JoNova

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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Weekend Unthreaded

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Nearly a billion dollars for electricity for just one day — $500 per family

The Electro-pyre conflagration escalates.

The cost of electricity on Thursday in two states of Australia reached a tally of $932 million dollars for a single day of electricity. Thanks to David Bidstrup on Catallaxy for calculating it.

As Bruce of Newcastle says “ “Three days and you could buy a HELE plant with the money wasted.” That’s a power plant that could last 70 years, and provide electricity at under $50/MW. (Forget all the high charges for 30 years to pay of the capital (in red below), we could just buy the damn thing outright, paid off in full from day one.)

Cost of Coal plants, lifetime, USA. Institute for Energy Research (IER):

Cost of old coal plants in the USA. From the report by Stacy and Taylor, of the Institute for Energy Research (IER)

Burned at the stake: $500 per family

In Victoria, per capita, that means it cost $110 for one day’s electricity. For South Australians, Thursday’s electricity bill was $140 per person. (So each household of four just effectively lost $565.) In both these states those charges will presumably be paid in future price rises, shared unevenly between subsidized solar users and suffering non-solar hostages. The costs will be buried such that duped householders will not be aware of what happened. Coles and Woolworths will have to add a few cents to everything to cover their bills, and the government will have to cut services or increase taxes. No one will know how many jobs are not offered or opportunities lost. This is the road to Venezuela.

If Hazelwood had still been open, the whole bidstack would have changed, quite probably saving electricity consumers in those two states hundreds of dollars. Eight million Australians could have had a weekend away, gone to a ball, or bought brand new fishing gear. And this is just one single day of electricity. If Liddell closes, things will get worse, no matter how much unreliable not-there-when-you-need-it capacity we add to the system. Indeed, the more fairy capacity we add, the worse it gets. NSW will soon join the SA-Vic club.

This is what happens when an electricity grid is run by kindergarten arts graduates who struggle with numbers bigger than two.

This is utterly and completely a renewables fail

The socialist Labor-Greens are already trying to blame it on coal, but we ran coal plants for decades without these disasters. Right now, no one is investing in coal because of bipartisan stupidity. What company would pay the maintenance fees on infrastructure so hated by the political class? The coal plants are being run into the ground. Maintenance is even being delayed to keep the plants running through peaks like this.

No country on Earth with lots of unreliable renewables has cheap electricity. How many times do I have to repeat it? This is my mantra for 2019.

In Australia when we had mainly coal and no renewables our electricity was cheap and reliable. Now we are still mainly coal, but all it takes is a poisonous small infiltration of subsidized unreliable renewables to destroy the former economic incentives, the whole market, the system: our lifestyle.

The Liberal Party needs to grow a spine

This is surely a crisis. As long as the Liberals are a Tweedledum version of the Labor party, they can’t solve this and deserve to lose. New renewables installations must be stopped immediately — put on hold indefinitely — until they no longer need forced subsidies, until the RET is gone, the carbon taxes, the hidden emissions trading scheme and we have a proper free market. Then new renewables can be permitted to compete with all generation alternatives, though all new generators will also have to be responsible for paying for extra transmission lines, back up batteries, and any other frequency stabilization required. On net a generator must be able to guarantee that when the people call on it, it can provide, lets say, 80% of total nameplate capacity. When that day comes (thirty, fifty, years from now or maybe never) I will be happy to support renewables. Until then, we are global patsies handing over glorious profits to energy giants, renewables companies, Chinese manufacturers, and large financial institutions.

Lets have a plebescite: How many Australians would rather have a weekend away with their family or make the world 0.00 degrees cooler in 100 years in a symbolic display to assuage the Gods of  Storms?

Happy Australia Day!

h/t to Ian B

*Added the word unreliable post hoc. It’s more accurate. We are talking about Wind and Solar, not Hydro. h/t Claude.

 

 

 

 

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Melbourne, 200,000 houses blacked out, 10 companies curtailed, as 1-in-3-year hot day hits

***UPDATED: Melbourne has been 42C or more around 50 times since 1855. That’s one in three years. Thanks to Bob Fernley-Jones for the correction.

 They were only 250 million watts short:

Loy B Yang, Coal Power Plant

Loy Yang, powering Victoria, and soon probably “taking the blame” too.

