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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Some Guardian myths about climate change

Ooh. Here’s a bit of a backdown. Skeptics must be getting to The Guardian. Smile.

Mocking skeptics and calling them deniers has somehow failed to win them over, so the Guardian is trying a slightly new tack. This time they pretend to be balanced, and post up a list of “Myths to explode” from both sides of the debate. But don’t bring the ear-muffs, or the ambulances — these bombs are pussy-foot puff balls. The air-drops on alarmist camps are so convoluted they manage to support The Big Fear Campaign even as they try (gently-bentley!) to reign in a few excesses of the believers — don’t mention human extinction, and do remember the world has been hotter before, right? On skeptical “myths”, nothing has changed but at least they’ve stopped the namecalling (Bravo!). But it’s hard for author  Hannah Devlin — she even serves up a new myth to try to squash an old one. The rate of global warming is apparently “unprecedented”, as in one-degree-in-a-century has never ever happened before, not once. How likely is that we could know the rate of global temperature swings to a tenth of a degree back in the days of dinosaurs and at continuous [...]

The 97% Cook Consensus – when will Environ Res Letters retract it?

Richard Tol has an excellent summary of the state of the 97% claim by John Cook et al, published in The Australian today.

It becomes exhausting to just list the errors.

Don’t ask how bad a paper has to be to get retracted. Ask how bad it has to be to get published.

As Tol explains, the Cook et al paper used an unrepresentative sample, can’t be replicated, and leaves out many useful papers. The study was done by biased observers who disagreed with each other a third of the time, and disagree with the authors of those papers nearly two-thirds of the time. About 75% of the papers in the study were irrelevant in the first place, with nothing to say about the subject matter. Technically, we could call them  “padding”. Cook himself has admitted data quality is low. He refused to release all his data, and even threatened legal action to hide it. (The university claimed it would breach a confidentiality agreement. But in reality, there was no agreement to breach.) As it happens, the data ended up being public anyhow. Tol refers to an “alleged hacker” but, my understanding is that no hack took place, and the [...]

Study namecalling at Queensland University

UPDATE: See Tony Thomas’s views on the course as it runs: UQ’s Denial 101x : Putting the stink in distinction. The course is living up to all expectations!

Would you too like to learn how to misinform people, mangle English, and toss cherry-picked factoids that avoid the real point? How about studying to be an apologist for scientists who take your taxes, but hide their data? Or perhaps you’ve always dreamed of being an obedient useful fool for the State, to help promote propaganda that governments can change the weather if the people just pay enough money?

Are you looking for a cause to pick up that you can brag about at parties to prove your social superiority, impress teenage girls, or hide your low self-esteem? Do you crave an outlet where you get the thrill of being a namecalling bully, but with the excuse that you are “saving the planet” and “being scientific”?

Good news, Queensland University is dumping any pretense that its science faculty uses logic or reason or has an interest in observable evidence. The university is advertising that abusing English definitions and words meets its standards of higher education. After all, no one [...]

Farmers and Ag advisors not convinced by climatologists

Just another survey that takes useful results, interprets with false assumptions, and produces mostly meaningless conclusions. Vale academia.

Farmers are a skeptical bunch, who watch the weather very closely– only 8% buy the whole article-of-faith that man-made climate is the dominant factor, compared to 50 – 66% of climate scientists.

Prokopy et al start from the unspoken assumption that climate scientists know what they are talking about (even though their models are abjectly failing) and try to figure out why farmers aren’t worried about climate change. At no point do they question that inbuilt paradigm and ask the opposite question — are climate scientists failing to convince farmers because the climate scientists are doing bad work? So they miss the obvious recommendation that climate scientists need to figure out the climate before they start the communications cycle. It’s a lesson in how important it is for all scientists to define their terms and state all their assumptions.

When Prokopyu et al manage to come up with a useful suggestion it’s largely by accident. They recommend two-way dialogues between stakeholders and climate scientists (what a wild idea). Can I suggest that climate scientists start by using English, instead of namecalling [...]

Fact Checking the ABC — the Big-Myth about the “World’s Scientists”

The ABC bias is now so obvious, everyone with an open mind and an Internet connection knows that the ABC report the parts that suit, and hide the rest. They even edit the words of skeptics to produce sentences that were never actually spoken. But what I saw last night was a flagrantly wrong statement, counter to the truth, reported as if it were so above question it did not even need explanation, qualification or substantiation. It’s time to squeeze the ABC for accuracy.

One of the Big-Myths in this debate is that the opinions of “climate scientists” equals the opinion of “scientists in general”. All over Australia last night hundreds of thousands of Australians heard this statement as narration in the main news bulletin:

“World’s scientists reckon the climates never felt anything like them in close to a million years…”  – 4:40mins ABC News report Nov 3, 2014

Ignoring the point that the sentence is grammatically incoherent, it is misleading and demonstrably false. The “World’s Scientists” don’t reckon anything, they have never been surveyed, have not voted for a spokesperson, and inasmuch as anyone could estimate the “world’s scientists” opinions,  actual surveys show that skeptics would outnumber and outrank [...]

