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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Weekend Unthreaded

Ideas that wander…

Cholesterol — how the web and books are years ahead of “Consensus”

Consensus — slowing real science for decades

There is a surprising amount of interest in the cholesterol story of Matt Ridley’s in The Times and The Australian last week. Surprising to me anyway, because 15 years ago the other benevolent side of cholesterol was pretty clear online.  Fifteen years is not a long time in human civilization, but it’s a long time in a human life. And in the case of the war on cholesterol, it’s been running for 40 years. How many people died sooner than they would have, because they followed expert advice?

Finally the official consensus on cholesterol is admitting defeat:

“Any day now, the US government will officially accept the advice to drop cholesterol from its list of “nutrients of concern” altogether. It wants also to “de-emphasise” saturated fat, given “the lack of evidence connecting it with cardiovascular disease”. “

In the late 1990′s it was widely known online (among health zealots) that our livers are mostly in charge of our cholesterol levels, not what’s on our dinner plates. Something like 80% of the cholesterol in our blood came from our own livers, not the food we eat.  Way back then, it was also known [...]

The bureaucratic science-machine broke science, and people are starting to ask how to fix it

Science is broken. The genius, the creative art of scientific discovery, has been squeezed into a square box, sieved through grant applications, citation indexes, and journal rankings, then whatever was left gets crushed through the press. We tried to capture the spirit of discovery in a bureaucratic formula, but have strangled it instead.

There are no shortcuts to the truth, or to status, and no easy way to figure out which projects should be funded. Every time a decision is crowd sourced — via committee, panel, or “consensus” — the responsibility for thinking gets divided and avoided.

The modern bureaucratic process of science is now not even trying to search for the truth. It’s hunting instead for an impact factor, for attention, for headlines, and inevitably, for funding.

It is good to see people starting to discuss it — including the Lancet Editor, Richard Horton, who wrote in April that he could not name names, but it needed to be said:

“A lot of what is published is incorrect.” I’m not allowed to say who made this remark because we were asked to observe Chatham House rules.  Those who worked for government agencies pleaded that their comments especially [...]

North Atlantic cooling means climate change of a different kind coming?

Is this the way the backdown plays out? The endless warming becomes cooling, and man-made change becomes natural cycles one paper at a time? The press releases still talk of “change”! No mention that natural cycles could have been the cause of past warming, and that skeptics have been saying this for years.

Figure 3 | Sea-level circulation index, the NAO and the AMO on multidecadaltimescales. Shown are the accumulated sea-level index (blue), which isrepresentative of subpolar heat content evolution, the accumulated NAO (red,dashed) and the AMO (black). The heat content proxy and the accumulatedNAO have been normalized. All timeseries have been 7-year low-pass filtered.The accumulated sea-level index and accumulated NAO have been detrended.

This Nature paper will be tricky to feed into the “Panic Now!” scenario. It’s still climate change, but it’s a half a degree of cooling that might be headed your way if you live around the northern Atlantic.

UPDATE: A quick summary of the paper. McCarthy et al created a circulation index (blue line, fig 3) which appears to lead the AMO (Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation, black line) by two years. The sea level index is generated by comparing sea levels north and south of [...]

US Republicans vote to spend more on hard science, less on social-climatey type stuff

US Republicans have passed a bill through the House (but not the Senate yet) aiming to get back some control over the 7 billion dollar science budget. Previously the National Science Foundation (or NSF) had all the fun in dishing out the dough, but the Republicans have had enough. Their wish list includes cutting social sciences by 55%, climate science by 8%, and putting extra money into biology, computers, engineering and hard sciences. It can’t come soon enough.

Critics are howling that this will politicize science, but it’s just the opposite. Science was already politicized, and thanks in no small part to the NSF itself. This would put control of the funding back slightly closer to the voters. The NSF is almost unaccountable to the taxpayer, and if the NSF had not wasted money on so many one-sided pointless extravaganza’s (like $5m for “climate games”) and tipped so much money into “behavioural” studies, the elected members would not be knocking at their door. The NSF has only itself to blame.

Ultimately, elected representatives have to be accountable for public spending, but they like to hand over control to a committee of experts. Said committee grows on the gravy train, and [...]

