supported by independent estimates of atmospheric 14C  concentrations 7,8. In addition, we provide the first evidence for a solar forcing of Greenland climate during Greenland Stadial 2 (GS-2, 22.9-14.7 kyr BP; ref. 14) that seems coherent with increased frequencies of high-pressure blocking patterns south of Greenland during low-solar-activity winters a relationship that has been reported previously from modern observations and climate model experiments. 9,15

Keep reading  →

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Coal Miner Clive Palmer to host a climate conference for global leaders

Australian politics is pure side-show cabaret.

For Clive Palmer, it’s a smashing winner all the way ’round.  It’s more photo opportunities,  more Palmer-Party headlines, and a chance for him to hobnob with any international names who feel like turning up for a few days of taxpayer funded R&R to his Coolum Resort.

Thus Clive disarms his opponents, networks with the odd VIP, and unnerves the government all at the same time. He can wave the Green flag in future negotiations with Abbott and co, to try to haggle extra bits and pieces in his favour. Plus he distracts people from a messy legal matter with a Chinese firm, and he could certainly use some guests at his 95% empty resort. Which, by the way, is also a legal headache and in the news for all the wrong reasons.

It is a bet that a few politicians wouldn’t mind a Sunshine Coast junket after the G20 on November 17. They get to relax for a few tax-deductible or tax-funded days while they pretend to talk about the insolvable climate problem. Plus it’s a fun way to look compassionate and caring for the third rock from the sun. Everyone earns greenie points, while they get essentially nothing done. New class winners in new-class style.

For Clive, putting up the bizarre facade of being a climate activist off-balances the left-leaning protestors and journalists who would normally treat a coal mining magnate like a cross between Ebola and the village idiot. They just don’t know quite what to do with him. He is shamelessly playing games, and has no apparent principles, but a lot of the fans of climate action turn a blind eye to the hypocrisy. This is a man who talks of emissions trading schemes to reduce carbon dioxide while theoretically making his riches from digging stored carbon out of the ground. He voted to remove the Carbon Tax but he’s giving Tony Abbott a hard time, so he must be alright, then? The enemy of my enemy is sort of, kind of, my friend.

Clive Palmer to host climate summit after G20

Clive Palmer will host a self-styled climate change conference at his Queensland resort the day after the G20 summit wraps up in Brisbane.

Keep reading  →

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The crazy world of Renewable Energy Targets

Nothing makes sense about Renewable Energy Targets, except at a “Bumper-Sticker” level. Today the AFR front page suggests* the federal government is shifting to remove the scheme (by closing it to new entrants) rather than just scaling it back. It can’t come a day too soon. Right now, the Greens who care about CO2 emissions should be cheering too. The scheme was designed to promote an  industry, not to cut CO2.

UPDATE: Mathias Cormann later says “that the government’s position was to “keep the renewable energy target in place” SMH.  Mixed messages indeed.

We’ve been sold the idea that if we subsidize “renewable” energy (which produces less CO2) we’d get a world with lower CO2 emissions. But it ain’t so. The fake “free” market in renewables does not remotely achieve what it was advertised to do — the perverse incentives make the RET good for increasing “renewables” but bad for reducing CO2, and, worse, the more wind power you have, the less CO2 you save. Coal fired electricity is so cheap that doing anything other than making it more efficient is a wildly expensive and inefficient way to reduce CO2. But the Greens hate coal more than they want to reduce carbon dioxide. The dilemma!

The RET scheme in Australian pays a subsidy to wind farms and solar installations. Below, Tom Quirk shows that this is effectively a carbon tax (but a lousy one), and it shifts supply — perversely taxing brown coal at $27/ton, black coal at $40/ton and gas at up to $100/ton. Because it’s applied to renewables rather than CO2 directly, it’s effectively a higher tax rate for the non-renewable but lower CO2 emitters.

Calculating the true cost of electricity is fiendishly difficult. “Levelized costs” is the simple idea that we can add up the entire lifecycle cost of each energy type, but it’s almost impossible to calculate meaningful numbers. Because wind power is fickle, yet electricity demand is most definitely not, the real cost of wind power is not just the construction, maintenance and final disposal, but also the cost of having a gas back-up or expensive battery (give-us-your-gold) storage. It’s just inefficient every which way. Coal and nuclear stations are cheaper when run constantly rather than in a stop-start fashion (just like your car is). So the cost of renewables also includes the cost of shifting these “base load” suppliers from efficient to inefficient use — and in the case of coal it means producing more CO2 for the same megawatts. South Australia is the most renewable-dependent state in mainland Australia, and it’s a basketcase (look at the cost stack below). Real costs only come with modeling, and we all know how difficult that is.

