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Saturday
May022015

The sci-journalist as naif

A conference at the University of the West of England in July is going to hear from Felicity Mellor - a frequent subject of BH posts - about science journalism. Here's her abstract:

Conventionally, academics studying science journalism, as well as practising science journalists, claim that science reporting follows the same news values as other forms of news. Whilst this is true in many respects, it fails to account for how science journalism differs from many other beats in its failure to adopt a critical stance. This paper explores the extent to which an additional set of 'non-news values' also operates, and suggests that it is here that the science beat differs from other beats. Taking the news coverage of invisibility research in the field of transformative optics as an example, I show that sources of funding, uncertainties, and limitations are routinely excluded from science news, suggesting that an implicit set of normative values structures what is omitted from news reports. These non-news values draw on a naïve, idealist philosophy of science which construes questions of interests and fallibility as a non-concern for news discourse about science.

It looks as if one person has worked it out, at least.

Friday
May012015

Academic demands totalitarian response to AGW

Tony Thomas points me to this remarkable video of University of Melbourne professor Peter Christoff talking at a conference on "Law and Desire". Professor Christoff is

...a member of the Victorian Ministerial Reference Council on Climate Change Adaptation, and member of the Board of the Australian Conservation Foundation. He was formerly a member of the (Victoria) Premier's Climate Change Reference Group, the Vice President of the Australian Conservation Foundation, and the Assistant Commissioner for the Environment (Victoria).  

From about 20 mins, Prof Christoff makes a remarkable call for "climate denial legislation" to criminalise dissent on the issue.

Click to read more ...

Friday
May012015

Climate tragedy

Another polar climate change expedition has come to grief. Previous adventures have ended in farce. Unfortunately this time the story is a tragedy.

The Coldfacts organisation, funded by the Dutch arm of WWF, has sent two men to the high Canadian Arctic, to look at sea ice:

Polar explorers Marc Cornelissen and Philip de Roo (The Netherlands) will head for the Canadian High Arctic / Nunavut to gather valuable datasets for scientific research on sea ice in the heart of the so-called "Last Ice Area".  This is the area where summer sea ice cover is expected to be most resilient to warming and to remain for decades to come. Anticipating on this resilience, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) has identified this region as an area for which special stewardship should be sought through consultation of and cooperation with stakeholders. A solid science base is needed to do this.

However an emergency message has been received and all contact has been lost. The two are presumed drowned.

Friday
May012015

A strange fellow

Congratulations are due to Dame Julia Slingo, who has been elected a fellow of the Royal Society. Here is the citation:

Julia Slingo is a world-leading figure in the area of tropical climate processes and climate modelling. In her tropical research she has produced seminal work on the interaction between cumulus convection, weather systems, larger scale variability and the mean state of the atmosphere, and also on the interaction with the upper layers of the ocean. The Madden Julian Oscillation and the Asian Summer Monsoon have been two particular foci for her. She has led Met Office science and University climate modelling with great success and had major international influence, particularly in the move to much higher resolution climate models.

Friday
May012015

The weaselly ways of Lord Stern

Some delicious weasel words from Lord Stern over at the Guardian this morning. The great man purports to be explaining the state of the climate debate, and invites us all to believe that extreme weather is getting worse.

More frequent and severe extreme weather, rising sea levels and acidifying oceans are already posing threats to homes and businesses across the world...

But read that again. It's a sentence of striking ambiguity. Is he saying that extreme weather has become worse? That would be untrue, of course. But perhaps he is saying that there is the threat of increased extreme weather. The question that one would then have to ask is why, if the threat of extreme weather has gone up, hasn't the number or intensity of extreme weather events gone up too.

As for the suggestion that a marginal decrease in alkalinity in the oceans is "already posing a threat to homes and businesses", you have to wonder what threat precisely he is thinking of?

Thursday
Apr302015

Hook, line and sink 'er - Josh 324

Apparently there is a General Election on. Good luck everyone!

Cartoons by Josh

Click the image for a larger version

Update: Hilarious!

Thursday
Apr302015

Quote of the day, forecast edition

A genuine expert can always foretell a thing that is 500 years away easier than he can a thing that's only 500 seconds off.

Mark Twain, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court

Thursday
Apr302015

It's the environment, see?

For anybody who thinks about these things for longer than a couple of seconds, it's pretty much clear that recycling is something that should happen to scarce, valuable resources rather than cheap and readily available ones. This is because recycling itself uses resources, so you don't want to expend a load of time, money, effort and materials in order to get something that is not worth very much.

In the FT today, Pillita Clark notes that the collapse of oil prices has put plastic recyclers under a great deal of pressure, as container makers have started to prefer virgin material to recycled. Some companies in the trade have collapsed as a result. This is as it should be. The effort of collecting, sorting and then grinding up old plastic bottles is clearly too high when the product has a low value.

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Apr302015

Slow news day

It's a slow news day so far today, so I'll go with a Guardian-talking-drivel-on-climate story, which is a bit like a Pope-is-Roman-Catholic story, but can occasionally provide some light relief. Today's headline from the fount of foolishness is 

Extreme weather already on increase due to climate change, study finds.

