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

The Skeptics Handbook

Think it has been debunked? See here.

The Skeptics Handbook II

Climate Money Paper



Blockbuster: Earths Energy Balance measured – models are wrong

For all the data we can scrape out of rocks, shells and cylinders of ice, what we really need to know, in detail on a planetary scale, is how much energy comes in and how much goes out. That can only be measured (even roughly) with satellites.

This paper rattles the whole table of key numbers, with empirical results. It puts core numbers into a new perspective, numbers like the 3.7Watts per square meter that a doubling of CO2 is supposed to add to the surface budget.

The models are hunting for imbalances and build-ups in planetary energy. But according to the observations, the longwave (infra-red) energy coming onto the earth’s surface, the infamous back radiation, is 10 – 17 W/m2 higher than in the famous Trenberth diagram from 1997. So the models are trying to explain tiny residual imbalances, but the uncertainties and unknowns are larger than the target. The argument that “only the forcing from CO2 can fill the gap in the models” is not just argument from ignorance rhetorically, but factually too.

Another major implications is that water is churning up and falling out of the sky faster than the experts thought. The Earth’s evaporative cooler is [...]

Government funds anti-science name-calling crowd: “deniers”, skeptics are old “will be gone soon”

There’s a mindset, a world view here that’s profoundly unreal, anti-science, and of course, fully funded by the Taxpayer from start to end (how could it be any other way?).

From the researcher who holds childish assumptions and misunderstands his own results, to the site that posts it all as if it were “higher thought”, to the trained communicator of science who then parrots the mistakes and insults half the population at the same time. Cheers! Private money couldn’t fund a satire like “The Conversation”. (Well, it could if it were funny.)

The Conversation recall was funded with $6 million.

Stephan continues his war on science

Lewandowsky’s bread and butter stuff is breaking the central tenet of science — namely, that evidence is more important than opinions. His mission (though I don’t think he’s aware of it) appears to be to return us to pre-Enlightenment days when Bishops controlled the public conversation. In this post-post-modern era, some things are so post they’re posterior – some parts of science are returning to unscience.  This “science” is not about your data or reasoning, and not about your results — it’s about your ability to get a grant, a title, a university badge. [...]

RET “success” means $18 billion dollars wasted

The Clean Energy Council is an industry group promoting renewables. Not surprisingly it defines “success” as being the amount of money it has diverted from other causes into the coffers of its members. Good for them. They are free to lobby. But the RET or “renewable energy target” was set up by the government. They dictated rules to generate a false market in a product that few sane investors would invest in (remember how the same government keeps talking about how we need a “free market”?).

You and I might define success in terms of more peaceful, healthier and longer lives. Or lives where we get to spend more time with our kids and less time in a rat race. Ultimately, this is $18 billion in investments that could have been used to build houses, hospitals, medical research centres and schools. A visionary government could have made it easier for markets in Australia to develop safer, more effective vaccines, or better and earlier cancer detection, or crops with better yields, and higher essential vitamins and minerals. Total NHMRC (National Health and Medical Research Funding in Australia) is in the order of $800 million per year. $18 billion could have doubled [...]

Weekend Unthreaded

Because there is always something else that needs saying….

Gillard knew the Australian public didn’t want an ETS or a Tax

Gillard knew eight months before the last election that the public did not want an emissions trading scheme (ETS):

(Former Labor MP and ABC presenter) Maxine McKew writes that Ms Gillard met Mr Rudd at Kirribilli House in early January 2010.

“Gillard had a blunt message for her Prime Minister,” she writes. “She told Rudd that under no circumstances would she support the case for an election based on the need for action on climate change.

She didn’t want to offer an ETS, and later declared in the campaign “there will be no Carbon Tax”, but after the election she gave us both. Her poor  supporters have been left to weasel and whine post hoc that the public voted for carbon action in 2007. Apologists dissembled on whether the carbon tax is a “tax” or a “fixed priced scheme for an  ETS” pretending that a lie was not a lie, that Gillard was doing what the people wanted and not breaking her word. It all comes to nothing.

