JoNova

A science presenter, writer, speaker & former TV host; author of The Skeptic's Handbook (over 200,000 copies distributed & available in 15 languages).


The Skeptics Handbook

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The Skeptics Handbook II

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Australian Environment Conference Oct 20 2012


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Debunking every IPCC climate prophesy of war, pestilence, famine, drought, impacts in one line

We could spend hours analyzing the new IPCC report about the impacts of climate change. Or we could just point out:

Everything in the Working Group II report depends entirely on Working Group I.

( see footnote 1 SPM, page 3).

Working Group I depends entirely on climate models and 98% of them didn’t predict the pause.

The models are broken. They are based on flawed assumptions about water vapor.

Working Group I, remember, was supposed to tell us the scientific case for man-made global warming. If our emissions aren’t driving the climate towards a catastrophe, then we don’t need to analyze what happens during the catastrophe we probably won’t get. This applies equally to War, Pestilence, Famine, Drought, Floods, Storms, and Shrinking Fish (which, keep in mind, could have led to the ultimate disaster: shrinking fish and chips).

To cut a long story short, the 95% certainty of Working Group I boils down to climate models and 98% of them didn’t predict the pause in surface temperature trends (von Storch 2013) . Even under the most generous interpretation, models are proven failures,  100% right except for rain, drought, storms, humidity and everything else (Taylor 2012). They get cloud feedbacks wrong by a factor 19 times larger than the entire effect of increased CO2 (Miller 2012). They don’t predict the climate on a local, regional, or continental scale (Anagnostopoulos 2010 and Koutsoyiannis 2008). They don’t work on the tropical troposphere (Christy 2010,  Po-Chedley 2012, Fu 2011, Paltridge 2009). The fingerprints they predicted are 100% missing.

..

Even the IPCC admits in the fine print that the models don’t work. Water vapor in the tropics is the most important feedback, yet the models get it wrong. See Chapter Nine “Evaluation of Climate Models”:

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Climate Change could make humans extinct says “expert”

Time to panic. Climate Change could make humans extinct, warns the Sydney Morning Herald.

“The Earth is warming so rapidly that unless humans can arrest the trend, we risk becoming ”extinct” as a species, a leading Australian health academic has warned.”
The trend, the trend, which trend exactly? The trends have been flat on the surface for 17 years, so if that trend continues, we risk “staying the same”? That’ll be deadly. In 1997 global population was 5.8 billion. Since then, there has been no significant warming in the part of the world that humans live in, and global population plunged to 7.2 billion.  Hold off on the End-of-Humanity Party.

Helen Berry, associate dean in the faculty of health at the University of Canberra, said while the Earth has been warmer and colder at different points in the planet’s history, the rate of change has never been as fast as it is today.”

Luckily Helen Berry has seen the Neanderthal global data sets from the paleolithic era which recorded those climate changes. Otherwise how would she know the exact rate of global warming from, say, 11,900 -11,860BC or 42,040 – 42,000BC? The only records I’ve seen (like, the ice cores) suggest things were warming pretty fast sometimes. Who knows? If only they had satellites over ancient Sumeria.

Evidently Berry is talking about the rate of the last 40 years, and seems pretty much unaware of the 4 billion years before that:

”What is remarkable, and alarming, is the speed of the change since the 1970s, when we started burning a lot of fossil fuels in a massive way,” she said. ”We can’t possibly evolve to match this rate [of warming] and, unless we get control of it, it will mean our extinction eventually.”

What Helen Berry (and Peter Hannam, the SMH journalist) don’t realize is that the warming in the last 40 years was entirely “precedented” and we don’t need to go back to the last ice age to find that kind of warming rate, just to the 1930s. It’s all happened before. Indeed (as I keep saying) the peak decadal rate of the 1870s was the same was that of the 1980s.

All that CO2, and nothing happened that was new.

Source: Phil Jones BBC interview  You get the drift.

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Skeptics romp in 6 Bloggies categories — (Lifetime Achievement Award for Jo- thank you!)

The Bloggies awards were so enthused that skeptics dominated the Science and Tech category that they removed the category.  So I suggested skeptical readers pick different categories, and lo and behold today skeptics win in six different areas.

Thousands of readers will not go away.

I’d like to thank especially, the Mainstream Media, without which I would have hardly any traffic. I dedicate this win today to the science journalists in the ABC, BBC, CBC, CBS or CNN, and to Roger Harrabin, Andy Revkin and George Monbiot — all of whom make it so easy for skeptical blogs to flourish. Their promotion of logical fallacies, one-sided reports, and rank name-calling paves the way, en masse for hundreds of thousands of disappointed, thoughtful, inquisitive readers to hunt online for something better.

If science journalists were good scientists or good journalists skeptical blogs would not be one of the largest single categories on the world wide web. (Judging from the other winners, the mainstream media is also lacking in Moms).

Best European Weblog, Winner: Tallbloke’s Talkshop

Best Weblog About Politics, Winner: The Global Warming Policy Foundation

Best Topical Weblog ,Winner: Climate Audit

Best Group or Community Weblog, Winner:  Watts Up With That?

Lifetime AchievementWinner:  JoNova

Weblog of the Year, Winner: Watts Up With That?

