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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A Socratic approach on climate change

(Click for the full advert)

The Climate Study Group is trying a new approach with an Advert in The Australian on page 7 today. Or rather, you might say this is a very old approach…:

Socrates Nice to meet you Mr Smith. I hear you are very concerned about dangerous global warming.

Mr Smith Yes, we are facing an alarming prospect of a global warming catastrophe.

Socrates What gives you such concern?

Mr Smith Emissions of CO2 from burning fossil fuels.

Socrates How were these fossil fuels formed?

Mr Smith Various plant forms grew, died and formed fossil fuels before and during the Carboniferous Period.

Socrates Was there dangerous global warming prior to the Carboniferous Period?

Mr Smith No. There’s no evidence of dangerous global warming prior to the Carboniferous period.

Socrates So where did the carbon in fossil fuels originate?

Mr Smith Plants absorbed CO2 from the atmosphere prior to the formation of fossil fuels.

Socrates So the CO2 absorbed by plants is now being released from burning fossil fuels.

Mr Smith It must [...]

The Climate Wars are Damaging Science

Matt Ridley has produced the shortest whole, killer summary of the sordid state of climate science, science journalism, and science associations for Quadrant magazine. This is the ideal single-chapter-length-work to bring in anyone who missed the last twenty years of clima-farce, scandal, hubris and hypocrisy.

Matt is not just summing up the way his career as a science writer has transformed, but also writing the best review of the IPA book “Climate Change: The Facts” that I have yet seen. He talks about the way science writers used to ignore the papers that didn’t impress them, and leave it up to the scientists to take them apart, but now the supposedly most esteemed scientists stay silent while abject failures not only get published in the scientific world, but get absurdly lauded in the media, and tweeted by “the President”. Formerly great scientific institutions have turned themselves inside out:

“The Royal Society once used to promise “never to give their opinion, as a body, upon any subject”. Its very motto is “nullius in verba”: take nobody’s word for it. Now it puts out catechisms of what you must believe in. “

Matt’s career, like mine, started with faith that [...]

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 [...]

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 [...]

Failure of Peer Review, meaningless statistical significance, needs fixing says Doctor & journal

Most of the results reported in peer reviewed literature in medicine are mere artefacts of poor methodology, despite being done to more exacting standards than climate studies. There are calls in the medical literature for all data to be made public and for higher P values to be required. (Yes please say skeptics everywhere). Miller and Young recommend that observational studies don’t be taken at all seriously until they are replicated at least once. That would have ruled out the original HockeyStick two times over.

Even the absolute best medical papers are wrong 20% of the time, but mere observational studies (like climate research) failed 80 – 100% of the time. These studies of papers demonstrate why anyone who waves the “Peer Review” red flag is in denial of the evidence — “Peer Review” is not part of the scientific method. It’s a form of argument from authority. A fallacy of reasoning is still a fallacy, no matter how many times it is repeated. Those who claim it is essential or rigorous are not scientists, no matter what their government-given title says.

 GEN, Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology News, May 1, 2014, Point of View

Are Medical Articles True on Health, [...]

Climate science hopelessly politicized. Geological Society of Australia gives up on making any statement

So much for the consensus.  In 2012 The Geological Society of Australia (GSA) was one of the few associations to make a slightly skeptical position on climate. For poking their heads above the parapet they’ve had years of headache and debate, and finally have issued a statement saying they have given up entirely on putting out any statement. The debate is so furious and divisive that no position could be agreed on. (I wonder exactly how many of their members are fans of climate models? Was this the work of just a few zealous believers?) I think I’ve hardly ever met a geologist who wasn’t somewhat skeptical.

The back story is that, like most science associations, in 2009 the GSA chanted the litany. (Their 2009 statement is here). They wrote that governments should take strong action to reduce CO2 and that meant paying geologists more to do research and sit on plum advisory committees. How predictable…

1. That strong action be taken at all levels, including government, industry, and individuals to substantially reduce the current levels of greenhouse gas emissions and to mitigate the likely social and environmental effects of increasing atmospheric CO2.

