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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Obama spends $8m to research climate change *indoors*

How will that 1mm sea level rise affect your office?


Apparently, no one can escape the dangers of climate change. Even when you are indoors, safe from the “extreme weather events” and flooding that we are told are the result of increases in the Earth’s temperature.

The Obama Administration has awarded $8 Million in government grants to nine universities to study the impact that climate change has on indoor air quality. The EPA defends the move by claiming that climate change’s effects on indoor air pollutants that lead to asthma, as well as mold and mildew, aren’t well understood. However, as with everything negative that occurs in the world, the Obama Administration is assuming that global warming probably has something to do with it.

Not only is the climate impact on asthma not well understood, asthma isn’t understood either. So lets ask a climate model that doesn’t work to figure out future rates of a condition we don’t know the exact cause of during imaginary weather that probably won’t happen.

Really the main effect of anthropogenic climate change is not on our lungs, it’s on our wallets.

I predict man-made-climate-change means the weather will stay the [...]

Humans live from -50C to +40C, but two more degrees will kill us. Panic now.

Humans can adapt to live in locations where the monthly average is over 40°C, and as low as -50°C. That’s a 90°C range. The world has warmed by 0.9°C in 100 years (or less, depending on adjustments). This warming was so dangerous that global population only expanded from 1.7 to 7 billion.

Now, if the IPCC are right, we might heat up by another half a degree by 2100 — shifting those extremes from -49°C up to 41°C.

Prof. Andy Pitman, one of Australia’s leading climate scientists, responds to this risk with all the usual careful analysis we’ve come to expect from mainstream climate experts. Here’s another “children won’t know what snow is” type of Global Panic quote:

“I expect by 2050 … people just don’t go outside,”

– Professor Andy Pitman, director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science at UNSW.

So that’s the end of golf, surfing, and picnics then. Somewhat confusingly, he also said (in the same interview) that we won’t necessarily notice that extra warmth: “… because humans acclimatise to heat quite quickly”. This is what 95% certainty looks like in 2015, ladies and gentlemen — abject panic and [...]

Lost knowledge — 10th Century cure for MRSA “Superbug”

If the “leech” doctors circa 1000AD were able to treat superbugs that modern doctors struggle with, I wonder what other knowledge has come and gone and had to be rediscovered?

How many lives have been lost because information was not there when they needed it?

Image: © The British Library Board (Royal 12 D xvii)

Judith Curry posted a link this week to a story about a medieval recipe for an “eyesalve” that rather surprised researchers when it worked against the ghastly MRSA superbug, which is resistant to almost all modern antibiotics.

The book is one of the earliest known medical texts, called Bald’s Leechbook. The recipe called for garlic, onion, wine, and bile from a cow. It was very specific — the mix had to be brewed in brass and then left for nine days. The researchers at the University of Nottingham followed it closely, then it was tested in the lab. Will it work on people, and what are the side-effects?


Chocolate is the fountain of youth, eat blocks, live long, be slim

We have found the holy grail and it is chocolate. Lo, “Eating 100 g of chocolate daily linked to lowered heart disease and stroke risk”. One hundred grams a day! That’s about a quarter of the average adult woman’s total daily calorie intake. (About one sixth for a man).

So much for the 99% certain consensus that chocolate was junk food.


Eating up to 100 g of chocolate every day is linked to lowered heart disease and stroke risk. The calculations showed that compared with those who ate no chocolate higher intake was linked to an 11% lower risk of cardiovascular disease and a 25% lower risk of associated death.

They base their findings on almost 21,000 adults taking part in the EPIC-Norfolk study…

Around one in five (20%) participants said they did not eat any chocolate, but among the others, daily consumption averaged 7 g, with some eating up to 100 g.

Chocolate was associated with younger age… (we want some of that, right?)

Higher levels of consumption were associated with younger age and lower weight (BMI), waist: hip ratio, systolic blood pressure, inflammatory proteins, diabetes and more regular [...]

Does global warming make your baby smaller? 800 years from now babies may weigh 17g less!

A new study uses a  ‘high resolution air temperature estimation model’ to figure out (guess) the daily air temperature pregnant women in Massachusetts might have been exposed to during their pregnancy. A whopping increase of 8.5C in the last three months was associated with a 17 gram drop in birth weight. Given that global temperatures have risen by about 1 C in the last 100 years, at the current rate, that amount of warming will arrive in 850 years. Then if this correlation has any causal role, the average 3kg baby will weigh about 0.5% less. Scared yet?

Since the researchers are talking about outdoor temperatures, I’m guessing this study will especially concern pregnant women who will be homeless, or without electricity in the year 2850. Obviously the solution is cheap coal powered air conditioners


. Why risk it?*

The Daily Mail  h/t Colin

Is climate change affecting birth weights? Exposure to warmer weather during pregnancy leads to smaller babies, study claims Researchers uncovered a link between air temperature and birth weight Found exposure to high air temperature during pregnancy increases the risk of lower birth weight and can cause premature birth An increase of 8.5 °C (47.3°F) in the last [...]

Study on 74 million deaths: Cold weather kills 20 times more than heat does.

