A science presenter, writer, speaker & former TV host; author of The Skeptic's Handbook (over 200,000 copies distributed & available in 15 languages).

The Skeptics Handbook

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The Skeptics Handbook II

Climate Money Paper


Australian Environment Conference Oct 20 2012



The nerds have the numbers on precious metals investments on the ASX

Three times as many Australians think the ABC has a pro-Labor bias

The ABC will declare that “most Australians don’t think the ABC is biased” but while half the nation thinks it’s balanced, 30% don’t know, and of the 20% who are sure there is bias, there are three times as many who think it’s pro-Labor as those who think it’s pro-Coalition. Bear in mind ABC1 only has about 10% of the Australian audience, so 90% of the nation prefers to watch something else. Did the survey ask respondents if they watch the ABC? We might find that of the 20% of the population who are familiar with ABC coverage, most think it’s biased to the left.  With some probing questions, we might also find that people of different political persuasions define bias very differently. Could it be that those more likely to vote for the Coalition tend to value free speech even if they don’t agree with the views?

On the other hand those more likely to vote Labor or Green seem to think balance means skeptics shouldn’t speak at all. Is their idea of bias just “if the ABC allows skeptics to comment”. The Centre for Independent Journalism had a whole forum devoted to asking whether “balance” meant they still [...]

The Age does award winning PR — oops was that meant to be science?

RE: “Sceptic: one inclined to doubt accepted opinions” by Michael Bachelard, The Sunday Age

———————————– For free, and just because I’m a nice person, I’m going to help Michael Bachelard with his science articles.

He’s a Walkley Award winner writing for the two largest “broadsheet” circulation papers in Australia. He knows indigenous issues, politics and industrial relations, so “climate science” was the … er, obvious next step, right?

The Age (and by default, it’s sister The Sydney Morning Herald) decided to pretend to investigate the most burning climate questions the public could offer. But their investigations apparently amounted to phoning up government agents and fans of the policy, and asking them what to write.


It’s titled: Sceptic: one inclined to doubt accepted opinions, but it could have been titled Journalist: one inclined to parrot groupthink

Poor Bachelard is out of his depth in the science trying to answer Stephen Harper and Harry Hostan’s questions. For an investigative journalist he had odd ideas about how to get answers, almost never contacting the people or groups he wrote about directly. Who knows, maybe the servers at Fairfax don’t allow emails out to non-lefties at the moment, because he doesn’t seem to [...]

A journalist who confuses journalism with propaganda

Great news: This commentary appears in The Weekend Australian today (in a slightly different edited version). Below was what I submitted, before the edits, with the links intact. Comments are open at The Australian. I’ll be posting less often over the Southern Summer, possibly quite irregularly, so if you want to get an email from me and find out when the more important posts go up, please add your email to my list (top right, see “register”).

In the print edition the headline is “Journalists who think Newspapers should lead the country”*

David McKnight’s criticism of The Australian (Sceptical writers skipped inconvenient truths) makes a good case study of the intellectual collapse of Australian universities.

Here’s a UNSW “Senior Research Fellow” in journalism who contradicts himself, fails by his own reasoning, does little research, breaks at least three laws of logic, and rests his entire argument on an assumption that he provides no evidence for. Most disturbingly — like a crack through the façade of Western intellectual vigour — he actually asserts that the role of a national newspaper is to “give leadership”. Bask for a moment in the inanity of this declaration that newspapers “are our leaders”. Last [...]

How the BBC became a propaganda arm of the UK government (and WWF)

Andrew Montford (Bishop Hill) and Tony Newbery (Harmless Sky) have put in a submission to the review of the BBC’s impartiality on science. It’s the anatomy of how government and activist groups take over an arm of a public broadcaster. There is no sneaking in the back door here.

The main problem facing government and policymakers was convincing the public that concern about anthropogenic global warming was well founded, and not just another scare story that would soon be forgotten. The Climate Change Communications Working Group (DEFRA, EST, UKCIP, Env. Agency, DTI, Carbon Trust) was set up, and in February 2005 received a Short List of Recommendations from Futerra, an environmental PR consultancy, on the means of conveying the required message to the media and the public . In August 2006, the IPPR produced a thirty-page report entitled Warm Words: How are we telling the climate story and can we tell it better? which developed Futerra’s recommendations. This concluded that:

Many of the existing approaches to climate change communications clearly  seem unproductive. And it is not enough simply to produce yet more messages, based on rational argument and top-down persuasion, aimed at convincing people of the reality of [...]