Rachel Baxendale, The Australian

h/t Des Moore

More than 200,000 Victorian households had their power cut off yesterday in a bid to protect the state’s energy system from shutting down, as the Andrews government was forced to admit there was not enough power to keep up with soaring demand in sweltering summer heat.

Homes were blacked out, traffic lights across Melbourne were switched off and businesses were forced to close for up to two hours after the Australian Energy Market Operator enforced rolling power outages to make up a 250 megawatt shortfall in supply.

The State Energy Minister (Lily D’Ambrosio) said there would “absolutely” be no blackouts this morning and the rolling blackouts started 90 minutes later. Welcome to the USSAustralia where we hope to make your 150th Birthday Party 0.001 degrees cooler but we can’t predict our electricity grid for the next hour and a half.

Dark ages — get used to it:

Greens leader Richard Di ­Natale blamed an over-reliance on coal for the heatwave and backed Ms D’Ambrosio’s calls for people to stop using their dishwashers and washing machines and to turn up the temperature on their air-conditioners.

Senator Di Natale said Australians experiencing power outages were being unreasonable if they complained about not being able to use home appliances…

That’s right, the man who thinks solar panels will protect your children from storms wants you to “be reasonable”.

We were told renewables would be cheap, would save the world, and power the nation. Now we’re told the lights will go out, we shouldn’t expect to run the dishwasher or air-conditioner at 7pm every day, and burning hundreds of millions of dollars for an afternoons electricity is just “part of the price”.

I have seen your future and your future is load shedding:

Once we were going to lead the world, now we are happy to be failing like everyone else.

Ms Zibelman said load shedding was common practice around the world. “All countries that I’m aware of, and again, I have been in the business for 30 years, and over periods of time you run into these systems like you have, where you have generators that go off and you have to do load shedding,” she said. “We can’t afford … 100 per cent reliability over all hours and all circumstances, but we do like to plan that for what we see these extreme weather events that we have enough reserves available. That’s really what we’re working towards.”

Victoria used to be able to “afford” reliable energy, until they got lots of cheap wind and solar power.

Now business can’t afford to set up in Victoria.

Australia used to be able to maintain coal plants too:

AEMO blamed the failure of two generators at the Yallourn coal-fired power station and ­another at Loy Yang A, all in the Latrobe Valley, for reducing supply by 1800MW.

For forty years Australia had cheaper and more reliable energy than this, and it was powered by what four letter word?

Melbourne has been this hot or hotter about 30 50 times since 1855

It’s being billed as wildly extreme, but Melbourne officially peaked at 42.8C. Bob Fernley-Jones looked back at the long Melbourne Regional Office data going back to 1855, and found around 30 corrected “50″ examples of a day of 42C or more. Days like this are one-in-3-year-event. This is summer in Melbourne. It’s not rare and any half-competent planner would plan accordingly.

As Bob points out the highest spikes in Jan ’39 and Feb 2009 are arguably outliers “resulting from freakish hot northerlies (and the most terrible Victorian bushfires).  If they are waived as outliers, then for the rest of the record from 1855 it’s all pretty dam flat?”

Temperatures above 42C in Melbourne

Temperatures recorded above 42C in Melbourne from 1855 to 2015.  (Regional Office)  Thanks to Bob Fernley-Jones.

Furthermore, this “42.8C” was recorded on an ultra sensitive electronic sensor which means it could well be a “one second record” that is artificially inflated compared to the same day as measured with a mercury thermometer which is slower to respond. The half hour observations in Melbourne peaked at 42.3C. The BOM could tell us exactly how long temperatures “peaked” for. Will they? They could tell us exactly how different the two thermometer types are, but Bill Johnston found they are destroying that data.

Seriously, officer, these two thermometers are exactly the same. Trust me.

Two different thermometers side by side. Photo. Bureau of Meteorology.

An example of different thermometers side-by-side in a Stevenson Screen.. Photo: Bill Johnston.

 How much did it all cost?

Who will add up the electricity bill, the RERT (emergency scheme), the FCAS charges and the compensation payments?

 This [RERT scheme] means paying smelters, factories and other heavy power users to rapidly curtail their energy use to rein in demand, when the system is under strain.