Congratulations to Best Canadian Weblog Winner:  Small Dead Animals

“Congrats” to Michael Mann who wins “Climate Duplicitist of the Year” at WattsUp.

Thank you to skeptical readers who responded to the call for alternate-category nominations and who took the time to vote.  Congratulations to Steve McIntyre, Anthony Watts, Roger Tallbloke Tattersall, and Benny Peiser.

A special note of thanks to the dedicated volunteers who help moderate; this would not be the site it is, without their help.  And of course, thanks to all the commenters here who entertain and inform us, or just ask very good questions which can sometimes be the most useful thing of all.

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Rating: 9.6/10 (168 votes cast)

The Great Unravelling: Even fans of “climate fear” admit skeptics are fashionable

Just another signpost on the road to Sensible-land. Remember how skeptics were the fringe minority, the dying dinosaurs, and there were only a few left on the planet? That was last week. Suddenly, begrudgingly, being a skeptic is fashionable (but still wrong, of course). This is “fashionable” in the sense of popular but meaningless, not storming Gucci-type chic, more like getting a high-def TV built into the fridge door. It’s trendy but essentially useless. (By the way, the cool TV has a remote control, DVD and FM radio so you…  don’t have to get off the kitchen floor. I suppose it’s just a matter of time before the TV in the family-room will get a fridge built in?)

But I digress.

The Telegraph has the headline “Global warming – there’s hope amid the gloom” .

Geoffrey Lean tells us “scepticism has replaced concern about climate change”, and you and I might think, that therefore, global leaders ought to pay attention to their citizens. But Lean says more skepticism means world leaders have to shout at the punters even louder. Never, ever assume the voters are right.

Lean hasn’t read Marcel Crok and Nicholas Lewis’s report about climate sensitivity being lower now than past IPCC estimates:

“Here we go again. On Monday the world’s governments and top climate scientists will publish the most devastating assessment yet of what global warming threatens to do to the planet.”

The last thing any fan of climate fear wants is for a repeat of Copenhagen. So look out for the PR-theme for Paris 2016. Firstly we-the-friends-of-the-IPCC must reduce expectations, secondly (contradictorily) we must not be too pessimistic and well, alarmist about our chances of getting a more global bureaucracy. Thirdly, repeat after me, it’s different this time.

As Lean says:

World leaders will meet in New York in September to address climate change for the first time since the ill-fated 2009 Copenhagen summit. Then they assemble again in Paris in December next year to try once more to conclude a pact to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouses gases. But they are approaching it in a very different atmosphere from five years ago.

Not that I’m suggesting that Lean got instructions on how to do this, just that all the people hoping Paris is not another Copenhagen will probably adopt similar strategies intuitively.

Here’s the lowered expectations, combined with a token red herring scapegoat:

Last time, such warnings were almost universally accepted, but they now fall on much more sceptical ears. That is partly because the predecessor to Monday’s report contained several inaccuracies, most notably vastly overestimating the rate at which Himalayan glaciers are melting.

If only the IPCC had double checked the Himalayan Glaciers, it might have panned out alright then?

Here’s the line admitting the skeptics are winning, and look out, the Copenhagen pain was so bad it left scars:

Over the intervening years, fashionable scepticism has replaced fashionable concern over climate change. And government leaders, traumatised by their experience in Copenhagen, have tended to stay quiet.

Those poor government leaders forced to sit through cold waste-of-time meetings. The pain. The pain!

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Weekend Unthreaded

Australian Outback  | Photo by Geoff Sherrington  | (Click to enlarge)


Photo by Geoff Sherrington

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Whales dive to nearly two miles depth, hold breath for two hours

Friday curiosity: Duck-diving Cuvier’s beaked whales can hold their breath for over two hours, and reach a depth of 2 miles (3.2 km) underwater. What’s more, when they come up, they recover in an unbelievable two minutes. (Actually, I really do find this hard to believe. Two minutes? Seriously? )

Cuvier Beaked Whale | Oceanus Magazine Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

These whales can go four times deeper than modern nuclear submarines which are estimated to have a hull crush depth of around 730m. Presumably the Department of Defence will be looking into blubber power or nuclear whales.

But seriously, whales and seals can hold their breath for a ridiculously long time because they pack a lot of oxygen away in their muscles — it’s attached to myoglobin which they have in abundance. Myoglobin‘s quite a lot like the haemoglobin molecule found in blood, it uses iron to bind the oxygen.

For a completely useless culinary tip, whale meat is thus the absolute reddest-of-red-meats and very iron rich –  “perfect” then,  for anemic vegetarians.

Scientists monitored Cuvier’s beaked whales’ record-breaking dives to depths of nearly two miles below the ocean surface and some dives lasted for over two hours, according to results published March 26, 2014, in the open access journal PLOS ONE by Gregory Schorr from Cascadia Research Collective and colleagues.

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Dennis Jensen MP — Calls for audit on the BOM and CSIRO data

Dennis Jensen, M.P. in the Australian Parliament, made a formal parliamentary request for an audit of the BOM and CSIRO data handling processes.

This is an excellent request, something Australia desperately needs. Good data on the climate.