Soul searching enviro-journalists admit they look duped and should have talked to sceptics

There is much introspection going on among environmental journalists. Last week, in a remarkably candid piece, Margot O’Neill of the ABC revealed for the first time what the flummoxed and frustrated would-be journalists are  discussing behind the scenes.

The admissions are extraordinary. Despite the fact that hardly any of the journalists wrote about Climategate, for many the emails from East Anglia were not just important, but a defining moment (though not, apparently, because it dented their faith in the global warming dogma). Instead, it was the effect Climategate had on editors and others in the office: people who had previously thought climate science was scientific, and environmental journalists were journalists. Suddenly, others realized they had been cheated of the real news, sideswiped by a development none of the supposedly “investigative” reporters saw coming.

Now for the first time, we find out that the formerly respected writers got looks of betrayal.

Probably the most important reaction to the UEA hacking for journalists was in their own newsrooms, among their own editors who are the gatekeepers controlling if your work appears and how prominently. While some UK surveys show no dramatic loss of credibility for climate scientists with the public, here’s how [...]

What the heck are science journalists for?

From The Skeptics Handbook II

Last week a science journalist at The Guardian wrote the best summary I have ever seen of the state of the profession known as “science communication”. Only, he thought it was a spoof. Well, it is — and it’s satirically funny at the same time as being an unwittingly cutting commentary. (We laugh at the formulaic approach because we know it’s so true, and then we bang our heads on the wall…).

Science journalists who churn out mindless ritual productions are effectively being PR and marketing writers. Dangerously, though, they are dressed as “investigative” journalists. The public assumes they are checking that their stories don’t break laws of logic and reason, that they are supported by evidence, and that they are providing the whole story. Their PR is the most powerful advertising there is, it’s not just free, it’s a third party endorsement.

Ironically, the same journalists probably don’t realize how important they are. They think they’re there for a fluffy feelgood reasons: to help promote science, raise public awareness, and attract school leavers into careers in science. They don’t realize that their most important role is to protect science itself and be guardians [...]

Green-socialist-autocrats generate bluster, media copies it

I realize non-Australian readers are only so interested in the mining tax debate down-under, but the techniques for an unfair fight are the same everywhere. Instead of answering green-socialist-autocrats on their own ground, we need to raise the debate and expose the way they add confounding fog.

There are rhetorical tricks that friends-of-Big-Government use to promote their own political aims. They reframe debates entirely, and are expert at pouring confusion. Watch how these coalition of Green-Unionified groups appoint themselves as speakers for the people, then ignore the people, they create a false conflict, and turn groups of productive entrepreneurs and hard working employees  into an inanimate entity (the enemy). Read between the lines, the voters are turning away from the option these advocates prefer, therefore the public are easily misled (code for not-too-bright, you know, easily fooled by adverts from billionaires).

“Fairness” is apparently what the anointed decide it is, not what voters actually vote for. These groups believe in a fake democracy. The will of the people only counts if it’s also the will of the anointed.

SMH: Tax debate must return to average Aussie.

Which comes from AAP, which took most of it and rephrased bits [...]

The great collapse of the global warming myth

Photo adapted from Ron Neibrugge’s beautifully crisp original at Wild Nature Images

This is it: The dam wall is breached.

There are defining moments in any era, and we are right now in the midst of the Great Collapse.

Jan 30, 2010: the hottest hoax

Open Magazine's "Hottest Hoax in the World" Cover Issue

The weekend before last, a magazine cover called it Fraud.  This could have been New Scientist, Scientific American, Discover, or any of the other popular science magazines, but it wasn’t.  They were all scooped by an Indian publication, Open Magazine, that had only been running for a year.

The climate change fraud that is now unraveling is unprecedented in its deceit, unmatched in scope—and for the liberal elite, akin to 9 on the Richter scale.  Never have so few fooled so many for so long, ever.

The entire world was being asked to change the way it lives on the basis of pure hyperbole. Propriety, probity and transparency were routinely sacrificed.

Feb 2, 2010: the Australian abandons the IPCC and the ETS [...]

Media ownership and the Rupert Murdoch tipping point?

Rupert Murdoch, 2009

Three years ago Rupert Murdoch was promising to make News Corporation carbon neutral. He implored his staff to personally reduce their footprint, and to be more creative in convincing the world to act too. He created websites specifically to help spread the message about the need to reduce carbon emissions. And he even bought a hybrid car for himself.

Today Quadrant magazine reports what many of us have been speculating behind the scenes: Murdoch has realized the IPCC and the “consensus” are fake.

