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

Think it has been debunked? See here.

The Skeptics Handbook II

Climate Money Paper




The nerds have the numbers on precious metals investments on the ASX



Australia “invented airconditioning” but can’t keep them running

James Harrisonm, inventor of refrigeration.

James Harrison (click to enlarge)

Peter Hartcher points out that the country that invented refrigeration and thus airconditioning can no longer guarantee to keep them working.

In 1854 [James Harrison of Geelong] invented a commercial ice-making machine. He expanded it into a vapour compression refrigeration system, the basis for modern refrigeration.

“That’s right – an Aussie invented the fridge and it’s first real use was making beer,” remarked the US technology website Gizmodo. “You have to love this country.”

And one more big coal generator shuts down soon in Victoria:

In the next few weeks 4 per cent of Australia’s power supply will vanish when Victoria’s big Hazelwood power station shuts down, clapped out after 50 years of turning coal into electricity. It’ll be the ninth coal-fired power station to close in the past five years. New solar and wind plants are being built, but they are intermittent, and that means they are unreliable.

“Taking out Hazelwood is taking out a big buffer,” says Tony Wood, energy program director at the Grattan Institute policy research centre in Melbourne. And, as we’ve just witnessed, Australia’s power system lacks buffers. “Managing intermittency is an increasing problem.”

Not only has South Australia suffered three major power failures in the last half-year, NSW last week ordered industry to cut power usage so that households could turn on their airconditioners on a hot day. The chief executive of the Tomago aluminium smelter, Matt Howell, who was ordered to cut electricity usage but is entitled to no compensation, says that “it’s fair to say the way the energy system is working at the moment is dysfunctional.” He told the Financial Review that last Friday was “a genuine system security risk.”

Early Refrigeration, Invention, Photo.
In Australia, for the moment, the national debate about climate change is taking a back seat to the debate about electricity security. The Libs seems to have finally realized they can win votes by keeping the lights on and costs down.  The media is covering blackout stories as if they were real news outlets. It’s nice to see an SMH article that isn’t an advert for renewables.

But both the Libs and the media ignored the warnings for years. We didn’t have to waste billions.

h/t David B

Image: Harrison’s ice-making machine, 1861

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 9.5/10 (65 votes cast)

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:

  1. AEMO (Grid market managers) thought they’d have more wind power. It fell to only 2% of “total output.”
  2. There was a computer glitch which “load shed” more people than necessary. Oops. SA Power Network apologized today.
  3. Demand was higher than expected.
  4.  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.
  5. 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 Liberals are talking about maybe, possibly, could be, saving the old coal plant:

Opposition Leader Steven Marshall said on Friday the Government must do everything it could to “press the pause button” on the demolition of Port Augusta’s Northern Power Station and take nothing off the table in its quest for energy security.

“Maybe the infrastructure at Port Augusta can be used for new technology, what we’re saying is don’t take anything off the table,” he said.

The SA Energy Minister is still promising “dramatic intervention” but not saying what that will be.

The SA Premier is blaming AEMO – the market operator.

“Mr Weatherill said on Thursday he had concluded the state had been abandoned by the national electricity market and he was preparing plans for SA “to take control of our own future”.”

The Solution?

The word is the solution might be an interconnector (hands up who has a spare billion dollars?) but the SA gov is still hoping for a a new gas plant and has offered the carrot of a bulk deal with the public sector for who ever wins that tender.

Independent Senator Nick Xenophon said the State Government must underwrite a new gas power station to deliver energy security and lower prices for consumers.

Why should taxpayers have to pay for the energy and also pay for the investment risk? It doesn’t have to be this way. Gradually the complex, fragile grid “needs” more and more centralized control. Pretty soon the government will set supply, demand, pay for generation (and compensate for non-generation), and underwrite the investments — it’s that creeping communist-style takeover of our energy.

Weatherill talks about “controlling their own future” but even Malcolm Turnbull can see the absurdity of that. SA is more dependent than ever on brown coal in Victoria.

AEMO:  full report on the SA Feb 2017 Blackout

h.t Pat, David B

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 9.2/10 (79 votes cast)

Kelloggs sells Social Justice Cereal, calls half the population names and posts $53m loss

The new marketing move by Kelloggs to insult half its customers doesn’t seem to be working out too well. Last year Kelloggs jumped into politics by loudly cancelling advertising on Breitbart saying the new media outlet didn’t fit their values. It was an attempt to punish the big winner in the new media for reporting politically incorrect news. Breitbart responded with the DumpKelloggs petition, and 436,000 people pledged never to buy Kelloggs again.