Given how important our climate is, I’m sure Tim Flannery, The Climate Council, The Australian Conversation Foundation, and The Australian Greens will join us in demanding that the BOM and CSIRO datasets are independently audited. Naturally, all of us would want to ensure our climate data is of the highest quality possible and not subject to any kinds of confirmation bias, or inexplicable adjustments. Right? And maybe its even worse than we thought, so they will want to check, yes?

Let’s leave no stone unturned in making sure we understand the threats to the Australian environment, the impact on our farms and homes, and on our National Balance Sheet! How could any Green disagree?


Dennis Jensen talks about the response he got from the BOM and the questions he did not get answered:

” ... the BOM state the temperature trend prior to 1910 is unreliable. But the IPCC use data on Australia going back to 1850. So the question is, how to reconcile unreliable Australian data prior to 1910, with supposedly reliable data going back to 1850. Let’s suppose Australia has the most unreliable data on the planet…. even then, … how can their global estimates be reliable.

How then can global average temperatures be reliable prior to 1910…?

Has the BOM advised the IPCC in writing that Australia’s data before 1910 is unreliable? If so what was the IPCC response?

…we have a similar rate of warming from 1910 to 1945 and from  1975 to 1998, after which there was a haitus… the simple fact is the warming from 1910-1945 cannot be blamed on CO2.

Why are our old historic and detailed temperature records being ignored? Why does the BOM use mysterious methods without full and complete details to adjust our datasets?

He refers to the APS panel discussions, to the Darwin adjustments, to the strange way the oceans are now taking up the missing heat, but why did this mechanism only become operative after 1998?  What is that mysterious mechanism? Why, if they are taking up heat, is the the sea level rise not accelerating? Why is there a lack of an upper tropospheric hot spot.

Dennis Jensen is the only science based PhD in the Australian Parliament. He’s the only one asking questions which are so crucial to spending billions of dollars. He is an under-recognised asset. (Who else would ask these essential but detailed questions?) We need more politicians with his analytical background. Give Dennis our support.

Jennifer Marohasy has been in contact with Dennis Jensen and is keeping me informed (the information below comes from her blog).

Marohasy sent a letter to Greg Hunt, Minister for The Environment with 7 questions in early March. This is part of question 4.

Q4. Given potential and actual conflicts of interest, could the Australian Bureau of Statistics, (ABS) rather than the Bureau of Meteorology, be tasked with the job of leading the high quality and objective interpretation of the historical temperature record for Australia?

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Prof Richard Tol wants his name removed from “exaggerated” IPCC report

The IPCC Working Group II report is due out next week. As is the way, the summary is leaked in advance so the media can slaver over the ghastly possibilities, while the irksome details and accountability are held back so they don’t get in the way of the media pump. But alas, like Paul Reiter, and Christopher Landsea, another lead author wants his name removed from the IPCC document.

 UK professor refuses to put his name to ‘apocalyptic’ UN climate change survey that he claims is exaggerating the effects

  • Prof Richard Tol said UN academics were exaggerating climate change
  • Comes as a blow to the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
  • Panel to publish its first update in seven years on the impacts of climate change

By Ben Spencer, Daily Mail

Professor Richard Tol, an economist at the University of Sussex, said fellow UN academics were exaggerating climate change and comparing it to the ‘apocalypse’.

Prof Tol, the lead co-ordinating author of the report’s chapter on economics, was involved in drafting the summary for policymakers – the key document that goes to governments and scientists. But he has now asked for his name to be removed from the document.

He said: ‘The message in the first draft was that through adaptation and clever development these were manageable risks, but it did require we get our act together.

‘This has completely disappeared from the draft now, which is all about the impacts of climate change and the four horsemen of the apocalypse. This is a missed opportunity.’

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk

The BBC writes this up as well and apparently Richard Tol is missing the point.  Dr Arthur Petersen, the chief scientist at the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, explains that it was not what the IPCC Working Group II report was about:

“Working group I (the physical sciences) doesn’t want to sound alarmist. In working group II, they don’t want to chance not having spotted a particular risk so they have a bias in the other direction,” he said.

So it’s not the job of the IPCC to give accurate risk assessments, and an economist is not expected to do an economic cost-benefit analysis. The real aim is to make sure they have the complete list of all disasters (and not so many of the benefits).

Once again national policy is reduced to a YES-or-NO question, not a numerate one. Who needs climate numbers? The only numbers that matter are the gravy train type.

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Canadians dreaming of “plus 1″

RMR (Rick Mercer Report) sends up the long winter.   Love that Canadian sense of humour. : – )

Pace, Paul Howard’s comment on youtube: here’s sending a group hug for our Canadian friends.

h/t Richard

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Science buried in bureaucracy and corruption: Office of Research Integrity director quits in disgust

Bureaucrats have not only taken over much of the science world, but even the parts of the bureaucracy designed to hunt out corruption in science are incapacitated with bureaucracy-at-its-worst too. This is second order corruption — even the checks and balances on corruption are corrupted.

As James Delingpole points out: Science is rife with corruption, incompetence, dishonesty and fabrication–and now, thanks to a frank resignation letter by the US’s top scientific misconduct official we have a better idea why.

