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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The nerds have the numbers on precious metals investments on the ASX

Peter Doherty: Australia is “public enemy number one”, cites “couple of people”

Why launch a $15 billion dollar tax? Forget any scientific reason; let’s do it so people overseas don’t laugh at us. This is as good as the reasoning gets. Have you got a Nobel? You too, could waffle on about hobbling our economy in the quest for international popularity.

Nobel Laureate Peter Doherty says Australia is being seen internationally as “public enemy number one” on climate change

“Australia is being regarded as public enemy number one,” said Professor Doherty, who won the Nobel prize in physiology or medicine in 1996.

The evidence Australia is seen as a public enemy?

“That’s a statement that’s been made to me by a couple of people – so that’s obviously a kind of buzz that’s going around the climate change community.”

Not exactly a large poll or a mass survey, but it impressed , the Sydney Morning Herald and perhaps Ben Cubby (Environment Editor) too. Who needs evidence when you have the right “buzz”? Baseless ramblings are good to go.  File that rant under “Health and Indigenous Affairs” I suppose. It sure isn’t science.

The SMH could interview other Nobel Prize winners who use evidence and reason instead of ideological namecalling based on two anonymous friends.

The polls show that most of the international population don’t care about their own emissions, let alone Austria’s, err, Australia’s. Half the world thinks climate scientists don’t know what they are talking about, and with the help of Doherty, soon they won’t think much of Nobel Prize winners either.

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Weekend Unthreaded

Port Denison, Western Australia, April 2015. JoNova | Click to enlarge.

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Penn and Teller on the religion called Recycling

We could have so much fun doing a show like this Busting the Religion called Climate Change.

Why recycle? “It feels good”

The show uses a few more crass words than it needs to, apart from that it’s a lighthearted satire that kills quite a few sacred cows. The first 5 minutes sets it up with a bunch of people telling us that believe it makes them a better community player, a better mom, a good example for their kids, and helps the planet etc etc.  Then Penn and Teller do some creative experiments on unsuspecting victims of the Recycling Religion.

This so lends itself to climate change. We could lead people through a series of questions where they agree to statements revealing they believe windtowers stop storms and solar panels hold back the tide.

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My submission for the Australian contribution to Paris UNFCCC

Just add your voice. (It appears to be still open, though that may change any minute). You don’t have to do a big document. My post on submissions was last week.

The Australian government website asks these questions:

Q.1 What should Australia’s post-2020 target be and how should it be expressed? In responding to this question you could consider the base year (e.g. 1990/2000/2005), the end year (e.g. 2025/2030), the type of target and why the suggested target is preferred.

Australia should help improve crop growth and reduce desertification in arid areas by having no CO2 target at all. CO2 is a beneficial byproduct of economic activity.

Q2.  What would the impact of that target be on Australia? In responding to this question you could, for example, consider the impact on our economy, jobs, business and on the environment.

Australia would be more competitive economically by removing unnecessary restrictions on CO2. As the largest driest continent with vast arid zones, both our farmers and arid conservation areas benefit from extra atmospheric CO2.

Q3  We need to get the science right before we take any more expensive action.

For the sake of the environment, town-planning, and agriculture, the first and most important priority needs to be an accurate understanding of our climate so predictions start to be useful.

For thirty years climate scientists have failed to narrow the estimates of climate sensitivity, nor produce models that work on decadal, short term, global, or continental scales. No further investments should be made to mitigate “Climate change” until we understand the climate, and predictions are useful, and models validated. Australia should invest in broad ranging, creative research, seriously investigating potential natural cause of climate change. This research should be undertaken preferably with scientists from specialties with a proven track record of scientific achievement (ie. outside the current climate science specialty.)

Many problems are evident with the Australian BOM data sets. Like all important national financial and economic data, these need independent replication.

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Chile’s Calbuco volcano erupts

The Calbuco volcano in Chile has suddenly erupted. People have been evacuated from a 20km radius. Local flights are canceled. The ash cloud is moving east. It’s not clear yet how much effect it will have on the climate. But it is big and worth watching. So far, there are no reported casulties. This volcano has been quiet for 42 years, and caught everyone by surprise. h/t David W

Calbuco volcano, Chile @SegHumana

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The free market wins again – carbon auction price is $14 per ton — up to 300 times cheaper than Carbon Tax

Landfill gas

All the usual suspects declared it could never work. Instead, “Direct Action” is likely to be wildly cheaper and more effective (at reducing CO2). The catch is, it won’t reward friends of big-government and it won’t punish miners, manufacturers and small businesses –  which must be why climate activists don’t like it.

