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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Who needs to update the HockeyStick graph – it’s only the fate of the planet at stake?

Two weeks ago on the HockeyStick Update post we discussed the miracle of how the Bristlecones used in HockeyStick graphs had finally (sort of) been updated. I marvelled that 800 year old tree rings were easier to find than ones from 2002. Now 16 years after the MBH98 “seminal” (well, popular) paper was published, Salzer et al had finally found some rare modern trees and updated the temperatures after 1980, but gosh, the tree rings didn’t proxy for the red-hot rising trends of the modern era, instead they recorded a fall. That particular hockeystick collapsed (again).

It took a while, but Greg Laden bravely dropped in here on Thursday to share a link to his post on how skeptics are misunderstanding the update with “mind numbing” arguments.  My reply to him on the old thread may have gone unnoticed. So I’ll repeat it here (with slight edits). Perhaps Greg missed my reply?

Steve McIntyre has also taken Laden to task on his blog.

Greg Laden  December 19, 2014 at 12:54 am

A post on one of the studies you refer to here:


Joanne Nova  December 19, 2014 at 1:41 am

Greg, thanks for popping in, thumbs up from me. Lets share your arguments with everyone here. Quoting from your link:

“More recently, climate science denialist JoNova took the new paper by Salzer et al to task using equally mind numbing arguments.”

What’s the scientific definition of a “denialist” Greg, or are you just namecalling? [I was hoping Greg would answer this.]

JoNova notes that “after decades of studying 800 year old tree rings, someone has finally found some trees living as long ago as 2005. These rarest-of-rare tree rings have been difficult to find … The US government may have spent $30 billion on climate research, but that apparently wasn’t enough to find trees on SheepMountain living between the vast treeless years of 1980 to now.”
I’m sure the scientists involved in tree ring research would like to know where their $30 billion dollars went, but that’s another story.

The $30 billion, went here. It’s out of date now, the real number is much higher.

I asked Malcolm Hughes about JoNova’s implication that there has been next to zero research on or with bristlecone pines over these many years. He said, “This post makes a big deal about the lack of updating of bristlecone pine chronologies since 1980. This is simply wrong. She fails to acknowledge that in 2009 we published on bristlecone pine growth rates in PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences) and put tree-ring data from Sheep Mountain out to the year 2005 in a publicly accessible archive.”

OK, so multiple hockey-stick papers, and repeats and iterations in the IPCC reports plus press conferences is equal to putting the data in a “publicly accessible archive”. As if listeners of MSNBC are trawling PNAS for loosely connected “growth rate” studies and hunting down the datasets while they drive to work. Good luck with convincing people that climate scientists are working just as hard to update their scary graphs as they did to create them.

JoNova also implies that the lack of tree ring proxy use for periods after 1980 is somehow suspicious, but as detailed at length above, the divergence problem is, well, a problem. Also, further work such as that reported here is likely to revive some of that data and allow it to be used, eventually. At the very least, future work with high altitude/latitude tree ring data will be improved by these methodological and ecological studies.

Yes, the divergence problem is real. Congratulations. And “one day” the data might be improved enough to “allow it to be used”. Or then again, we might turn it into a logo for the IPCC and put it on hats, banners, and posters all over the world instead. What would a scientist do, I wonder?

Climate science denialist Steve McIntyre has also weighed in on Salzer et all’s research. His post is truly mind numbing, as he treats Salzer et al as a climate reconstruction paper, and critiques it as such, but the paper examines the methodology of tree ring proxy use and the ecology of tree rings. McIntyre shows the same figure I show above (Figure 5 from that paper) and critiques the researchers for failing to integrate that figure or its data with Mann et al’s climate reconstructions. But they shouldn’t have. That is not what the paper is about. Another very recent paper by the same team is in fact a climate reconstruction study (published in Climate Dynamics) but McIntyre manages to ignore that.

Of course, Mann et al should not rush to integrate the new data with their 1998 Hockeystick. It’s only been 16 years that it’s been in the headlines, and there are only global agreements, billions of dollars and the fate of the planet at stake. Why hurry?


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The Green Blob and the Green B-Lobby

It’s time to pin down the definition of the Green Blob

Owen Paterson gets the credit for setting this phrase into popular use (as far as I can tell). Here is his definition:

Owen Paterson: I’m proud of standing up to the green lobby

By this I mean the mutually supportive network of environmental pressure groups, renewable energy companies and some public officials who keep each other well supplied with lavish funds, scare stories and green tape. This tangled triangle of unelected busybodies claims to have the interests of the planet and the countryside at heart, but it is increasingly clear that it is focusing on the wrong issues and doing real harm while profiting handsomely.

