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 Socratic approach on climate change

(Click for the full advert)

The Climate Study Group is trying a new approach with an Advert in The Australian on page 7 today. Or rather, you might say this is a very old approach…:

Socrates Nice to meet you Mr Smith. I hear you are very concerned about dangerous global warming.

Mr Smith Yes, we are facing an alarming prospect of a global warming catastrophe.

Socrates What gives you such concern?

Mr Smith Emissions of CO2 from burning fossil fuels.

Socrates How were these fossil fuels formed?

Mr Smith Various plant forms grew, died and formed fossil fuels before and during the Carboniferous Period.

Socrates Was there dangerous global warming prior to the Carboniferous Period?

Mr Smith No. There’s no evidence of dangerous global warming prior to the Carboniferous period.

Socrates So where did the carbon in fossil fuels originate?

Mr Smith Plants absorbed CO2 from the atmosphere prior to the formation of fossil fuels.

Socrates So the CO2 absorbed by plants is now being released from burning fossil fuels.

Mr Smith It must [...]

The bureaucratic science-machine broke science, and people are starting to ask how to fix it

Science is broken. The genius, the creative art of scientific discovery, has been squeezed into a square box, sieved through grant applications, citation indexes, and journal rankings, then whatever was left gets crushed through the press. We tried to capture the spirit of discovery in a bureaucratic formula, but have strangled it instead.

There are no shortcuts to the truth, or to status, and no easy way to figure out which projects should be funded. Every time a decision is crowd sourced — via committee, panel, or “consensus” — the responsibility for thinking gets divided and avoided.

The modern bureaucratic process of science is now not even trying to search for the truth. It’s hunting instead for an impact factor, for attention, for headlines, and inevitably, for funding.

It is good to see people starting to discuss it — including the Lancet Editor, Richard Horton, who wrote in April that he could not name names, but it needed to be said:

“A lot of what is published is incorrect.” I’m not allowed to say who made this remark because we were asked to observe Chatham House rules.  Those who worked for government agencies pleaded that their comments especially [...]

2013 heatwave “virtually impossible” without logical errors and broken climate models

The Climate Council calculate the “odds” that one warm year could be as hot as it was. But those “odds” depend on a logical fallacy, major, inexplicable adjustments and models we know are broken. There are invisible assumptions underlying that claim which are documentably untrue. The “odds”  might as well be lotto results.

The fallacy is argument from ignorance, a failure of logic and reasoning like saying “X is true, because we can’t think of anything else“.

To estimate meaningful odds, scientists would have to understand the major driving factors of our climate, well enough to be able to assign probabilities to outcomes. But their models are hopelessly broken, they can’t predict a decadal average on a global or continental scale. They can’t hindcast the past “bumps” without using major adjustments to make the raw observations fit the models. They don’t know why the medieval warm period was warm, they don’t know why the Little Ice Age was cool. They don’t know why the world started warming 200 years before we poured out industrial levels of CO2. They don’t know if the mystery factors driving our climate for the last 4.5 billion years are still operating. If we can’t predict the [...]

Google Engineers give up on renewables fixing the climate (but they still miss the point)

Today’s renewable energy technologies won’t save us. So what will?“

Two engineers who worked on the Google  RE<C project admit with candour  that they used to think that renewable technologies could help prevent climate change, but they now know that was wrong, saying “Today’s renewable energy technologies won’t save us. So what will?” The brutal answer eventually is “we don’t know”. The RE<C project started in 2007 and was buried in 2011. Google invested $850 million in clean energy. (For a tiny $100,000 I could have saved Google $850 million dollars. If they only asked skeptics instead of Al Gore…)

Ross Koningstein & David Fork admit with admirable honesty that their assumptions about renewables were wrong. But they still haven’t realized their assumptions about climate models are wrong too. Next year perhaps?

Most of their article is about the engineering hurdles of dispatchable and distributed energy. But they also talk about the Google time management philosophy, their 70-20-10 rule (70% core work, 20% cutting edge but viable, 10% “crazy” possibilities). What they don’t seem to realize 70:20:10 is pointless if 100% of their time is spent solving a problem that doesn’t exist. The Google innovation approach is a pot-luck dip. [...]

Imaginary hottest “fingerprints” found in extreme weather by failed models

Finally, for only the 87th time, climate modellers have uncovered the definitive proof they’ve been finding in different forms every year since 1988.

ARC extreme unscience – corrected at no cost to the Australian taxpayer. Click for a big printable copy.

They seek, and find, the most excellent propaganda they can pretend is science. Look, this is the specific handprint of non-specific climate-change! Everything bar climate-sameness is proof the climate changes. How inane? The unscientific vagueness gives this poster away as being more about propaganda than about communication of science.

… in a special edition of the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, examining extreme events around the world during 2013, a series of papers home in on the Australian heat waves, and identify a human influence.

