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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Scientists-of-PR jump the shark, assign “climate blame” percentage for each event

Here’s the new desperate meme about to turn your weather report into an advertisement for carbon trading. The people are not scared enough. Say hello to scientismic marketing.  It sure isn’t science.

The generators of Climate Fear start with broken models that we know don’t predict global temperatures, upper tropospheric humidity, Antarctic sea ice, and ocean heat (or much of anything else). They then use these to model the chances of individual storms, or floods — something they were not designed to do. Then they run these mistakes 5 million times with and without the magic CO2 forcing. They might as well stand back, look solemn, and pick a percentage or throw a dart.  The great thing is, only God knows the right answer. The models can’t “miss”.

Was that flood 35% due to man-made emissions? Was that tornado 50% more deadly? (Did it rain on your wedding day? Sue someone!)

Of course, New Scientist swallows the theme whole, tea-leaves and all. No hard questions asked.

A new technique connecting individual weather events with the impact of greenhouse gas emissions could bring climate change into everyday weather reports

“Well, the record-breakingly hot summer is showing no sign [...]

Climate sceptics and scientists attempt peace deal? As if.

Photo: Guardian

Fred Pearce from New Scientist thinks that there was a real meeting between climate skeptics and “scientists” last week in Lisbon, but therein lies the problem right from the start. The climate skeptics are the scientists, and in the end, hardly anyone else turned up. The unskeptical “scientists” who lose data, hide results, and break laws of reason, not surprisingly, ran a mile from a face to face meeting with the likes of  Steve McIntyre, Ross McKitrick,  Steve Mosher,  Georgia Tech’s Judy Curry and Peter Webster. Gavin Schmidt is not stupid, he knows he can’t win, and that there is no middle ground. He has little to gain from attending a meeting like the one held in Lisbon Portugal last week.

The meeting was the brainchild of University of Oxford science philosopher Jerry Ravetz, an 81-year-old Greenpeace member who fears Al Gore may have done as much damage to environmentalism as Joseph Stalin did to socialism. Post-Climategate, he found climate science characterised by “a poisoned atmosphere” in which “each side accuses the other of being corrupt”. Mainstream researchers were labelled “ideologues on the gravy train”, while sceptics were denigrated as “prostitutes and cranks”.

As I keep [...]

New Scientist? Reedeeming themselves? You’re kidding right?

A few skeptics got half-way excited when they saw the New Scientist’s editorial a couple of weeks ago, and wondered if it meant the editors were changing their views.

No such luck.

This is a magazine which held the multi-part-Denier-Special-extravaganza only two months ago. When it comes to standing up for independent thinking, maverick scientists and whistle-blowers who bust the establishment, New Scientist don’t just ignore the unfunded little guys, they practically phone the Establishment to ask if they can help with PR to quash the dissent.*

A single editorial and minor article that admits the obvious (for a change) is a good step, but we’re still 42 kilometers (26 miles) from the end of the marathon — and from the rest of the articles in this single print edition, it appears New Scientist is running the race backwards.

The editorial Without Candour We Can’t Trust Climate Science was a landmark event for New Scientist, it was just what we’d expect of any half way serious magazine. Crikey – The Muir investigation didn’t look into the science? It didn’t even ask if those scientists deleted the emails that they conspired to delete? What scientist wouldn’t be outraged at the white-wash.

Despite this [...]

New Scientist: The Age of Name-Calling

New Scientist plumbs new lows. The magazine has become its own self-parody. Do they see the irony of inviting a PR expert to accuse groups of committing the crime of, wait for it, … using a PR expert?

…he’s the advertiser being offered free editorial space within the one-sided propaganda that masquerades as journalism

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hold any elitist ideas that only people with science degrees can write for New Scientist (the magazine and its staff have pretty much proven how useless a science degree can be). My issue with them is that Richard Littlemore (a PR expert) has essentially written a smear-by-association piece, which should have no place in a real scientific magazine. It’s not like Littlemore is just an unhealthy part of a big healthy debate — instead he’s the advertiser being offered free editorial space within the one-sided propaganda that masquerades as journalism.

New Scientist may think climate science is a moral imperative, but they don’t have room for the climate scientists who have published peer reviewed criticisms of their favorite theory. Nor do they have space to tell the extraordinary story of the grassroots independent retiree scientists who’ve busted [...]

Be afraid — melting sea ice causes infinitesimal sea level rise!

Thanks to the NSF for the image of sea ice in the Bering Sea

New Scientist doesn’t have enough column space to tell you that Briffa’s Yamal tree ring series depends heavily on just one freak 8-standard deviation tree in Northern Russia, and that multiple temperature reconstructions use that highly dubious series, but they do have time to warn the world about the effect of melting sea-ice on global sea levels.

If you want to see the Climate Debate discussed from both sides, see a real debate, and contrast it to the irrelevant minutiae of propaganda pushed by magazines like New Scientist.

Melting icebergs boost sea-level rise

Because sea ice is fresh water, it has a lower density than salty ocean water, so even though floating ice won’t raise water levels by melting, the fresh water in the ice blocks can apparently make a small difference. “Small” being the word.

“…they estimate that about 746 cubic kilometres of ice are melting each year, overall. The ice melting is diluting the oceans, decreasing its density and raising sea levels as a consequence,” says Shepherd.

Watch out for that extra twentieth of a millimetre. Literally 0.049 mm per year.

Imagine, [...]

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).


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.