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 simple trick to solve the impasse in the climate debate — have one (Tell the Australian govt).

For the last twenty years, the IPCC and co. have spared no expense in inundating us with full gloss, swanky adverts and catchy bumper stickers. The Rudd government spent $13.9 million on one advertising campaign “Think Climate, Think Change”. Yet the number of skeptics is growing — fully 53% of Australians are skeptical. The debate is more polarised than ever, and the “deniers” are often blamed for slowing action. So resolving the impasse, the stalemate, ought be the highest priority for the planet, right? But more advertising won’t change the trend, the issue has been marketed to death. What hasn’t been tried is the old fashioned, hard but honest way to resolve an issue — real public debate.

Tony Abbott could be the most forward-thinking scientifically-advanced world leader. He could be the first to take the bull by the horns and really tackle the climate stalemate. He might break the impasse. For the planet’s sake, we can’t afford to wait. Right?

The Australian Federal Government is seeking public consultation 

What should the Greenhouse Gas Target be? The Federal Government is seeking your input for the UNFCCC meeting in Paris, COP 21 (see ABC news). The government also wants to know [...]

Big-government propaganda: ABC, BBC are “Aggressive political participants”. Sell or Split?

What to do with the public broadcasters? ABC BBC CBC (Can anyone explain public media in NZ?)

Big-government fans forcibly take funds from all citizens to support big-government propaganda by journalists who predominantly vote left or very-left (see here or here). The question is not whether or not they should do this but whether to privatize the public broadcasters, or to split them in two. I say, let’s forget the submissive plea to get one conservative commentator among a monoculture of “progressives”.  Chop the current one in half and call it what it is: pro big-government. Then set up a new counter half to match — the pro-small-government broadcaster with the same funds but new staff. (Game on — let the best team win that ratings war.) Abbott could keep ABC funding promises. ABC-L plus ABC-R equals current ABC-LL+ funding.

Obviously, true free-market libertarians want public broadcasters 100% sold — their incentives are always going to run counter to unbiased reporting and the hunt for the truth. On the other hand, among the populace, the ground is not remotely laid for a big-sell. Many voters remain blind to the bias, and have no idea how filtered the half-truths are: [...]

Australian government finally gets slightly serious with CSIRO board

The Abbott government has at least grown enough backbone to not renew the Labor appointees Chairman to the CSIRO board, who have allowed scientific standards to decay so badly. It’s about time. As long as any director of CSIRO claims that “consensus” has any meaning in science, then the board is an unscientific failure.

UPDATE To clarify: There is no official policy to not reinstate people because they were appointed by Labor. But three directors/panelists say they have heard unofficially there is.  I think board members should be sacked if they don’t serve the public, not because of who appointed them. It would be a silly thing for a Minister to say. But in the case of the CSIRO, the Labor appointee appears to be a political assignment rather than a scientific one, and should have been replaced long ago. See my comment #1.1.1 for names and more details.

UPDATE #2: Bolt calls it an anti-Abbott rumour. “And a spokesman for Tony ­Abbott told The Weekend Australian there were more than 50 government agencies with boards where a person was appointed by Labor and reappointed by the current government… “

Not surprisingly, this has [...]

Naomi Oreskes, THE Merchant of Doubt herself, uses tactics of the tobacco lobby

Naomi Orsekes’ big intellectual contribution to the climate debate is her fantasy that skeptics copy tactics from the tobacco lobby. It’s a trick to reframe real criticism — Dr A spots a real error, but Oreskes waves the “Tobacco tactic!” red flag. Stop the conversation!

Not only are these ad hom attacks tactics as old as the stone age, bone obvious, and used in every political hot-potato debate, but “tobacco tactics” are the stock and trade of Prof Naomi Oreskes.  She’s make a whole career out of mimicking the tobacco industry.

Oreskes wrote an entire book designed to denigrate scientists based on tenuous links on unrelated topics with 20 year old documents. She is The Merchant of Doubt — it’s what she sells — “doubts” about the motivation of skeptical scientists. Her fantasies about skeptics using tobacco tactics is pure psychological projection. Perhaps she isn’t aware?

In a science debate about the climate, the only things that matter are evidence and reasoning about the climate. Those who can’t point out flaws in the science debate launch personal attacks from the gutter instead. What has tobacco got to do with Earth’s Climate? It’s not a forcing or a feedback, but the [...]

What stage of climate grief are you locked in?

What if you lost, say, the Great Barrier Reef? No seriously, what if you woke up one morning and it was gone? Celeste Young is paid to worry about that and she’s written a whole article on climate grief. It has no data, and uses models and namecalling which makes it a perfect fit for The Conversation.

A variety of losses can be experienced. People may grieve due to the perceived future loss of something; for example, the type of grief often expressed via social media over the potential loss of the Great Barrier Reef. Individuals and communities may grieve for the loss of a loved landscape damaged by drought, fire or flood.

She adapts the famous Kubler Ross Five Stages of Grief (doesn’t everyone) to to deliver clichés in table form. But don’t rush to knock it, I think this is a new form of grieving, where people project the grief of their collapsing religion onto something else instead, like “the environment”. Let’s call it Parody-grieving. Does Young realize the parallels? The Climate-club are still stuck at stage one. They know something is wrong but the cognitive dissonance is killing them: their heroes hide declines and data, [...]