Who will add up the lost wages, the lost opportunities, and the jobs that never came to Victoria?

Whatever the bill, we know who will pay.

Photo Loy Yang: Jo Nova

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Solar cycles to blame for jellyfish plagues (not coal fired plants)

Jellyfish

Image Erin Silversmith

Three amazing things in this story. One that solar cycles might influence the oceans to such an extent that jellyfish plagues are cycling in tune with the sun. Second is that the sun might control food for jellyfish on Earth somehow but have no effect on clouds, temperature or our climate (join the dots that expert climate models don’t). Third is that (briefly) there was actual scientific debate published on the ABC (even if only a few Australians were exposed to it). No one called anyone names, and both sides got to speak (albeit on different channels). Put it in your diary.

A couple of weeks ago on the ABC jellyfish were booming and it was because of climate change:

Jellyfish are causing mayhem as pollution, climate change see numbers boom

RN By Hong Jiang and Sasha Fegan for Late Night Live

…the brainless, spineless, eyeless, bloodless creatures are booming in numbers — and causing mayhem around the world.

Some scientists think jellyfish numbers are increasing as the climate changes — the creatures reproduce well in warmer waters.

Last year, Nick Kilvert of the ABC saw it as a coming deadly jellyfish hell.

This week a researcher said the data was weak and there was much better evidence that jellyfish populations surge in 22 year cycles that match the solar pattern instead:

Solar activity to blame for jellyfish surge, expert says, as warming waters ‘rev up’ metabolism

ABC Radio Adelaide By Malcolm Sutton

Marine science professor Kylie Pitt from Griffith University is seeking to publish a research paper connecting jellyfish numbers to the 22-year cycle of solar sunspot activity and subsequent changes in magnetic fields.

Pulling together worldwide datasets of jellyfish that go back decades, she said her team found the creatures would increase in abundance for 10 years, then decrease, then start again in what was found to be a 22-year cycle.

 Solar cycles are really 22 years  (or so) because each 11 year alternate cycle alternates with the North pole “on top” then the South pole.

Sunspots affecting ocean productivity

Some scientists believe there is a worldwide increase in jellyfish numbers due to warming waters and pollution and that tropical stingers could be pushing further south.

“There’s been a lot of emotive commentary about jellyfish for a long time, even in the scientific community, with people making claims that jellies under anthropogenic stress are going to take over the oceans and all that sort of stuff,” Professor Pitt said.

But her team believed jellyfish numbers increased because solar cycles could affect wind changes, which “turned over nutrients and stimulated the growth of phytoplankton” and subsequently ocean food productivity.

Try to imagine how the sun could increase phtyoplankton and jellyfish  and yet have *definitely* no effect on clouds, or temperature…

Complexifying things, there are scientists who think phytoplankton changes CO2 levels (more on that soon), and others who think microbial sea life can affect cloud seeding.

Fourth amazing thing is a marine researcher willing to say they need data to support their models and that the man-made signal was not statistically significant.

“We need to wait and see if that data starts rolling in and our predictions are supported.”

Professor Pitt’s study found a “really small signal” that there was an overall increase in jellyfish numbers irrespective of the 22-year cycle but not one that was “statistically significant”.

“It’s absolutely not a given that warmer water causes more jellyfish and there’s nowhere near enough data to say that,” she said.

“Some of my colleagues are quite sure that it’s happening but the data for it isn’t very strong.”

Bravo to Kylie Pitt from Griffith University. And well done Malcolm Sutton, ABC, Adelaide.

Solar cycles, Sun, image.

Master of Jellyfish?                                                     Image: NASA, GSFC, SDO.

h/t George.

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Warning: Money on fire in Vic and SA electricity prices at $14,000 per MWh

Prices are “off the chart” in Vic and SA right now and likely for the next few hours. Factories will be closing. Diesel generators will be running, but only in South Australia and Victoria. At these kinds of prices tens of millions of dollars could be going up in smoke every hour. By the end of today the bill could come to more than a hundred million dollars.

In QLD and NSW where there are old or evil coal fired plants the wholesale electricity costs are only $105/MWh.

Victoria

AEMO, Prices, Jan 24, 2019, Graph. Australia.