Local conservationists on the ground do wonderful work to protect and improve wild landscapes, as do farmers, rural businesses and ordinary people. They are a world away from the highly paid globe-trotters of the Green Blob who besieged me with their self-serving demands, many of which would have harmed the natural environment.

Pressed in Fenbeagle’s hand the Green Blob became  The Green B-Lobby. Which adds that edge — the amorphous blob becomes a Lobby blob.

The Green Blob

Forgive me, Fenbeagle, for rendering the cartoon in gif which uses less memory but destroys the gradients. (To see the original art, which is even better, visit his site ). Published with permission.

Exactly what kind of Blob and Blobby do we mean?

James Murry edits BusinessGreen and, not surprisingly, isn’t too keen on the “Green Blob” term. He argued in July that it’s so broadly defined it is meaningless, or rather, dangerous, in that it combines sensible questioners with eco-anarchists:

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Kill the squirrel to save the planet

And you thought humans were special because they can control the climate. Move over Big-Coal, make way for the squirrels and beavers. They’ve been stirring up the soil releasing CO2, or damning up streams and producing methane.

Daily Mail — Richard Gray

Forget humans, RODENTS are the climate villains: Squirrels and beavers are contributing to global warming far more than previously thought

  • Arctic ground squirrels churn up and warm soil in the Tundra, allowing carbon dioxide gas trapped in the ice to escape into the atmosphere
  • Methane released from ponds created by beavers estimated to contribute 200 times more greenhouse gas to atmosphere than they did 100 years ago
  • Climate scientists will have to tweak their models to include role of rodents
  • Scientists insist that rodents role in global warming does not let humans off the hook but shows animals play more of a role than previously thought

Wake up climate simulators, it’s time to add rodent-forcings to the models. Along with anthropogenic forcing (and beaver-effects), that’s three vertebrate families down, and only 181 to go.

Squirrels have been around in some form for 40 million years, but in the last 100 they’ve become dangerous climate movers. Freaky timing that.

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Naomi Klein runs amok, calls skeptics white supremacists

Naomi Klein is still throwing rocks, and these rocks are hairier than ever. Try this: if you disagree about climate sensitivity you are not just an unconvinced mind, but a white supremacist. It’s racism, racism all the way down, I tell you!

Lucky Naomi is here to unpack the sinister World Order of evil white men who control the climate.  Who knew? In her world, man-made climate change will kill more non-whites than whites, but the white guys who run everything just don’t care. So there! (Is she saying that white men can control the weather but black men can’t?)

The namecalling reaches a new level of absurdity in “Why #BlackLivesMatter Should Transform the Climate Debate“.  Forget money, power and sex, the world is run on racism:

“What would governments do if black and brown lives counted as much as white lives?”

Taken together, the picture is clear. Thinly veiled notions of racial superiority have informed every aspect of the non-response to climate change so far. Racism is what has made it possible to systematically look away from the climate threat for more than two decades. It is also what has allowed the worst health impacts of digging up, processing and burning fossil fuels—from cancer clusters to asthma—to be systematically dumped on indigenous communities and on the neighborhoods where people of colour live, work and play.

Hmmm. The IPCC warned that the biggest temperature rises would be at the poles. If this was about the “intersection of climate and race”, as she calls it, the worst hit nations would be those dark skinned nations like  Canada, Finland and Norway, eh?!

The truth is that the temperatures will always be most stable in the tropics — where the evaporation rates and humidity keep things from heating or cooling too rapidly.

She whips out every red flag she can find – it’s not just superstorms and rising seas, but police killing blacks, and asthma, and healthcare.

She mentions “Ferguson” but not “poverty”.

What Klein has spotted, spun and turned into fairy floss, is that any bad weather hurts the poor more than the wealthy. This is the unfortunate, banal truth. Some of us evil people think the answer is to solve the poverty, not to change the global climate.  Those who care about the poor want to improve their economies, reduce corruption, and create more wealth. With wealth comes more freedom from the ravages of storms and floods.

Klein is seeing very big monsters under the bed:

The grossly unequal distribution of climate impacts is not some little-understood consequence of the failure to control carbon emissions. It is the result of a series of policy decisions the governments of wealthy countries have made—and continue to make—with full knowledge of the facts and in the face of strenuous objections.

