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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“Modern seas unprecedented”: An insult to geology and sea level research

Is the latest sea-level rise unusual? Kurt Lambeck said it was, based on his version of the Holocene seas, calculated with modeled crustal movements (to try to guess the rises and falls of the beaches where the sea levels were changing). Obedient science reporters broadcast his message to the world without asking a single hard question. But when the error bars are 2 meters wide and the dating estimates range over hundreds of years, I thought it beyond silly to think we could estimate 100-year average sea level rises in the time of Moses. Nils-Axel Mörner agrees, and shows data below from 50 years of research which demonstrates that sea levels are always oscillating, and that in Europe, the US, the Indian Ocean past changes are larger than the current ones. Nils has published nearly 600 papers on observations of sea-levels around the world. He calls the Lambeck paper an “insult” to geologists and sea-level researchers.  — Jo


An insult to geology and sea level research

by Nils-Axel Mörner

Paleogeophysics & Geodynamics, Stockholm, Sweden, (morner AT

In the 60s, there was a vigorous debate whether the postglacial sea level rise occurred as a smooth rise (Shepard, 1963) or an oscillatory rise (Fairbridge, 1961). My own low-amplitude oscillations sea level curve (Mörner, 1969) came as some sort of intermediate solution (Fig. 1). It was derived by the isolations of the isostatic and eustatic component in the spectrum of 40 individual shorelines recorded over 300 km in the direction of tilting in the periphery of the Fennoscandian uplift and dated by numerous C14-dates (Mörner, 1969, 1971). Numerous subsequent records from places scattered all over the world indicate that, indeed, the postglacial rise in sea level occurred in a mode of low-amplitude oscillations (e.g. Pirrazoli, 1991). This is even true for the Late Holocene and the last millennium (e.g. Mörner, 1980; van de Plassche, 2000; Hansen et al., 2012).

Fig. 1. Regional eustatic curve for northwest Europe according to Mörner (1980).

In a recent paper, Lambeck et al. (2014) claim – with respect to the Holocene to present sea level changes –

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The Clive Palmer Deal and Direct Action — Billions wasted

Clive Palmers done a deal to pass the Direct Action plan. Earlier this year Palmer declared that Direct Action was “hopeless” and “dead”  – saying it would be too expensive  and achive little for the environment. Now he’s done a deal to pass it, insisting we get a review of an emissions trading scheme, something not so long ago he would have mocked too. The man has no principles.

In the end, this is $2 billion wasted. We may get a few new trees and some slightly richer soil as a side effect, which is good, but this is an inefficient way to do it.

It’s good news that Abbott did not pander to the Gore’s great wish to get a promise of an Emissions Trading Scheme. That would have been a win for Gore. He would have loved to wave “Australia’s committment”. Instead he will wave that Australia is still planning and considering an emissions trading scheme.

But the continued wasted funds to groups like the Climate Change Authority means there will be another two or three years of full gloss press releases urging the public to be afraid. The Coalition needs to wise up and fund alternate views. We need a national debate, and either we fund no campaigners or we fund both sides of the debate.

With the government only funding the side-for-alarm, the public and media only see official or “credible” claims that are alarming. Those claims are never tested by anyone or any organization with any government backing. Without a government funded audit team on the BOM or on climate science, the Coalition is just setting itself up for failure on climate issues because the only “credible authorities” will be ones determined to make any Coalition reluctance to go the full carbon agenda look foolish. Climate is a major policy area and needs auditing – just like finances are audited, a court trial has a defense, or governments have oppositions.

The public need to hear both views so they can make up their own mind.

Don’t we owe it to the environment?

PS: Post edited and updated on the fly. Sorry, it’s a busy day.

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Quantitative easing bleeds the poor and feeds the rich

In the past,  David and I have written about how money supply is rampantly expanding, and how this benefits the spenders and the speculators while punishing the producers and the savers (in a relative sense of course). We’ve been called conspiracy theorists for pointing out systematic problems with paper currencies.