South Australia

AEMO, Prices, Jan 24, 2019, Graph. Australia.

The national electricity market (or at least the Eastern half and 90% of the population).

AEMO, Prices, Jan 24, 2019, Graph. Australia.

 

Today when we need it, wind power on the NEM is running at about 20% of total capacity. Four out of five windfarms are not working.

 

Wind farm, capacity, production, jan 24, 2019. Graph.

 

 UPDATE: LOR3 (highest level warning) issued in Victoria but resolved at 8pm. In SA the diesel jet engines have been switched on for the first time as emergency reserve. We didn’t used to need to buy expensive machinery so it could sit around for 18 months before it was needed.

 

h/t Ian B, LightningCamel, George, David B.

MWh typo fixed, thanks to Xavier

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Forgotten history: 50 degrees everywhere, right across Australia in the 1800s

Don’t believe your lying eyes — Australian newspaper archives are full of temperatures recorded higher than 121 in the shade which is 50C.  All of these temperatures in the map below are found in historic newspaper archives. Measurements done after 1910 are even done with official Stevenson screens, yet the BOM “throws them away”. It’s true that ones done in the 1800s are often recorded on non-standard equipment, or are just literally “in the shade” under cover. So some of these, perhaps many, are one or two degrees too high. But even if we take two degrees off, how scary is global warming when Australia knew many days of 48C and 49C and some at 50C 120 years ago? The BOM — supposedly so concerned about the State of Our Climate — show little interest in talking about our history or in analyzing it, or even mentioning it.

And modern temperatures are recorded on electronic equipment, sometimes in areas affected by urban heat islands (concrete and cars).

(click to enlarge)

Thermometer Farenheit Celcius scale

Photo: Jo Nova

50C temperatures have occurred all over Australia before

Australians have been recording temperatures of over 50C since 1828, right across the country. In 1896 the heat was so bad for weeks that people fled on emergency trains to escape the inland heat. Millions of birds fell from the sky in 1932 due to the savage hot spell.

In 1939 outer Sydney reached 122F or over 50C – recorded at Windsor Observatory — a place that had had a Stevenson screen for around 40 years at that stage. Without fanfare, the Ballarat Star in January 1898 notes that there was a “genuine heat wave” in Blanchetown SA in November the year before. Temperatures of 120 and 121 are recorded on four days that month.

All these measurements are wrong?

Record heatwaves in South Australia

click to enlarge.

Contrast that with last week when towns in the outback reached 48 and 49C and the Bureau of Meteorology senior forecaster Michael Efron said — “They are pretty incredible temperatures.” Seriously. It’s hard to believe that after a quadrillion megatons of emissions we are nearly as hot as we were in 1896? It’s as if hundreds of measurements of similar temperatures across four states of Australia and on many occasions from 1828 to 1939 don’t even exist.

The worst heatwave was probably January 1896 when the nation was “like a furnace”.

From a post in 2012: All these measurements are wrong too?

Extreme heat in 1896: Panic stricken people fled the outback on special trains as hundreds die.

It is as if history is being erased. For all that we hear about recent record-breaking climate extremes, records that are equally extreme, and sometimes even more so, are ignored.

In January 1896 a savage blast “like a furnace” stretched across Australia from east to west and lasted for weeks. The death toll reached 437 people in the eastern states. Newspaper reports showed that in Bourke the heat approached 120°F (48.9°C) on three days (1)(2)(3). The maximumun at or above 102 degrees F (38.9°C) for 24 days straight.

By Tuesday Jan 14, people were reported falling dead in the streets. Unable to sleep, people in Brewarrina walked the streets at night for hours, the thermometer recording 109F at midnight. Overnight, the temperature did not fall below 103°F. On Jan 18 in Wilcannia, five deaths were recorded in one day, the hospitals were overcrowded and reports said that “more deaths are hourly expected”. By January 24, in Bourke, many businesses had shut down (almost everything bar the hotels). Panic stricken Australians were fleeing to the hills in climate refugee trains.

It got hotter and hotter and the crowded trains ran on more days of the week

To get a feel for how widespread and devastating it was, read through just one report in one paper (there are scores more).

The Warwick Examiner, Jan 29, 1896. Click to enlarge.

January 29, 1898, Australian heat wave, newspaper.