Results are just in from the first Abbott government Direct Action carbon auctions. The government offered to pay for carbon reduction, and held a reverse auction (where people who bid the lowest price would win). The average price came in at $14 a ton.

The Numbers: The Australian government will spend $660 million to reduce emissions by 47mT. These projects will run for about 7 years, and mean the government is on track to meet the target of 180mT reduction by 2020. — Details are at the Clean Energy Regulator.

It’s a lot less than the fantasy schemes that use wind and solar power, of which cost estimates vary partly because no one really knows what the lifespan and disposal costs are. One MIT study estimated the cost of abating carbon with wind was about $60 AUD per ton, and the cost of solar was $700 AUD per ton. (Marcantonini, 2013). Another estimate put the price of carbon reduction at South Australian windfarms at $1484 per ton. Pick a number — whatever it is, it’s a lot more than $14.

Direct Action is 5, 10 or 327 times cheaper than The Carbon Tax

The Gillard Government’s carbon tax was advertised as $24 per ton, but it was the price of emitting a ton (which is different from the $14 per ton price of that applies to actual reductions. The carbon tax is a hopelessly indirect way to buy “carbon reduction”. It took $15 billion from Australians and only abated 2.9 million tons of emissions. In a way, Labor’s carbon price ended up being $5310 per ton. There is no denying the distorting effect on the economy of a $15 billion dollar impost. The Carbon Tax applied to everything, hoping to make all energy users more efficient, but there were not many gains to be had across the board. Energy use is fairly inelastic, people were already doing the easy and cheap things. In comparison, Direct Action takes a small slice of tax, and only tries to change the behaviour of a few industries which can make the biggest difference.

In the end, the vast bulk of the carbon abatement from Direct Action comes (predictably) from “sequestration” (28mT) and “landfill and waste” (18mT). In this auction, the cheapest form of carbon reductions come from things like forest protection, carbon farmers, and landfill gas projects.

Carbon Farming: We pay for it now, but the governments just stole it for years

Spare a thought for the first carbon farmers who were paid nothing — they were the victims of the Native Vegetation Acts. By stopping clearing of private property, the governments (of both persuasions) locked in most of our reductions for the Kyoto agreement. Our per capita emissions fell by 28% from 1990 to 2014. But two-thirds of that 28% came from “land use changes and forestry”. Some families like Peter Spencer‘s lost their life’s work. The carbon credits they were forced to provide for the Commonwealth still counted in the tallies today. When will they get paid? (At a ballpark estimate, Spencer’s property would be worth something like $40m in “carbon abatement” at todays prices.)

What Direct Action won’t “achieve” is a class of dependent corporates

The most important outcome is that, unlike a carbon market, there won’t be a new dependent class of companies who have to go to Parliament lobbyist-in-hand to beg or butter up MP’s. With a blanket carbon tax, every industry wants carbon-permits, or free passes, for themselves to keep doing business as usual. The carbon market of the EU, Rudd, and Gillard fosters these sort of deals and pleas. Big-government could use subsidies to feed industries that will vote and cheer for them (think renewables). They could use the fake free markets to put reigns on the real free market. (What would stop them?) The miners, the electricity generators, the manufacturers generate independent wealth and power, and if they choose too, they could run major campaigns against the big-government taxes and imposts. But if they need to ask special favours, they are less likely to rock the boat. A carbon price is just another tool to keep them in line and obedient; it sure isn’t much good at reducing carbon.

The bottom line

If we assume that reducing CO2 is pointless (we do), the Abbott government has wasted $660m dollars, but at least there are some not-so-bad side products. (How low are our expectations?) The Coalition has wasted less money than Labor on trying to change the weather, though both policies have the same impact on the climate.  As a least-worst-scenario, we end up with more money, forests and trees, and some of the energy generated from landfill will be useful. It’s a shame the Coalition will be more efficient at reducing our emissions (because we should be emitting more CO2), but for a plan with a dumb target, this outcome is as good as it gets. Shutting it all down would be better. Tell the Abbott government what you think (last day to get your submissions in.)

Alternately, the critics (reneweconomy) say that the 7 year contracts won’t deliver in time, and it won’t meet the delusional ambits the Climate Change Authority that were put out yesterday. They were uncosted fairy wish-list aims, released by a group that is essentially an advertising panel set up by the previous Labor government. Predictably, the group announced a new pie-in-the-sky target. Today, critics of the carbon auctions can say (vaguely) “but it won’t meet the targets” which has all the right PR buzz-words, if not much relevant meaning.

