Jo Nova’s big claim: hasn’t anyone considered if CO2’s effect is limited?

Jo Nova, the Perth based denier and author of the “The Sceptics Handbook” is one of Australia’s more prominent “climate change sceptics”. With a degree in molecular biology, Nova has been active in science education for some time. However, when it comes to climate change she seems to reject the science.

According to Nova no-one has actually stopped to think carbon may have little effect on the the atmosphere:

Ultimately the big problem is that there are no grants for scientists to demonstrate that carbon has little effect. There are no Institutes of Natural Climate Change, but plenty that are devoted to UnNatural Forces.

It’s a stunning claim: apparently thousands of scientists have neglected this crucial fact. As a consequence the entire discipline of climate science may be resting upon shaky grounds. But help is at hand according to Nova, as a few retired professors are attempting to rectify that situation:

“The lack of systematic auditing of the IPCC, NOAA, NASA or East Anglia CRU, leaves a gaping vacuum. It’s possible that honest scientists have dutifully followed their grant applications, always looking for one thing in one direction, and when they have made flawed assumptions or errors, or just exaggerations, no one has pointed it out simply because everyone who could have, had a job doing something else. In the end the auditors who volunteered—like Steve McIntyre and Anthony Watts—are retired scientists, because they are the only ones who have the time and the expertise to do the hard work. Anyone fancy analysing statistical techniques in dendroclimatology or thermometer siting instead of playing a round of golf?)”

So what’s going on here? Nova is using two classic denialist tactics to confuse the lay audience.

Denialist tactic number one: inflate the credentials of your experts

Watts and McIntyre are well known climate sceptics, and perhaps the source of much of the disinformation that circulates on the Internet. Neither Watts nor McIntyre are climate scientists.

Watts is – or I should say was – a meteorologist. I’ve been researching his background, but I cannot determine his qualifications. I assume he has a science degree: I’ll keep looking.

McIntyre has an undergraduate degree from the University of Toronto. According to Wikipedia, McIntyre had the opportunity to pursue further study but instead went into the minerals industry.

One is a former weather man, the other was the founder and director of several minerals companies.

In shaping the public’s perception, having credible experts on your side is crucial. Deniers have taken the lead from creationists , and try to “pump up” the credentials of the experts they are touting. Retired scientist sounds more authoritative than retired weatherman.

Nova banks on her audience simply accepting Watts and McIntyre as scientists, and hopes they don’t take the time to check their qualifications.

Denialist tactic number two: ignore >180 years of science

Nova’s first claim – that nobody has stopped to consider carbon may have a neutral effect  – either betrays a stunning ignorance of basic science, or is a disingenuous attempt to mislead the reader.

The idea of that the earth was subject to a natural greenhouse effect was first proposed by the French scientist Joseph Fourier in 1824. Greenhouses gases, such as carbon, help trap heat in our atmosphere. No one disputes that our planet is subject to a natural greenhouse effect – not even so called climate sceptics. Without the greenhouse effect, our atmosphere would most likely resemble the moons.

Carbon contributes – as a percentage estimate – roughly 9%-26% to the greenhouse effect, and is naturally present in the atmosphere. Other gases which contribute to the greenhouse effect include water vapour (36%-70%), methane (4%-9%) and ozone (3%-7%). [1]

The basic science underlying climate change is straight forward: as more carbon is released into the atmosphere it amplifies the greenhouse effect.

Therefore, it gets hotter.

To make the claim that “there are no grants for scientists to demonstrate that carbon has little effect” is like claiming someone building a rocket to the moon hasn’t considered gravity. A rocket scientist does not need to go back and  re-examine our understanding of gravity.  Climate scientists well understand the effects of greenhouse gases.

I suspect Nova (who has a science degree!) is deliberately misleading the reader. Far too many of the general public are scientifically illiterate, therefore she feels she can get away with what is quite patently an absurd claim.

Further resources:


13 thoughts on “Jo Nova’s big claim: hasn’t anyone considered if CO2’s effect is limited?

  1. janama says:

    why not get YOUR information correct and quote Wikipedia correctly.

    “McIntyre attended the University of Toronto Schools, a university-preparatory school in Toronto, finishing first in the national high school mathematics competition of 1965.[1] He went on to study mathematics at the University of Toronto and graduated with a bachelor of science degree in 1969. McIntyre then obtained a Commonwealth Scholarship to read philosophy, politics and economics at Corpus Christi College, Oxford, graduating in 1971.[1][2] Although he was offered a graduate scholarship, McIntyre decided not to pursue studies in mathematical economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.[1]”

    first in the national high school mathematics, Oxford eh? grad scholarship at MIT offered? yet you try to make out he’s dummy amateur!

    Dendrochronology is about the statistics of Tree Ring Data and Statistics is McIntyre’s speciality and he’s shown Mann to be bullshit twice now – when will you finally give up trying to desecrate him just for being right and proving your religion a fake!

    read this! an prove it wrong!

    Click to access mcintyre-scitech.pdf

    • Mike says:

      Welcome janama, I certainly don’t doubt Mr. McIntyre’s intellectual prowess. However, as you yourself can see he does not hold any advanced degrees beyond a BSc.

