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Archive for the ‘Science’ Category

A longish article with lots of quotes from poeple saying the Swine Flu alarms were a perfect example of authorities crying wolf.

Many blame such alarms and the breathless media coverage for creating an overreaction that disrupted many people’s lives.

Coming from the breathless to the point of asphyxiation MSNBC that’s…   interesting.

The so-far mild swine flu outbreak has many people saying all the talk about a devastating global epidemic was just fearmongering hype. But that’s not how public health officials see it, calling complacency the thing that keeps them up at night.

Yes but when you are constantly screeching about dangers that don’t materialise, why would you expect people to be anything other than complacent?

I don’t know that there has ever been a successful online petition.

But what is at stake is the destruction of major industries, and massive damage to an already struggling economy. So I’ll take any chance I get to say no to an emissions trading scheme which will achieve absolutely nothing.

ETS Petition

ETS Petition

Click to go the petition site.

Up to 221 new species of amphibian have been discovered after a survey of Madagascan forests. Some interesting photos at that link to National Geographic.

The work suggests that tropical amphibian diversity has been underestimated at an “unprecedented level” worldwide, the study authors write in the May 4 online edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

It is pretty clear we have no idea how many species there are. Lots more than we thought a few years ago. Somewhere between 2 million and 100 million. Maybe.

But if we have no idea how many species there are, how come scientists are falling over themselves predicting the sixth great extinction event?

They are able to point to very few species they know for certain have become extinct recently. The rates of extinction actually observed seem to be about the same as they have been for the last couple of thousand years.

But the threat of mass extinction ‘is not overestimated,’ says Bob Scholes, an ecologist at South Africa’s Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. ‘There is much uncertainty about how many species will be lost, and where and when, but it is clear that the world is entering a period of species loss that is dramatic and unprecedented in human history.’

OK. So we have no idea how many species there are, we have  no idea how many extinctions have actually occurred, we have no idea how many species are facing extinction or where or when.

But whatever is happening it’s bad and it’s our fault.

Ecologists say the world needs an equivalent of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change so the global scientific community can inform policymakers about the implications on biodiversity loss and actions that can be taken to limit it. They note that biodiversity loss is more complex than issues such as the ozone hole or climate change, and that existing bodies such as the CBD (the UN Convention on Biological Diversity) lack the means to mobilise scientific expertise across a broad range of disciplines.

Oh right. Well that may not save any species, but it will certainly provide some ecologists with ample job security.

The Kangaroo Island Council has decided it will take responsiblity for local management of a government subsidised scheme to install solar panels on the roofs of homes.

Even with proposed government subsidies, the installation of solar panels will not be a cost-effective option for most householders.

It is easy to be wowed by power production figures which talk vaguely about ‘up to 5kw per day.’

The ‘up to’ is the problem. Rather than being swayed by marketing material which talks about potential, it is better to consider real world results in Australian situations.

Experience in Queensland suggests a six panel solar system will generate an average of not five, but two kilowatts per day.

Let’s do some maths. And let’s be generous, since we all know that Kangaroo Island is sunnier than Queensland (not), and say the actual average power production will be 2.5kw.

If you now pay 25c per kw for electricity, this means the power your solar panels generate will save you 50c per day. This adds up to $182.50 per year.

At that rate it will take nearly fifteen years to repay the $2650 cost of installation.

But that doesn’t take into account the cost of that money in interest lost if the money had been invested, or paid if the money was borrowed.

For example, at the moment Australian personal loan rates vary from about 12% to about 15%. Let’s say that you are able access a discount loan at a 10% rate to buy your solar panels. You would be paying $265 a year in interest (not counting any other fees).

This means that, far from saving money and paying for itself over time, your solar installation would cost you $265 -$185 = $80 per year more than you are paying now.

In a study completed in 2008, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors found that in most circumstances it would take over 100 years of undiminished supply from domestic solar panels to repay the cost of installation.

For example, even with hyper-inflated prices paid by the government for power fed back into the grid, some Queensland families have calculated they are saving about $13 per month on an investment of close to $30,000. This means the repayment time, not including any interest/finance cost, is over 300 years.

The life of a solar panel installation is about 25 years.

Some people, of course, may be willing to pay extra for their power in the belief that they are doing something to help the environment.

But even this is questionable. A NSW government study found that solar panels were amongst the least efficient methods of reducing power consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. The cost of CO2 abated through the use of domestic solar panels is approximately $400 per ton. This compares with the current international trade price of $26 per ton abated.