Today in The Australian we find some more people who agree with us: Rupert Murdoch, Veteran Reserve Bank economist Peter Jonson, Warwick McKibbin (former Reserve Bank Board), and Bob Gregory (Professor of economics at ANU and another former Reserve Bank Board member). It’s good to see this issue make the front page. Shame it wasn’t there 15 years ago.

“Rupert Murdoch had warned G20 ­finance ministers that money printing by central banks had exacerbated inequality…”

“Mr Murdoch is saying what a lot of people including central bankers are saying in private and increasingly in public,” said Warwick McKibbin

Here’s the latest US money base* graph. The massive injections started in August 2008, the numbers ran right off the old graph scale. It was a temporary liquidity injection to tide us over difficult times. It took 90 years to grow the US base money to $800 billion. Now six years later the money base of the US has grown by 500% to $4.5 trillion. No one is pretending the money base will ever return to what it was. Instead officials try to manage the market and the money supply with repeated warnings of “the end of tapering” and markets leap or dive depending on the phrasing. Stock investing is not about company valuation anymore, as about predicting the bureaucrat. Markets have become bets on what interest rate committees will do.

The bank bailouts in 2008 and this little-known graph are what underlie both the Tea Party and the Occupy movement. People know something is wrong. It’s long past time to discuss it.

US Money Base, 1918 – 2014

St Louis Federal Reserve

Central banks are printing money (with digital wheelbarrows). Like temperature data, officials can adjust inflation figures to hide the effect of the extra dollars (look up hedonic adjustments, and changes to the weighting of “fixed” baskets). Like temperature data, there doesn’t need to be an overt conspiracy, just a systematic culture that rewards bureaucrats who think of reasons to reduce CPI. Which government minister will reward the senior bureaucrat who finds that inflation figures are biased low, and need adjusting upwards? Which government has an incentive to expose hidden inflation, and pressure the central banks to put up interest rates and make voters pay more in mortgage repayments?

If you or I print money, it’s counterfeiting and a crime. When central banks and large financial institutions do it, they’re saving the economy.

Money begets money

Ultimately the winners are the ones who get to spend the newly printed money first — that’s borrowers and speculators. To borrow, you need collateral, so wealthier people can borrow more. The commercial banks create new money for them to spend on assets, and because lots of people with newly created money are bidding up the price of the assets, those asset prices go up. Which means more collateral, so repeat.

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Global Placebo Effect: Windmills, taxes, solar panels — slowed global warming before they were built.

New Global Placebo Effect (GPE) announced by Baroness Verma in the UK.

It’s a scientific breakthrough. Global warming may be stopped by the mere thought of trying to reduce CO2, even if that thought fails to bring down actual CO2 levels.

The central dilemma: CO2 levels have been rising “faster than expected” for the last twenty years, yet global warming has been rising “slower than expected” for almost as long.

Matt Ridley was questioning Baroness Sandip Verma at the House of Lords this week. He pointed out to the peers that even the IPCC admits there is “hiatus” that modelers can’t explain. Verma responded: “‘It [global warming] may have slowed down, but that is a good thing. It could well be that some of the measures we are taking today is helping that to occur.’” [Source -- Dailymail]

Verma raises the intriguing possibility that windmills and solar panels that were built after 2005 have managed to keep global temperatures constant starting from ten years before they were constructed.

What’s even more remarkable is that none of these projects or activities have reduced global CO2 levels. It follows then, that the mere thought of building windmills is enough to change the weather.

Furthermore, it’s well known that more expensive placebo’s are more effective. Hence the final-final copy of the latest IPCC report — issued on Friday after the leak, the draft, and the redraft — will explain that they are 95% certain that if we spend $2 billion dollars a day on renewable energy (instead of just $1 billion) there will be no more category five storms, seas will stop rising, and goats will stop shrinking.