The company has now reported a $53 million dollar loss in the fourth quarter. It’s shutting down 39 distribution centres, potentially sacking 1,100 workers. Kelloggs share prices are back to where they were a year ago, but Kraft-Heinz is up 31%, and Post is up by 37%. Hey, but it could be a coincidence.

To get some idea of the depth of the goodwill crater left by the Kelloggs political bomb, check out Chiefio’s Bye Bye Kelloggs flaming rant last December. He won’t give a trigger warning, but tells people who need one to “get out now”. I’ve picked a tamer paragraph:

 Dear Kellogg’s:

We, the Average Joe and Average Jane have put up with this Protest Shit to the absolute limit, and we were pushed past that. It’s now broken. That means full on war. Yes, you have a pissed Germanic-Celt in your grill. I’ll “forgive and forget” in about 20 years.

When I Die.

In one simple stupid move, you have alienated about 1/2 of the country….

 In Marketing 101, Kelloggs will be the star example of How to Trash A Century of Good Branding.

There are lots of reasons a company can lose money. But social media polling nosedived 75% in the weeks after Kelloggs started selling political cereal:

Keep reading  →

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 9.0/10 (120 votes cast)

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, and walk on the moon and generally get stuff done. Perhaps the other scientists are all stupid, or here’s an alternate reality: perhaps the geography and ecology majors got the model architecture wrong, forgot one major feedback path and the energy they think is cooking our atmosphere is really leaking out the water vapor back door. See the missing hot spot, the decelerating sea levels, the record Antarctic Ice that wasn’t supposed to be there. See all the stories of warm and cold periods, and rising seas, their models can’t explain and all the evidence that shows the sun has a role on our climate that is non-existent in the models. See the scandalous adjustments they keep having to make to all that recalcitrant data that always seems to support skeptics until they “fix it”.

The only solution that stops the sadness is for unskeptical scientists to meet reality. Then at least they won’t have to worry the planet is going to hell. Though they will have to start thinking about the demise of science and the way the research industry has become a cheap political tool full of B-graders who don’t even know the basics of Aristotelian reasoning and the most important parts of the Scientific Method.

Dr Glikson is one of Australia’s leading voices on climate change and last year penned an open letter to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, signed by more than 150 scientists, demanding more action be taken to ease greenhouse gas emissions.

Andrew Glickson and I had a long debate once. A rare thing. It started here, lasted five long rounds and he asked if I’d publish his sixth reply which I said I’d be happy to, in full and with every reference and graph he wanted.

This coming May it’ll be seven years later and we’re still waiting.

Eric Worrall has set up a petition to help scientists avoid personal CO2 emissions. It’s at petition, Help Climate Scientists avoid Personal CO2 Emissions.


VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 9.4/10 (96 votes cast)

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.

Like a rachet, power gets centralized gradually, step by step:

These Eurocrats label their strategy as “functionalism“, behind which the idea is that due to the so-called “spillover effect“, inevitably, ever more power ends up being centralised. One ‘function’ automatically forces another ‘function’. So: you sell open borders as a nice convenience, and after a while, you act surprised when they force you to adopt a centralised immigration policy. You present a monetary union as a facilitator of trade without having to hand over national sovereignty; and when the (inevitable) credit crisis presents itself, your push through a centralised budgetary system.

Give the people the choice…

Keep reading  →

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 9.2/10 (75 votes cast)

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 got a bit much for Dr Bates when he heard melodramatic news reports that a few triggered scientists feared Trump might trash their climate data.

The NOAA scientists have nothing to hide (especially not data since it’s gone) but when the subpoenas came for their emails, they refused to hand them over.

Then on Sunday Rose fired out part II: How can we trust global warming scientists if they keep twisting the truth.

The man deserves a medal. (Both men Rose and Bates).

NOAA told Obama and Congress that there was no pause in warming. If only Congress had access to Google…  they could have downloaded the satellite data:

Trend, Global temperatures, Satellite, graph, pause, 2000-2015, Karl et al, pausebuster.

Graph thanks to Dr David Evans

The black line of best fit is for the same period, and shows a warming trend that is essentially zero (0.01 C per decade). That is, satellites say it didn’t warm from 2000 to 2014 — the exact same period that the NOAA team refer too.

Yet here is the graph that NOAA presented to Obama and Congress, saying “the rate of global warming during the last 15 years has been as fast as or faster than that seen during the latter half of the 20th Century.” Sure.

Karl et al, Global Temperature, Pause, 2017, Graph.