Unfortunately for the Guardian, the study in question, by Fischer and Knutti, is actually nothing to do with observations of extreme weather at all. Instead it is about their attribution to humankind. You have to wonder whether the headline writers even read the paper.

And if you look at the study, it turns out to be just an extension of the use-shonky-GCMs-to-blame-humankind approach adopted by others in the past.  I'm hugely amused by its suggestion that GCMs, which have precisely zero ability to predict precipitation, can be used to show that "18% of moderate daily precipitation extremes over land are attributable to the observed temperature increase since preindustrial times". Particularly since in the IPCC's view it's hard to find any evidence of changes in extreme weather anyway.

It's like...magic.

Wednesday
Apr292015

Remember the poor - Josh 323

I don't think this cartoon needs any words but many thanks to Cumbrian Lad for an inspiring post. Matt Ridley's excellent article on Electricity for Africa is also worth reading - let's hope Pope Francis reads this blog.

Cartoons by Josh

Wednesday
Apr292015

Diary dates - here we go again edition

The BBC is going to look at fracking again today, with a programme by Scotland Environment Correspondent David Miller.

Scotland has a decision to make: to frack, or not to frack. The controversial technique could be used to release gas and oil from the shale rock which lies beneath central Scotland. Large energy companies are keen to do this, and say it is important for both our economic growth, and energy supply needs. But fracking has a bad reputation. Its opponents believe it is dangerous, with the potential to cause pollution and even earthquakes. The Scottish Government has announced a temporary ban, but for some that is just not enough. David Miller reports from the front line in the war over fracking, where the two sides are locked in a fierce battle for the hearts and minds of the nation. He sets out to find out whether shale gas extraction can be safe, and whether Scots can be convinced to give it the go ahead.

What's the betting we see the "flaming faucets" on screen again? There are some clips here to whet your appetites.

Wednesday
Apr292015

There's the science and there's the Vatican science

I was sent a link to this statement by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences on the subject of climate change. It's gloriously over the top, as you would expect from something authored by Schellnhuber and Sachs, among others.

This century is on course to witness unprecedented environmental changes. In particular, the projected climate changes or, more appropriately, climate disruptions, when coupled with ongoing massive species extinctions and the destruction of ecosystems, will doubtless leave their indelible marks on both humanity and nature.

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Apr292015

Green policy - complicity in genocide?

Matt Ridley has republished his Times column from yesterday at his blog. It picks up many of the themes that have been the focus of BH in recent days, particularly the curious moral corner into which the greens have worked themselves:

Without abundant fuel and power, prosperity is impossible: workers cannot amplify their productivity, doctors cannot preserve vaccines, students cannot learn after dark, goods cannot get to market. Nearly 700 million Africans rely mainly on wood or dung to cook and heat with, and 600 million have no access to electric light. Britain with 60 million people has nearly as much electricity-generating capacity as the whole of sub-Saharan Africa, minus South Africa, with 800 million.

His post also contains the valuable information that Britain has, like the USA, banned investment in fossil fuel power stations in developing countries.

Matt is an admirably polite writer, even in the face of gross provocation from environmentalists. Tom Fuller, who has also been discussing these matters, is much blunter about what it all means:

[T]o be agonizingly clear, there is a case to be made for saying the aggregate effect of Green policy in the developing world is perilously close to being complicit in genocide.

That's about the size of it.

Tuesday
Apr282015

On encyclicals

This is a guest post by Cumbrian Lad.

Climate change and the coming encyclical

Today we see another set of meetings in Rome. One is that of the Pontifical Academy of Science, and the other the Heartland Institute. Both organisations are hoping to influence the widely heralded encyclical from Pope Francis that will include references to climate change. Given that the text of the encyclical has already been finalised, and is currently being translated, there may not be much that either party can do to affect its content. The headlines they are making will be building up expectations on both sides, and it's worth having a closer look at the background to an encyclical. 

What is an encyclical?

Simply put, it is a circular letter written by the Pope to the Church which forms a part of the Ordinary Magisterium or teaching of the Church. It is not a formal statement of the type that is regarded as infallible doctrine, as it usually deals with moral guidance and the application of existing doctrine to current matters. In the past encyclicals have dealt with such subjects as war and social issues of all types.

Click to read more ...

Monday
Apr272015

The morality of the green academic

A few days ago, I mentioned Professor Corey Bradshaw, the University of Adelaide academic who was being extremely vocal in his attempts to get Bjorn Lomborg defunded and ostracised.

I was blocked by Professor Bradshaw soon after my post appeared, but I gather that he is still hard at work demonstrating his willingness to sacrifice other people's careers to his own political imperatives:

Last week I was asked to exam a @uwanews PhD thesis. After the #LomborgDebacle wp.me/phhT4-4rC, I refuse. Apologies to the student.

What a lot of collateral damage the environmentalist academic can tolerate!

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