This morning, the UK Prime Minister David Cameron offered to give The Royal Society 350 billion pounds to research the new GPE. Sir Paul Nurse promised to start experiments straight away — beginning by asking seven million British school students to do a coloring in competition on emissions reduction every Monday in 2015 to see how much global temperatures can be reduced compared to other days of the week.

The University of East Anglia announced they will simultaneously set up a new division to monitor Mondays on HadCRUT and also on their Global Climate Models. “We don’t know whether models are subject to the placebo effect, but we suspect they might be” said a spokesman.  The project is due to start in January. Nature has already accepted their paper.

But Dr Roy Spencer was skeptical, and suggested that the correlation may work the other way in models.  “The more money we spend on models that predict warming, the less warming we seem to get said Spencer.

Filed under: satirical press.

Hat tip to Marc Morano & Climate Depot.

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Billionaires club fund Green Blob “Climate Works”

David Rose at the Daily Mail has been following a network of money. The big machine funding climate activism is Climate Works, which was kicked off with a half billion from a Hewlett Foundation in 2008 (as in Hewlett-Packard).  Other donations are in the order of $60 -  $100 million, any one of them vastly larger by orders of magnitude than budgets that skeptical groups operate on (if they have a budget at all).

It takes a lot of money to keep a false idea alive.  This is just another Wall of Money. Yet despite that, skeptics are winning battles, unwinding schemes, shrinking the Green gravy trains, and spreading the word.  It’s amazing what a small group of volunteers and barely funded skeptics can achieve with only their wits and truth on their side. (Thank you to the readers who help us, it makes a big difference.)

ClimateWorks feeds money to the whole gamut of groups like Greenpeace, WWF, and the usual suspects, and it partners with the European Climate Foundation, and in the US, the Energy Foundation. There are Chinese and Indian branches and an Australian Climate Works as well (but it’s not clear how or if the latter is connected.)

Ultimately, the Billionaires Clubs in the US were dodging tax using loopholes to gain more political influence for their buck, and quite a few boards are filled with positions of former politicians and bureaucrats (more jobs for the boys?). It’s a money-go-round.

The Climate Change Scare Chart was created in 2011. It needs an update and more details. Layers and layers of details.

Daily Mail

Follow the money

The most significant source for the ECF’s millions is a body called Climate Works – a private foundation which channels colossal sums to climate campaigners worldwide.

The Climate Works manifesto was set out in 2007 in a document entitled ‘Design to Win: Philanthropy’s Role in the Fight Against Global Warming’. It said that to be effective, a campaign to change government policies on energy and emissions would need at least $600 million from donors.

According to leading energy analyst Peter Atherton of Liberum Capital, current UK energy policies shaped by the Blob will cost between £360 billion and £400 billion to implement by 2030. He said this will see bills rise by at least a third in real terms – on top of the increases already seen over the past ten years.

It was driven by the belief that without radical action, ‘we could lose the fight against global warming over the next ten years’.

It advocated the giving of generous grants to local campaigners in count

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Last magnetic flip of Earths poles happened fast: less than 100 years?

Using layers of ash in lake sediments in Italy, researchers claim to have dated the last flip of the Earths magnetic field more accurately than ever before — at 786,000 years ago. The spot has unusually high resolution during the right 10,000 year era, which gives better detail on the process of this major event. Curiously the flip started with two periods of magnetic instability that spanned first 6,000 years then, later, 2,000 years. At the end of the second period, suddenly the magnetic flip occurred. It was so fast that researchers guess it was in less than 100 years.

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Weekend Unthreaded

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The Ebola Wars: The best article I’ve seen yet

The New Yorker has the best article I have read yet on the Ebola outbreak. Finally we get human story and details of how this outbreak started and spread, along with the outstanding heroic efforts of those on the front line. The article has details on everything, the genetics, the virology, the story of escalating fear as health workers started to get infected, and the hard decisions.