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Marcantonini and Ellerman (2013)  The cost of abating CO2 emissions by renewable energy incentives in Germany. MIT Centre for Energy and Environmental Policy Research, CEEPR WP 2013-005

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It’s always Dark Sky Week in Africa

From Steve Goreham’s article on the “Horse and Buggy advice” from the green movement.

In March we enjoyed Earth Hour, when citizens were urged to turn off their lights around the world. Last week was Dark Sky Week, an effort to make citizens aware of “light pollution.” It’s always Dark Sky Week in Africa, where the majority of a billion people don’t have access to electricity.

Last year, Tony FromOz looked at Niger, Africa and discovered 17 million people use less electricity than the small town of Dubbo, NSW (pop 40,000).


From Steve Goreham:

Why do decrees from environmentalists always seem to come from the Dark Ages?

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Nothing is more scary than funding a skeptic. Flannery over-reacts, accidentally satirizes himself

To paraphrase: People who disagree with my economic predictions should not get funds.


The Australian Government is spending $2.5 billion on Direct Action to reduce atmospheric carbon. They offer to spend a tiny $4m extra setting up a centre for an economist who studies the effectiveness of action to change the climate.

Tim Flannery’s reaction to the Consensus Centre:

“…it’s an insult to Australia’s scientific community.”

It’s an insult I tell you! Imagine taking Australia’s climate scientists seriously, and setting up an economics centre to solve the crisis they say is occurring.  How could any scientist stand that.

Lomborg-the-economist agrees completely with the IPCC and Flannery on the climate science. But he disagrees on the economic and policy positions. Obviously it’s a disaster if the Flannery-IPCC economic predictions are subject to analysis.

Flannery, self-satirical, on the appointment of Lomberg:

“Mr Lomborg’s views have no credibility in the scientific community. His message hasn’t varied at all in the last decade and he still believes we shouldn’t take any steps to mitigate climate change. When someone is unwilling to adapt their view on the basis of new science or information, it’s usually a sign those views are politically motivated.”

So here’s Tim Flannery ten years ago, predicting permanent rainfall drops, back-to-back El Ninos, dry dams by 2007. How much has he changed his position based on the evidence?

ABC’s Lateline, June 10, 2005:

I’m afraid that the science around climate change is firming up fairly quickly…

…. the most worrying [phenomenon] is this semi-permanent el Nino-like condition that’s occurring as the Pacific Ocean warms up, and we’re seeing much longer el Ninos than we’ve seen before and often now back-to-back el Ninos with very little of the la Nina cycle, the flood cycle, in between.

… we’ve seen some quite considerable and look to be permanent rainfall drops across much of southern and eastern Australia.

look at the Warragamba catchment figures, they’ve got about two years of supply left…

MAXINE McKEW: So does that mean, really, we’re faced with – if that’s right – back-to-back droughts and continuing thirsty cities?

TIM FLANNERY: That’s right. That looks to be the case.

Who is politically motivated Tim?

This is why the work of the Climate Council is so important – to counter this continuing ideological attempt at deceiving the Australian public.

Spot the ideology: Is it better for the environment if we spend every environmental dollar carefully? Do we want to get actual environmental outcomes and reduce CO2, or is it better to spend those dollars propping up a green industry that won’t change the weather, but does sponsor Flannery’s work sometimes? Is it better to lower emissions, or to get the sort of government that pays Flannery to advertise their policies?

Hat tip to Safetyguy66 who calls the Flannery quote “pure comedy gold”.  Submitted on 2015/04/22 at 9:01 am
Edit12pm : The end of the headline changed from “shoots himself in the foot”. It just wasn’t very good. – Jo

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Financial system on the rocks. Repo spike suggests derivative bomb is triggered

Here’s a monster number lurking under an invisibility cloak. It’s the Quadrillion dollar bomb, and either the fuse has been lit, or it’s already going off in a slow motion big-bang. I first mentioned it way back when I talked about the danger of Carbon credits as another fiat Currency (my 12th post). Hang on for the ride.

The Repo action is now much worse than in the GFC (check out that graph below –  the “GFC” was a speed bump). The volcano bubbling at the end suggests that the Derivatives Bomb probably started a slow motion explosion early last year.  The US Federal Reserve are trying to contain it.