Using short, noisy records, with flawed and adjusted data, it is possible to run broken climate models and show “definitively” that current heat-waves and hottest years are due to man-made emissions. And if you believe that, you could be gullible enough to be a Guardian journalist.

That is, climate models that do not include solar factors like magnetic fields, solar winds, cosmic rays, solar spectral changes, or lunar effects are able to [...]

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 [...]

Prof Fiona Stanley jumps on climate-pulpit, says skepticism “is like child abuse”

It’s another pious scientist. Sigh.

Why do good researchers sometimes throw their professional standards to the wind (or in this case, just blow them right up?)

Fiona Stanley has done great work in the prevention of spina bifida with folic acid, and with indigenous health problems. The new big state funded hospital in WA is named after her, and she’s another Australian of the Year. (Is that award the worst thing that can befall a good scientist? Post hoc, they seem to think the world wants to know their personal feelings on topics they know nothing about.) Cue Professor Fiona Stanley who assumes all fields of science “work” even though she herself says climate science is politicized.

Stanley goes so far as to say that being skeptical of the IPCC view is like “child abuse”. But isn’t it a form of child abuse to throw away the Scientific Method, to sacrifice the next generation’s quality of life, their careers and then burden them with debts to the the God of Wind-farms and the Saint of Pink Batts? Don’t we owe our kids the transfer of a culture of logic and reason that was handed to us?

At least Stanley admits [...]

Müller lite: Why Every Scientist Needs a Classical Training

Müller lite: Why Every Scientist Needs a Classical Training

By Christopher Monckton of Brenchley About 18 months ago, as soon as I heard of Dr. Richard Müller’s Berkeley Earth Temperature project, I sent an email to several skeptical scientists drawing their attention to his statement that he considered his team’s attempt to verify how much “global warming” had occurred since 1750 to be one of the most important pieces of research ever to be conducted in the history of science. This sounded too much like propaganda.

“…from 1695 – 1735 Central England warmed seven times faster than what Muller finds in the 262 years during which we are supposed to have influenced the weather.”

He was posing, I said, as a skeptical scientist; his results would broadly confirm the pre-existing temperature series; when his research ended, he would declare himself to have been converted from scepticism to the belief that merely because the world had warmed the warming must be our fault; and publication of his results would be exploited as a triumphant and final confirmation of the “global warming” orthodoxy.

My doubts about Dr. Müller’s motivation intensified after I met him at the Los Alamos Climate Conference in Santa [...]

Learn how not to reason at the University of Western Australia

Picasso-Brain-Strikes-the-Climate-Debate: Can't think. Can't reason.

Tomorrow night the University of Western Australia (UWA) is hosting “Climate change scepticism under the spotlight”, where people who ought to know better are reverting to stone age reasoning. “Hail the Gods of Science!”  The shame, the shame, it’s my old university.

Australian Professorial Fellow Professor Stephan Lewandowsky, from UWA’s School of Psychology, will discuss the perils of ignoring consensus in science…

The UWA School of Science ought to be grovelling embarrassed. Any scientific professorial fellow ought to warn about the dangers of ignoring the empirical evidence, or the perils of missing the whistleblowers who point out logical flaws.

Can we add that up?

Let’s follow the reasoning on consensus science. How do you weight the scoring system?  Is one post-doc worth 3 honors students, or 5?  Do we dilute citation-value according to the number of authors on each paper? Does a Nobel peace prize winner trump a class of undergraduates? Quick, we need a committee to figure it out. I can feel the need for a emergency formation of the Scientific-Authority-Demarkation-Institute. UN based of course.

I have written many times about how Lewandowsky uses Argument from Authority ad nauseum along [...]

The debate continues: Dr Glikson v Joanne Nova

Dr Andrew Glikson (an Earth and paleoclimate scientist, at the Australian National University) contacted Quadrant offering to write about the evidence for man-made global warming. Quadrant approached me asking for my response. Dr Glikson replied to my reply, and I replied again to him (copied below). No money exchanged hands, but Dr Glikson is, I presume, writing in an employed capacity, while I write pro bono. Why is it that the unpaid self taught commentator needs to point out the evidence he doesn’t seem to be aware of? Why does a PhD need to be reminded of basic scientific principles (like, don’t argue from authority). Such is the vacuum of funding for other theories that a debate that ought to happen inside the university obviously hasn’t occurred. Such is the decrepit, anaemic state of university science that even a doctorate doesn’t guarantee a scientist can reason. Where is the rigor in the training, and the discipline in the analysis?

Credibility lies on evidence

by Joanne Nova

April 29, 2010

Reply to Andrew Glikson

Dr Andrew Glikson still misses the point, and backs his arguments with weak evidence and logical errors. Instead of empirical evidence, often [...]