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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Big-gov-brain wants “half a trillion” to add ice to the Arctic

Sometimes an idea comes along that adds another chapter to the Book of Stupid. You might think windmills on land are an indulgent, pointless fantasy, but take that idea and make it worse:

(CNN) A team of scientists has a surprisingly simple solution to saving the Arctic: We need to make more ice.

A team at Arizona State University has proposed building 10 million wind-powered pumps to draw up water and spill it out onto the surface of the ice, where it will freeze faster. Doing so would be complicated and expensive — it’s estimated to cost a cool $500 billion, and right now the proposal is only theoretical.

It’s not like we have anything better to do with half a trillion dollars.  Should we cure cancer or refrigerate one of the coldest places on Earth? Should we teach our kids about the fall of civilizations, or teach them to bow before prophets who keep predicting the end of the Arctic and getting it wrong?

Or we could add ice to the whole arctic for just $5 trillion

Tristan Hopper explains the beefed up plan would absorb the “entire steel production of the United States”, [...]

WA State Election Tidbit: Bill Crabtree. Wheatbelt. Launch in Northam Sunday

Click to read.

I’m happy to help a few dedicated skeptics and sane candidates with the gumption to try to improve the system from within. So this is a quick note for residents of the Central Wheatbelt WA. Check out Bill Crabtree, the no-till farming expert running for the Liberal Party at the State election in three weeks, he’s as honest and hardworking as they get. I know Bill personally, and he’s just the kind of guy I’d want in Parliament. A real farmer, not a career politician.

Meet him tomorrow: Sunday 4pm-8pm, Northam Country Club, 15 Wood Drive Northam.

SA Blackout: a grid crippled by complexity

South Australia suffered it’s fifth blackout in five months last week. The AEMO report on that incident came out today. There are lots of faults, errors and small problems, and one overriding theme — it’s too complex:

AEMO (Grid market managers) thought they’d have more wind power. It fell to only 2% of “total output.” There was a computer glitch which “load shed” more people than necessary. Oops. SA Power Network apologized today. Demand was higher than expected.  The gas plant generators at Port Lincoln were ““not available due to a communications system problem”. (Whatever that means.) That was 73MW out of action. One turbine at Torrens Gas plant was out for maintenance (120MW gone). Another was running 50MW low because of the heat. (Seriously, these machines operate at hundreds of degrees and work at 35C but not so well at 42C? (Or whatever it was). Color me skeptical. Perhaps some grid engineers can comment and tell us if this is normal?

So in a modern renewable grid we have variations in supply and demand that are of the order of the average grid load and at the whim of The Wind. What could possibly go wrong?

Finally the SA [...]

Help failing sad climate scientists deal with their dark moods

What happens when your world view is wrong and you can’t deal with reality?

Climate change: Scientists sad, frustrated as extreme weather becomes the new norm

“There is definitely what you would call ‘climate fatigue’ on the part of scientists,” said Dr Andrew Glikson, from the Australian National University’s School of Archaeology and Anthropology.

“There were hundreds of scientists there, and my impression is while we continue to do the science as best we can, there is a fatigue when it comes to arguing in public.

“You can explain to them as long as you like but if they don’t wish to understand, they won’t.”

There is major cognitive dissonance going on here

Climate scientists know they are right, the media loves them and repeats their message, their fears and even their mood swings. CO2 is a greenhouse gas, levels are rising, what could possibly go wrong? But despite pushing a simple message for 30 years, they can’t convince the people that matter most, the other scientists like meteorologists (survey one, survey two), most geologists and engineers, and thousands of doctors, physicists, chemists, maths guys and all the people who build planes, mobile phones, [...]

Prediction in 1941 — the gradual end of democracy in Europe

Thierry Baudet, leader of the Dutch political party “Forum for Democracy” writes about the inexorable attrition of democracy, as predicted 75 years ago.

James Burnham, 1941 foresaw so much in “The Managerial Revolution. It’s a book that George Orwell used for inspiration.

According to Burnham, the civil democracies of the second half of the 20th century would – more or less gradually – be overgrown with backroom bureaucratic networks that make the actual decisions, all far away from the electorate and public debate.

He predicted that separate nation states would still exist, but as their sovereignty was gradually absorbed into a superstate, the nation states would become just administrative subdivisions.