Who would get doses of ZMAPP, and which other experimental therapies would be tried?  ZMAPP is the genetically engineered copy of antibodies against Ebola, and it does appear to be useful, even though it has not been properly tested. Kent Brantly, the US doctor who contracted Ebola, improved within hours of receiving ZMAPP. His recovery was so fast his medical staff wondered if it were possible, but his colleague Nancy Writebol did not show the same progress.

Know thy enemy: only six proteins and one line of code, yet so incredibly deadly. The virus is not one virus, but a swarm of particles — an evolving population.

Since Ebola makes errors as it replicates, each genome was like a hand-copied text, and detectable differences would emerge among the genomes; there isn’t just one “strain” of the virus. Ebola is not a thing but a swarm. It is a vast population of particles, different from one another, each particle competing with the others for a chance to get inside a cell and copy itself. The swarm’s genetic code shifts in response to the changing environment.

As far as the the current news goes, I am heartened that so far there are no new cases spread from the two Texas Nurses. That is a good sign. Their contacts are not out of quarantine yet, but the peak incubation period is 6 -12 days.  Amber Vinson flew on Oct 10 and 13.

The simple particle of information and the devastating medical progression:

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Which scientists are bad at sharing? 92% of environmental scientists

Sharing data is one of the most essential principles of good science and has led to remarkable advances in areas like genetics. But one recent study showed the worst sharers were ecologists, as only 8% shared their data. This new paper by Soranno et al describes sharing data through publicly available datasets as “ethically obligatory”. (Did we need a paper to say that?) And she further claims environmental scientists are out of date. (Which all seems rather bleedingly obvious to anyone in the climate debate.) Soranno argues a cultural change is needed. Indeed.

It’s good to see recognition here of the value of citizen scientists, but the paper misses the elephant in the room. There is no recognition that the largest pool of citizen scientists on the planet are often formally trained, experienced, and seeking data from public institutions on such controversial, dangerous areas as tree rings and thermometers. Nor that the scientists with the worst sharing habits are not the ones who don’t release data, but the ones who ignore FOIA requests, then threaten legal action as well.

One day perhaps social scientists will recognize the real ethical fire burning in science.


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Patrick Moore in Australia – book your tickets now

Have you booked your place? He’s in Melbourne today and Monday; Canberra, Thursday; Perth next Friday and Saturday; Hobart, Brisbane and Noosa the next week. Post bumped up as a reminder. Book Now!  -Jo

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ANU spurns Fossil Fuel investments, why not be a Fossil Fuel Free Zone too? Demand action now!

The Australian National University (ANU) created a bit of media storm in Australia in the last week when it declared it would divest itself of “socially irresponsible investments“, with a focus on fossil fuel use.  ANU Vice-Chancellor Professor Ian Young was emphatic:

“I have repeatedly said climate change is the most serious issue ever to have faced humanity.”

And later, “fossil fuel-reliant companies will not survive the next 20 to 30 years unless they diversify into new energies.”

Applause and recriminations followed.

Sinclair Davidson rather callously suggested this was just a token gesture of pointless political symbolism. (Golly. You are such a cynic Sinclair.) Obviously, if climate change is THE most serious issue, the next step for ANU is to light the way, and stop using the products of fossil fuel companies too. It is surely time for a Fossil Fuel Free Zone (FFFZ) on campus. Like a Nuclear Free Zone, all forms of  Fossil Fuels and Fossil Fuel Bombs will have to keep away.

All petrol and diesel powered machines would be barred at the gates. Truck deliveries will have to be by electric and solar powered trucks. Hey, other trucks can drop the goods at the gates. I’m sure students won’t mind carrying the boxes as they arrive, or perhaps Delivery-Rickshaws are the answer? General fitness and health on campus would improve. What’s not to like?