,,,,

Thanks to Chris Gillham, Lance Pidgeon, Ken Stewart, Warwick Hughes, and all the BOM audit team.

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1,500 private jets fly in to save world at Davos

Where is your carbon footprint when you need it?

Private Jet

This week the same people who advertise their virtue with climate cloaks are advertising their status with a Bombardier 7500.

Don’t call them hypocrites, it’s completely consistent. Both are pretentious attempts to peck up the order.

More And Bigger Private Jets Landing at Davos as Leaders Discuss Climate Change

Erin Corbett, Fortune

Perhaps its all because of jet envy.

At least 1,500 private jets are slated to arrive in Davos. The number is up from last year’s estimated 1,300, according to the Air Charter Service, which also found that this year’s jets are larger and more expensive.

Why more and bigger jets?

“This is at least in part due to some of the long distances traveled, but also possibly due to business rivals not wanting to be seen to be outdone by one another,” Andy Christie, the private jets director at ACS said in a statement.

 Would you like a helicopter with that?

Keep reading  →

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Midweek Unthreaded

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Save the world and raze some forests

Trees, photo.

Look out, another knot of tortured researchers just went past. All this time we’ve been pouring money into planting trees and stealing land from farmers because we were sure that trees would cool the world. (Just like solar panels do, yeah?) But life is so complicated — for years now some researchers have been quietly wondering if more trees were actually going to warm the planet instead, but they didn’t want to say much. It turns out that while trees absorb the sacred CO2 (that’s cooling!) they also emit methane (that’s warming!), and terpenes (cooling) and isoprene (warming and cooling!) If that’s not complicated enough, then there is the albedo effect. Trees are dark, they absorb more sunlight than bare ground and snow. So depending on where they are planted, that makes for “warming”. Then some VOCs or volatile organic compounds also seed clouds.

So what’s the net effect? Who knows, it’s not like there are whole industries dependent on it…

Now they ask?

How much can forests fight climate change?

Trees are supposed to slow global warming, but growing evidence suggests they might not always be climate saviours.
Gabrielle Popkin, Nature

As usual, the debate is based on logic and death threats:

At the same time, some researchers worry about publishing results challenging the idea that forests cool the planet. One scientist even received death threats after writing a commentary that argued against planting trees to prevent climate change.

It doesn’t matter if the planet dies, editors don’t want to look stupid:

“I have heard scientists say that if we found forest loss cooled the planet, we wouldn’t publish it.”

 Yay, free speech!

To greener types, it doesn’t matter if trees warm the world on net, because they cool the world as well. And if that makes sense to you, the UN has a job waiting for you:

Although the analysis relies on big assumptions, such as the availability of funding mechanisms and political will, its authors say that forests can be an important stopgap while the world tackles the main source of carbon emissions: the burning of fossil fuels. “This is a rope that nature is throwing us,” says Peter Ellis, a forest-carbon scientist at The Nature Conservancy in Arlington, Virginia, and one of the paper’s authors.

Australians should — in theory — care more about this than almost anyone. We are one of the countries that did count carbon storage. If it turns out that land clearing cools the planet, Australia is stuffed (carbon accounting-wise):  Our emissions per person fell 28% since 1990, but the largest single factor there was “land use” — meaning we stopped clearing and let regrowth take over some farms and paddocks. Then we shafted the farmers who owned the land and couldnt use it.

 The 1997 climate treaty known as the Kyoto Protocol allowed rich countries to count carbon storage in forests towards their targets for limiting greenhouse-gas emissions. In practice, few nations did so because of the agreement’s unwieldy accounting mechanisms and other factors.

The albedo effect:

Researchers have known for decades that tree leaves absorb more sunlight than do other types of land cover, such as fields or bare ground. Forests can reduce Earth’s surface albedo, meaning that the planet reflects less incoming sunlight back into space, leading to warming. This effect is especially pronounced at higher latitudes and in mountainous or dry regions, where slower-growing coniferous trees with dark leaves cover light-coloured ground or snow that would otherwise reflect sunlight. Most scientists agree, however, that tropical forests are clear climate coolers: trees there grow relatively fast and transpire massive amounts of water that forms clouds, two effects that help to cool the climate.

