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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Topher is doing another Forbidden History video — just hours to go….

Topher did the brilliant “Forbidden History” video, which has hit 50,000 views and he wants to make two more to remind people of the importance of free speech.

There are only hours to help him to reach the tally. Pledges are only processed if the total hits $35k and I hear that there is a big donor as yet unlisted, and the remaining gap is small, so those last promises today might make all the difference.

The post here last month on The Forbidden History of Unpopular People garnered a very enthusiastic response.

“It’s about arrogance, it’s about powerful people here in Australia who believe that they are smarter than you, that their opinion is worth more than your opinion, and that their thinking is better than your thinking, and if you think they’re wrong, you should just shut up.”

Help stop the News Media Gestapo

I’m sorry I wasn’t onto this earlier in the piece…


BOMs new data set, ACORN, so bad it should be withdrawn (954 min temps larger than the max!)

When independent auditors found errors, gaps and deep questions about the HQ (High Quality) dataset for the official record of Australian temperatures, the BOM responded by producing a completely new set called ACORN in March 2012. But this set is also plagued with errors. One of the independent auditors, Ed Thurstan writes to me to explain that though the BOM says it aimed for the “best possible data set” and specified that they check internal consistency of data (one such check is to make sure that the maximum on any given day is larger than the minimum) when Thurstan double checked ACORN he found nearly 1000 instances where the max temperatures were lower than the minimums recorded the same day.

This raises serious questions about the quality control of the Australian data that are so serious, Thurstan asks whether the whole set should be withdrawn.

Why are basic checks like these left to unpaid volunteers, while Australian citizens pay $10 billion a year to reduce a warming trend recorded in a data set so poor that it’s not possible to draw any conclusions about the real current trend we are supposedly so concerned [...]

Charles Sturt’s time: so hot that thermometers exploded. Was Australia’s hottest day in 1828? 53.9C!

Australia’s hottest day? Not 2010, but 1828 at a blistering 53.9 °C

Back before man-made climate change was frying Australia, when CO2 was around 300ppm, the continent savoured an ideal preindustrial climate, right? (This is the kind of climate we are spending $10bn per annum to get back too?)

We are told today’s climate has more records and more extremes than times gone by, but the few records we have from the early 1800’s are eye-popping.  Things were not just hotter, but so wildly hot it burst thermometers.  The earliest temperature records we have show that Australia was a land of shocking heatwaves and droughts, except for when it was bitterly cold or raging in flood.

In other words, nothing has changed, except possibly things might not be quite so hot now.

Silliggy (Lance Pidgeon) has been researching records from early explorers and from newspapers. What he has uncovered is fascinating. — Jo


Charles Sturt  (1930 postage stamp) Wikimedia

Lance Pidgeon writes:


These Australian headlines from the 1800′s above describe extremes the early colonists faced. At the time the European explorers who were instructed and equipped to [...]

Monckton: The Counter-strategies to logic denial on campus (that Eos won’t publish)

Two biology and environmental academics from Schenactady and Rensselaer Polytech New York were apparently concerned that their young prodigy might be lost from the religion of global warming (and misled by “Deniers”) so they put together together a guide to help others facing the onslaught of common sense and reason. The piece titled “Effective Strategies to Counter Campus Presentations on Climate Denial” was published in Eos.

 What they didn’t do, was put forward empirical evidence. (If only they’d thought of that?)

The source of their angst? Christopher Monckton (of course) who spoke at Union College (thanks to CFACT), with help simultaneously from none other than Ivar Giaever (the Nobel Prize winning physicist we saw yesterday) who spoke at Rensselaer. (Imagine the very idea of a Nobel prize winning physicist speaking on campus about uncertainties of predicting the weather?)

 Eos , Vol. 93, No. 27, 3 July 2012

 Effective Strategies to Counter Campus Presentations on Climate Denial

 Jeffrey D. Corbin and  and Miriam E. Katz  [PDF]

Assuming the world copied the Australian Carbon Tax… it will cost $2,000 trillion to cool the planet by one degree.

Monckton send [...]

NZ Scientists “stunned”, “shocked” by mere 1% rise in CO2 absorption. What spin!

The NZ Herald reports a new study showing that since 1988 there has been a sudden increase in the absorption of CO2 over land. It’s in the order of a billion tons of CO2 a year and amounts to 10% of all human emissions. As usual, the spinmeisters frame it in terms of our guilt instead of their ignorance. “Look! Things would have been worse and even warmer if not for this new unknown factor.”