The Australian has performed best in giving space to sceptics and dissenters but has stuck to the save the planet line in its editorials, some say because Murdoch said so publicly. Yet in a personal communication with Murdoch he indicated his scepticism to me. Last Friday’s editorial moved in the right direction when it called on politicians to question the science used by the IPCC but it has yet to endorse the call for an independent inquiry by a number of Australian scientists.

Rupert Murdoch is unarguably one of the most powerful men on the planet. This is an edited extract of what he said in May 2007 in the first ever [...]

Droughts might not be due to carbon-dioxide, says CSIRO

Still in the theme of Shock!-The-Media-IS-Reporting-The-News: The Canberra Times announced on it’s front page that CSIRO is not so sure that droughts are due to increased carbon dioxide. Only a few months ago, they announced the exact opposite.

September 2009: A three-year collaboration between the Bureau of Meteorology and CSIRO has confirmed what many scientists long suspected: that the 13-year drought is not just a natural dry stretch but a shift related to climate change.

Jan 2010: One of the report’s co-authors, hydrologist David Post, told The Canberra Times there was ”no evidence” linking drought to climate change in eastern Australia, including the Murray-Darling Basin.

Back in September, this long study was based on the old trick of using climate models and “subtracting” the natural causes to see what’s left. It’s also known as “Argument from Ignorance”. Since we can’t predict the climate five years in advance, obviously there are factors or weightings in those climate models that aren’t right. Ruling out “what we know” doesn’t prove anything at all, except that there is a lot we don’t know.

When David Stockwell analysed climate models and Australian droughts, he found that random numbers were more likely to predict droughts successfully. [...]

Is the media awakening? GlacierGate gets traction.

The Sunday Times and The Australian both picked up the scandal of the IPCC claims that the Himalayan glaciers might melt by 2035.  The claim turned out to be based only on a WWF report, which in turn was based on a New Scientist article from 1999. The Australian story today was headline front page news: UN’s Blunder on Glaciers Exposed.

The rigorous IPCC methodology amounts to this:

Here’s the IPCC Quote from Chapter 10 of the Fourth Assessment Report:

Glaciers in the Himalaya are receding faster than in any other part of the world (see Table 10.9) and, if the present rate continues, the likelihood of them disappearing by the year 2035 and perhaps sooner is very high if the Earth keeps warming at the current rate. Its total area will likely shrink from the present 500,000 to 100,000 km2 by the year 2035 (WWF, 2005).


What does an Australian farmer have to do to make the news?

What has The Australian got against a destitute farmer? Compare their coverage of one farmers protest with other hunger strikers:

When a sex offender protesting his innocence went on a hunger strike, it only took 6 days for The Australian to write about it. Taiwan’s former president went on a hunger strike which was reported as it ended after 5 days. Serial killer Ivan Milat only had to wait a couple of days to make the Australian with a hunger strike that only lasted for five days all up, and its conclusion was noteworthy too.* When three Australian Tamils went on a hunger strike they made headlines after 3 days, and also here. Some Sri Lankan asylum seekers agreed to end their hunger strike after 2 days and the story was covered sympathetically.

This is not to detract from the seriousness of some of the above claimants. But compare the reportage about Peter Spencer who started his hunger strike on November 23, 2009. For 25 days there was not even a short note to alert other farmers or landholders that there was a hunger strike underway by an Australian citizen, on Australian soil.

It was Day 26, before [...]

Investigative journalists work hard to… protect the government from the people?

We would hope that The Australian would stand up for … Australians. Instead our National masthead is not investigating the claims of an Australian farmer against our government, they’re not interviewing constitutional law experts, they’re interviewing his brother.

Peter Spencer is on Day 47 of a hunger strike and trying to get compensation for all farmers whose land was effectively expropriated. Journalist, Paul Maley could have investigated the veracity of the $10 billion dollar claim, but instead he tries to assess Peter’s mental health and personal finances. While these might be a relevant part of the big picture, the big-picture itself is missing.

“Family Financial dispute helped send hunger striker Peter Spencer Up Pole”

The Australian sub-heading is: “SERIOUS doubts have emerged about the case of Peter Spencer”,… but the serious doubts amount to a 40 year old story, and the fact that Peter owes money to his family, rather than to the banks. Serious? Not on the scale of billion dollar carbon commitments.


Peter Spencer’s story is getting media (finally)

What’s interesting is that finally–after 45 days without food–Peter Spencer is starting to get some serious national attention. Today Tonight is a prime time “current affairs” show and this cover was fairly sympathetic. The British Financial Times has also run a story, both of these were serious enough to actually interview Peter Spencer. Finally it seems there is some investigation. A few new facts have been filled in, and also a very strong theme linking his actions to the Kyoto agreement.