This chemistry is so complicated, if only we had climate models that worked, we could figure out how much all this mattered:

Keep reading  →

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The Great Renewables Marketing scam known as “climate change”.

Another family friendly picnic day in Australia where nice people spend their leisure time advertising an industry worth more than $476,000,000,000.

A bunch of Australians do free corporate advertising

Climate protest, photo.

They would kick themselves if they knew…

Blue Mountains residents to make ‘human sign’ for climate change action

The message will say: Renewable energy, make the switch now, 100% renewables… imagine.

Blue Mountains residents will stand side by side to form the word “SWITCH” which will then be photographed from the air.

Imagine if this was an advert for Coke, or Exxon? It would be so much better. Coke and Exxon produce something that people want voluntarily.

One hundred years from now, people will look back and marvel at the Great Renewables Marketing scam known as “climate change”.

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Weekend Unthreaded

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Climate Change will make coffee extinct or something like that

The terror. Sit down I tell you.  The ABC tells us that you should “Grab a latte while you still can”.

Coffee beans

Coffee beans  |Image wiki Hesham Raouf

In full, the true catastrophe is that if the models that are always wrong get something right, some wild coffee relatives, but not actual coffee crop plants, might go extinct. We don’t use them for coffee but you never know, we might one day use them as breeding stock. It’s that serious.

And we can’t save the seeds because apparently liquid nitrogen is too expensive. Wail. Gnash. Fawn.

Since bulk liquid nitrogen is cheaper than spring water, I rank this one as a Prime SkyWhale Class Scare, it’s all hot-air and scary for the wrong reason. You are meant to be afraid of the end of coffee, but what’s really frightening is that science journalism is dead instead.

By Belinda Smith and Nick Kilvert, ABC Australia

Most coffee species at risk of extinction due to climate change, scientists warn

The set up:

You might also want to sit down before reading this. And maybe grab another latte while you still can.

Of the 124 wild coffee species worldwide, UK researchers have declared at least 60 per cent of them in danger of dying out.

There might be science there:

In a paper published in Science Advances today, the researchers warn we need to beef up existing conservation plans, because the ones we have in place now are “inadequate”.

Stick to Climate 101 reporting rule: Good things die, Bad things go viral.

But with deforestation and a changing climate, which brings unpredictable rain, pests and fungal diseases, coffee farmers will be hit hard.

A 2016 report by The Climate Institute found worldwide coffee production could be cut in half by 2050.

We’re already seeing declining production and quality in some traditional coffee-growing regions, said Robert Henry, a plant geneticist at the University of Queensland who was not involved in the research.

Need some condescension?

So why not store coffee beans in a seed bank? Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.

“It is difficult, perhaps impossible, to conserve coffee using conventional seed storage methods,” Dr Davis said.

This is because seed bank storage freezers, even at -20 degrees Celsius, don’t cut it when it comes to preserving coffee beans.

They need to be chilled by liquid nitrogen — a costly process.

Price of liquid nitrogen: allow for doubling since 2007 and it’s still $1 per gallon. Less than coke.

If the government stopped funding renewables for 24 hours they could save wild coffee seeds.

Let’s check. Here’s what excess fossil fuel emissions have done to coffee production

Looks like coffee has been relentlessly increasing. It has doubled since 1977. Another 100 years of this kind of climate change and we will be drowning in the stuff. Get out your life jackets.

Global Coffee Production, Graph, FAO

Global Coffee Production, Graph, FAO

.Ho hum.

Skywhale

Scary like the SkyWhale

Skywhale image by Nick-D   | Coffee beans  Image Hesham Raouf

h/t Dave B, Bill, George.

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Fake science on fake fish from James Cook Uni?

Third World Science with First World Funding

Is James Cook University a grants machine or a research institute?

James Cook University reviews ex-student’s ‘fishy’ findings, by Graham Lloyd, The Australian

Oona Lönnstedt has been prolific, writing alarming papers on microplastics, acidification, and reef degradation. But her work looks like a trainwreck. One paper has been withdrawn, in another it was “found that Lonnstedt did not have time to undertake the research she claimed.” She’s been found guilty of fabricating data on the microplastics study. Now Peter Ridd has pointed out that the photos of 50 Lionfish appear to contain a lot less than 50 fish. Images have been flipped, spun or “manipulated” so the same fish appears more than once.