Government science desperately needs auditing– or the free market solution, competition

One in 50 scientists admitted to have fabricated, falsified or modified data or results at least once. It’s not just about fraud, it’s about bias, and statistical sloppiness. Up to 30% admitted other questionable research practices. When asked about their colleagues,  14% said other scientists falsified results, and 70% used other questionable research practices (Fanelli 2009). In the modern electronic science world, not only are many results not replicated, but the raw data itself is not even available for checking most of the time. Research shows that scientists who withhold data are more likely to have published errors (see below). Half of the papers in high-end journals contained some statistical error (Wicherts 2011).

What we’re seeing here is how even government funded checks on government funded science don’t work. Without free market competition and private funding, the layers of corruption and perverse incentives just build on the previous layers rather than neutralize them.

In this corrupt climate the need for independent checks is even more important

The director of the U.S. government office that monitors scientific misconduct in biomedical research has resigned after 2 years out of frustration with the “remarkably dysfunctional” federal bureaucracy. David Wright, director of the Office of Research Integrity (ORI), writes in a scathing resignation letter obtained by Science Insider that the huge amount of time he spent trying to get things done made much of his time at ORI “the very worst job I have ever had.”

Science Mag has the letter from David Wright:

“The rest of my role as ORI Director has been the very worst job I have ever had and it occupies up to 65% of my time.  That part of the job is spent navigating the remarkably dysfunctional HHS bureaucracy to secure resources and, yes, get permission for ORI to serve the research community.  I knew coming into this job about the bureaucratic limitations of the federal government, but I had no idea how stifling it would be. What I was able to do in a day or two as an academic administrator takes weeks or months in the federal government, our precinct of which is OASH.

On one occasion, I was invited to give a talk on research integrity and misconduct to a large group of AAAS fellows.  I needed to spend $35 to convert some old cassette tapes to CDs for use in the presentation.  The immediate office denied my request after a couple of days of noodling.  A university did the conversion for me in twenty minutes, and refused payment when I told them it was for an educational purpose.

Wright describes OASH (Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health) as “secretive, autocratic and unaccountable”.

Third, there is the nature of the federal bureaucracy itself.  The sociologist Max Weber observed in the early 20th century that while bureaucracy is in some instances an optimal organizational mode for a rationalized, industrial society, it has drawbacks.  One is that public bureaucracies quit being about serving the public and focus instead on perpetuating themselves.  This is exactly my experience with OASH. We spend exorbitant amounts of time in meetings and in generating repetitive and often meaningless data and reports to make our precinct of the bureaucracy look productive.  None of this renders the slightest bit of assistance to ORI in handling allegations of misconduct or in promoting the responsible conduct of research.  Instead, it sucks away time and resources that we might better use to meet our mission.  Since I’ve been here I’ve been advised by my superiors that I had “to make my bosses look good.”  I’ve been admonished: “Dave, you are a visionary leader but what we need here are team players.”   Recently, I was advised that if I wanted to be happy in government service, I had to “lower my expectations.”  The one thing no one in OASH leadership has said to me in two years is ‘how can we help ORI better serve the research community?’  Not once.

I’m offended as an American taxpayer that the federal bureaucracy—at least the part I’ve labored in—is so profoundly dysfunctional.

Hidden Data

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Join the “radical” international protest: Work on Wednesday

Remember the decidedly uncivilized protests we had here in Australia last week, called the “March-in-March”?

Tim Blair, of The Daily Telegraph, laments that he made fun of the kind-hearted and caring people who wore shirts suggesting they’d like to have sex with our Prime Minister, or alternately, to kill him. In a brilliant move he suggests the right thing to do is a mass national counter protest called “Work on Wednesday”. I’m in! Will you join me?

Celebrate civilization & democracy, and help the GDP too — Work on Wednesday!


Let’s make it global. This crosses national boundaries and cultures, it’s about democracy. It’s about being civilized. It’s about not using free speech to metaphorically behead, kill, or abort people. It’s about having an argument instead of just an insult.

Let’s show them how a civilized protest is done.

Twitter: @WorkonWednesday. Retweet it to your friends.

Tim Blair explains:

I was also wrong to dismiss the March in March movement as inconsequential. This is because I hadn’t realised the rules had changed, and that last September’s election can now be overruled by some shouty people whose total number amounts to only around one-tenth of Brisbane council’s electorate.

The only proper response, obviously, is for the forces of civilisation to conduct an even larger demonstration – without the obscene signs, Socialist Alliance t-shirts and dopey chants. This will be a demonstration of solid Australian values, supporting democracy, order, good manners, application and ambition.

I propose that we hold just such a demonstration this very week. Despite minimal time for organisation, this could be the largest demonstration in Australian history. For that matter, it might turn out to be one of the largest demonstrations ever held on earth.

Forget March in March. This counter demonstration is called Work on Wednesday. Here’s how you can participate in the greatest display of collective Australian solidarity witnessed since settlement:

  • This Wednesday, the 26th of March, proudly and defiantly take to the streets and go to your place of employment.
  • Put in a hard day’s work, earning money for yourself and your family.
  • When the demonstration is over, after perhaps eight hours or so, again take to the streets and return home.