Most home owners will save more money and do more for the environment by simply ensuring their homes are adequately insulated, and that they turn off lights and appliances when not in use.

John McLean has some interesting comments on the politics of climate change in an article in yesterday’s Australian.

THE notion that human activity has an alarming influence on climate is based on Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports and spurious claims about a scientific consensus.

Independent scientists who question these claims are accused of being in the pay of the energy industry and of believing that the notion of man-made climate change is a conspiracy.

To the best of my knowledge, no climate conspiracy has ever existed. But another force has driven science into its present parlous state where the output of computer software is held in higher regard than observational data, where marketing spin is more important than fact and evidence, and where a trenchant defence of the notion of man-made global warming is seen as paramount.

The key phrase is this: the output of computer software is held in higher regard than observational data.

I know I have said this dozens of times before, but what is actually happening in the world does not even remotely bear out the predictions of the climate alarmists. There has been no increase in the rate of sea level rise, there is no correlation between human activity and global climate change, and the world is not getting warmer.

The only thing that says otherwise is already thoroughly discredited computer models. Thoroughly discredited because they cannot predict past climate change from earlier data, and have failed to yield any predictions about current climate that matches real world observations.

More articles from John McLean.

Some interesting observations here on healing, hope, and homosexuality.

The article is not long, and is worth reading in its entirety. This is an excerpt:

I saw a genuine love and acceptance of men and women who were struggling to move away from behaviors they themselves viewed as destructive and dangerous, possibly deadly. They were choosing it, freely and voluntarily.

Psychiatrist and physicist Dr. Jeffrey Satinover, a world authority on homosexuality, a man who describes himself as a skeptic about religion, says that the scientific evidence all points to the possibility of change. For over 35 years, his profession has believed the lie that homosexuals form a “class” whose boundaries are defined by a stable “trait”. It is not true, he says.

Dr. Joseph Nicolosi, whose new ground -breaking book, “Shame and Attachment Loss: The Practical Work of Reparative Therapy”, says homosexual change is both possible and advisable. His book shows that initially conceptualizing homosexual attraction as a striving “to repair gender deficits,” has moved to the realization as a striving “to repair deep self-deficits” and as a “defense against trauma to the core self.”

Writes Dr. Jeffrey Satinover, after he attended a Leanne Payne conference, “I met a large number of people who had left the lifestyle and changed their sexuality. There I met hundreds of people struggling with that issue, and many who had successfully emerged on the other side and were married with children. As I got to know them, I found them to be quite remarkable. The struggle to be healed had left an indelible imprint. I saw a humility, an empathy and a fearlessness about life. They knew exactly what it meant to stand up for what they believed in, since the struggle to become who they truly were had exacted such a cost in suffering. Since then I have met plenty of people who have moved away from same sex attractions.”

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner Tom Calma, recently returned from the UN’s Conference for Racism and Anti-Semitism, says that Australia’s indigenous people will be hardest hit by climate change.

If temperatures in North Queensland continue to rise, icebergs in the Torres Strait will begin to melt. This will result in dangerous sea level changes, distressing crocodiles and poisoning banana trees.

OK, you got me. He didn’t say that. But what did say was almost as ridiculous.

“According to all the experts, Australians will be hard hit by climate change and none more so than indigenous peoples. Indigenous peoples are at risk of further economic marginalisation as well as perpetual dislocation from, and exploitation of their traditional lands, waters and natural resources.”

Wow. All the experts. It must be true then.

It isn’t clear how economic marginalisation, or exploitation of traditional lands and natural resources, could be made worse by climate change. And in any case, there is no evidence of sea levels rising at unusual rates, nor of changes in average temperatures in northern Australia, nor of any increase in extreme weather events.

But hey, Tom, don’t let that stop you.

Wait a minute. I thought women were going to be hardest hit by climate change. Or was it minorites? Or Africa? Or Southeast Asia? Or fish? Or formerly common species of salamander? Or snow?

Or beer?    Arrrgh! No! Australians must unite in demanding a stop to climate change now!

In laboratory conditions, increases in the proportion of CO2 in air result in a small, but proportional increase in heat retention. It was reasonable to ask whether a similar effect might apply in the real world.

If increased CO2 was responsible for warming, then this warming would occur more quickly in the upper troposphere, and at the poles. This has not happened.

Most obviously, if human produced CO2 emissions had an effect on global climate, then there would be a correlation between changes in CO2 levels and changes in climate. No such correlation has been observed.