Heating on campus during the long cold Canberra winter could be solar powered, or fired by waste paper (like recycled peer reviewed papers?). Buildings could be made from wood collected from sustainable plantations (like the Chemistry lab in Nottingham — but without the part where it burns down).

I expect henceforth that campus staff will be happy to travel to conferences by foot, bike, yacht and/or nuclear sub. Or they could just Skype international colleagues from their windmill powered computer (the “Skype and skip” conference initiative). Nothing is more important than the climate.

Australia should not just be an adopter of alternative energy, we should be a producer,” he wrote. “I have often said the real debate in climate should be about producing cost-effective alternative energy. Sticking our collective heads in the sand and ignoring a changing world will ensure we do destroy jobs. “Universities like ANU should be the powerhouses to produce the new technologies for such a world.

And it’s not like Prof Young’s job, status or grants are affected in any way by climate PR and the level of political conviction and public pressure about CO2.

“As well as being Vice-Chancellor of ANU, I am also an active researcher. Climate and changes to climate figure heavily in my research into physical oceanography, global ocean climate and extreme meteorological events.” – Prof Young, ANU

Perhaps instead of rejigging investments, and releasing press releases about that, Prof Young will explain the Pause,  find the missing heat, or  the lost hot spot?

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Panic! 2014 hottest year ever (Not so fast, say the satellites)

What’s almost as good as an actual record? A could-be-a-record Headline!

“2014 could become the hottest year on record” – said CBS, The Guardian, Time, Washington Post, Discover Magazine, The Japan News, Wired, and 319 other outlets.

 None of the investigative hardened editors or science reporters knew enough to ask the question, “what do the satellites say?” Which would have been interesting because the satellites say “bollocks”. h/t SPPI

On his site, Dr Roy Spencer explains that 2014 won’t be the warmest year on record. Satellites track almost all of the Earth for 24 hours a day and the data shows that we don’t need to go back to the Medieval Warm Period to find a hotter year, just back to 2010.


It might be the hottest year if you live in a white louvered box above a carpark, next to a concrete-heat-sink-superstructure, and not far from a runway. Though even then you might need to be homogenized and adjusted to really feel the heat. But for the rest of the surface of the Earth, 2010 is not a record, not even close.

It’s all pretty pointless anyway Roy points out — we’re arguing over a hundredth of a degree.

See Roy’s great blog

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A good news moment – paralyzed man walks again with stem cell transplant

In case you’ve missed this — stem cells have been used to partially restore movement in a 38 year old man who had his spinal cord completely severed by a knife attack in 2010. The cells came  from his nose, and are technically olfactory ensheathing cells (OEC). They are unique cells — the only nerve fibres we know of that grow and make connections with the central nervous system. It’s no magic instant bullet, but a first step. It’s taken 19 months of intensive rehab after the transplant, but he is now able to drive. It’s not known if this procedure can help with paralysis caused by other, more messy causes of spinal breaks. The stab wound was a very clean cut.

It is almost 30 years since Prof. Geoffrey Raisman first identified the potential of OEC’s to repair nerve damage in mice. In November 2012 researchers in Edinburgh were able to restore a dogs ability to move hind legs.

Speaking earlier today Geoffrey Raisman described the results as “more impressive than man walking on the moon”. — speakingofresearch

There are at least three different methods of possibly curing paralysis which have all made announcements this year. In May a different group announced that electrical stimulation helped four men to voluntarily move limbs. Another group, also in May, announced that a different kind of electrical stimulation helped macque monkeys.

We can become experts in windmills, or we can help quadraplegics walk. Every dollar wasted on carbon sequestration is an opportunity missed, a cure delayed.

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Kill Santa for the climate. Is that ISIS or Nobel Peace “Scientists” ?

The Eco-jihadi’s are back. In the latest creative, artistic work of genius to save the Earth, cartoon Santas get gunned down in shopping malls by the heroine. Blood splatters. The enviro-killers stand over the dead body of one Santa and the caption reads: ” “Making conservation a positive factor in the future would require a huge change in political direction.” Indeed. That’ll cool the world.