It’s a lot to ask, I know, but your Work on Wednesday sacrifice will really send a powerful message to the ABC and others about community values, inclusiveness and diversity.

Tim Blair asked all those participating to send him emails on Wednesday of them protesting.

Social media is important these days, according to social media, so Work on Wednesday has its own Twitter feed where regular updates and progress reports will be posted throughout the big day. Everyone who joins in is invited to send photographs of their Work on Wednesday activities to my blog. Email me at blairt@dailytelegraph.com.au.

Let’s show those howling misfits at March in March how to conduct a real demonstration, with a positive message, a huge attendance and a brilliant outcome. Work on Wednesday! If it succeeds, we might have to do it all over again next week.

 

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Nick Cohen “deniers have won” — gets startlingly close to the truth

What insight. ‘Tis prosaic — Nick Cohen in The Guardian packs more truth — runs tantalizingly close to a major insight, yet skates off, one single word short.

It’s projection on a rampage, and Cohen almost seems to realize it.  Perhaps we can help him?

“The climate change deniers have won”

Where else, but The Guardian?

Yes, Mr Cohen, those whom you deliberately and with malice call “deniers” are winning. Incredibly, even though they have only 0.03% of the funds, none of the machinery or the institutions, the enmity of western governments, existential opposition from the $350 billion renewables industry, no support from the large global carbon trading market, and only scorn and derision from the entire UN, and yet they are winning with nothing but wits and facts.

“Scientists continue to warn us about global warming, but most of us have a vested interest in not wanting to think about it”
Exactly!  If you care about the environment you need to think. How serious is the problem of CO2? Here’s a handy list of topics that won’t tell us that answer:
  • Any list of organizations, associations, committees.
  • Any survey of keywords used in publications.
  • Psychoanalysis, pop psychology, anonymous internet surveys
  • Funding, imaginary or real.
  • Studies of cults.
  • Speculation about vested interests, oil companies, political ideology.
Here’s a list of topics that will:
  • Observations about the climate – weather balloons, ice cores, satellites, corals, rocks, thermometers, stuff like that.
Cohen talks about the green-gravy train grinding to a halt, and says:
All of which is a long way of saying that the global warming deniers have won. And please, can I have no emails from bed-wetting kidults blubbing that you can’t call us “global warming deniers ” because “denier” makes us sound like “Holocaust deniers”, and that means you are comparing us to Nazis? The evidence for man-made global warming is as final as the evidence of Auschwitz. No other word will do.
It’s neat how he compares being skeptical of the climate to being skeptical of Auschwitz, then calls people cry-babies who point out that “deniers” is namecalling and a tactic that bullies and people who have no arguments use.  See, I wouldn’t have said “holocaust denier” in an email, because I’d assume he uses the denial word simply as cheap shot, an abuse of English. Indeed — in a sense, this is the only word he’s got wrong in the whole article, and his logic is sort of sensible and understandable if there were deniers denying scientific observations. But everything he’s written depends entirely on the accuracy of that highly unscientific word. He uses it as a tool to shut down debate, without realizing the minds it closes are those of him and his friends.
I mean, go figure, who would listen to a denier? It’s like talking to your cat. No wonder he finds this debate so baffling.
Tempting though it is to blame cowardly politicians, the abuse comes too easily. The question remains: what turned them into cowards?
What turns politicians into cowards? How about a rampant vicious namecalling campaign run by second rate journalists calling people deniers? Could be…
And when the world makes no sense you have to resort to rabid conspiracy theories eh?

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Rating: 9.7/10 (190 votes cast)

Unthreaded Weekend

Carved granite  | Photo: Jo Nova

Each year the winter whitewater carves out a tiny bit more rock, and each summer we see the ripples in the granite.

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Bloggies voting closes late Sunday – Your chance to promote skeptical science blogs

After skeptical climate science blogs dominated the science category in 2013, the bloggies caved in and dumped the whole category. This is your opportunity to show that scientists are skeptics, and the opinions of hundreds of thousands of readers still count.

So in 2014, I suggested we could lodge a protest, or we could just nominate our favorite blogs for other categories couldn’t we? And boy-o-boy, nominate we did. (Thank you.) Skeptical science blogs are now spread across many other categories. (In the end, trying to keep skeptics out may give skeptics more wins. Ain’t that the way?) But voting closes on Sunday, so if you haven’t already done it, please take the time to tick those boxes. I know it’s a chore, but it’s  a way you can help bloggers reach a wider audience, spread their influence. It’s also a way you can direct readers to sites you find rewarding that they may not have heard of. It’s also a way you can let the Bloggies organizers know that it’s no accident that skeptical blogs are so popular.

This year I’ve been lucky enough to be a finalist in three (gosh) heavy hitting categories, with some stiff competition.

  • Best Topical Weblog 
  • Lifetime Achievement
  • Weblog of the Year

What am I most proud of?