So we know, and have known for some years, that anthropogenic global warming theory is wrong.

Jennifer Marohasy has posted a discussion of the work of Hungarian physicist Ferenc Miskolczi which helps to clarify why it is wrong.

If more care had been taken with maths and research when the theory was first proposed, it would have been clear right from the start that it was wrong.

Some years ago this Hungarian physicist, then working for NASA, discovered a flaw in an equation used in the current climate models  discovered a flaw in how those constructing the IPCC climate models deal with the issue of the atmosphere’s boundary conditions.  In order to progress this research Dr Miskolczi eventually resigned from NASA claiming his supervisors at NASA tried to suppress discussion and publication of his findings which have since been published in IDŐJÁRÁS, The Quarterly Journal of the Hungarian Meteorological Service.

The key point:

.. the Earth’s atmosphere dynamically keeps its greenhouse effect right at its critical value, regardless of our continuing CO2 emissions, regardless of any change in atmospheric CO2 concentration in the past ten thousand years. Miskolczi’s dynamic constraint keeps the greenhouse effect “climatically saturated”: emitting CO2 into the air cannot increase the normalized greenhouse factor g because any impact of human addition of CO2  is dynamically countered by about 1% decrease of the main greenhouse gas, water vapor (moisture) in the atmosphere.

In other words, changes in ‘greenhouse gases’ do not affect the climate because any increase in CO2 or other heat retaining gas causes a corresponding and counter-balancing reduction in the concentration of the main greenhouse gas – water vapour.

Global climate can and does and will change. This has been and will continue to be primarily because of changes in the amount of heat and light received from the sun.

The Rann government’s ban on lightweight plastic shopping bags starts today. I predict chaos and frustration at supermarkets around the state.

Tim Blair notes that the people who grow marijuana are subject to a fine of $300, while those who provide their customers with a plastic shopping bag are subject to a fine of $315.

This is a letter I wrote to my local paper about this late last year. ‘The Islander’ is the Kangaroo Island paper. The arguments still apply.

I am all in favour of more thought about environmental issues, including the use of plastic shopping bags.

Thinking without acting is pointless, but acting without thinking is dangerous.

A basic level of thinking is ensuring that one has one’s facts correct. Bernard Baruch once said “Every man has a right to be wrong in his opinions. But no man has a right to be wrong in his facts.” Those who undertake to change public policy have a special responsibility to ensure they present their case fairly and without distortion.

This is one of the reasons I have become concerned about the debate over the use of plastic shopping bags.

Three weeks ago the front page of The Islander claimed that the government was going to ban single use polypropylene bags. This claim was repeated on page nine of the November 6th edition: “Old Bags Day is about shoppers saying no to single-use poly-propylene bags.”

I would wholeheartedly support a ban on single use polypropylene shopping bags. Polypropylene is a tough plastic which does not easily break down.

There is only one problem. The government is not proposing to ban single use polypropylene shopping bags, because single use polypropylene shopping bags have never been available in Australia. What the government is proposing to ban is light-weight polyethylene bags.

I was astonished to see, also in the November 6th edition of the Islander, a photo of a shop employee putting a product packaged in plastic into a reusable bag printed with the words “Put an end to plastic bags.”

This is almost beyond parody, given that the bag with these words printed on it is made of a highly durable plastic – about fifty times as much as plastic as a light-weight shopping bag. Just as astonishing was the caption “(the shop assistant) packs a reusable bag instead of using plastic.” No, the reusable bag is made of plastic.

Imagine this conversation. “So you’re going to ban light-weight plastic shopping bags to benefit the environment. Sounds great! What are you going to replace them with?”

 “Well, instead of giving people light-weight bags made in Australia, we are going to sell them bags which contain about fifty times as much plastic, of a type which takes much longer to break down, and which are made in China.”

“Oh.”

The argument is that because they last longer, re-usable plastic bags will in eventually result in less plastic waste.

The state government, on its Zero Waste website, thoughtfully tells us that its calculations of the environmental benefits of the ban are based on the assumption that one reusable polypropylene plastic bag will replace ten ordinary light-weight plastic bags each week for two years. Does this strike anyone else as manifestly ludicrous?

This means that if you take home ten bags of groceries and other products each week, the government’s case for banning light-weight bags is based on the assumption that from now on you will take all those groceries home in a single reusable “green” plastic bag.

A more reasonable estimate would be that each reusable plastic bag will replace two light-weight shopping bags a week for six months. At the end of the six months the total amount of plastic used is about the same.

