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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Great Barrier Reef: 5% bleached, not 93% says new report “discrepancy phenomenal”

In a nutshell: a government funded group finds some bleached coral on the Great Barrier Reef, and repackages the stats to come up with the apocalyptic statistic that only 7% of the reef is not bleached!  The SMH reported that “93% of the corals” are damaged. The reef is 2,000 kilometers long. Did anyone really think about these headlines?

Then in a development that “no one” could see coming, local tourism is damaged, potentially costing a lot of jobs.

“And the loss of these tourists could cost our tourism industry a whopping $1 billion a year, a report out today by The Australia Institute warned.”

This inspires local dive operators (who possibly know what the reef looks like) to pay for a two week expedition to survey 28 sites. They find about 5% damage and describe the difference as phenomenal. Indeed, they say the reef is pretty much just like it was 20 years ago when they last did a survey.

We know that both sides have an interest finding a healthy or unhealthy reef. The problem starts with self-serving taxpayer funded scientists who are paid to find a crisis. But they would not get away with it [...]

Psychoanalysis shows Nuclear Power stops countries meeting climate targets

Only higher education could produce something this silly.

The University of Sussex gets the credit for a paper that argues that countries that are committed to nuclear energy are progressing slower towards the holy grail of meeting “climate targets”. This discovery  coincidentally comes exactly as the UK Hinkley Point “hangs in the balance”. What were the odds?

The Newspeak starts in the headline — what’s a “climate target”. My personal climate target is to move into the tropics each winter, but the EU climate target is not about reducing temperatures over Spain, but about “more windmills”. The climate target of the EU has apparently got nothing much to do with the climate:

…the EU’s 2020 Strategy — to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 20%, increase the share of renewable energy to at least 20% of consumption, and achieve energy savings of 20% or more by 2020…

 They cluster countries in to 3 groups and discover that the countries that plan to maintain or expand nuclear energy (eg Bulgaria, Hungary and the UK) are not cutting emissions as fast as countries that have no nukes (Denmark, Ireland, and Norway).

Could it be, I wonder, because countries that [...]

The million year prehistory of Cricket — the fast bowlers got fed

The researchers don’t say it, but this is obviously the beginnings of cricket. (David says “baseball”).

Archaeologists found lots of round rocks like this that are around 70,000 – 1.8 million years old in a cave in South Africa. They thought they might be tools, but now reckon that they were used as a weapon for hunting. With models (yeah, yeah) these are apparently the ideal size and weight to score maximum high speed damage at 20-30m distance given the mechanics of a human arm. So before spears, people probably throw rocks overhand to hunt. We are the only animals that can do this –  which might explain why a million years later people are still so enthused about cricket (and baseball).

Maybe the South Africans have an unfair advantage playing the game so much longer than everyone else. (David doesn’t think much of my theory, but cricket suddenly makes a lot more sense to me now).

Snippets from the press release:


Weekend Unthreaded

We should protect our kids from climate change by not having them

National Public Radio (USA): ‘Should We Be Having Kids In The Age Of Climate Change?’

h/t to Climate Depot

Daily Caller Andrew Follett reports on a set of stories about population control “for the climate”:

‘We should protect our kids from climate change by not having them’ says Travis Rieder of NPR.

I reckon it seems fairer to have the kids first, then ask them.

Humans have put out 50% of all our emissions of CO2 since 1988, so everyone under 30 may have wished they hadn’t been born during the Anthropocene apocalypse. (All those hot summers, those boring lectures at school). Lets do that  survey. How many 28 year olds think their parents made the wrong call in 1987?

Raising offspring is hard work. “Saving the world” might just be the excuse you’re looking for if you are not inclined to do nappies.

NPR Travis Rieder, a philosopher at Johns Hopkins University, told NPR. “The situation is bleak, it’s just dark … Population engineering, maybe it’s an extreme move. But it gives us a chance.”

Rieder said America produces a lot of carbon dioxide (CO2) per person, and the world’s poorest nations will be most [...]

McKibben: It’s The Climate World War. Hitler, Nazi’s, panic!

When you can’t persuade people to fight your imaginary enemy, declare a war.

New Republic We’re under attack from climate change—and our only hope is to mobilize like we did in WWII.

BY BILL MCKIBBEN     August 15, 2016

Translated: Expect 200 million imminent deaths (equivalent to WWII).  Give us your firstborn, and lots of your money.