James Cook has done what any ambitious, money-hungry grant troughing institute would do, a very slow investigation of allegedly corrupt behaviour and a very quick sacking of the honest researcher who threatens to expose them. Any respectable Science Minister would freeze all grants to James Cook until this situation was resolved and reversed.

Send your thoughts to The Hon Karen Andrews. Contact her here: karen.andrews.mp AT aph.gov.au. There is a crisis in Australian science. Who is going to fix it?

James Cook University, Fish, Research, Climate Change.

50 Lion Fish (or not). Click to enlarge.

James Cook University, Fish, Research, Climate Change.

Fishy copies of Lion Fish. Click to enlarge.

All Peter Ridd had to to was line up the shots in order they were taken.  Peer reviewers didn’t do that.

The real problem here is not about fish or plastic but about the science industry

Walter Stark, a marine scientist with 50 years experience, and a proper skeptical scientist, explains how our current academic ecosystem rewards alarming results:

Starck says generations of ­researchers have been schooled in a culture wherein threats to the Great Barrier Reef are an unquestionable belief from which all evidence is interpreted.

“She (Lonnstedt) got into the ocean acidification and global warming and the effect CO2 was going to have on the behaviour of marine animals and she started publishing,” Starck says.

“Immediately the publishers lapped it up. As a graduate student she managed to get as much published in one year as most professors do in a decade.”

Imagine, hypothetically, that our academic grant machine was actively promoting the fakest science anyone can get away with when it comes to climate research. Where are the brakes? What stops fake science?

Not peer review. Not journal corrections. Not most of the media. (Where is the ABC? They report the alarm, but not the allegations?)

Confirmation bias is a much bigger problem and much harder to spot than fabricated data. Who is even trying to put those brakes on?

There’s a pattern here

Lönnstedt first got into trouble with a 2016 paper on microplastics that showed that little fish ate tiny bits of plastics preferentially, and then their growth suffered and they were eaten by bigger fish. The Central Ethical Review Board in Sweden investigated was so concerned and declared it was research misconduct. UU’s Board for Investigation of Misconduct in Research called it fabrication. That paper was published in one of the two highest profile science journals there is — called Science. So much for peer review at top journals? The microplastics case has been called “outright fraud” and by Science itself.

When Science demanded the data (that she should have archived) alas the only copy was on her laptop, which was stolen just after the request came through. How in-convenient?

No data? Doesn’t matter

It still took months before Science responded:

Dr Roche told the HES that Science should have retracted the report as soon as the authors failed to provide the raw data, “rather than waiting for the results of a lengthy investigation that only came months later”. But it was a “positive sign” that Science had published a letter criticising its policy, he conceded.

Peter Ridd wonders why we give still her the benefit of the doubt?

 Ridd said given that Lonnstedt had been shown to have deficient data in other research, and given that there seemed to be evidence of modified images, it would not be wise to give the benefit of the doubt in this case.

Ridd contacted the co-authors of the lion fish study and the weak excuses flowed forth:

“Based on our understanding, it was not her intent for the collage to represent a picture of all of the lionfish she used,” they said. ­Rather, she was providing it as evidence “that she had lionfish in the laboratory”, the co-­authors said.

Yes, sure. Because we were wondering if she had any Lionfish at all, not whether her 50 Lionfish were 50 different fish.

Her co-author Doug Chivers says there is now a dilemma because Lonnstedt has gone off to Sweden and isn’t doing science anymore and doesn’t want to answer questions. Jo Nova says this is pretty simple, tell her she can pay back her salary or respond in full. She was paid to reveal all her methods and data. She hasn’t finished the job yet.

As I said about James Cook Uni’s treatment of Peter Ridd:

This taints all research the institution puts out. How do we know that any news they announce is the whole truth — we must assume every result is put through the political filter and inconvenient conclusions or implications are removed.

Which other employees of James Cook are concerned about this issue? If they don’t say, is it because none of them care or that those who do feel too intimidated to say so. (Since they are too scared to even use their official email accounts, we can assume they won’t be issuing press releases.) Either way, it’s systemic, it’s institutional and it’s not science.