Gillard cares for working families by giving them what they asked not to get and deceiving them about what a vote for Gillard means. This is “moving forward” right? Forward to where [...]

Where did that El Nino go? Wiped out by unprecedented cool shift?

The Australian weather bureau has never seen anything quite like it. The El Nino that was predicted for this summer down-under seems to be gone suddenly.

“Forecasters surprised by El Nino turnaround” [ABC]

The chief climate forecaster says it is the biggest turnaround in weather patterns since records began.

For climate forecasters, this summer was shaping up as deja vu, with the Bureau of Meteorology predicting another El Nino – until Wednesday, that is.

The bureau’s manager of climate prediction services, Dr Andrew Watkins, has changed the forecast.

“Come September, all of a sudden, the temperature started to cool down, the trade winds started to become a little bit enhanced, and the cloud patterns and other indicators like that headed away from El Nino,” he said.

Dr Watkins says they are not sure why there has been a cooling down. “It actually is quite a unique situation if we end up not going into an El Nino event,” he said. “It’ll sort of be the biggest turnaround that we’ve actually seen in our records going back to about 1950, so quite unprecedented.”  [full story ABC]

Good news (possibly) [...]

Heatwave kills thousands of birds — this was climate change in 1932

Trawling through our National Archives, Lance Pidgeon has found stories of how a heatwave in 1932 was so extreme that it caused mass bird deaths across outback Australia. The PDF is posted on Warwick Hughes blog. As Lance says, imagine the headlines if that had happened 80 years later.  Presumably some would blame coal, airconditioners, and SUV’s for “killing billions of birds”. These old newspaper records also raise questions about our national temperature databases. Things appeared to be hotter then, than history now records them? I’ve only had time for a quick look and a cut and paste.

Great numbers were killed alone by the fortnightly train to Alice Springs. These fell exhausted on the railway line. A large number flew into the fans in the carriages and perished. Thousands fell exhausted in water pools and were drowned. A letter from Minnie Downs told of the death of thousands of birds on one day. The temperature that day was 125 degrees in the shade— and there was no shade. One woman at Tarcoola filled a 40-gallon drum, with shell parrots in one afternoon. Trees actually snapped under the strain of flight after flight of birds which swarmed exhausted on them. More than [...]

Overflow – A discussion of the Slaying the Sky Dragon science: Is the Greenhouse Effect a Sky Dragon Myth?

To handle the sheer number of comments this generates.

A discussion of the Slaying the Sky Dragon science: Is the Greenhouse Effect a Sky Dragon Myth?

 ”Skeptics” are described as if they are one small block of  fringe extremists, but not only is half the population skeptical in some sense, in this debate I am not on either extreme, but a centrist, smack in the middle. On the one hand, alarmists are convinced the climate is headed for a catastrophe, and on the other some people are convinced there is no greenhouse effect at all. Wes Allen, sits in the middle with me, and he’s been engaged in an intense debate with people on both ends of the spectrum. After a scorching critique of Tim Flannery’s work, he has swung his attention the other way. Here is his synopsis of the Slayers book, for discussion, and I’m sure it will generate a long passionate defence and debate, just as previous posts on this topic have. (eg: Why greenhouse gas warming doesn’t break the second law of thermodynamics and So what is the Second Darn Law?). I know the Slayers are keen to discuss their ideas. I’m hopeful people can remain polite, as that’s where progress may be made… many thanks to Wes here who has done a diligent write up, and has gone to great [...]

Unthreaded Weekend

For all those thoughts that don’t belong…

Gergis hockey stick withdrawn. This is what 95% certainty looks like in climate science.

In May it was all over the newspapers, in June it was shown to be badly flawed. By October, it quietly gets withdrawn.  The apology and press release are coming soon…right?