Cook scores 97% for incompetence on a meaningless consensus

John Cook’s 97% consensus paper was never going to tell us anything about climate science, so it does seem somewhat pointless to analyze the entrails. It was always a marketing ploy. If it had been done well it might have been useful as a proxy for government funding in science. But it wasn’t, so all we’re left with is some insight about the state of academic competence.

Finding a consensus should have been easy. After all,  billions of dollars of funding has gone to find some evidence (any evidence) that CO2 causes a crisis, and entire research departments have been set up to produce papers to discuss that. And if they didn’t find evidence (they didn’t), they could still write papers discussing the bias of instruments, the error bars, the adjustments, and so on and so forth. What are the chances that hordes of scientists would not find anything to publish? We also know that while believers were being employed left, far-left, and center, quite a few skeptics were sacked. Sometimes skeptical papers got delayed by up to two years, while there was usually a rapid-print option for believers. Once, a whole journal was even shut down for publishing skeptical papers [...]

Climate science hopelessly politicized. Geological Society of Australia gives up on making any statement

So much for the consensus.  In 2012 The Geological Society of Australia (GSA) was one of the few associations to make a slightly skeptical position on climate. For poking their heads above the parapet they’ve had years of headache and debate, and finally have issued a statement saying they have given up entirely on putting out any statement. The debate is so furious and divisive that no position could be agreed on. (I wonder exactly how many of their members are fans of climate models? Was this the work of just a few zealous believers?) I think I’ve hardly ever met a geologist who wasn’t somewhat skeptical.

The back story is that, like most science associations, in 2009 the GSA chanted the litany. (Their 2009 statement is here). They wrote that governments should take strong action to reduce CO2 and that meant paying geologists more to do research and sit on plum advisory committees. How predictable…

1. That strong action be taken at all levels, including government, industry, and individuals to substantially reduce the current levels of greenhouse gas emissions and to mitigate the likely social and environmental effects of increasing atmospheric CO2.

2. That Earth Scientists with appropriate expertise [...]

Public are terminally bored with climate. Anderegg denies devastating Climategate damage

The big news from this new study is no news — the public are more bored with climate change than ever, and the trend is down. The fever peaked in 2007, and the last great spike of interest was in late 2009 when ClimateGate finished it off. Though that’s not the way Anderegg sees it.

Anderegg infamously published the blacklist of scientists in PNAS, so we know he struggles with the scientific method. Here, flawed assumptions render the conclusions a wishful fantasy. Anderegg argues that ClimateGate was not a big deal, didn’t affect opinions much, and (yawn) climate scientists need to do better communication. He’s wrong. His study misses the major damage — by assuming that the public are a uniform block his research could never uncover that the real effects of ClimateGate were devastating and irreversible. The scandal changed the opinions that matter — those of the smart engaged thinkers and leaders. I noted at the time that ClimateGate had put a rocket under the layer of influential busy achievers like never before. Suddenly people who hadn’t taken much interest in the debate were fired into action by the fraud. The nodes of influence shifted – as I said [...]

There goes another consensus. Crash diets solve diabetes in 3 weeks

Sometimes the consensus deniers are right, which is exactly why the term is so pointless and so profoundly unscientific.

The medical associations were unequivocal. Crash diets were a fad, unhealthy, and only slow sensible weight loss could work. So millions of people were fed expensive drugs for decades, monitored, and some even given risky bariatric surgery. Patients with Type II diabetes were expected to be treated for years, or possibly the rest of their lives. Nearly a tenth of the national health budget of the UK was spent managing diabetes. Fully 8% of the population have the condition in the US.

Now a new (albeit very very small) study cured diabetes in some cases in as little as a week with a diet that was thought to be bad.

In the trial the very low calorie diet was done for 8 weeks. Sticking to 600 calories a day is not easy (some reports say it was 800 cals). It’s about a quarter of what a normal guy would eat. But it shrinks fat in the pancreas and liver, and that seemingly returns insulin levels to normal. The really amazing thing is that the benefits turn out to stay around far [...]

Consensus on human knee ligaments was wrong – new ligament found

How much don’t we know? This week doctors announce that yes, really, there is a whole ligament in the human knee that we didn’t know about, and it’s not a small one tucked away but a mid-size one and “hidden” on the outside of the knee. They’ve named it the anterolateral ligament (ALL), and it does matter if it fails, people’s knees collapse suddenly. “Only” 97% of people have one. But how is this, it was first postulated by a surgeon in 1879, and took 134 years to find. For much of that time you might have been told there was a consensus on knee anatomy, and because thousands of doctors have done knee surgery and knee replacements are now de rigeur, you might have thought the science was settled.

Sorry about the graphic photo, but when I saw that headline, I thought this would be a tiny artifact. You need to see it to appreciate just how remarkable it is that this has been missed for so long. UPDATE: It’s so remarkable, I find Chrism comments below are useful #5, #8, #12, and quite possibly the ligament was known by another name, or associated with a different malady. Is [...]