But instead of light weight polyethylene mixed with starch or oxidising agents, which breaks down over 12 to 18 months, you are left with a dense mass of polypropylene which may take up to 1000 years to break down.

But it gets worse. Once ordinary shopping bags are replaced by denser reusable plastic bags, people will have to buy other plastic bags; bin liners, dog poo bags, nappy bags, etc to replace the light-weight shopping bags they used to re-use for those purposes. The end result is more plastic waste, not less, much of it a harder plastic to dispose of.

People are right to be concerned about the impact of plastic waste on wildlife. Plastic shopping bags are a very small part of this problem. Of course any wildlife lost to plastic bags is unacceptable. But it doesn’t necessarily follow that the best solution is to ban them, any more than rusting car bodies left in the bush is a reason to ban motor vehicles.

Instead, we should ensure that litter regulations, and the already stringent international laws banning the disposal of plastic at sea to which our government is a party, are rigorously enforced.

Don’t be bullied into a “solution” which is inconvenient, more expensive and offers no benefits to the environment.

From Dr Bruce Charlton at Science Direct:

… that so many vague, dumb or incoherent scientific theories are apparently believed by so many scientists for so many years is suggestive that this ideal does not necessarily reflect real world practice. In the real world it looks more like most scientists are quite willing to pursue wrong ideas for so long as they are rewarded with a better chance of achieving more grants, publications and status.

The classic account has it that bogus theories should readily be demolished by sceptical (or jealous) competitor scientists. However, in practice even the most conclusive ‘hatchet jobs’ may fail to kill, or even weaken, phoney hypotheses when they are backed-up with sufficient economic muscle in the form of lavish and sustained funding. And when a branch of science based on phoney theories serves a useful but non-scientific purpose, it may be kept-going indefinitely by continuous transfusions of cash from those whose interests it serves. If this happens, real science expires and a ‘zombie science’ evolves.

Zombie science is science that is dead but will not lie down. It keeps twitching and lumbering around so that (from a distance, and with your eyes half-closed) zombie science looks much like the real thing. But in fact the zombie has no life of its own; it is animated and moved only by the incessant pumping of funds. If zombie science is not scientifically-useable – what is its function? In a nutshell, zombie science is supported because it is useful propaganda …

I’m not sure that Dr Charlton himself makes the connection between zombie science, the IPCC, and global warming. But Dr Muriel Newman of the New Zealand Centre for Political Research, does:

The facts disproving the manmade global warming hypothesis are indisputable: over the last decade man-made greenhouse gas emissions have continued to rise, but global temperatures have fallen. That is not what is supposed to happen, according to the anthropogenic global warming hypothesis. It means that the climate change policies being considered by our government are a waste of time and money…

The current President of the European Union, the Hon Vaclav Klaus, President of the Czech Republic, has lamented the fact that no other leaders will stand up against what is effectively socialism in drag. He has always regarded the attempts of the environmental movement to use climate alarmism to restrict economic progress as a direct attack on the freedom and prosperity of free societies. 

I’m not sure Dr Newman is right that the increase in CO2 over the last ten years with no corresponding increase in global temperature proves that anthropogenic global warming theory is wrong. There could be other factors at work which covered the effect of greenhouase gas emissions over such a short period.

The proof is that there has never been any correlation between human activity and changes in climate. The connection between the two was never more than conjecture – conjecture which has now been shown to be false.

Incidentally, Dr Newman lives in my old home town of Whangarei, in Northland, New Zealand. A great place to live!

Three brief notes.

Lord Monckton was invited by Rep. Joe Barton, the senior Republican on the US Energy & Commerce Committee, to speak alongside Al Gore at a global warming policy meeting in Washington.

Democrat members decided this was not such a good idea, and Monckton’s invitation was rescinded.  Cowards.

Also from Climate Depot:

Al Gore has claimed that climate sceptics are akin to people who believe the moon landings were faked.

Inconvenient truth alert:  Moonwalker and Award-Winning NASA Astronaut/Geologist Jack Schmitt is a global warming skeptic.

“The ‘global warming scare’ is being used as a political tool to increase government control over American lives, incomes and decision making. It has no place in the (Geological) Society’s activities,” Schmitt, who flew on the Apollo 17 mission, said in 2008.

 “As a geologist, I love Earth observations. But it is ridiculous to tie this objective to a “consensus” that humans are causing global warming when human experience, geologic data and history, and current cooling can argue otherwise. ‘Consensus,’ as many have said, merely represents the absence of definitive science,” Schmitt explained.