If the aim is really the research and development of renewables (and not “low CO2″) then I’ve long said that we should pay for the research and development directly, not pay companies to put up inefficient and fairly useless versions in the hope that companies might earn enough to pay for the research out of the profits. Tom Quirk points out that it’s all frightfully perverse again, because most innovations come from industry, not government funded research, but in Australia we hardly have any industry making parts used in power generation — we don’t have the teams of electrical engineers working on the problem anymore. I suppose the theory is that Chinese companies will profit from solar panels and do the R&D for us (keeping “our” patents too)? It would be cheaper just to gift them the money direct wouldn’t it — rather than pay an industry to produce and install a product that no one would buy, which doesn’t work, and hope that the “profits” translate into discoveries that will produce royalties and jobs for people overseas. I’m sure Chinese workers and entrepreneurs will be grateful. Yay.

Meanwhile, Green fans have suddenly discovered the idea of sovereign risk (where were they while the Rudd-Gillard team blitzed Australia’s reputation for stable, predictable policy?). According to the AFR, the government is scornful (and rightly so):

The government source said the market was oversupplied with energy and there was no longer any cause for a mandated use of any specific type of power. The source said while there would be investment losses if the RET was abolished, or even scaled back, investors “would have to have been blind to know this wasn’t coming’’.

On Catalaxy files, Judith Sloan mocks the Fin for pushing a press release from a rent-seeking firm, and guesses the Abbott government will be too “gutless” to ditch this economic and environmental dog of a policy.

—   Jo

 

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Renewable energy sources – Complications!

Guest post by Tom Quirk

Early in 2014 the Committee for the Economic Development of Australia (CEDA) issued a report entitled The Economics of Climate Change[i]. This report proposed a way forward in assessing and ordering the development of technologies to combat the uncertain source of climate change, fossil fuel emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2).  The report casually mentions that the science is “settled” for understanding climate change despite the obvious failures of climate models to predict the almost constant global temperature of the last 12 years while atmospheric concentrations and fossil fuel emissions of CO2 have continued to rise.

In passing it is worth noting that many countries offer subsidies to renewables similar to our Renewable Energy Target (RET) scheme. CEDA does not consider the scheme very helpful for emission reduction. The table below shows just how extraordinary the scheme is. Generators of renewable energy in Australia, in fact mainly wind farms with some small solar contribution, are paid a subsidy of $40 per megawatt hour (MWh) for electricity produced. This source of electricity displaces that generated from conventional power plants. The equivalent carbon tax is the $40 subsidy paid for one MWh of wind generated electricity with no CO2 emissions displacing one MWh of electricity from black coal that would give rise to one tonne of CO2 but for brown coal electricity with 1.5 tonnes of CO2 the equivalent tax is $27. The tax equivalents for these and other energy sources are shown in Table 1.

Keep reading  →

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Help bring Patrick Moore — a Greenpeace founder turned skeptic — to Australia

Case Smit and John Smeed are working to get Patrick Moore to visit Australia soon. Details on how you can help below.

In the video below Patrick Moore talks about his extensive work with Greenpeace during its first 15 years and the useful contributions they made before he split from them because of their increasingly irrational policies.  He’s a powerful, sensible advocate for compassionate reason. This is his journey from eco-warrior to defender of science, logic and the environment. He is a rare man and obviously sceptical of “catastrophic” global warming.


At the Heartland conference July 2014

From Case Smit:

Australia is hosting a “climate information” visit by Dr. Patrick Moore (co-founder of Greenpeace) in October – November this year.  Rather than lecturing to the “converted”, the principal purpose of this visit is for him to meet with opinion leaders in the media, politics and business to convey a rational environmentalist’s views on why policies instituted because of the “catastrophic climate change” scare need to be realistically addressed.

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Could early antibiotic use lead to lifelong weight gain?

For a weekend curiosity: this study caught my eye.

What if part of the modern obesity epidemic was due to antibiotic use? It may be that if we feed babies antibiotics during a certain window of development, their metabolism changes in ways that last for life (say hello to Syndrome X — sigh). For years, evidence has been gathering that the bacteria in our gut have major contracts and complicated deals going with our immune system. Now this study in lab mice suggests serious negotiations might be going on between bacteria and our developing metabolism too.

The quote of the day: “When we put mice on a high-calorie diet, they got fat. When we put mice on antibiotics, they got fat,” explains Dr. Blaser. “But when we put them on both antibiotics and a high-fat diet, they got very, very fat.”

The study showed that it was not the antibiotics per se that caused the change, but the microflora. Perhaps immediately restocking with the right bacteria might negate the side-effects of the antibiotics.

Our intestines have one to two kilograms of little critter inhabitants, so it is quite the ecosystem inside there. This study tantalizingly suggests we may yet find ways to prevent and treat obesity and insulin resistance. For humans, it’s a proof of concept type study, as mousy intestines and diet are quite different from ours (cardboard for dinner anyone?). Though there is some odd circumstantial support, and antibiotic use changes gut flora for longer than expected. Presumably probiotic trials will start soon.