Since Sept 2008 I have written 1,403 posts and almost two million people have visited this site from over 200 countries. The Skeptics Handbook has found its way in hard copy to 220,000 people, including all politicians in Australia and the US, and was  translated by volunteers into 16 languages, and remarkably — in such a contentious topic — five years later, has survived unscathed — there is not much I would change. John Cook took two years to try to knock it down with help from four professors, but I only needed four days to take his arguments apart. Thanks to this blog, I’ve done repeated Op-Eds for The Australian, a sought after Diary post on the Spectator, and been named in the Australian Parliament — where Rob Oakshott “smelt a rat” and claimed I ran a well organized and well funded campaign “to her credit”. My favourite posts include an epic five part debate with Prof Andrew Glikson. I was one of the key protagonists getting Dr Paul Bain and Nature to issue a partial correction “regretting the offence cause by the term denier”. I still think my initial response to him is one of my best pieces. Among my readers are three national cartoonists, and at least a dozen MP’s and senators. I’ve been cited by and talked to the very people who I admire greatly — Mark Steyn, Matt Ridley, James Delingpole and Andrew Bolt, who described this post as outstanding and “a magnificent polemic”.

On the 2014 Bloggies Voting Page — Look out  for Tallbloke, Donna La Framboise (No Frakking Consensus), WattsUp,  GWPF, Climate Audit, and Small Dead Animals. Yes, some are competing with each other. Darn — you shall have to choose! Voting closes 10pm Sunday EST US time.

Anthony Watts has a list of suggestions, check his page or see below for the details on making your vote count. Remember you must tick a blog in three categories, you must scroll down, fill in the darn Captcha, with a real email, and click the link that will be sent in your email.

Whatever happens I’ve already had a win, and I’m grateful to those who nominated and voted for me in the shortlist.

HOW TO CAST YOUR VOTE

1. Click on the 2014 Bloggies Page

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Rating: 9.2/10 (59 votes cast)

China going cold on carbon market? Cites Australia and US

Another day is The Backdown? Everything is more important than carbon action these days. In China, real pollution is trumping the fake kind. China has been toying with carbon markets, but this month announced they might have to back away. (The shame!)

[Reuters]  “…the all-out efforts to combat China’s disastrous pollution levels might get in the way of plans to tax carbon dioxide emissions in a bid to stunt the rapid growth of greenhouse gas emissions, Zhu Guangyao, the vice environment minister, said.

“We have to reflect the requests of the majority through many consultation rounds,” he told the Beijing Morning Post from the sidelines of China’s annual parliamentary sessions.

A carbon tax is increasingly controversial among lawmakers, said Zhu, adding that an environment tax would be easier to push through without carbon in the mix.

Zhu also referred to the fact that Australia, under a new conservative government, is trying to abolish its carbon tax, while a price on carbon has been blocked in the United States.”

China’s carbon markets were never serious anyway –  the glorious plan was to launch seven pilot trading schemes –  and each new market was an excuse for environmental activists to issue press releases and proclaim “success” and “momentum”. It was all about the number of new markets opening (not the number of degrees the world would cool).  In reality, even these pilot schemes were a pile of tokens (so to speak) — most of the credits were given out for free. The fines for non-compliance were minimal. It almost looks like it was designed with PR in mind?

I’m pleased to see they have noticed the general direction of the Australian Carbon Market (and the oath to axe it). Julia Gillard wanted us to be leaders. What can I say?

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APS reconsiders its position on climate — Scientific storm on the way?

Everything about associations and committees is so paralyzingly slow. But nearly four and a half years after 160 members bitterly complained about the American Physical Society (APS) statement on climate change, they are finally revisiting it, and there are very promising signs. They’ve appointed Richard Lindzen, John Christie, and Judith Curry, all either longstanding skeptics or sympathetic to skeptical arguments. That’s three of six. (Though I stress that I will remain skeptical until the new statement comes out. One other member, Ben Santer, has a record of rewriting conclusions of much larger committees, and other shenanigans*.)

In 2007, the APS improbably stepped out of the world of physics and into the world of policy and proclaimed:

The evidence is incontrovertible: Global warming is occurring.

If no mitigating actions are taken, significant disruptions in the Earth’s physical and ecological systems, social systems, security and human health are likely to occur. We must reduce emissions of greenhouse gases beginning now.

In 2009, when 160 members of the APS protested, the council “overwhelmingly” voted to reject their proposal. (See how these things work? There are 47,000 members, of which 160 people took the effort and time to publicly protest, and then a council of what, six people, gets to use the word “overwhelming” as if it means something.)  They also wrote: “APS adheres to rigorous scientific standards in developing its statements. The Society is always open to review of its statements when significant numbers of its members request it to do so.” It’s all about the PR isn’t it? It’s about the importance of seeming to be transparent and open, when the reality is the APS statement of 2007 was profoundly unscientific, misleading, and against the wishes of many of the members, yet even in 2014, the statement still stands.

Prominent scientists like Nobel Prize winning Ivar Gievar and long standing Professor Hal Lewis resigned in disgust. The IPCC was exposed again and again as having poor quality control, an unscientific attitude, using magazine articles as references, and allowing activists to help review their work. One of their leading scientists was caught saying he used “tricks” to “hide declines” and other scientists were caught saying they approved of his approach. Evidence accumulated that the IPCC projections were wrong, double wrong, useless, unskilled and failed on all the major predictions. Still the APS supported them.

This is why Science-by-committee is such a hopelessly unscientific approach.

Now finally, the  APS announces it will Review that 2007 Statement on Climate Change,   February 20, 2014.