I vividly remember the moment when the racism barely under the surface of international climate talks burst onto the world stage. It was exactly five years ago this week, on the second day of the now-infamous United Nations climate summit in Copenhagen. Up until that point, the conference had been a stultifying affair, with the fates of nations discussed in the bloodless jargon of climate “adaptation and mitigation.” All of that changed when a document was leaked showing that governments were on the verge of setting a target that would cap the global temperature rise at 2 degrees Celsius

Naomi thinks it’s policy-by-racism, as if old white men sit in dark smoky rooms putting racism before profit and power. There are some greedy psycho bastards at the top of some corporates and in politics, I don’t think they care as much about the color of their victims as they do about the size of the pay-off.

If she paid attention to the numbers she’d know the big profits are in carbon exchanges, not pie-in-the-sky planetary tinkering. I’ve written about her crippling problem with numbers before. Only someone who can’t add up would predict that the old white men are hankering to do geoengineering, rather than broker carbon credit deals and derivatives and cream off the fee.

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Hot New Book: Steyn, Delingpole, Bolt, Carter, Plimer, Lindzen, Lawson, Watts, Nova

Too many big names too list, and all in one book, edited by Alan Moran and published by the IPA. I’m am just tickled, delighted to be one of the authors.

The proper headline should include Ross McKitrick, Willie Soon, Pat Michaels, Garth Paltridge, Kesten Green, Stewart Franks, Christopher Essex, Jennifer Marohasy and John Abbott. Not to forget the great writers Rupert Darwall, and Donna LaFramboise.

– Jo

An excerpt:

Shh, don’t mention the water

To state the bleeding obvious, Earth is a Water Planet. Water dominates everything and it’s infernally complicated. Water holds 90% of all the energy on the surface,[1]  and both NASA[2] and the IPCC[3] admit water is the most important greenhouse gas there is, they just don’t seem inclined to produce posters telling us this is a humidity crisis, or that water is pollution.

I get right into the Dada-science, foggy-text, Klingon plots and zombies. I went right over the word limit… :- )

There are briefings in February as well, see below for details!

From John Roskam at the IPA

Climate Change: The Facts 2014, a new book from the Institute of Public Affairs is now available. It couldn’t come at a more important time. You can buy your copy here.

The carbon tax might be gone and the planet might not have warmed since 1998 (as even the IPCC acknowledged last month in its Fifth Assessment Report) but the climate change debate is far from over. Tony Abbott is still going to give $200 million to the United Nations’ ‘Green Climate Fund’. This is after he called the Fund the ‘Bob Brown bank on an international scale’. The federal government says it “accepts the climate change science” – but the government never says exactly what the ‘science’ is that it accepts. The science is clear. There’s been no warming since 1998.

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In Lima, success IS the junket, the headlines, the “voluntary” soft option

So Lima produced another “accord” of late night unenforeceable nothingness. They pumped out gloom and doom, and trumpeted the $12 billion in funds pledged to the Green Climate Fund. But only a few years ago in Cancun they were aiming for $100 billion. A grand failure as the world grows more skeptical.

But as long as these UNFCCC mega-junkets occur at all, it is still a win for the Green Blobby.  Blob-science and the renewables industry still got $12 billion more than skeptical scientists. And 11,000 potential lobbyists got a two week junket in South America, mixing with friends, and hearing how virtuous and important they are. That’s bound to pump up the science-activists — at the very least, they’ll be motivated to make sure they don’t miss out on next year’s two-week junket, or the year after that…

For scientists, this is rock star treatment. Is there any other branch of science which gets a regular paid two-week long international trip to an exotic location year after year? In what other career could B-grade researchers — whose computer simulations fail on every measure — get the red carpet rolled out and lauded as people “trying to save the world”?

Meanwhile the headlines rolled around the world, repeated variations of the last 20 years of pro-forma alarm. How much did each western government spend to make this glorious Olympic junket occur? No one seems to be able to tell us, but it’s pretty clear the amount of private money is negligible and all dollars were involuntarily given. Time to shut down the UNFCCC.

Beware the voluntary soft option

Obama is aiming for a “politically binding” agreement instead of a legally binding one, which he cannot do because US voters didn’t vote for representatives like Obama. So he promised in August that he would try to get around Congress to get a global Climate Accord in Lima. Voluntary agreements sound so pointless, but in the end there is no global police force to enforce a legal agreement (and we pray there never will be), so all agreements legal or not, are subject to the political will of the players. Is there much difference between political and legal deals on this international scale?

What are the options if Spain owes Russia billions at the end of the day and won’t pay? That depends on who has the biggest army and willingness to use it, and the most friends, just like international treaties, deals and agreements always have. Will a country support trade embargoes as a punishment? That depends on political will.