Elections will also remain in place; they will provide managers valuable insights into the preferences of the consumer-citizen, while at the same time functioning as an exhaust valve to possible opposition forces. Burnham predicted a form of political theatre in the guise of sham elections between candidates who happen to be like-minded on every fundamental subject, who are paid to debate in front of clueless spectators in mock parliaments, while the results were known in advance – after all, the actual decisions have already been made.


Pause-deniers finally get busted by mainstream media

It’s been a rotten week for Pause denial

David Rose and the Daily Mail let rip, telling the world that retired NOAA insider, John Bates, was blowing the whistle on how global warming was being exaggerated by scientists to score political points. The hallowed pause-buster paper (Karl et al) broke practically every rule: it was based on misleading “unverified” data processed with a highly experimental, unstable program.  There were bugs in the software, the results changed with every run, the data wasn’t archived, and no one could repeat it. They tripled the previous rate of warming by using old-bad-data to adjust better but still-not-very-good-data. They ignored the much better data from ARGO buoys and the satellites (see below) which showed they were wrong. (Rose didn’t even mention that the error bars on the magical adjustment were 17 times larger than the adjustment itself. Too many errors….)

It’s hard oo believe it could be worse, but then the one sole computer holding the program broke, and apparently (what bad luck) none of the eight authors had their own copy either. Nor did the reviewers. The Planet is going to hell, but no one thought to back up the data.

It all [...]

California: Oroville Dam emergency, evacuations underway

UPDATE #2: While the imminent threat is lower, the evacuations are still underway and now include 188,000 people.

See what alarmed dam management: (Shots from the 7SanDiego News footage.)

Oroville Dam erosion on the emergency spillway. The road washed away.

Oroville Dam Spillway erosion (the arrow points at the people inspecting one part of the erosion which was headed for the spillway wall.

A close up of the erosion looking down from over the spillway wall. We can see just how much ground disappeared on the weekend.

UPDATE #1: For the moment the dire threat is lessening as water has been successfully released, but the evacuation order remains in place, and around 130,000 people are or have been moved. They are even evacuating some baby fish.


Flows over the auxiliary spillway have ceased. 100,000 cfs continue down the main spillway. @ButteSheriff


A remarkable situation in California is taking place where tens of thousands of people and animals are being shifted away from Oroville Dam as a precaution.

“EVACUATION ORDER. Use of the auxiliary spillway has lead to severe erosion that could lead to a failure of [...]

Asian sea levels changed rapidly 6,000 years ago — natural sea level rise “unprecedented”

If you thought seas were constant 6,000 years ago…

Microatolls are apparently very accurate proxy for sea levels, giving a higher resolution estimate of sea levels. But the extra data suggests more natural oscillations in seas than the experts used to think. Six thousand years ago, near Indonesia, seas apparently rose and fell twice by as much as 60 centimeters in a 250 year period. A similar pattern happened 2,600km away in SE China. Seas were changing so fast researchers estimate the shift occurred at 13mm per year and  comment that these regional changes are “unprecedented in modern times.” (Or unrepeated, perhaps?) At the first peak 6,750 years ago, seas were 1m higher than today. The current rate of sea level change is 1mm a year in hundreds of tide gauges and 3mm in “adjusted” satellite data).

From the paper I gather that sea levels in this region change a lot even now. ENSO and the Indian Ocean dipole slop the oceans back and forward. Meltzner et al don’t know why the seas around asia changed so much in the holocene, nor do they know if this is a global phenomenon.  They talk about other studies on the Great [...]

Weekend Unthreaded


It’s that bad — talk of “declaring emergencies” and nationalizing South Australian electricity

Smell the desperation

Here in Oz, political lives are in turmoil. Suddenly “load shedding” is the topic de jour, and there are hit lists of suburbs in the firing line. It’s a long list.  Welcome to your green future.

The language is ramping up.  The SA state government is talking of a “dramatic intervention in the electricity market”.

The plans are “advanced” but they apparently don’t know what that intervention is. It could be a script for “Yes Minister”:

 Premier Jay Weatherill said the plans were well advanced, and all options remained on the table.

“One option is to completely nationalise the system,” Mr Weatherill said.

“That’s an extraordinary option. It would involve breaking contracts and exposing us to sovereign risk and the South Australian taxpayers to extraordinary sums of money. “It’s not a preferred option but we’re ruling nothing out at this point.”

Even if there were no more blackouts in SA, how much stress is added by not knowing if the electricity will be cut off without warning? How many people are preemptively running air conditioners early or all day?

The situation has changed so much that even Malcolm Turnbull, the man [...]