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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Intolerant, closeted, media sell hate and silence: can’t figure why electorate is so divided

Who are Trump’s loyal army asks Michael Goldfarb of the BBC

America is so divided in 2016 that one half of the electorate can barely understand the other. Comprehending the Donald Trump phenomenon has become the dominant theme of US election coverage…

Dear BBC et al, half the electorate is mocked, reviled, and otherwise ignored. No wonder the other half are clueless…  The divided electorates throughout the West don’t understand each other because there is no national conversation to understand. When was the last time the BBC (or ABC) employed a show host that was a skeptic, Brexit-fan, or UKIP voter?  Count the years. How about a whole panel? A series? A doco? When was the last government grant awarded to someone to explain the dangers of big-creeping-government?

It’s practically BBC official policy not to even interview people who disagree with certain views, even if that includes 62% of the British public. This is a good way to divide the electorate and create ignorance and misunderstanding, yes? It’s not that the skeptical half can’t get half the evening news, they can’t even get a 10 second, heavily edited sentence in. Greenpeace, on the other hand, get invited to [...]

How to make climate graphs look scary — a reply to XKCD

This week XKCD (a popular Geek comic site) posted an epic cartoon called “A Timeline Of Earth’s Average Temperature”. It was a cutesy long godzilla hockey-stick — “scary” to the unwary.

It’s easy to make a scary historical-looking temperature graph — so easy that the artist probably didn’t even know how. (Thank Shakun, Marcott, Annan, Hadcrut and the IPCC for doing the tricky part.) First,  guesstimate temperatures over last 20,000 years with anything at hand: tree-rings, ice bubbles, coral, fossilized tea leaves, whatever. Blend. Then stop the proxies, tack on thermometer data that was recorded in a different way with different errors and a very different response to faster temperature changes. Finally, launch that line into the future with unvalidated, skillless multivariate models that predict a fingerprint which 28 million weather balloons can’t find. Then take the models that didn’t work for the last twenty years, and run with the errors to the next century… Voila!

I took the 14,000 pixel cartoon and squeezed it to one shot that shows the curve that matters. See the error bars? Me neither.

(But who needs an uncertainty range when you have faith?)

Click to enlarge.

The secret to a good hockey-stick [...]

Gavin Schmidt now admits NASA are only 38% sure 2014 was the hottest year

I said the vaguest scientists in the world lie by omission, and it’s what they don’t say that gives them away. The “hottest ever” press release didn’t tell us how much hotter the hottest year supposedly was, nor how big the error bars were. David Rose of the Daily Mail pinned down Gavin Schmidt of NASA GISS to ask a few questions that bloggers and voters want answered but almost no other journalist seems to want to ask.


Nasa climate scientists: We said 2014 was the warmest year on record… but we’re only 38% sure we were right

Nasa admits this means it is far from certain that 2014 set a record at all 

Does that mean 97% of climate experts are 62% sure they are wrong?*

The thing with half-truths is that they generate a glorious fog, but it has no substance. Ask the spin-cloud of a couple of sensible questions and the narrative collapses. This is the kind of analysis that would have stopped the rot 25 years ago if most news outlets had investigative reporters instead of science communicators trained to “raise awareness”. (The media IS the problem). If there was a [...]

Global anxiety? Scared of maths? Could that explain why some people are innumerate about the climate?

I find myself using the word innumerate more and more. Anything to do with climate change is about the numbers — how much will the planet warm? How much will it cost to change the weather? How much useful electricity do wind turbines produce? The arguments of everyone from trolls to Naomi Klein, to Sir Paul Nurse avoid the numbers. And the only time Greenpeace discuss numbers, they seem to pick the wrong kind — dollars instead of degrees. Then they miss the biggest dollars in this debate anyway (but only by a factor of 3,000). Numbers are just not their strong point.

Some people avoid the numbers strategically, — because it’s a debate they can’t win. Sir Paul Nurse hopes we don’t notice that he doesn’t even make an argument, he just declares his side “won”. He tosses a red herring about CO2 being a greenhouse gas. (Which is not what the debate is about. Perhaps he’s heard of feedbacks? He doesn’t say.) Otherwise, he declares the majority “know the cost benefits are worth it”, which is a/ a logical fallacy, b/ a lot like a car advert, and c/  completely wrong. The last UK poll I [...]

Fakegate: the smog blog exposes irrational rage, innumeracy, and heartland’s efficient success.

The Climate Change Scare Machine Chart

The believers of man-made-weather-disasters are wetting themselves with excitement. It painful to watch grown men drool.

Poor things, they were really wounded by Climategate, and they’ve been waiting, praying that some day someone would level the playing field and show that skeptics were just as petty, shameless, and money-grubbing  as their team turned out to be (not to mention hypocritical, deceptive and incompetent). In their dreams.

Instead the hyped non-denier-gate shows just how incredibly successful the Heartland Institute is. Look at the numbers. The skeptics have managed to turn the propaganda around against a tide of money, and it is really some achievement.

 Entity USD Greenpeace  $300m  2010 Annual Report WWF  $700m  ”  ($524m Euro) Pew Charitable Trust  $360m 2010 Annual Report Sierra Club  $56m 2010 Annual Report NSW climate change fund (just one random govt example)  $750m  NSW Gov (A$700m) UK university climate fund (just another random govt example) $360m UK Gov (£234 m) Heartland Institute $7m  (actually $6.4m) US government funding for climate science and technology  $7,000m  “Climate Money” 2009 US government funding for “climate related appropriations” $1,300m USAID 2010 Annual turnover in global carbon markets $120,000m 2010 Point Carbon [...]

Naomi Klein’s crippling problem with numbers

Naomi Klein Photo: Mariusz Kubik

Naomi Klein was the wrong person to send to a heavy-weight science conference  — in “Capitalism vs Climate” she notices hundreds of details, but they’re all the wrong ones.

Naomi can tell you the colour of the speakers hair, what row they sat in, and the expression on their face — it adds such an authentic flavor to the words, but she’s blind to the details that count. She can explain the atmosphere of the room, but not the atmosphere of the Earth. One of these things matters, and Klein has picked the wrong one.

Her long attack on the Heartland ICCC conference this year is all color and style, and nothing of consequence — the lights are on and no brain is home.  Unpack the loquacious pencraft and we wallow in innumerate arguments that confuse cause and effect, peppered with petulant name-calling. She can throw stones, but she can’t count past “one”.

Her aversion to numbers is crippling

Consider how she reduces planetary dynamics to a Yes or No answer. She thinks each skeptical scientist contradicts the next: “Is there no warming, or is there warming but it’s not a problem? And if [...]

Survey shows skeptics are smarter

I kid you not. Chris Mooney at Desmog has got the data that shows skeptics were more literate and numerate than believers, and he wants to share it.

Last week, an intriguing study emerged from Dan Kahan and his colleagues at Yale and elsewhere–finding that knowing more about science, and being better at mathematical reasoning, was related to more climate science skepticism and denial–rather than less.

When faced with the news that smarter more mathematical people were skeptical of man-made global warming, it’s a sure bet that as a Desmogger, he would fail to reach the obvious conclusion.  Are believers gullible fools who can’t see the flaws in the reasoning? No. Skeptics are more literate and numerate about everything else, except for climate science, when they become dangerously overconfident and seek only to use their intellect to punch holes in the theory. Its not like these bright types have anything else to do is it? Of course.

This is bad, bad news for anyone who thinks that better math and science education will help us solve our problems on climate change. But it’s also something else. To me, it provides a kind of uber-explanation for climate skeptic and denier behavior [...]