So the soft option is to ask everyone to agree to something voluntary, which seems fairly easy to agree too, then ramp up the political pressure after the deal is done. In its wildest dreams the UN would prefer the legal type of deal, but a “voluntary” deal is still worth a lot of PR, scores headlines, and provides leverage for hounding and hassling weak nations later.

If the citizens of the free world hate the deal, it’ll be ignored and all that political pressure will amount to nothing in the face of the vote-killing potential. But PR like this softens up the citizens; if they are not paying attention it helps create the belief that global carbon deals are inevitable. If domestic politics is distracted by other issues (and that’s the case in nearly every opinion poll in the West) then voters may elect soft governments who use the voluntary deals to justify their moves.

 Obama’s plans are shamefully undemocratic

NY Times Aug 26, 2014 WASHINGTON — The Obama administration is working to forge a sweeping international climate change agreement to compel nations to cut their planet-warming fossil fuel emissions, but without ratification from Congress.

In preparation for this agreement, to be signed at a United Nations summit meeting in 2015 in Paris, the negotiators are meeting with diplomats from other countries to broker a deal to commit some of the world’s largest economies to enact laws to reduce their carbon pollution. But under the Constitution, a president may enter into a legally binding treaty only if it is approved by a two-thirds majority of the Senate.

Note the punishment is to “name and shame”:

To sidestep that requirement, President Obama’s climate negotiators are devising what they call a “politically binding” deal that would “name and shame” countries into cutting their emissions.

 Naming and shaming only works if people buy into it. It falls apart if people laugh at the labels.

But it has already begun:

A Climate Accord Based on Global Peer Pressure

NY Times

… the driving force behind the new deal was not the threat of sanctions or other legal consequences. It was global peer pressure. And over the coming months, it will start to become evident whether the scrutiny of the rest of the world is enough to pressure world leaders to push through new global warming laws from New Delhi to Moscow or if, as a political force, international reproach is impotent.

“If a country doesn’t submit a plan, there will be no punishment, no fine, no black U.N. helicopters showing up,” said Jennifer Morgan, an expert on climate negotiations with the World Resources Institute, a research organization.

Instead the architects of the plan, including top White House officials, hope that the agreement will compel countries to act to avoid international condemnation.

“It relies on a lot of peer pressure,” Ms. Morgan said.


 The structure of the deal is what political scientists often call a “name-and-shame” plan.

Under the Lima Accord all countries must submit plans that would be posted on a United Nations website and made available to the public

What do we take from this? We have to keep up the information campaign direct to voters and politicians. We need to name and shame the unskeptical scientists and the freeloader financials and industrialists who profit from the scare. But we especially need to name and shame the gullible journalists — the media IS the problem. If we had a better media we’d have better policies and better politicians.

It makes the new media and channels of communication all the more important. We need the blogs, letter to editors, and emails to representatives. Peer group pressure works. The difference between skeptics and unskeptics is that the one  side has logic and data, and the other has billions of reasons.


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Weekend Unthreaded

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Greens using “think-tank” witchhunt

The emotional babies in Parliament will do anything to avoid discussing certain ideas on their merits.

The Australian Department of Education has been asking specialists if their appointed curriculum reviewers have been “connected” with two of Australia’s most prominent non-leftist think tanks. The crime apparently is to consort with the scum who ask if big-government is too big.

Both the IPA and CIS support free markets, individual liberty and limited government.

South Australian Greens senator, Penny Wright, wants to know.

“This is outright McCarthyism,” IPA deputy director James Paterson said. “It is pretty much ‘Are you now or have you even been a member of the IPA?’ ”

Should we or should we not teach points X, Y or Z to the children of Australia? Green-logic says it depends on whether the person making the decision has ever been associated with the IPA or the CIS. Presumably reviewers who’ve been published by Green Left Weekly, the CFMEU, The Wilderness Society, Greenpeace, or The Australian Conservation Foundation should be weeded out too. Right?

Maybe not.

The lead author of the original history curriculum was Melbourne University historian Stuart Macintyre. His connections were not pursued by the Greens. Professor Macintyre was once a member of the Communist Party.

The unspoken implication is that merely being associated with highly respected, law abiding organizations that question the value of big-government is something that needs to be disclosed.

The battle of words

To fight this kind of irrational reasoning, the grown-ups need more tools in the language box. What word describes someone who is afraid to debate the point, or so confused about logical arguments that they ask loaded questions with the aim of denigrating their opponent? What word do we use for someone who repeatedly uses this meta-tactic to avoid polite debate? All the choices for “illogical” are here, but none seem be specific. Suggest away…

Our national conversation is stuck in kindergarten, debating and discussing various forms of name-calling. Every time we need a whole newspaper article with quotes to describe why this is such a bad idea, it tells us that we need words to describe these meta-tactics, and we need to teach them. If we have to have a National Curriculum (and we don’t), shouldn’t we at least make sure all children learn to spot the cheats and cop-outs by they way they dissemble, avoid the topic, and use character assassination as their main tool of debate.

