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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How many things can Lord Deben get wrong?

I did a spot on the ABC Drum today. Very odd to do it from a studio where I could not see any of the panel at all, and didn’t know the etiquette of how these things work. (I know a lot more now). But I’m glad to have a chance to speak, even if it was short.

So just in case there is anyone out there thinking that Lord Deben had some good points, here’ s what I was thinking as he spoke without pausing to breathe, and here’s my reply (it would have been nice to say it on air):

Firstly, all of this presupposes that there is a reason to reduce CO2. Thousands of scientists and millions of measurements suggest not.

That aside, saying Australia is “not a special case” is to deny geography and demographics.

The UK might have the fastest growth rate in the EU but Australia’s population growth rate is two-to-three times faster than the UK.  Do those people count? Not in climate change maths. Australia’s population has grown by 38% since 1990. It’s massive and it matters.

Adding more wind power won’t help solve the [...]

Rent-seekers reveal awful truth: Abbott wanted to investigate BOM data, Hunt opposed “due diligence”

Imagine the crime of trying to audit the BOM?

Last year, Graham Lloyd wrote in The Australian about how the BOM had made whopping two degree adjustments to data which turned cooling trends to warming trends and instead of improving the data, it created discontinuities. The BOM’s eventual explanation lamely exclaimed that the stations “might” have moved. (And they might not, too. Who knows, but remember this is what 95% certainty looks like.) Lloyd wrote about how historical records of extreme heat at Bourke had effectively been thrown in the trash. Who cares about historical records?

In response to the embarrassment and revealing questions, Tony Abbott wanted an investigation.  But Greg Hunt, and The Dept of Environment opposed the investigation and opposed doing “due diligence”. What are they afraid of? Instead, Hunt helped the BOM set up a one-day-wonder investigation with hand-picked statisticians that wasted another nine months before admitting that the BOM methods would never be publicly available or able to be replicated.  If it can’t be replicated, it isn’t science.

The BOM’s defense is always that their mystery method is considered “best practice” by other agencies around the world — who share the same incentives to exaggerate warming, [...]

#TalkAboutIt: Climate change sceptics versus the scientists (correcting ABC mistakes, strawmen, and misleading lines)

#TalkAboutIt: Climate change sceptics versus the scientists, By Clara Tran and staff

Busy slaying strawmen instead of real debate?

What a facade. The ABC says its skeptics versus “the scientists” except there are no skeptics present. In typical Newspeak the ABC says “#TalkAboutIt”, but it’s a conversation with themselves. They invent “DorothyDixer” strawman questions for their own team to bravely kill.

If the ABC really wanted their listeners to discuss skeptical views, they would invite skeptics to make them — but interviews are a thing of the past (back in the days when the ABC was an institution of repute). The fake debate is the only kind that professors like Matthew England can win.

This is why the ABC fails so dismally to dint skeptical numbers in Australia. If they want to convince skeptics of their point of view then they have to deal with actual skeptical arguments, but they are too afraid to air them. Consequently they sideline themselves out of the national debate, relegated to the propaganda wars.

Correcting the ABC:

Skeptical Scientists versus The Unskeptical

The ABC offers arguments allegedly made by climate skeptics, all of them minor and of little consequence (short version first, more [...]

Climate change causes more tsunamis — The ABC will believe anything

Too much panic is never enough. Fran Kelly asks Stephen O’Brien, lawyer and UN official, about that the effects of climate change which are “already being felt”. She does not blink when his answer includes more frequent and more severe tsunamis. His qualifier…  It’s not a question of “if”, but “when”.

Yes, yes, this is “best and brightest” ideas from around the world, apparently.

 ABC Radio National

Fran Kelly: “Give us a sense of the effects [of climate change] which are already being felt in our region and discussed at this conference.” (at 1 minute)

Stephen O’Brien: “The Pacific Region, and particularly the Pacific Island countries whose land, as you rightly say, are the ones just above sea-level, are the ones that really do have the greatest challenge when it comes to climate change effects on humanitarian need, with the regularity of cyclones, tropical storms, and tsunamis coming through [at 1.30 minutes]. It’s not a question of if, it’s a question of when. And we see that [these] effects of climate change seem to be exacerbated so that they are more frequent and even at times more severe…”

ABC gives free advertising for “the cause”

ABC staff [...]

Maurice Newman, you are not allowed to say words like “order” “world” and “new”

Never talk about a new world order.

We’re on flak-watch tonight, and pop-guns are going off at the ABC. Jeff Sparrow is firing at Maurice Newman,  feeling very superior, and doing namecalling, namecalling, all the way down. Get ready for the Sparrow-personality-test based on tenuous speculative associations with random three-word-phrases. This is the best of ABC-big-gov-lovin’  intelligensia.

The fireworks over Maurice Newman’s opinion on how the UN are using climate for their own powerhungry agenda continues. He not only spoke of “world government” he used the words “order”, “new”, and “world”. You and I thought these were simple words in the Oxford Dictionary, but lo, dumb punters, there is a special secret meaning Jeff Sparrow can reveal. Anyone who uses these words in the correct order is probably also a conspiracy theorist, paranoiac, gun nut, religious fanatic, and survivalist. All that psychoanalysis, and in just three words.

Maurice Newman raised a valid topic, but Sparrow ignores the issue, drops a smoke-bomb to distract loaded with namecalling. As mindless as it is, the ABC editors lapped it up. This is the way the big important issues of national importance get treated at the ABC. What is a geopolitical issue of [...]

