JoNova

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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The Skeptics Handbook II

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Arctic Sea Ice — it all melted before and it didn’t matter

Matt Ridley in The Australian explains how every man and his dog is forecasting the doom of the Arctic sea ice, and not only have they been wrong year after year, but they all assume that if the ice all melts it’ll be a global disaster. But Earth’s already been-there done-that, and for years, and it was no-biggie. Polar bears obviously got through it, as did seals. Humans without protective solar panels somehow spread far and wide, and generally flourished.

I suspect the main climate refugees from the Arctic would have names like Donner and Blitzen. This is the one thing Matt doesn’t explain — in 8,000BC when the ice melted,  what the heck happened with Santa?

Ice scares aren’t all they’re cracked up to be

This was a period known as the “early Holocene insolation maximum” (EHIM). Because the Earth’s axis was tilted away from the vertical more than today (known as obliquity), and because we were then closer to the Sun in July than in January (known as precession), the amount of the Sun’s energy hitting the far north in summer was much greater than today. This “great summer” effect was the chief reason the Earth [...]

The Climate Wars are Damaging Science

Matt Ridley has produced the shortest whole, killer summary of the sordid state of climate science, science journalism, and science associations for Quadrant magazine. This is the ideal single-chapter-length-work to bring in anyone who missed the last twenty years of clima-farce, scandal, hubris and hypocrisy.

Matt is not just summing up the way his career as a science writer has transformed, but also writing the best review of the IPA book “Climate Change: The Facts” that I have yet seen. He talks about the way science writers used to ignore the papers that didn’t impress them, and leave it up to the scientists to take them apart, but now the supposedly most esteemed scientists stay silent while abject failures not only get published in the scientific world, but get absurdly lauded in the media, and tweeted by “the President”. Formerly great scientific institutions have turned themselves inside out:

“The Royal Society once used to promise “never to give their opinion, as a body, upon any subject”. Its very motto is “nullius in verba”: take nobody’s word for it. Now it puts out catechisms of what you must believe in. “

Matt’s career, like mine, started with faith that [...]

Matt Ridley: Africa Needs To Be Rich – Rather Than Green

Matt Ridley: Africa Needs To Be Rich – Rather Than Green Some people pretend to care about the worlds poor and how they will be affected by a hypothetical climate shift decades in the future. But African’s don’t want climate action as much as they probably want food, fridges and free markets. No electricity means indoor smog and real pollution coming to your kitchen. How many dead Africans is enough to appease the climate Gods? It’s good to see Australia and Japan may help build some coal fired plants in Africa.

The Times UK (see also Matt Ridley’s Blog)

A survey of more than two million  Africans finds that climate change comes dead last of 16 concerns they were asked about.

OK, It’s an internet survey. But who would take cold meals and cholera now so their great grandchildren live in a world a tenth of a degree cooler?

Just to get sub-Saharan electricity consumption up to the levels of South Africa or Bulgaria would mean adding about 1,000 gigawatts of capacity, the installation of which would cost at least £1 trillion. Yet the greens want Africans to hold back on the cheapest form [...]

The polarisation of the climate debate has gone too far, says Matt Ridley

Are we all intelligent adults in the room –  can we discuss the weather without calling people names?

The state of the national conversation is pathetic.

Matt Ridley, best selling science writer, PhD, elected to the UK Parliament did the unthinkable and switched to become skeptical of carbon crisis a few years ago. This week he wrote about that transformation and the different behaviour of skeptics and those who disagree with them…

UPDATE: Attacking the man takes on an especially blunt meaning today. Bishop Hill reports that in comments Gary Evans, a Guardian author (aka Bluecloud) laid out his best scientific argument. Should that not be [Matt] Ridley’s severed head in the photo? Where else but that paragon of progressive ethics: The Guardian? Such is the intellectual parry of gullible believers: We would actually solve a great deal of the world’s problems by chopping off everyone’s heads. Why are you deniers so touchy? see More Greenpeace Death Threats?  Nice of him to prove Ridley’s point.

From My Life As a LukeWarmer: Matt Ridley

In the climate debate, paying obeisance to climate scaremongering is about as mandatory for a public appointment, or public funding, as being a [...]