Uppsala found Lonnstedt “fabricated” results. Look at how that uni responded:

A biology journal is investigating concerns about a 2014 paper by a marine biologist who was found guilty of misconduct last year.

In December, Uppsala University concluded that Oona Lönnstedt had “fabricated the results” of a controversial 2016 Science paper(now retracted), which examined the harms of human pollution on fish. (Lönnstedt’s supervisor Peter Eklöv was also found guilty of misconduct and had a four-year government grant terminated.)

–RetractionWatch

ScienceMag says that “Lönnstedt has reportedly lost her funding from Formas, the Swedish Research Council, as a result of the report. “

Though it took three rounds of investigations before Upsalla Uni got this far. (See page 8 -9 of the NAS irreproducability report. ) Critics need to keep pressing.

JCU takes a whole year to form an investigation panel

James Cook says they are “committed to the highest standards of ethical research”.  Concerns over Lonnstedt’s work were raised over a year ago in December 2017. It took until May for JCU to say it would establish an external panel of experts to investigate. And after a whole year they’ve managed to finalize the member list of that panel, though they haven’t even been formally appointed yet. Apparently the Great Barrier Reef may move before the investigation is finished. The Reef is under a dire threat but JCU is in no rush to get the science right. Or perhaps they are just waiting until there is a new Minister of Science who also thinks that science is just a grants-machine to produce PR excuses to screw more tax out of taxpayers?

Speaking of which, the Shadow Minister for Science is the Hon. Kim Carr. Is he going to point out that Karen Andrews isn’t doing enough on this, or does he approve of Fake Science? Contact: senator.carr AT aph.gov.au

Likewise, the shadow Minister for Climate is The Hon. Mark Butler MP: Does he care that we may be wasting money fighting irrelevant battles based on dodgy research?  Contact: senator.butler AT aph.gov.au. If the climate matters, so does climate science.

James Cook University is a joke, and if they were serious about showing they care about ethical and rigorous research they would reinstate Ridd immediately and finish the investigation fast. Anything less is “business as usual” at JCU. Fake science.

The Lonnstedt investigation hasn’t been done yet. But if she cares about the reef, and JCU cares about science, she needs to explain herself, asap.

PS: I do hope people write to the politicians. As always, please be polite, no matter how angry and frustrated you may be. Please copy letters into comments as it may help others.

hat tip to John of Cloverdale, Scarper, Barry Woods, Steve Hyland and Pat.

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Man-made US bushfires caused by PG&E, being sued for $30b: may take down some renewables too

Everyone “knows” fires are caused by climate change, but how many Australians know that when it comes to the huge Californian fires of October 2017 as many as 750 civil suits have been filed against  Pacific Gas & Electric  (PG&E),the 150 year old utility in California? The fire bill is running at around $30 billion dollars. PG&E are facing financial ruin, calling in a Chapter 11, and going broke.

That’s bad news for people filing the claims, but it is also bad news for renewable energy.PG&E are a major holder of some $35 billion dollars in long term green energy contracts many of which are at above market rates. PG&E may not have to pay out those high prices which means the Green industry will be hurt too.

What goes around comes around. Bad science begets bad business. The Green Industry could have cared enough about the environment to speak out about reducing fire risks through managing fuel loads, and the fires would have been less damaging. Instead they were busy putting up windfarms to stop bushfires instead.

Meanwhile their friends are still doing their best to increase fuel loads in order to reduce CO2 (and stop bushfires).

PG&E Bankruptcy Threatens California Wildfire Suits, Green-Power Contracts

California fire investigators have determined that PG&E power lines sparked 18 wildfires in October 2017 that burned nearly 200,000 acres, destroyed 3,256 structures and killed 22 people.

California’s largest utility said Monday it was preparing to file for Chapter 11 protection before the end of the month as it faces more than $30 billion in potential liability costs related to its role in sparking wildfires in recent years. Electricity and natural gas would continue to flow to homes and businesses, PG&E said.

PG&E Corp.’s plan to file for bankruptcy protection has enormous repercussions for everyone from the homeowners suing the utility for California wildfire damages to the companies that furnish it with green energy. — WSJ

If only green energy was actually competitive, they could have just renegotiated with some other buyer.

Keep reading  →

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Midweek Unthreaded

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