Most Australians are skeptical: mankind is not main driver of the climate

The IPCC has told us in letters of fire for twenty years that humans are the dominant cause of climate change. But despite the unending propaganda 60% of Australians are not convinced. This fits with other better designed and much larger surveys by CSIRO showing that 53% of the population are skeptical, and a UK study which showed that 63% of British people were skeptical that storms and floods are probably man-made.

The IPSOS polls have been running for years, and are unashamedly pro-IPCC in leaning, but despite that obvious bias, and loaded, ambiguous questions, most Australians don’t agree that it is mainly our fault. The climate is changing but it is mainly or partly natural. IPSOS gloss over that, but if humans are responsible for less than half of “climate change” that makes Direct Action twice as useless. If natural forces caused more of the recent warming, that also reduces the scary projections.

The IPSOS Climate Change Report 2015 (Online poll, 1,063 people)

Q3: Which best describes your opinion about the causes of climate change?

Only 40% of Australians accept the IPCC position that mankind is the main cause of climate change (orange and red). | Click [...]

Maurice Newman knows more about climate models than the BOM’s Dr Rob Vertessy

In the topsy turvy world of modern science, big-government has strangled science to the point where bright outsiders know more than the fully trained “experts”.

Maurice Newman, the chairman of the P.M’s business advisory council, daringly wrote in The Australian:

“It’s a well-kept secret, but 95 per cent of the climate models we are told prove the link between human CO2 emissions and catastrophic global warming have been found, after nearly two decades of temperature stasis, to be in error.”

In Senate estimates, a Greens spokesperson asked Dr Rob Vertessy, Director of the Australian Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) on his view of this. “That is incorrect,” he said, showing how little he knows about climate models, where everyone (even the IPCC) is trying to figure out excuses for their failures. Some even invent time-travelling climate models that can finally “predict” today’s climate correctly a decade after it happened.

If Maurice Newman was wrong, he was far too generous to the climate modelers. Instead of a 95% failure rate, it’s well up over 98%. Hans von Storch et al published a paper nearly two years ago comparing models and observations of a 15 year long pause. Statistically von Storch [...]

Unthreaded Weekend

Kalbarri, Western Australia, about 600km North of Perth….(Click to enlarge)

The colors are glorious in the land of iron oxide.

Though I pitied any poor shipwrecked soul staggering ashore here at the wrong time of year. How forbidding, dry and vast that landscape.

No one has engaged the deniers! Says Graham Richardson. Oh really? says Jo Nova.

” Labor vacated the arena of argument. The sceptics and deniers have turned the 70 per cent-plus belief in climate change into a minority because no one has engaged them.“

— Graham Richardson, Friday May 22nd, 2015

No one has engaged them?

That’s right Graham, we unfunded bloggers and the few surviving skeptical scientists not evicted and blackballed from our universities (yet) have tricked 20% of the population because no one has put forward the climate change arguments except for:  The Climate Commission, CSIRO, Deutsche Bank, Citigroup, Royal Dutch Shell, GE, Panasonic, The ABC, The BBC, The Guardian, Fairfax, The Australian government, most universities, The EU, The UN, The World Bank, and the IMF.

With a budget of nothing we’re winning. Why? We have nature on our side.* The world isn’t warming, the models can’t predict the real climate, and half the population have wised up to the propaganda. The main arguments of those who would control CO2 are not scientific, but insults and bluster, shutting up and disqualifying critics rather than answering politely, and producing the evidence. The University of Queensland offers a whole course in namecalling to train people to “engage” deniers. [...]

New satellite analysis fails to find the hot spot, agrees with millions of weather balloons

Here I go, harping on about the missing hot spot again.

Roy Spencer has been hunting for the famous missing hot spot (like half the climate world) but he’s been looking in the UAH satellite temperature data. Last week Sherwood et al claimed they finally found it (again!) in an iteratively reiterated homogenized and adjusted version of radiosondes. Spencer was not impressed with the black box statistics approach. As I pointed out here, the Sherwood results was adjusted so much it did not look like the original data, and they somehow found the hotspot by adding in data from years when a hot spot shouldn’t occur. They mushed the data to fit one part of their model, but it broke in other parts.

Roy Spencer has used new methods to improve the satellite signal of the hot spot, and is “increasingly convinced” the all important mysterious hot spot is really not there, which fits with 28 million weather balloons and humidity data too.  Satellites are not particularly good at finding the hot spot because it is a very thin layer over the tropics and satellites peering down from on high find it difficult to measure signals from 10km up and [...]