Derivatives* are often used for insurance or hedging, but are mainly highly leveraged bets.They are so much larger than the actual market, it’s better described as a global casino. World GDP is around US$60 trillion but there are at least US$600 trillion of derivative contracts, perhaps as much as US$1.5 quadrillion, as measured by face value, according to the Bank of International Settlements (the “central bank of central banks”). The problem is that all the bank debt or “all the money in the world” is less than US250 trillion.

On the surface the financial world seems pretty calm about the Derivatives Monster Market. The nominal value is huge but it’s made of  pluses and minuses that net to zero. For every winner there is a loser. That is to say, it’s a kind of imaginary funny-money in a zero sum game, and funny-money-debts wipe out funny-money-wins, so it doesn’t really affect the Real World. The problem is that if one bank goes broke, it doesn’t net-out, because the net disintegrates. It only works as long as almost all the losers can pay off what they owe. If a loser is bankrupted, the winner also becomes a loser. And the losses spread like an infection. The “winner” may have placed paired bets to minimize risk. So they thought they could use their winnings on one side to pay of their losses on the other. But now they default too and the financial plague grows. Funny-money losses have just become Real Debt.

In the last year some futures players have been hammered (think of the swings in oil, iron ore, the US dollar). There must have been some shocker-sized margin calls that went under the radar. Sometimes the losing side can toss some more money in to fend off the Debt Collector’s wolves; then they avoid closing out the contract and realizing the loss. Some players will have been in a life-or-death hunt for anything to pledge as collateral. When you are too big to fail, and seeking cash, who you gonna call? The guys who can create infinite money of course — the US Fed.

Total RePo’s. Compare the 2014 action with 2008. Units: “millions of dollars”

Source: St Louis Federal Reserve

Reverse repurchase agreements held by the Federal Reserve: All Maturities

Bill Holter has a theory about how these big margin losses have been hidden. RePo’s are repurchase agreements from the US Fed, it’s like The Pawn Shop for global finance. If you have an “asset” you can swap for cash, the US Fed will “print” the money, and keep your asset. You agree to repurchase it back some day. In theory the Fed have not printed money from nothing, because the amount of money is the same as the asset’s value. But who decides that value? In extremis, the Fed could value  any asset at what ever they say is worth. The assets are supposed to be AAA (and we all know what that means), but increasingly any old thing will do and the rules are ignored because “bigger things” are at stake.  That last volcanic action in RePo’s could just be the speculators crashing in the derivatives game, getting margin calls then going to the Fed and to hock the best collateralised junk they have left, and get the cash to stay afloat.

Bill Holter makes a great case:

For years I have described the current financial situation as a “giant margin call” waiting to happen.  The derivatives market is a zero sum game where someone wins and someone loses, the danger of course is someone losing so badly they become insolvent and cannot make payment to the “winner” …which would make all parties a loser in the game.  This is the fear, the derivatives chain breaks somewhere along the way and creates a domino effect both upstream and downstream causing the entire credit system to lock up.

Think about what has happened over just the last six months alone.  We have seen unprecedented FOREX movements.  The dollar has strengthened close to 30% over this timeframe while oil has dropped about 50%.  The cross between the euro and the Swiss franc saw an almost 30% move in less than 10 minutes one Monday morning in January.  There have been some very big gains AND some very big losses which would explain the need for “more collateral” which is exactly what these reverse repo’s provide.

He goes on to say “this time it’s different”. Holter argues that there must be massive hidden losses in derivatives and estimates the losses on the USD to be about $3 trillion. He (and I) wonders how any corporation on Earth could survive even “5%” of that, and that’s just the US Dollar losses.

Holter goes on to point out that what the Fed is probably doing is technically illegal. Presumably they have the best lawyers that money can buy so this is not really relevant. Hm.

So what happens now? The derivative problem can only get larger and drag down more and more participants into a mess of unpayable debt, defaults, and margin calls. Sure the central banks can create infinite cash, but eventually it becomes meaningless. According to this chart, the mess and stress is now much larger than in the GFC, and has been going on in the background for a year now. Maybe that helps explain the high number of suicides in the banking industry lately?


* Derivatives are deals on changes in any financial quantity, such as the value of a stock, a foreign exchange rate, an interest rate, a commodity price, etc.

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Scientists reply to hypocrites: We dare you to talk science instead how you hate “fossil fuels”

Caught with their pants down.

Unskeptical-scientists, like Hansen, Trenberth, and Mann, have plastered their name on a document aiming to stop scientific research. They want less science funding. Who hates science then?