The saddest point is that Peter Spencer has been trying to get some attention for at least three years, and probably over a decade. He wrote The War On Farmers in January 2006 and it lays it all out. He was already facing foreclosure in 2006.

The farm consists of about 14,000 acres, about 60 per cent of which was cleared before World War II. When I bought it in the 1980s, I had been working overseas to earn the money to buy the place. Unfortunately, I was unable to farm it for some time so extensive regrowth occurred. When I returned to Australia to begin to farm, I found that various laws to preserve native vegetation had been [...]

How not to do journalism

Watch the whitewash– so white it’s Green. The Peter Spencer story has finally broken into the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age. Two “journalists” paired up to put together almost identical stories as a joint effort, and do their best to add doubt and smear to every part of the Spencer story. It’s a text book case in PR. These two journalists might make passable press secretaries for a Labor government. (Which is a well worn career path).

The big-picture situation, where farmers are asking for $10 billion in compensation for land that was stolen from them, was turned into a story about how the Coalition might be split by a guy on a hunger-strike over land-clearing laws. In reality Peter Spencer could drive one heck of a wedge into the Labor Party, who paint themselves as “helping the little guy” and simultaneously claim they are good economic managers. The Labor government can’t find $10 billion easily anymore, but less than a year ago they gave out $42 billion fairly randomly as a supposedly “clever” economic policy and another $43 billion to get into the broadband business.

Here’s how these major dailies “carried” the story: The Age’s version


New Scientist becomes Non Scientist

You might think journalists at a popular science magazine would be able to investigate and reason.

In DenierGate, watch New Scientist closely, as they do the unthinkable and try to defend gross scientific malpractice by saying it’s OK because other people did other things a little bit wrong (that were not related) a long time ago. Move along ladies and gentlemen, there’s nothing to see…

The big problem for this formerly good publication is that they have decided already what the answer is to any question on climate-change (and the answer could be warm or cold but it’s always ALARMING). That leaves them clutching for sand-bags to prop up their position as the king-tide sweeps away any journalistic credibility they might have had.

I’ve added my own helpful notes into the New Scientist article, just so you get the full picture.


The tipping point tipped

Did I say things were changing? The latest Rassmussen poll shows that the knowledge of falsified data is spreading fast and the polls are collapsing. Nearly 60% of Americans are now suspicious that there has been some falsification of the data.

Fifty-nine percent (59%) of Americans say it’s at least somewhat likely that some scientists have falsified research data to support their own theories and beliefs about global warming. Thirty-five percent (35%) say it’s Very Likely. Just 26% say it’s not very or not at all likely that some scientists falsified data.

Only a quarter of US citizens think that scientists agree on the climate. (Possibly just the White House and it’s employees? Only a few days ago a spokesman for the Obama Government was still insisting that he didn’t think the science was “under dispute”.)

How fast that news spreads… or possibly not. (After all, before Climategate, how many polling companies thought to ask a question about scientists falsifying data?)


We paid to find a “crisis”

Since 1989 the US government has given nearly $80 billion dollars to the climate change industry. [...]

You are not being told the whole story

What if governments poured billions of monopolistic funding into one theory but hardly anything into the alternatives: a theory that suited personal ambitions, profits of major players, careers of scientists, and the aims of naïve greens?

How would you know?

What if governments sacked and bullied scientists who disagreed? If officials used slander and libel in order to suppress scientific opinions? What if public agencies hid their data, refused to supply it, or even lost it; if baseless graphs were publicized and not corrected? Who informs the public and who enforces the rules of science, of science journals, of Aristotle?

What if thousands of scientists rose up in protest, but it went unreported?


Reuter-wash: a division of the IPCC PR machine?

INTERVIEW-Climate science untarnished by hacked emails-IPCC

The IPCC says ClimateGate doesn’t change anything. (Well Shock Me! Really?)

Source: Reuters

Imagine if a politician called “Jones” had been caught emailing a colleague saying “Delete all those files. Don’t tell anyone about that off-shore tax haven I have. Burn those receipts, ask Keith to burn his too and I’ll let Casper know. By the way, I’ve used that accounting trick Mike talked about to hide the money.”

Let Reuter-wash swing into gear and the “news” article would blandly say Jones’ emails were “seized upon by his opponents, showing he made snide comments, and talked about ways to present his accounts in the most favourable light”. In other words, Reuters wouldn’t mention that he’s  been caught red-handed and implicated as a colluding fraud who squandered funds and mislead the public. What’s really newsworthy is that he’s been exposed being not-very-nice, and glossing up his reports. Would we sack those journalists? We couldn’t. But we could cancel our subscriptions and just go searching blogs for the real news.