Pay special attention if you are a pregnant or breast-feeding mouse. — Jo

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Early antibiotic exposure leads to lifelong metabolic disturbances in mice

[Science Daily] August 14, 2014 — A new study published today in Cell suggests that antibiotic exposure during a critical window of early development disrupts the bacterial landscape of the gut, home to trillions of diverse microbes, and permanently reprograms the body’s metabolism, setting up a predisposition to obesity. Moreover, the study shows that it is altered gut bacteria, rather than the antibiotics, driving the metabolic effects.

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The mental illness of alarmism – climate depression, climate change delusion

Who would have guessed? A relentless propaganda campaign to generate fear about the climate has generated fear about the climate. It takes billions of dollars to generate delusion on this scale.

After hopes for government-run-climates were dashed in Copenhagen, the price of setting up a fantasy came back to haunt the team.  The fallout was psychological pain. The failure of Copenhagen was a savage set-back for the scare campaign in so many ways. Only now, years later, do we hear just how bad the repercussions were.

The answer to “climate fear” is, of course, to look at data skeptically, and to stay logical. But instead, the big-government-NGO machine diverts more money down the deep well of unreason. Now there are research papers analyzing “The Debilitating Disease of Climate Alarmism”, and counselors are (presumably) paid to counsel people on how to be afraid, but not overly so.

What’s the difference between this and a cult? A 17 year old was hospitalized with dehydration because he believed if he didn’t drink water it would help prevent a water shortage. A PhD grad says ““Every time I talked about environmental issues, I would start crying”.

Meanwhile the sensible types quietly leave, and the maddies press on. Shame about the collateral damage.

A climate of despair

August 13, 2014, The Age

Nicole Thornton remembers the exact moment her curious case of depression became too real to ignore. It was five years ago and the environmental scientist – a trained biologist and ecologist – was writing a rather dry PhD on responsible household water use.

The United Nations was about to hold its 2009 climate change conference in Copenhagen, and Thornton felt she had a personal investment in it. She, like many thousands of activists and scientists and green campaigners, had high hopes that a new and robust version of the Kyoto agreement would be created in Denmark.“But the reality was a massive, epic failure of political will. It broke me,” she says. “The trigger point was actually watching grown men cry. They were senior diplomats from small islands, begging larger countries to take action so that their nations would not drown with the rising seas.”

Thornton pauses,  takes a breath. “It still gets me, five years later. That’s when I lost hope that we were able to save ourselves from self-destruction. That’s when I lost hope that we would survive as a species. It made me more susceptible to what I call ‘climate depression’.”

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How the media distort the news: Lesson 1 — Lies by omission

The Sydney Morning Herald carefully removed the scientific arguments from an article today. Are they afraid their readers are not smart enough to reach the “right” conclusions if exposed to the wrong information? Hey, but its only national policy and billions of dollars at stake.

Today Maurice Newman warned that we are not prepared for climate change (he’s talking about the cold kind). The Australian published his thoughts citing Archibald, Usoskin, Svensmark, Brekke, Lockwood and Curry. Their readers are apparently clever enough to handle discussions of cosmic rays and large hadron colliders.

In Sydney Morning Herald, Latika Bourke and Lisa Cox write an article about Newman’s views, but carefully omit all of the scientific arguments, as well as the potential problems with one sided science funding and the names and credentials of the scientists he talks about. The pair do, however, find space to repeat the litany of the IPCC’s estimate of 95% “probability” (it’s hard to believe Sydney Morning Herald readers have not heard this before).  They don’t mention that the IPCC estimate is a speculative and unscientific number which gets paradoxically higher as the IPCC’s predictions are proven wrong. Nor did they interview Newman and ask him his opinion of this.

Rather than talking about possibilities that scientists are discussing, it was more important to remind SMH readers that Prime Minister Abbott once said climate change was “absolute crap”. How that helps the nation decide on national climate policy is not made clear, though the implication is: skeptics only have dumb arguments. No doubt SMH readers will understand which opinion they are supposed to hold, and “lucky” for them, journalists Bourke and Cox are experts on atmospheric physics, particle collisions, and climate modeling. If only they’d explained the flaws in Maurice Newman’s arguments instead of concealing them, the whole nation would have been better off.

One day, the poor SMH readers, like ABC viewers, might be shocked when they discover how they were fed propaganda lines by dutiful journalists who, no doubt, thought they were doing a good job. Still, one great thing about the SMH is that the citizens of Australia don’t have to pay for it if they don’t want to.

The Australian‘s readers already know the IPCC position. The editors there, dare to give us the other side as well:

We’re ill-prepared if the iceman cometh

WHAT if David Archibald’s book The Twilight of Abundance: Why Life in the 21st Century Will Be Nasty, Brutish, and Short turns out to be right? What if the past 50 years of peace, cheap energy, abundant food, global economic growth and population explosion have been due to a temporary climate phenomenon?

What if the warmth the world has enjoyed for the past 50 years is the result of solar activity, not man-made CO2?

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