The Ethical Poseurs

Who cares about the ethics of fossil fuels funding skeptics, but doesn’t care when renewable-energy corporations sponsor pro-crisis exhibitions? Siemens was principle sponsor of the UK Science Museum’s propaganda gallery on climate science. It makes EUR 80 million profit each quarter from wind and renewables. Where is the outrage? When mercenary corporates use museums to boost their profits, that’s OK for Hansen, Trenberth and Mann. The other big sponsor was Shell, which profits from gas sales, when its cheap competitor coal gets hit thanks to “climate-panic”. Shell, of course, likes windmills, which need a gas form of back up.

Time skeptics stood up for science funding

We skeptics need to stop buying into the bullying and intimidation of those who say fossil fuels can fund unskeptical research but not skeptical (i.e. real) research. The sole reason they do this is to starve skeptics and to poison the well for audiences. It is anti-science, anti-free-speech, anti-intellectual in every way.

Most times when a skeptic says “we take no fossil fuel funding” it caves to that meme. It feeds the monster. It is as if skeptics are confirming that unskeptical activists are right to “expose” and discuss funding without even discussing the research. It is never OK to use an ad hom in place of an argument. The correct response of any scientist accused of receiving any money “linked” to fossil fuels is to say:

“We’d be grateful if we were. Please give my details to the Koch Brothers.

So you are still too scared to discuss the science? If you can find a problem with my research, we would talk about that instead, wouldn’t we?

It’s time scientists talked science instead of “vested interests”

The Unskeptical-scientists don’t want to debate this through peer review, they’re terrified. Knobbling competing scientists by attacking their funding is their best strategy; their scientific case is riddled with holes.

That’s why it is great to see a group of scientists take this head-on, and you can join them.

The Natural History Museum has written an open letter to other museums – telling them to stop taking fossil fuel money (specifically Koch funding) for vapor thin ethical reasons, and because they are nice people who really care a lot about the planet.

CO2Science has an Open Response, where they are collecting names in support. Essentially, they point out that it boils down to a well funded mob complaining that skeptics got about 1% as much money from philanthropic donors as they did:

Instead of arguments based on science and facts, the movement labels any who question their dogma as “deniers,” funded, according to the letter, by “climate-change-denying organizations spending over $67 million since 1997 to fund groups denying climate change science.” The hypocrisy is breathtaking. Orders of magnitude more funding has been given by governments and foundations to organizations and individuals charged with “scientifically” proving the alleged evils of CO2 and inventing ways to cope with it. In 2011 alone, ten large foundations donated $577 million to environmental causes, nearly ten times more than the total funding since 1997 to the so-called “deniers.” And that does not count tens of billions of dollars from the government and other foundations. Apparently the movement’s scientific case is so weak that they feel threatened by any research that does not support their doctrine.

We applaud support for informative studies of the climate, for example, ocean monitoring programs, satellite instruments, or meteorological networks with high-quality data archives. This work needs no defense from scientific challenges, regardless of the source of funding. The honest scientists responsible for much of this excellent work cannot be blamed for the excesses of the anti-fossil fuel movement. But the signers of the letter include some of the biggest feeders at the climate trough, who benefit from millions of dollars of funding every year for research empires, which, in many cases, stoke a propaganda mill instead of producing real science. In the interests of transparency and intellectual integrity, the signatories of the “To the Museums” letter should have each revealed their annual and cumulative climate funding.

Their hypocritical ethics claims,  and the obvious outcome of less funding for science mean it’s hard to see any aim in this other than to shut down any investigation that threatens their status, their funding or their religious belief. Pure scientific parasites.

How can more funding for science be bad? The answer is “when the funding is already monopolistic, biased, and one-sided and extra funding makes the balance worse.” Though the danger here is merely that the well funded team produces more irrelevant, repetitive papers. If science journalists were half smart and properly trained, that would hardly matter.

Funding should be declared, but always research stands or falls on it’s evidence and its arguments. The time for talking about funding only comes after some grievous problem is found with the research, or if the research is hard to replicate and dependent on data collected and maintained by the same team.

They ask museums  “to cut all ties with the fossil fuel industry and funders of climate science obfuscation.”

The letter has no chance of actually working because fossil fuel empire funds more pro-panic exhibits than it has ever funded skeptical ones. The UK science museum is very happy to take money from Shell and BP. Likewise British Museum, Tate, and others, ahem, are ethically quite OK with BP money, oil spills and all. Though the letter has already achieved what it probably wanted, which is mass PR as most in the gullible media sucked it up.


We welcome additional signers, both US and non-US citizens, who are informed about CO2 and climate.
If you would like to add your name, please send a note to

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