But globally plants already emit about 80Gt per year. Finding one extra Gt of absorption is both predictable and largely insignificant. What this episode really shows is just how far the alarmist PR departments will go to find any excuse to cover up for two decades of poor predictions.

Dr David Evans, formerly a carbon modeler for the Australian Greenhouse Office calls the new discovery “just noise”:

Sounds impressive, but it’s not significant. Rough numbers: there are currently 800GtC (gigatonnes, or billion tonnes) of CO2 carbon in the atmosphere, and each year: plants oceans absorb 80GtC and emit 80GtC, oceans plants absorb 120GtC and emit 120Gt, and human emissions are 8GtC. (Notice that the total turnover in CO2 carbon each year is about [...]

My reply to Paul Bain: The name-caller is hurt by the names they throw

Dear Paul,

Thank you most sincerely for writing to reply to my email. Thank you for taking the time to contact Nature, and thank you for the recognition that the term “denier” causes offense.

Do we also agree that the term denier fails basic English, and cannot be defined as a scientific label because you still are unable to say what deniers deny?

“I think if you understood where skeptics were coming from it would help you design surveys that produced useful results. Basic research, like reading what leading skeptics were saying, would seem a bare minimum requirement before designing a study.”

As far as I can tell, I suspect what you feel deniers deny (though you appear reluctant to actually state it) is not any scientific observation, but the pronouncements of the highest authority of climate science (which you deem to be the IPCC).

“I do believe that the technical aspects of this debate should be between climate scientists, as with complex multi-disciplinary issues it is very easy for findings to be misconstrued by non-experts. Whether you like it or not, the majority of climate scientists agree that there is a high likelihood that anthropogenic climate change [...]

Queensland science is a mental construction

I’m impressed (really quite surprised) that this made it to the top story of the front page of The Australian. The syllabus for Years 10 -12 science students in Queensland contains this nonsense. What is good about it though (see below) is how it forces influential science leaders in the country to pick sides. Is science a “consensus”? Even on Climate Change? No says the Dean of Deans…

The Queensland Studies Authority:

“Science is a social and cultural activity through which explanations of natural phenomena are generated,”

“Explanations of natural phenomena may be viewed as mental constructions based on personal experiences and result from a range of activities including observation, experimentation, imagination and discussion.

“Accepted scientific concepts, theories and models may be viewed as shared understandings that the scientific community perceive as viable in light of current available evidence.”

[QSA, Physics Senior Syllabus, 2007]  [QSA Chemistry, 2007] [QSA, Biology 2004 amended 2006]

The answer from QSA (The Queensland Studies Authority)? 

They said the statements concerning a view of science and science education should be read in the context of the entire syllabus and it was not, and was never intended to be, [...]

Dr Paul Bain replies about the use of the term “denier” in a scientific paper

Dr Paul Bain has replied to my second email to him which I do most appreciate. (For reference, see the letter he is replying to here: “My reply to Dr Paul Bain — on rational deniers and gullible believers” ). He deserves kudos for replying (it’s easier to ignore inconvenient emails), and also for taking some action to improve the article he published.  I will reply properly as soon as I can. For the moment, and for fairness’s sake, it’s here for all to see.

Please be constructive and polite in comments. No, I don’t think there is any scientific reason (or definition in the English language) that validates the term “denier”, but Nature is going to publish an addendum this time, and that will be noticed by other researchers in the field. That is progress. Though there is a long way to go. — Jo


Dear Jo (if I may)

I apologise for my long and delayed response – while I would like to be more succinct, I have to resort to Pascal’s excuse that I’m writing a long response because I didn’t have time to write a short one.

First, an update. As we all know, [...]

I’ll post Dr Paul Bains reply later today…

Dr Paul Bain sent me his second reply to my second letter late on Friday, which I am grateful for. I’ll post it in a few hours (scheduled 9am Monday morning Eastern States time, which is 7pm NY Time). It seemed fairer to let the conversation unfold in business hours, rather than releasing it over the weekend or at midnight.

It’s your chance to help researchers studying skeptics learn more about what we think.   — Jo

Unthreaded — Weekend July 7th 2012

Keep talking…

Brumby’s bakery boss forced to resign over “carbon tax memo”

It was a dumb memo to write:

“Brumby’s recommended some “simple things for you all to do to find some extra sales”.

“We are doing an RRP (recommended retail price) review at present which is projected to be in line with CPI (consumer price index), but take an opportunity to make some moves in June and July, let the carbon tax take the blame, after all your costs will be going up due to it,” Mr Priest wrote.”

