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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A rare sighting of endangered scientific graph in newsprint

We skeptics get excited about unusual things. The Australian published Michael Asten today in the Op-Ed pages, and took the extremely rare step of publishing a scientific graph (!) with a few error bars and everything. Newspapers publish economic graphs all the time, so it’s nice to see the scientific debate getting a bit more sophisticated than just the usual “deniers are evil, government climate scientists speak the word of God” type of stuff. (In the Enlightenment, data was a greater source of authority than any human; how we pine for those days.) The only thing the story should have added was a note that reminds us that the not only was the “hottest” record not beyond the error bars but that it did not occur in satellite measurements. I’m sure a lot of people mistakenly think that NASA might use satellites, but they prefer highly adjusted ground thermometers next to airport tarmac instead.

The headline on that graph could have been “Climate scientists don’t know what caused most of the big moves on this graph”. Some mystery effect caused the warming from 1910-1940. In ClimateScienceTM it is OK to call that “natural variability” and pretend to be 95% sure [...]

Michael Asten’s novel idea – think first, spend later?

It’s amazing what sensible things turn up in the holiday period. The Australian not only published Maurice Newman skeptical discussion: “climate madness, dishonesty and fraud”, but two days later they published a scientist talking about natural cycles. The scandal! He’s introduced a new term into the debate:  …”residual” anthropogenic driven climate change. Instead of CAGW*, we have RAGW. It’s a term that I could grow to like.

Michael Asten, professor of geophysics at Monash University, is suggesting the Australian government’s “Direct Action Scheme” ought to start with science. (How radical.) Before we spend $5 billion we ought to spend a small part of that on looking at whether we need to spend the rest of it. It’s a starkly obvious point, but almost never said. More than anything,  both the environment and the people of Australia need some action, and it starts with reviewing the research. Where is the cost benefit study on climate action?

Bring science to climate policy

The Australian

THE Senate inquiry probing the direct action scheme to reduce CO2 emissions provides opportunity for a review not only of the Coalition’s scheme but its underlying justification. Just as the National Broadband Network has been subjected to rigorous review [...]