Of seventy four million deaths (that is quite some study) 7.7% of all deaths could be blamed on “non-optimal” temperatures according to Gasparrini et al in the Lancet. But look closely, and 7.3% of deaths were due to the cold and only 0.4% were due to the heat.

This may be part of the reason people retire to Florida, and not so much to Barrow, Alaska.

The biggest killers were not the heat waves that score the headlines, but the moderate cold. Winter kills. (Time to ban winter?)

Cold weather kills far more people than hot weather

Cold weather kills 20 times as many people as hot weather, according to an international study analyzing over 74 million deaths in 384 locations across 13 countries. The findings, published in The Lancet, also reveal that deaths due to moderately hot or cold weather substantially exceed those resulting from extreme heat waves or cold spells.

“It’s often assumed that extreme weather causes the majority of deaths, with most previous research focusing on the effects of extreme heat waves,” says lead author Dr Antonio Gasparrini from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine in the UK. “Our findings, from [...]

Hypothesis contradicted? Fatter people get *less* dementia

Researchers were sure fatter people would get more dementia, so they studied two million middle-aged people for nearly a decade but were “baffled to find the exact opposite. Their sample included 45,000 cases of dementia and the obese were 30 per cent less likely to be diagnosed with it.

This contradicts previous studies and was not at all what the researchers expected, so they analyzed the data every which way they could think of but can’t explain the results. Need I say “experts” and “consensuses”?

Scientists at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine said they were baffled by the results as previous studies have shown that being overweight raises the risk. –Telegraph

Risk factors such as alcohol and smoking made little difference to the results, published in The Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology.  — Mirror

Dr Qizilbash said the findings held despite attempts to adjust for other causes of dementia and the tendency of obese people to die earlier. “We did a lot of analysis to see if we could explain it but just seems to persist. We couldn’t get rid of it so we’re left with this apparent protective effect,” he said. [...]

Up to 4 million die from indoor air pollution annually (they need cheap coal-fired electricity!)

People who have no cheap electricity burn wood or coal inside their homes to make dinner and stay warm. The smoke produces real pollution (as opposed to the fake kind which feeds plants). In India, some homes have pollution levels “three times higher than a typical London street”. Not surprisingly, living in smoke does not work out well for lungs and hearts. “Estimates suggest that household air pollution killed 3·5 to 4 million people in 2010. “

We can argue about the numbers and whether they are exaggerated, but there’s no doubt that millions of people would lead better lives if they had access to cheap electricity, which in practical terms means coal-fired power. In Niger, Africa, 17 million people use less electricity than Dubbo, NSW, a town of 40,000.

Where are the Greens? Children in poverty are suffering from lung damage now. The Greens priority is to spend billions to stop them dying in 2100 from seas rising at 1mm a year. How many people does expensive electricity kill? — Jo


Household air pollution puts more than one in three people worldwide at risk of ill health, early death [...]

Global warming saves lives in Stockholm — but bad assumptions feed scary headlines

Here’s a tale of how to generate headlines from circular reasoning built on brave assumptions. All it requires are some unskeptical science journal editors and gullible journalists. Et Voila!

Congratulations to Chip Knappenberger, Pat Michaels, and Anthony Watts, whose response to Åström et al was published Wednesday.

In October 2013 Åström et al claimed that global warming had killed lots of people in Stockholm, hundreds. But the first thing you need to know is that they don’t appear to start with actual mortality data in the early 1900′s. Surprised? Me too. Anthony Watts found it hard to believe . The other thing worth knowing is that extreme heat was defined as the top 2% of hot days, and in Stockholm that mean everything above a terrifying 2-day-moving-average mean temperature of 19.6C (67 F).

From the methods:

We collected daily mortality during the period 1980-2009 and daily temperature data for the period 1900-2009 for Stockholm County, Sweden.

Åström 2013:  Figure 2 j Temperature distribution of 2-day moving average of mean temperatures during summer months. Grey distribution, 1900–1929; black distribution, 1980–2009.

It appears the authors compared calculated death rates (using a model) from 1900-1929 with rates from 1980-2009 and concluded that [...]

Australia managed the mining boom so well we can’t afford cancer treatments

Our award-winning treasurer is forcing the nation to spend $8.9 billion on wind-turbines, to generate electricity which will be3- 4 times more expensive than coal powered electricity, probably won’t reduce CO2 at all, and which definitely won’t change the weather. Victoria’s windfarms have saved virtually no coal from being burnt. South Australian windfarms have saved 4% of their rated capacity in fossil fuels at a cost of $1,484 per ton.

MORE than $8.9 billion will be spent importing wind turbines because of the blowout in the Gillard government’s renewable energy target, providing few if any benefits to local industry, one of the nation’s biggest electricity generators warns.

The Australian can also reveal that a new Frontier Economics analysis commissioned by Macquarie Generation has found that the renewable energy target could slash the value of coal-fired power stations by between $11.3bn and $17.3bn – potentially having a greater impact than the carbon tax, which includes industry compensation.

In a new submission to the Climate Change Authority, Macquarie Generation said that 2500 wind turbines – costing $12.7bn – will be needed to comply with a scheme that is set to blow out the amount of renewable energy in the system to [...]