Not quite a dispassionate scientist at work:

In the North this summer, a devastating offensive is underway. Enemy forces have seized huge swaths of territory; with each passing week, another 22,000 square miles of Arctic ice disappears. Experts dispatched to the battlefield in July saw little cause for hope, especially since this siege is one of the oldest fronts in the war. “In 30 years, the area has shrunk approximately by half,” said a scientist who examined the onslaught. “There doesn’t seem anything able to stop this.”

Panic now? In late 2015, Antarctic sea ice shrank by 13 million square kilometers, and nothing seemed to be able to stop it.

Then autumn came. Sea ice is projected to recover by September (like it does every year). Nature is full of cycles. Nothing about the current batch of climate shifts is unprecedented. [...]

Brian Cox thinks 17,000 employees at NASA always produce perfect graphs. NASA employees disagree. Who to believe?

The key moment making headlines from the Q&A “Science Weak” episode — Brian Cox shows a temperature graph. Malcolm Roberts said the GISS temperature data has been “manipulated”. The Particle Physics Genius’ reply was argument from incredulity:  gushing, gratuitous astonishment spread over six attempts to form a complete sentence:

By who?    NASA?   The people the…  Hang on a minute.   No, no, see this is quite serious.    But can I just – just one thing. NASA, NASA…     The people that landed men on the moon?

In a blink of reductio ad absurbum, Cox sweeps aside a potentially useful discussion about thermometers near car-parks, airports, skyscrapers, and mysterious 1,200 km homogenized smoothing. In its place he gives cheap theatrical tricks. Follow his thought to its logical conclusion — everything that NASA does (or presumably will ever do) must be 100% correct. NASA becomes an apostle of the holy order. He treats the brand name as untouchable, but NASA is not just Neil Armstrong and a Big Step, it’s an agency with 17,000 employees. But hey, none of them have ever produced a manipulated graph.

Since experts matter (so Cox tells us) let’s ask the experts — like say, Buzz [...]

Malcolm Roberts on Q & A : 1 skeptic against 6 who believe the consensus

On the Eastern side of the country the new skeptical Senator, Malcolm Roberts is on Q & A.

Monday, 15 August 2016

Greg Hunt - Minister for Industry, Innovation & Science Linda Burney - Shadow Minister for Human Services Brian Cox - Particle Physicist and TV Presenter Lily Serna - Mathematician and TV Presenter Malcolm Roberts - One Nation Senator-elect for Qld

As usual it is 6 against 1 the skeptical views that 54% of Australians share. Glaciers will form in hell before the ratio on the ABC would run 1:6 the other way. For Groupthinkers it’s very important that the group discussing a “controversial” topic agrees with each other. This neutralizes any damaging effects of hearing a lone voice put forward counter arguments.

John Cook has sent in a Question about empirical evidence.

Cook points at “less heat escaping to space” – Jo says –this doesn’t mean anything. We assume he means less heat escapes at certain frequencies (which he should have said). Sections of the outgoing spectrum are missing (e.g. Harries et al), which shows that CO2 is stopping some outgoing radiation and is a greenhouse gas (and we knew that already), but it doesn’t show that overall extra heat is staying [...]

In 2009: Warming would stop 2020 Olympics. Now disaster moved to 2084

In 2009: The 2016 Rio Games predicted be the last

Global warming could make 2016 Games ‘the last Olympics in the history of mankind’, says Tokyo governor.

“Global warming is getting worse. We have to come up with measures without which Olympic Games could not last long.

“Scientists have said we have passed the point of no return,” said Ishihara.

August 2016: The 2080 Games predicted to be the last

Move that disaster by 60 years:

“A sobering new study shows that by the 2084 Olympics, rising temperatures will make it practically impossible for most cities to host the summer games.

How will the Olympics cope with a 1.5C rise?

Answer, easily. Assuming the world warms, the IOC could shift games a whole 400km from Rio, where the average max is 28C in August to  Sao Paulo where it’s 3 degrees cooler. Or they could shift the timing by all of eight weeks. If Moscow held the Olympics in September instead of July the event could survive an apocalyptic nine degree future rise. (Moscow in July has a 24C average max temperature, by September that has fallen to 15C average.)

The government [...]

Weekend Unthreaded