2. That Earth Scientists with appropriate expertise [...]

Antarctica stealing Australian rain. (Prof Matthew England, ANU, UNSW, Nature, struggle to get “cause and effect”)

A miracle has occurred, climate models which have been plagued with failure and have finally been gifted with The Scientific Truth. Apparently the God of Weather has visited upon Matthew England and others. (We wonder why God didn’t visit earlier, but are grateful for this insight.)

The climate models didn’t predict Antarctic sea ice extent trends. Polar amplification was supposed to mean it would warm twice as fast at the poles, yet inconveniently after years of massive output of CO2 — above the levels assumed in the models — Antarctic sea ice has hit another record high. Finally in the eighth round of making excuses for their excuses, the Scientific Truth has emerged to sweep away the scientific untruths that went before. (After all, climate models couldn’t possibly have been expected to understand heat flow around the planet could they?)

The yellow line shows how much rain Antarctica is stealing and dumping as sea ice. If you turn on your tumble drier the penguins in Antarctica have to walk further.


Ocean winds keep Antarctica cold, Australia dry Science Daily   May 11, 2014 Source:   Australian National University

New research has explained why Antarctica is not warming as much as [...]

Prof Fiona Stanley jumps on climate-pulpit, says skepticism “is like child abuse”

It’s another pious scientist. Sigh.

Why do good researchers sometimes throw their professional standards to the wind (or in this case, just blow them right up?)

Fiona Stanley has done great work in the prevention of spina bifida with folic acid, and with indigenous health problems. The new big state funded hospital in WA is named after her, and she’s another Australian of the Year. (Is that award the worst thing that can befall a good scientist? Post hoc, they seem to think the world wants to know their personal feelings on topics they know nothing about.) Cue Professor Fiona Stanley who assumes all fields of science “work” even though she herself says climate science is politicized.

Stanley goes so far as to say that being skeptical of the IPCC view is like “child abuse”. But isn’t it a form of child abuse to throw away the Scientific Method, to sacrifice the next generation’s quality of life, their careers and then burden them with debts to the the God of Wind-farms and the Saint of Pink Batts? Don’t we owe our kids the transfer of a culture of logic and reason that was handed to us?

At least Stanley admits [...]

Müller lite: Why Every Scientist Needs a Classical Training

Müller lite: Why Every Scientist Needs a Classical Training

By Christopher Monckton of Brenchley About 18 months ago, as soon as I heard of Dr. Richard Müller’s Berkeley Earth Temperature project, I sent an email to several skeptical scientists drawing their attention to his statement that he considered his team’s attempt to verify how much “global warming” had occurred since 1750 to be one of the most important pieces of research ever to be conducted in the history of science. This sounded too much like propaganda.

“…from 1695 – 1735 Central England warmed seven times faster than what Muller finds in the 262 years during which we are supposed to have influenced the weather.”

He was posing, I said, as a skeptical scientist; his results would broadly confirm the pre-existing temperature series; when his research ended, he would declare himself to have been converted from scepticism to the belief that merely because the world had warmed the warming must be our fault; and publication of his results would be exploited as a triumphant and final confirmation of the “global warming” orthodoxy.

My doubts about Dr. Müller’s motivation intensified after I met him at the Los Alamos Climate Conference in Santa [...]

The Highest Authority in Science is the Data

Joint Post David Evans and Jo Nova

“97 percent of climate experts say man-made global warming is a major threat”

The correct response: “So? The satellites, ocean buoys, and weather balloons disagree.”

The alarmists may have “experts”, but the skeptics have the data.

How do you find the truth about some disputed point in science? You find the most authoritative source of information.  The vital thing that makes science different to a religion is that there are no “Gods” of science. There is no expert who is infallible. The highest authority in science is the measurements and observations. Here is the hierarchy of authority in climate science:

Data (empirical evidence) Climate scientists Other scientists Lay people.

For most of the last few centuries, science has been supreme over politics for settling the truth in matters pertaining to the physical world—empirical evidence beats anyone’s say-so.

But the modern political approach is to ignore that top level. To most warmists and the public who “believe in climate change” (as they so misleading say), the hierarchy is:

Climate scientists Other scientists Lay people.

The  way the climate scam works is for the like-minded western bureaucracies to [...]