Big-government propaganda: ABC, BBC are “Aggressive political participants”. Sell or Split?

What to do with the public broadcasters? ABC BBC CBC (Can anyone explain public media in NZ?)

Big-government fans forcibly take funds from all citizens to support big-government propaganda by journalists who predominantly vote left or very-left (see here or here). The question is not whether or not they should do this but whether to privatize the public broadcasters, or to split them in two. I say, let’s forget the submissive plea to get one conservative commentator among a monoculture of “progressives”.  Chop the current one in half and call it what it is: pro big-government. Then set up a new counter half to match — the pro-small-government broadcaster with the same funds but new staff. (Game on — let the best team win that ratings war.) Abbott could keep ABC funding promises. ABC-L plus ABC-R equals current ABC-LL+ funding.

Obviously, true free-market libertarians want public broadcasters 100% sold — their incentives are always going to run counter to unbiased reporting and the hunt for the truth. On the other hand, among the populace, the ground is not remotely laid for a big-sell. Many voters remain blind to the bias, and have no idea how filtered the half-truths are: [...]

More Australians switched off ABC politically correct propaganda in 2014

People are bored of the sermons, the half-truths, and carefully filtered messages. Who wants to be told what to think?

The ABC lost nearly 4% of its audience last year. Australians are tuning out the $1.1 billion ABC public broadcaster, and it has nothing to do with the small 5% efficiency cuts. The fall in popularity occured before the cuts. The three commercial TV channels in Australia all did much better at maintaining their popularity — despite suffering larger cuts to their budgets.

The ABC share is down to 10.08 per cent of 16 – 54 year olds. Nearly 90% of working age Australians are paying for the ABC but not watching much.  The losses in the over-55 age group, traditionally the ABC stronghold, were almost as large as the younger groups.

Is the ABC biased towards Green politics?

Christine Milne leader of  The Greens, at a rally outside Parliament House. Photo: Daily Telegraph.

“Only” 40% of ABC journalists vote Green.

The Australian, last week: Older viewers abandon the ABC

THE ABC was the worst performing television broadcaster last year, losing 3.95 per cent of group audience across all the channels before the government announced budget [...]

BOM admits they got it wrong on “worst Queensland drought”

How much does the BOM care about misleading Australians? Not much apparently, unless they are caught doing it. Everyone makes mistakes, but what matters is what they do to correct it.

The BOM claimed (and the ABC broadcast) that this Queensland drought is the worst in 80 years, but Ken Stewart showed with their own graphs that it was only the worst for 9 years.  Stewart politely informed both groups  two weeks ago. The ABC excused themselves immediately because they always believe the BOM no matter what it says and never ask any hard questions (it’s not like they are paid to make sure Australians get the right information is it? what do you expect for $1bn?). The BOM took five days to fob the error off even though the “mistake” was obvious against the BOM’s own graphs.

But yesterday Maurice Newman mentioned the mythical 80 year drought in The Australian, lo, suddenly the BOM feel the urge to send another email to Ken and the ABC.

Dear Ken, Further to our correspondence we can confirm that media statements made to the ABC by a Bureau employee on 6 January 2014 did not accurately reflect the relative severity [...]

ABC got it wrong, BOM not concerned with Australian public being misinformed

In a followup to the post If the BOM was incompetent, the ABC would be the last to find out, Ken Stewart has a reply from the BOM.

The news story run by the ABC said the current Queensland drought was the worst in 80 years. When Ken pointed out that the BOM’s own graphs showed that the drought in 2003 was even worse, and the conditions were not that unusual, the ABC effectively said they were parroting BOM statements which, ahem, is all any public broadcaster could be expected to do, right? It’s not like we pay the 1.1 billion-dollar-ABC to ask our bureaucrats hard questions, is it?

Ken wrote to the BOM, who have now replied, and he’s posted it: “How not to admit a mistake”. The BOM blandly point him at their official drought statement which contradicts what their spokesman said:

The current drought in Queensland is comparable to the 2002–2003 drought, which was perhaps more severe in terms of rainfall deficiencies that occurred at times over a very large area. Historical data shows that the current drought is perhaps a one in ten or twenty year event over a significant part of inland eastern Australia [...]

If the BOM was incompetent, the ABC would be the last to find out

According to the ABC  the Bureau of Met tells us that Queensland has experienced “the worst drought in 80 years” and that “37.3% of the state was covered by the lowest rainfall on record”. (Watch it on iview if you can bear to).

These exacting facts are easy to check, and Ken Stewart did, but the 1.1-billion-dollar ABC did not.

Ken used the BOM’s own websites (Climate Maps and Climate Change and Variability) and shows that the current drought is the worst in 9 years, not 80, and even if it is very bad (heartbreaking for some) it’s not unusual.

Current low rain is not unusual.

The current drought is bad (see red blobs in Queensland):

NW Queensland has missed two wet seasons in a row

The Federation Drought, circa 1900, was much much worse:

(Federation Drought graphed only 1900 – 1902)

Ken wrote to the ABC, and Genevieve Hussey replied immediately — effectively saying the ABC repeat all BOM claims, no matter how hyperbolic, extraordinary, or repetitive they sound.

The information in our report was based on an interview with climatologist Mr Jeff Sabburg from the Bureau of Meteorology. He was also interviewed by [...]