Matt Ridley on Tamiflu-gate. Hidden data, omitted trials, “like the Hockey Stick Graph”

Matt Ridley looks at pharmaceutical research and finds problems of confirmation bias, lack of access to data, and lack of replication of results. He compares it to the hockey stick debacle which is rising in notoriety to become the new benchmark of bad science. Articles like this are especially useful, because people concerned about Tamiflu might not know anything about the HockeyStick, and might not have read an article about the climate.

In Pharmaceutical research companies may do many studies on a drug but only choose to publish the ones with results they feel better about.

The Australian 

PERHAPS it should be called Tamiflugate. Yet the doubts reported by Britain’s House of Commons public accounts committee last week go well beyond the possible waste of nearly half a billion pounds ($913 million) on a flu drug that might not be much better than paracetamol. All sorts of science are contaminated with the problem of cherry-picked data.

Science at a breaking point:

The problem seems widespread. A paper in the BMJ in 2012 reported that only one fifth of clinical trials financed by the US National Institutes of Health released summaries of their results within the required one year [...]

PR Wars: IPCC fights for relevance, halves warming, claims to be 95% certain of something vaguer

We are over the peak. Years late, the IPCC concedes some territory and wears headlines they must hate (“Global warming is just HALF what we said“, “We got it wrong on warming“), but PR still rules, and in the big game, this will quickly spin to a minor bump. It’s a classic technique to release “the bad news” before the main report, to clear the air for the messages the agents want to stick.

Since 2007 they’ve burned through their credibility in so many ways:  think Climategate, and getting caught pretending activist material was science, being busted for 300-year-typos like the Himalayan Glaciers, plus 15 years of no warming, no hot spot, models being wrong, droughts ending, and ice returning, all the while pouring scorn and derision on anyone who questioned them. The IPCC were being hammered and they had to change tacks. Now, for the first time, the IPCC is making a serious retreat, presumably in the hope of being able to still paint itself as “scientific” and to fight from a different trench. Anything to continue the yearly junkets and to save face. What they hope is that no one will notice that the deniers were right [...]

A big speech: Matt Ridley on scientific heresy and the temptations of confirmation bias

Another notch on the winners tally board. It’s a mark of the times that one of the most popular, well known and respected science commentators is willing to to put his reputation and effort into laying out such controversial science publicly, pulling no punches and in a potentially hostile environment. Compare this to the obituaries of “global warming” from believers.

Matt Ridley, author of The Rational Optimist, spoke at an event by the RSA* in Edinburgh. Emails are coming in — it has hit a nerve — and it’s insightful to watch Matt stand in enemy territory, carefully finding common ground with the real scientists in the audience, the seekers of truth, before he launches his attack on the consensus position. According to Bishop Hill (aka Andrew Montford) the speech was well received.

I’ve selected key paragraphs, though ended up with a 2,400 word version. The full 4,000 word version is on Bishop Hill.

David* and I were fortunate enough to have a private lunch with Matt Ridley on his Australian tour, and it was a delight. Days like that are one of rewards for the hours of work unpaid. I usually don’t mention these kind of events — [...]

British energy landscape shifted a month ago, old media waking up now…

In the UK, gargantuan (as in wow!#$) amounts of cheap energy were discovered a month ago, yet it seemingly hasn’t changed the political landscape. (Or, then again,  maybe it did? I gather no one in the UK government seems to be admitting it, but from afar, it looks like a lot of clunker UK policies have not-coincidentally got the boot in the last month.) Overtly, it’s been the gift no one wanted to open… but possibly a few in power are well aware of what’s under wraps and it is influencing policies?

Back in August 2011, the experts at the The British Geological Survey team thought the country only had 150bn cubic meters of shale gas. Then on Sept 22 a group called Cuadrilla announced that they’d found the odd 5,660 bn cubic metres under Lancashire.

Right about then, a sea-change ought to have come over ministers and corporate leaders in the UK. Here was a get out of jail free card, with lots of cash-cow potential, not to mention 50+ years of gas for the whole nation. It ought to have been time for large parties, champers, and the dumping of the competing energy sources. Instead a month later, [...]