It’s 10:10 all over again in cartoon-format. Tony Thomas at Quadrant Online has  uncovered the masterpiece  “Climate Changed” by Philippe Squarzoni. The editors describe the book on Amazon as  “a feat of investigative journalism “ which “weaves together scientific research, extensive interviews with experts, and a call for action.” Action indeed. Action with an assault rifle.

You might think this is a fringe, semi-satirical production, but the book is endorsed on the back cover by Dr. Jean Jouzel, IPCC Vice Chair of Working Group I*. Indeed Jouzel apparently stars in the book, and in  Thomas’ words he is the “wise dispenser of IPCC scientific platitude”s.  The front cover tells us Jouzel was a co-recipient of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize — which the Nobel Prize committee would dispute. Shame about the facts, eh?

Get ready, Tony Thomas has uncovered a “Teacher’s Guide” for 15-18 year olds as well. More good wholesome fun for kids.


On the book’s back cover,   Jouzel is enthused:

“What a marvellous way to convey the knowledge accumulated by our scientific community … I am truly admiring of Philippe Squarzoni’s great scholarship on all facets of the climate problem…An extremely well-documented work – which is, of course, essential for the perception of the message that it delivers. But its principal merit is, in fact, in the quality of the narrative and the art.”

Who is a big-tobacco funded scientist, Jouzel?

Squarzoni wheels out the Oreskes bizarre smear campaign about big-tobacco support for skeptics, which is becoming a “hot” topic again with the new Oreskes documentary coming out soon. Incredibly the Phillip Morris money has been going into the climate debate, but not to skeptics!

Earlier, the book’s Santa figures personify fossil-fuel use and smoke British American Tobacco cigarettes.

Author  Squarzoni damns sceptics as “relying on scientists who worked for the tobacco industry in the 1980s to put the science in doubt.” This theme is similarly promoted by Naomi Oreskes in her 2010 book Merchants of Doubt, now being made into a Hollywood film by Sony as something of a sequel to Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth.

I googled for IPCC climate scientists who have taken  benefits from Big Tobacco. Who should  turn up after five minutes but Squarzoni’s guru, Jean Jouzel himself,  a recipient of a 1992 climatology prize from  the Philip Morris tobacco corporation.

It gets better, or worse. Squarzoni’s second-ranked advisory source is Herve Le Treut, a coordinating lead author in the 5th IPCC report. It’s taxing my schoolboy French, but under his “Prix et distinctions”, one notices, “Prix Philip Morris (1992)”.  Merde, alors!

Nature complained in April, 2001, that the German arm of Philip Morris had been awarding annual research prizes since 1983 without controversy: Around 100 researchers in Germany, Austria and Switzerland have received the Philip Morris prize…,” it noted. “This year’s winners, announced last week, each take home around US$100,000.”

Even if not identical, the Philip Morris Prizes that went to Jouzel and Le Treut clearly had a family connection to the US$100,000 Philip Morris Prizes offered in the German context.

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Nigeria declared free of Ebola, but do the maths

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Sea level rise “unprecedented” when modeling the ancient past

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

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

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


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

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

Close up of Fig 1.

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

A case of PR Amplification?

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

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

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

The paper:

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Company stops Ebola, Bureaucracy puts it on a plane

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

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

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

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

Liberian Rubber Farm Becomes Sanctuary Against Ebola

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Weekend Unthreaded

Hope you are having fun…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What will stop this if we don’t?

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

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

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

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

Keep reading  →

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Questions Anja Taylor could have asked but didn’t:

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

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

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

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

Trenberth admits there were “quite substantial discrepancies”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Global Prophets for science?

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

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

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

Catalyst: inaccurate, and in denial of the data?

NARRATION: But a small minority of scientists disagree.

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

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

Climategate still hurts: hide the travesty

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related posts:

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

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