Leadership debacle in Australia — Tell the politicans what you think

UPDATE: Spill vote is now Monday, not Tuesday. Turnbull has not resigned, but announced he will challenge if the spill vote passes, and is mocking Abbott. — Bolt  Polls show Turnbull would deliver only a 6% bounce in the honeymoon. Not even enough to win a snap election.

UPDATE#2: The spill vote defeated 61:39. Abbott stays on as PM, but will have to do something differently, or he has only bought time until the next one.

Firey emails are crossing my desk today of people vowing to quit the Liberal party.

Malcolm Turnbull lost his leadership in 2009 because he wanted an emissions trading scheme. But that extraordinary wave may get reversed. Australia may still end up with an emissions trading scheme which will send billions in brokers fees to bankers, won’t change the climate, and will be almost impossible to unwind. It’s not about free markets, it’s about fake ones. What’s worse than a carbon tax? A carbon market.

In 2009, a week after ClimateGate, and two weeks before Copenhagen, the furious outcry from Coalition party supporters and skeptics turned the Liberal party upside down. The skeptic message has spread since then. In 2014, even [...]

It’s a parody of science: The Conversation thinks creativity in science is about dance choreography

Exhibit One: Government funded “art”. *

Creative genius in science is about the people who break the rules and see a pattern that the consensus thinks is wrong or refuses to discuss.  But capture creative genius in a bureaucratic clamp, smother it with political correctness, and watch the flower die. That’s what The Conversation is for.

Say Hello to a parody of “creative science” in “Living data: how art helps us all understand climate change”. It’s not about scientists who challenge a paradigm, creative science is about cartoons and dances. It’s about glowing plastic sculptures.

A methodology that uses drawing and dance as tools of enquiry is a radical idea for those accustomed to the conventions of the scientific method. But when choreographic analysis is embedded within scientific research, pattern recognition can contribute to some startling discoveries.

Big-government bought science with monopolistic funding over the last 70 years, and it’s bought science-commentary too (e.g. academia, CSIRO, the ABC, The Conversation). We can’t have people highlighting the suffocating effect of bureaucracy, of grant applications, and deadlines!  Nor would Big-Government-Science ever seek out, support, and laud scientific work that showed that big-government science (which favours Big-Government policies) is wrong. Where’s the [...]

Write to a tree about climate change in the Melbourne City Council, and it will write back

Wait for it… “dozens” of Melbournians are writing emails to trees and the trees are writing back (thanks to paid staff who can speak Elmlish, Oatin, and Planely).  Lots of trees are being told they are set to die off thanks to climate change. The Stress!

Broadsheet Melbourne

Right now, you can log onto the City of Melbourne’s Urban Forest Visual map and email any tree you’d like within the council’s boundaries.

Yep, all 60,000 of them.

The Gulf Today. AE

But almost a quarter of its trees, including oaks, elms and planes, are set to die off by the end of the decade, and that figure will rise to almost 40 per cent by 2030, speeded by a devastating 13-year drought that broke in 2012.

“As our climate becomes more and more extreme, we’re going to have to look at trees that are fit for purpose,” Councillor Arron Wood said.

So you can write to a tree in Melbourne and it will write back:

The quirky emails, to which staff respond on behalf of the trees, are building awareness of climate change in Melbourne, regarded as Australia’s most European [...]

Maurice Newman: conservatives outsmarted — they apologise where they should demand apologies

A wake up call from Maurice Newman. The gravy train of bigger and bigger government is grinding to its inevitable halt, and Greece is the destination the Western Express is headed for. Those who promised that big-government could solve everything have bought votes, while using schools and universities to train a generation to hate free market competition. Young people were raised to blame the system and demand the handout, rather than take responsibility. The soft-west has gone too far left. The weak right has rolled over and tries to be a mini-left, settling for being the team B of “progressivism”. Newman’s best line is that the conservatives apologize where they should demand apologies. So true.

To illustrate dismal standards in science and the media, Newman cites (thanks Maurice), and thousands more Australians find out a small part of the scandalous failure of academia (specifically, Lewandowsky at UWA) and the ABC. The stories he refers too are: “Lewandowsky peer reviewed study includes someone 32,757 years old” and the “ABC got it wrong, BOM not concerned with Australian public being misinformed“. Ken Stewart at Kenskingdom deserves credit for catching out the ABC and BOM. Readers, when you want to throw your shoe [...]

Volatility from Vega – Why math models can’t predict the future

Guest post by Eric Worrall

How can we predict the climate, when we can’t even predict financial markets?

US Subprime House Price Crash

Financial markets are a high stakes battle between teams of skilled traders, armed with powerful computers. [In a perfect market] The factors that affect market prices are well known, and for mathematicians, surprisingly simple to describe. Yet with all this underlying simplicity, traders don’t attempt to predict the future, because they know from bitter experience that predicting the future is futile. Instead, they use their models to gain a deeper understanding of the present.

Say you are trading financial options. Options are a right to buy or sell an underlying commodity (gold, shares in a company, tons of beef, whatever) at a future point in time, for an agreed price. The exact rules vary in different places, but essentially – your option gives you the right to buy an ounce of gold in one month, say,  for $1000.

If so, and the price of gold is $1,200 per ounce, then your option is worth $200, right?

Wrong. In one month, the price of gold might be $800, in which case your option is worthless – [...]