Stick ad hominem in your curriculum.

There is no reasoning with the unreasonable

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Sydney Sea levels rising at just 6.5cm per century. Peak-panic is behind us.

In The Australian Bob Carter compares the long term tide gauge record in Sydney with projections, and exposes the exorbitant cost of insurance for alarmist sea level forecasts. The good news is that it appears councils are waking up, and  “peak-sea-level-panic” is behind us.

Sea-level alarmism has passed high tide and is at last declining. With luck, empirical sanity will soon prevail over modelling.

After years of research it turns out that talking about “global”  sea level rise is nearly meaningless to real people who live in one place. The ocean rise varies locally from beach to beach from as little as 5cm per century to as much as 16cm per century. The variations are mostly due to different rates of land subsiding or rising.

More importantly, the rate of rise was either the same or was even faster before World War II when CO2 levels were “safe”.

Figure 5: Comparison of decadal rates of change over historical record. Analysis based on relative 20-y moving average water level time series. | Watson 2011

Fort Denison in Sydney has one of the longest running continuous records, starting in 1886, and finally local councils are realizing that they need to use the local data to plan ahead, not the IPCC’s one-size global fear index.

For example, measurements at Sydney between 2005 and 2014 show the tide gauge site is sinking at a rate of 0.49mm/yr, leaving just 0.16mm/yr of the overall relative rise as representing global sea-level change. Indeed, the rate of rise at Fort Denison, and globally, has been decreasing for the past 50 years.

Let’s cheer, Shoalhaven Shire Council shifted the sea-level-panic-index back a notch, rejecting the worst case IPCC scenario, settling for a slightly less scary one, and importantly, used the local Fort Denison record and ruled out “satellite or model-generated sea-level estimates until their accuracy is guaranteed”.

When councils plan for scenarios that never happen, the pointless insurance can cost some unlucky home owners tens of thousands — in one shire – $40,000 each.

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48 science minds misuse the term “scientist” – namecalling is not science

A group of people calling themselves “leading scientists” think that what the climate really needs is some A-grade namecalling. Specifically, they want the word skeptic for themselves, and want everyone who is unconvinced by their argument to be called a “denier”. I guess they’ve finally realized how uncool it sounds to be an unskeptical scientist. Their reasoning is that they have 48 sciencey type celebrities and they can quote Carl Sagan.  Their scientific greats include guys like Bill Nye the Science Guy, James Randi, and Dick Smith.

The headline reads:

End misuse of ‘sceptic’, urge 48 science minds

Me, I think –  let’s aim higher, and end the misuse of of the term “scientist”. Real scientists debate the evidence and don’t use namecalling as scientific argument. Denier” is not a scientific term, it’s a form of character assassination from lazy minds who want to avoid discussing the data.

Make no mistake, “denier” is not a descriptive term in a science debate, it’s equal to saying “you have the brain of a rock”. Being in denial of observations to the point where a person in toto becomes labeled a denier, is shorthand for saying that they are so mentally deficient that a conversation is not worth having. Why start? It’s the oldest rhetorical trick in the book — a stone-age political ploy.

Then there’s the point about scientists using accurate English and defined terms.  What, specifically, is a climate denier — someone who denies we have a climate? Is that homo sapiens denialist,  or is it just someone who denies your political ideology? Could it be an all-purpose, sloppy misuse of English for advertising and promotion purposes? Looks like.

Real scientists would never talk of a consensus of opinions as if it were scientific evidence about the climate, nor would they use an ad hominem argument. Resorting to kindergarten namecalling shows that these “minds” are afraid, quaking, that the public might listen to skeptical scientists and judge their arguments for their content.

In a scientific debate, a “denier” must deny an observation. Yet the namecallers cannot name any observations that skeptical scientists deny. (I’ve been asking for nearly five years). Nor can they provide observational evidence to back up their “extraordinary claims”.

As they point out:

“Real skepticism is summed up by a quote popularised by Carl Sagan, ‘Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”

So who is making the extraordinary claim: Skeptical scientists say “climate models are exaggerating”. Unskeptical scientists say that building windmills in Hokum Downs will prevent floods in Taiwan. Where is the evidence?

Skeptical scientists ask for evidence. Unskeptical scientists call people “deniers”.

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