There are six members of the new committee, and it is indeed the most broad spectrum and balanced climate science committee I’ve seen. The other three members are Ben Santer, William Collins, and Isaac Held (all essentially climate modelers).

It could be that years after individual physicists and bloggers saw the writing on the wall, the APS has finally realized their support of the IPCC is shredding their scientific reputation. They have a 115 year history as one of the largest hard-science societies. They should never have supported a religion with a trillion dollar price tag.

If they jump ship, the quickening will start… that acceleration on the curve where other agencies and groups rush to dump the dying meme. The moment is coming when the phase change occurs and everyone starts to say “I was always a skeptic”.

Tony Thomas has an excellent article in Quadrant, arguing that this is “finally some real climate science” and the tide has turned. (Perhaps it has, but I’m waiting for the outcome). If the APS really is being transparent, open, and are willing to objectively assess the evidence, then it will cause a storm.

The APS audit of the IPCC makes a contrast with the Australian Science Academy’s (AAS) equivalent efforts. In 2010 the AAS put out a booklet, mainly for schools, ”The Science of Climate Change, Questions and Answers”, drafted behind closed doors. The drafters and overseers totalled 16 people, and the original lone sceptic, Garth Paltridge, was forced out by the machinations of  then-President Kurt Lambeck.[5] The Academy is currently revising the booklet, without any skeptic input at all. Of the 16 drafters and overseers, at least nine have been IPCC contributors and others have been petition-signing climate-policy lobbyists, hardly appropriate to do any arm’s length audit of the IPCC version of the science. Once again, the process is without any public transparency or consulting with the broad membership. -- Tony Thomas

As Thomas notes, the questions posed are “trenchant”. I would say they also cut to the core of the points that really matter:

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This is what we need more of: Scientists calling out newspaper hype

Professor Richard Betts, Head of Climate Impacts Research, Met Office Hadley Centre, responded to an alarmist news story in the Independent, both with a comment at the article, and in a tweet (or two). If more scientists spoke out publicly, reporting would get better.

Prof Richard Betts commenting at the Independent (my bold):

Official prophecy of doom: Global warming will cause widespread conflict, displace millions of people and devastate the global economy

Leaked draft report from UN panel seen by The Independent is most comprehensive investigation into impact of climate change ever undertaken – and it’s not good news

Climate change will displace hundreds of millions of people by the end of this century, increasing the risk of violent conflict and wiping trillions of dollars off the global economy, a forthcoming UN report will warn.

Based on thousands of peer-reviewed studies and put together by hundreds of respected scientists, the [IPCC] report predicts that climate change will reduce median crop yields by 2 per cent per decade …

And so on– it is pretty much all there: war, starvation, floods, seas rising, and death.
Richard Betts comments (my bolding):

“I’m one of the authors of the IPCC WG2 report, and I think this article by the Independent is highly irresponsible, especially the headline.

The author of this article has chosen some juicy bits which back up the “climate doom” meme, but ignored other information. The headline writer has then done the same with the original article to come up with the headline of catastrophe.

They’ve also completely ignored all the important discussion in the report on adapting to climate change and increasing resilience.

The upshot is a very biased, alarmist headline.

The problem is this then risks damaging the credibility of the report. There’s much more to it than the impression given by this article, especially concerning other (non-climate) influences on human health, economies, etc.

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Global anxiety? Scared of maths? Could that explain why some people are innumerate about the climate?

I find myself using the word innumerate more and more. Anything to do with climate change is about the numbers — how much will the planet warm? How much will it cost to change the weather? How much useful electricity do wind turbines produce? The arguments of everyone from trolls to Naomi Klein, to Sir Paul Nurse avoid the numbers. And the only time Greenpeace discuss numbers, they seem to pick the wrong kind — dollars instead of degrees. Then they miss the biggest dollars in this debate anyway (but only by a factor of 3,000). Numbers are just not their strong point.

Some people avoid the numbers strategically, — because it’s a debate they can’t win. Sir Paul Nurse hopes we don’t notice that he doesn’t even make an argument, he just declares his side “won”. He tosses a red herring about CO2 being a greenhouse gas. (Which is not what the debate is about. Perhaps he’s heard of feedbacks? He doesn’t say.) Otherwise, he declares the majority “know the cost benefits are worth it”, which is a/ a logical fallacy, b/ a lot like a car advert, and c/  completely wrong. The last UK poll I saw, showed more than 60% of Brits didn’t even believe in a man-made climate, let alone approve the cost of trying to “fix” it. Now Sir Paul is probably very numerate (being a Nobel in Medicine, and President of The Royal Society), which begs the question of why he seems so scared of talking about climate numbers? Perhaps he’s anxious?

Apparently some people are at greater risk “to fear math” not just because they did badly at it, or had nasty teachers and mean gloating friends. But genetically they might be the anxious kind of person, and not be too hot with math skills. About 40% of the differences in math anxiety, as it is called, is possibly due to genes.

Math anxiety it seems, is a hot field of study. It was a new term for me. A different study using brain scans reckons that when people worry about maths, their brain feels real pain.  It’s not something we hear about much on skeptical blogs. Probably since more than half the readers of skeptical blogs had a maths, physics or engineering background. Likewise most geoscientists and engineers are skeptics (and also not too scared of math).