“It is understood the newsletter was sent to franchise owners last month.” [The West Australian]

But the outcry about it is over-the-top. It has drawn national interest, been published on the news around the country. The company has issued apologies. The outrage has been so overdone, that today managing director of Brumbies bakery’s (Deane Priest)  resigned.

The memo was dumb because it wasn’t suggesting a totally honest approach, and because it projected the wrong attitude to staff of Brumby’s, and it was especially dumb, because there is a witchhunt on for any business which blames a fraction of a cent more than they should on the carbon tax. With 300 stores across the country there was a [...]

NEWS: New legal approach — consumer protection laws may protect citizens against misleading BOM statements

We know there is something wrong when we pay public servants to serve us, and they provide us with temperature records that are not the same as the original data, but they won’t explain why they adjusted them. We know the system is rotten when the inexplicable adjustments are used as an excuse to take even more money. We’ve tried FOI to get the information, but they ignore it. We’ve asked the National Audit Office to audit the records, but the people who adjusted the records are essentially the same ones who control them, so they just changed the records again, and said the audit request applied to a set they did not use now.

Today we announce a new approach –  Anthony Cox and others are pursuing the legal option. It’s a creative strategy  — he‘s approaching this through consumer protection laws.

Is there a chance consumers could be misled by reports that don’t include the uncertainties? We think so. – -Jo


Guest Post: Anthony Cox — Legal Action Against AGW

Image: Wikimedia

In New Zealand there is an ongoing legal action against the government producer [...]

Nobel prize winner — Ivar Giaever — “climate change is pseudoscience”

It was for a moment the clash of the Nobel Prize winners on climate change… just barely, but nothing like this has happened before in the debate-that-isn’t. Normally this is not a show the heavyweights turn up too. But there were three Nobel winners in the room at the same time.

Paul Crutzen, Mario Molina and Sherwood Rowland won the 1995 Nobel  for work on Ozone. Both of the first two are fans of the man-made global warming theory and they both spoke just prior to notable skeptic Ivar Giaever (who won a Nobel for tunneling in superconductors in 1972). [UPDATE: Watch Giaever speak - the whole speech - it's excellent. h/t Roberto Soria]

As usual, the core arguments of believers comes down to argument from authority. Can they attack the credentials of the dissenters? The skeptics, the real scientists, talk about evidence.

From Scientific American by Mariette DiChristina


“The scientific evidence is really overwhelming. Most experts agree; maybe two or three in 100 disagree.” He added, “I know who they are and why they are wrong.”


Weather from before coal fired power stations — shock — not perfect?

Australians are spending $77 million a week to try to replicate  the stable climate we had with CO2 at 280ppm. So just how ideal was that climate? Newspaper reports of the times were filled with stories of droughts, then floods, bitter cold, and fires that wasted the land. Hmm. Something to aim for then?

And what did the scientists of the day say then? Back before anyone had a hand-calculator or a satellite, the choices were: Orbits, natural cycles, magnetic effects and man’s influence. How times have… not really changed all that much.

Published in 1860 The Sydney Morning Herald.

THE following paper was read at the fortieth monthly meeting of the Australian Horticultural and Agri- cultural Society, on Tuesday evening, by Mr. Robert Meston.


If the 60 year PDO cycle is sketched backwards we would expect temps to be cooler in the 1790′s and 1850′s and hotter in the 1820′s and 1890′s.

During the “perfect” climate of the preindustrial era — apparently there were still floods and storms. (?!)

“To begin with British observations. 1697-98-99 were three bad years—years of floods and storms. 1700 proved hot and dry during sum- mer, and 1703 [...]

Who’s running The Big Scare Campaign?

Just which Big Scare Campaign is the worst?

Thanks to Thanks to Steve Hunter h/t  Andy’s Rant.

The Australian Labor Party has been crying “Tony Abbott’s Scare Campaign” in every second interview on the carbon tax. I guess we could call this whipping up a scare about the scare campaign. Except that Abbott was responding to the primary scare, so cries of “Scary Abbott” are the counter scare to the scare that counters the real scare campaign.

We’re not just talking of job losses and electricity bills. The ALP forecasts Hell. The prophesies are for centuries of killer heatwaves and mega-fires –  seas may rise 7 m threatening 700,000 houses and melting Greenland; the houses that aren’t inundated might be razed by fire; acid will leach through the oceans wiping out the Great Barrier Reef (and 60,000 jobs). The entire agriculture industry of the Murray Darling irrigation basin will disappear….and deadly mosquito plagues will spread and put more than a million people at risk.

The Labor Party are The Primary Scareholders

Here’s a member of Parliament doing his best to scare the pants off Australians (guess who?)


“The massive stores of heat in the world’s [...]