Thanks to help from the Australian Research Council it only took 300,000 dollars and three years to produce a paper that lasted all of three weeks. But it scored the scary headlines! It was “confirmation”, it was “unprecedented warming”, and it was a scientific certainty that was based on “27 natural climate records” and  “over the last 1000 years”. What could possibly go wrong? They had 2 whole proxies that went right back a thousand years, and they’d used computers (!) to rehash the data 3000 ways!  Frankly, I’m surprised it lasted three weeks. Let’s remember that if one single journalist had simply asked “how much colder was it in 1200AD?” Gergis, Karoly and the rest would have had to say “0.09 of a degree”. No one asked. But Gergis et al, had a proxy in Tasmania, and another in New Zealand, and they were “confident” they could calculate the whole grand continental collective temperature to nine one hundredths of a degree? Seriously.

As Mike E then pointed out [...]

Buy gold while it’s in the ground (Plus David and Jo will be in Sydney at the Gold Symposium – Monday)

UPDATED (Already)  Money is grubby thing, but financial independence means freedom. Freedom to spend time writing what a heart believes instead of what an employer demands. (Freedom to follow the most inexplicable whim — like tossing the 9-5 day to debate details of dendroclimatology with people who detest you). I wouldn’t be able to indulge in the luxury of writing this blog if it weren’t for the gold shares that keep food on the table. Next Monday David is speaking at The Gold Symposium in Sydney. (I’ll be in the audience.) Who should go? — only people who don’t want to be poor. I want to see both these independent conferences succeed (The AEF too), I want to share the word about both money and science, and I want to help independent spirits meet up. That’s why I’m giving them both a shameless plug before the article. There is a big overlap between gold and skepticism: skeptical of government science often means skeptical of government money too (see We are all Austrians now). For the pure-science readers here, it may all seem thoroughly odd, but while some will paint gold as a fatuous symbol of pointless wealth – and sometimes [...]

Lewandowsky — A paper of questionable ethics, approved in a last minute switch

Prof Stephan Lewandowsky had to make an ethics committee application in order to survey anti-skeptics to “find out” whether skeptics are conspiracy mad nutters (as you would). Simon Turnill launched an FOI to ask for information and has received some  information.  Turnill wondered why the application seemed so unrelated to the survey. I pointed out that  I’d seen a different Lewandowsky paper that fitted the description in the application. Simon hunted and found Popular Consensus: Climate Change Set to Continue (where Lewandowsky shows people in the Hay St. Mall, in Perth, some “stock market” graphs and asks them to extrapolate the trend).

Lewandowsky appears to have obtained an ethics approval for this bland paper, and then put in a last minute request for a “slight modification” which was for an entirely different survey for a different purpose and an unrelated paper, and which, as it happens, uses an internet survey rather than a face to face one. But apart from that… it was nearly the same.

Worse, Turnill found that by the time Lewandowsky was finalizing the ethics application in August 2010, he’d already done that bland survey fully 7 months before, and the paper was almost finished. The [...]

Australian sea levels have been falling for 7000 years

It’s hard to measure sea levels, because land often moves up and down too (which is known as “isostatic“). But Australia is stable tectonically, so the Australian sea-level record is more useful than most. It preserves the holocene era and the rises and falls, and correspond more with glacio-eustatic (ice equivalent) sea-level changes, rather than changes in land masses.

During the coldest days of the last ice age (known as a glacial maximum) 20,000 years ago, the oceans were 125m lower than today. They peaked at around 1 -2 meters higher than present between 9000 and 5000 years ago, and have been trending down ever since. Our current rate of 30cm/century (if that continues) hardly seems unprecedented or highly unusual. And 10% of that is apparently due to an isostatic “adjustment”. Worse, if you look at the raw data, the rate is closer to zero. Hmm. Lucky we have all those adjustments eh?

If Australian sea levels keep falling at this rate, we might really need to save That Reef.

Clearly there are many details yet to be worked out about sea-levels.

That phenomenal rise out of the ice age:


WA and NSW coastlines are considered the [...]

Weekend unthreaded….

Anything you want to discuss? – Jo