For the record, there are two independent satellite sets, but the UAH data matches weather balloons better than RSS, and the RSS adjustments includes a likely calibration drift error that probably causes spurious warming. (And if Roy Spencer’s site doesn’t behave, there’s a copy of all his reasoning here).

I’m guessing NOAA knows what the satellite data shows.

Here’s the ARGO data, Hadley, GISS and UAH:

Hadley, ARGO, datasets, The Global temperatures Pause, Karl et al.


The Pause shows the models don’t understand what drives the climate

If you can’t explain the pause, you can’t explain the cause.

– Hockeyschtick

Keep reading  →

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 9.4/10 (131 votes cast)

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. Road break up.

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

Oroville Dam Spillway erosion

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

Oroville Dam, erosion. Spillway. Close up.

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 the structure. “

RAW: Chopper Footage Of Damaged Auxiliary Spillway In Danger Of Failing

See also Twitter news


Keep reading  →

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 9.1/10 (38 votes cast)

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

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

Sea level, Beach, Western Australia, 2017.

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 Barrier Reef and …suggest that oscillations may be more common than previously appreciated,.. (but they don’t have the resolution yet to know. )

You and I might think this shows that the climate changes all by itself (and CO2 was irrelevant). You might also think that it shows climate models are incomplete because they have no idea what caused this.  But sieve your brain through the Global Worrier Cult and you will come to realize that a sea level event that we don’t understand, and can’t predict, means we should worry even more about CO2. Because why? Because, who knows, bad stuff might happen again. This is what Meltzner et al conclude. Perhaps it’s a “safe caveat” so Nature will still publish their inconvenient results, but they do go on in the paper a bit.

If they’d found no swings, presumably the press release would tell us how the modern 1mm a year rises are unprecedented. There is a relentless progression of papers showing past climate was wilder than we thought, and natural climate change is more important. Whatever they find, the press release message ends up being “panic more”. Trite.

– Jo

PS:  For perspective, sea levels around Australia in the Holocene peak 7,000 ya were 1 – 2m higher and have been falling since then. (But notice the resolution on those Australian graphs at that link are nowhere near as good as this new study). Further back in the past, sea levels were 9m higher around Kalbarri Western Australia circa 120,000 ya.

 Sea-level change in Southeast Asia 6,000 years ago has implications for today

[ScienceDaily] For the 100 million people who live within 3 feet of sea level in East and Southeast Asia, the news that sea level in their region fluctuated wildly more than 6,000 years ago is important, according to research published by a team of ocean scientists and statisticians, including Rutgers professors Benjamin Horton and Robert Kopp and Rutgers Ph.D. student Erica Ashe. That’s because those fluctuations occurred without the assistance of human-influenced climate change.


Mid holocene sea level estimated at three sites: (a) TBAT; (b) TKUB; and (c) Leizhou Peninsula17.

In a paper published in Nature Communications, Horton, Kopp, Ashe, lead author Aron Meltzner and others report that the relative sea level around Belitung Island in Indonesia rose twice just under 2 feet in the period from 6,850 years ago to 6,500 years ago. That this oscillation took place without any human-assisted climate change suggests to Kopp, Horton and their co-authors that such a change in sea level could happen again now, on top of the rise in sea level that is already projected to result from climate change. This could be catastrophic for people living so close to the sea.

“This research is a very important piece of work that illustrates the potential rates of sea-level rise that can happen from natural variability alone,” says Horton, professor of marine and coastal sciences in the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences. “If a similar oscillation were to occur in East and Southeast Asia in the next two centuries, it could impact tens of millions of people and associated ecosystems.”

What this study shows is that we need to figure out what really drives climate change (like something on the Sun, perhaps?)

Keep reading  →

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 9.0/10 (60 votes cast)

Weekend Unthreaded


VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 8.4/10 (24 votes cast)

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 who fell on his sword for a carbon tax in 2009, is now scathing about renewables:

“What they did in a lazy and complacent way is they just assumed they could suck more and more energy from Victoria from those very emissions-intensive brown coal generators in the Latrobe valley,” he said.

Which is quite unfair. SA was not lazy. It took real effort and a lot of money to create this much instability.

Malcolm-come-lately’s warning to SA might have been more useful had he said this before they drove their last coal fired plant out of business. The “stunning Turnbull turnaround” on renewables is being received with dismay by some at the ABC. (Shame the ABC doesn’t allow comments on that story).

Is it a “state of emergency”?

The Federal Minister thinks so, the state Minister doesn’t:

Keep reading  →

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 9.2/10 (138 votes cast)