Since maths anxiety seems so common among climate activists, perhaps it’s time we asked if climate-anxiety causes maths anxiety? Or rather whether maths anxiety causes the climate kind…

Time to talk about some numbers then?

Jo

Who’s afraid of math? Study finds some genetic factors

Date:
March 17, 2014
Source:
Summary:
A new study of math anxiety shows how some people may be at greater risk to fear math not only because of negative experiences, but also because of genetic risks related to both general anxiety and math skills. The results don’t mean that math anxiety can be blamed solely or even mostly on genetic factors, the researchers emphasized. In this study, genetic factors explained about 40 percent of the individual differences in math anxiety.
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Tribal warfare, the hatefest runs. Bully barbarians at their intellectual “best”

Here in Australia the intellectual depth and moral caliber of the fans of big-government handouts is on display. This is a world where your intellect and popularity is measured in how much you hate Tony Abbott and Andrew Bolt.

The witless debate ensues, aka the March-in-March protest this weekend: “How much money should we take; you’re a racist, homophobic, corporate a**  _______.”  Last week a thrash band mock-beheaded Tony Abbott with jets of squirting blood for entertainment. It’s base, it’s barbarian, it’s childish and extreme. Enough.

Last week the ABC wallowed in rants, namcalling and false claims about Andrew Bolt. He who argues we should not judge people by their race, gets called a racist. Tonight the ABC finally agree to “clarify” the claims. (Why not just apologize?) Today, surprise, the ABC finds space for 43 protest photos, but omits the ones that show the depraved nature of some of the protestors.  It’s not reporting, it’s propaganda. Privatize it.

 

Placards from the March in March protest and the “beheading” band.

After Bolt was subjected to abuse he wondered if he should give up. I was struck that what he and what Tony Abbott need are not voices just urging them on, but people willing to do something. Civilization depends on people being civil. It’s not enough to stand by and just cheer on those who fight for logic, decency, and reason. It’s time to speak up against the bullies; to write letters to editors, journalist-activists and politicians. To demand that something be done about the ABC. You may think one voice doesn’t matter. But bullies follow the herd, and they need to know the grownups outnumber them and they are not impressed.

 

Another Canberra woman, November, said she was upset about too many things to list. When asked what she wanted to achieve, she said, “I want to see Tony Abbott lynched.”– Canberra Times

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The North Atlantic jet stream correlates with Solar output over a millennium

A new paper (Moffa-Sánchez et al) reports that they looked at layers of dead plankton in ocean mud (otherwise known as foraminifera in marine sediments) and have reconstructed the temperature and salinity of a couple of spots in the North Atlantic between 818AD – 1780 with data on δ18O and the Mg/Ca ratios. One immediate thought, an aside, is that if this technique works, there is no shortage of ocean mud, surely, and perhaps we could drill and analyze more mud for solar correlations in other places. (I hear foraminifera live in the Southern Hemisphere too). Perhaps no one is looking for the connection with the sun?

Moffa-Sánchez et al find the big climate shifts (the 100-year variations) correlate with total solar irradiance (TSI). See especially that orange line black line track in the d graph below. I stress, correlations don’t mean causation and the mechanism is mere speculation. But I find the graph intruiging. There are a lot of turning points, and in pure “curve fitting” type of analysis, this is a better curve fit than the one with CO2. (Find me a turning point that matches with carbon dioxide!) I suspect we’ll be referring back to this paper, and I hanker for more TSI comparisons with other sites and regions.

Figure 2 | Proxy records from RAPiD-17-5P. a, Solar irradiance forcing reconstruction based on the cosmogenic nuclide 10Be (ref. 10; orange) and global volcanic stratospheric aerosols30 (grey) TSI, total solar irradiance. b,
Temperature and c, salinity/18Osw estimates derived from paired Mg/Ca and 18O measurements in G. inflata calcite from RAPiD-17-5P. SMOW, standard mean ocean water. d, Three-point smoothed temperature record
from RAPiD-17-5P (black) and 1TSI (ref. 10) (orange). A 12.42-year lag has been imposed on the 1TSI forcing as indicated from the highest Pearson correlation (Supplementary Notes, Supplementary Fig. 3). Shaded areas
highlight the well-known periods of solar minima. (Click to enlarge and see original unscaled graph*)

The researchers suggest that when solar activity is low the winter jet stream over the North Atlantic is more likely to get blocked. (Which means vast tongues of cold arctic air stretch far to the south, and someone somewhere, gets freaky and not-nice weather.)

Scientists studied seafloor sediments to determine how the temperature of the North Atlantic and its localised atmospheric circulation had altered. Warm surface waters flowing across the North Atlantic, an extension of the Gulf Stream, and warm westerly winds are responsible for the relatively mild climate of Europe, especially in winter. Slight changes in the transport of heat associated with these systems can lead to regional climate variability, and the study findings matched historic accounts of climate change, including the notoriously severe winters of the 16th and 18th centuries which pre-date global industrialisation. — Science Daily

Back when CO2 levels were “ideal” the climate apparently swung wildly:

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