And finally: I think my ‘Profits of Doom’ is the best simple introduction to global warming science.

But Joanne Nova’s Skeptics’ Handbook is entertaining reading, and a very useful guide to debate with Chicken Littles.

The key question to keep asking is, ‘What is the evidence of any correlation between human activity and changes in global climate?’

There isn’t any. Computer games (sorry, climate models) do not count as evidence.

The World Health Organisation has warned that “all of humanity is under threat” from a potential swine flu pandemic and called for “global solidarity” to combat the virus. The plea came as the WHO raised the swine flu threat awareness level to 5 out of 6, indicating that the world is on the brink of a pandemic.

Ten people have died. Only one outside of Mexico – and he or she was a small child just over the Mexican border. That’s sad for them and their families. But ‘All humanity under threat?’ There’s no evidence so far that this strain of Swine Flu is any more infectious or any more deadly than ordinary flu.

I’m more inclined to think it was WHO funding that was under threat.

There are two major problems with these constant dire warnings about minimal or non-existent threats.

Firstly, funds are diverted from real problems that are genuinely causing harm now, into dealing with imaginary problems that just might maybe cause harm at some time in the future.

Secondly, when the WHO and the IPCC cry wolf in an effort to get more funding and more influence, they discredit themselves and the UN. OK, who cares? But they also discredit science, and that does matter.

Sooner or later there will be a real crisis – one which demands real, rapid action. A strain of Ebola which is capable of airborne transmission, for example. The risk is that when the real crisis does arrive, people will be so jaded by the constant shouts of alarm that they will disregard the calls to take action that really will be needed.

The sky is not falling. Let’s just get on with making a difference in ways that matter now.

Clean water for everyone, and stopping TB and Malaria would be a good place to start. These three things could be done now with less money than is being wasting on the fairy tale of ‘combatting climate change.’

PS

Perhaps ‘Swine Flew’ could be the WHO’s new theme song:

Up on my feet and moving
Got a strange new runner´s high
See me sprouting eagle´s wings
This pig is gonna fly…

(Look, up in the sky!!! It´s a bird?! It´s a plane?! It´s Superman!
No man, it´s not Superman. It´s ONE BAD PIG!)

Swine flew

But a 23 month old child died of Swine Flu in the US today – the first recorded death outside Mexico.

All deaths from any disease are sad. It is sad that so many have died in Mexico, and confusing that the death rate there is so high.

We need to have answers. But panic, especially by governments keen to be thought to be ‘taking positive action,’ will do more harm than good. As in the 1976 Swine Flu panic.

Good quality medical care for those who are infected, limiting contact with others while they are infectious, and diligent testing of those with whom they have been in contact, should be sufficient to slow and then stop the spread of the disease.

For the rest of us, common sense precautions like protecting youself when people cough or sneeze, regular hand washing, especially after shaking hands and before eating or touching your face, and not travelling to places where there are known to be cases of Swine Flu, should be enough to keep you safe.

Two oddly contradictory statements today. President Barack Obama says he wants to bring science to the forefront of US thinking, to make the US once again world leaders in scientific research and development.

OK. Excellent.

But how does that square with Hilary Clinton’s announcment that the US is ready to lead the fight against climate change?

There is no science whatever in anthropogenic global warming alarmism.

The simple question to ask is ‘Is there any correlation between human activity and changes in global climate?’

The simple answer is ‘No.’

You can’t have it both ways. You cannot be leaders in science, and then slavishly follow every new scare dreamed up by the media to sell papers, greedy polticians to make money, and unscrupulous researchers to get grants.

Science means looking at the evidence. Here’s an evidence-based introduction to the science of global warming.

The objection is not that Panayiotis Zavos claims to have cloned human beings. Others have done that. Nor is it that he claims to have made hybrid human-animal clones by putting human DNA into cow eggs. Others have done that.

As far as the medical establishment is concerned making human clones, even human animal hybrids, is fine as long as you kill them soon afterwards. They can made to be destroyed for research, or to harvest stem cells.

What Dr Zavos has done that is so disturbing is to claim to have created human clones which were implanted in otherwise infertile women with the hope that they would grow to full term.

He was wrong to do so. Although some would argue otherwise; clones occur naturally – that’s what identical twins are.

But although Zavos’ actions were wrong, creating cloned humans to be members of loving families cannot be any more wrong than creating human clones – living members of the human species – just so they can be destroyed for research.