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 [...]

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 [...]

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 [...]

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 [...]

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 [...]

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.


Weekend Unthreaded

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 [...]

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.



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


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 [...]

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 [...]

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 [...]

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 [...]

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 [...]