      His career was spent in the minerals industry, not as a research scientist. All I have done is merely corrected the facts in Ms. Nova’s article. I certainly would not want to “desecrate” him, though I assume you mean insult as the former implies Mr. McIntyre is somehow sacred.

      I will be addressing the CRU/Climate-gate issue in future posts if you’d care to stop by.

      Thanks for your comment.

      • leavecincy says:

        I do find the he only has a BS and worked in the minerals industry argument rather silly. McIntyre had to be accurate and productive in his career. All Mann has to do is spit out a few papers every now and then. He neither has to be accurate and productive in his career.

        McIntyre interest in climate started when Mann produced the Hockey Stick. In his years in the minerals industry, McIntyre frequently came across models that created hockey stick results.

        What must really miff the AGW crowd is that McIntyre showed Mann cooked the model and the data.

  2. […] In order to facilitate transparency, the IPCC distributes drafts for discussion of it’s reports.  The denial movement has exploited this in order to puff up the credentials of their experts (a tactic I’ve already discussed here).  […]

  3. […] Nova has a history of making really, big earth shattering claims on her blog that “demolish” the “myth of AGW”. This week, she uses an old […]

  4. peterd says:

    I find the arguments of janama and leavecincy tendentious at best.
    Why did SM have “…to be accurate and productive in his career” while “All Mann ha[d] to do [was] spit out a few papers every now and then”? Why are accuracy and productivity prerogatives of SM’s [former] job but not of MM’s?
    Both posters fall into the common trap of supposing that because SM picked a statistical error in Mann et al, therefore the whole AGW case falls in a heap. Try harder chaps. There is plenty of evidence, independent of the methods used by MBH, that supports the AGW case.

  5. Rob Yallop says:

    I can’t believe you publish such an insulting website.

    Denialists are people who ignore clear evidence such as the occurrence of the Holocaust, evolution, vaccine efficacy etc. These people are either stupid, wilfully ignorant or just plain spiteful.

    Climate science has no such evidence. You speak of “thousands of scientists” all [proving?] CO2 is a crucial driver of temperature and yet that is patently untrue. Most of the so-called “thousands” of research papers do not examine this issue at all, they simply accept it as read and proceed to speculate what impact this will have on some cute animal.

    In fact your whole approach is completely unscientific and consists mostly of name calling and other personal attacks.

    There’s only one piece of evidence that matters a damn and that’s whether increasing atmospheric CO2 concentration will, ceteris paribus, change the average global climate (whatever that means).

    All sides agree that rising CO2 concentrations will, prima facie, increase temperature, but not very much as CO2 has already absorbed most of the outgoing radiation that it can. The point of contention is whether other follow-on effects will amplify (positive feedback) the effect of the CO2 thereby creating a far greater temperature change than that caused by CO2 alone.

    There are papers speculating on and modeling this but none that show any actual observational evidence of net positive feedbacks. Is this a surprise? Can you think of any natural processes where you get back more energy than you put in? For example, what usually happens on a hot day? It gets cloudy and guess what, the clouds reflect sunlight back into space. This is a self-regulating system.

    Do you really think the Earth’s biosphere would have survived for billions of years if it was so sensitive to minor changes in trace elements of the atmosphere?

    The Earth is clearly quite resilient and self-regulating in relation to climate. It’s time to worry about real issues such as disease and poverty in the world, and reducing pollution (real pollution, not life-giving CO2).

    Finally, I am not a denier because I’m not denying any actual evidence and if I see some actual evidence of anthropogenic CO2 being a driver of climate change, I will accept that my current understanding is wrong.

    By all means advocate your AGW views if you must, but you could learn a lot about doing it with dignity from Dr Scott Denning (a scientist with whom you would agree on matters AGW).


    • Watching the Deniers says:


      Thanks for stopping by and commenting. I actually like to see “sceptics” come to this site to debate. You’ve raised a lot of points, many of which I feel would take a great deal of time to answer.

      Re the “denier” tag.

      Yes, I have a sharp wit and I’m not afraid to use it, but that’s my style. It’s a robust debate, and I’ll debate robustly.

      My blog looks at specific claims made by “deniers/sceptics” and whether or not the evidence backs them up.

      I do not equate people such as your self with holocaust “deniers”. I don’t think of deniers as “evil”. Misguided? Perhaps.

      There is very good evidence to suggest AGW is real. I use the term “denial” in the more line with it’s common English language usage (i.e. to deny the existence of a “fact”, despite evidence).

      Yes, that may sound harsh but it is not intended to imply you – personally – are morally bankrupt as the more notorious “deniers” out there.

      Still, there is a small, but significant number of deniers working in industry funded think tanks who are morally and intellectually compromised. People such as Monckton who have been caught flat out lying so many times its not funny:

      I’m staggered that Monckton is touted as an expert when the documented evidence for him lying is right before peoples eyes: he says research says one thing, but the scientist who *wrote* the paper says he is lying about what it actually said.

      See the email correspondence in the above presentation, it’s stunning.

      I see climate change “denial” as a broad based movement including hired guns such as Monckton all the way down to individuals who are not sure/doubt the science for various reasons. I don’t think everyone is on the pay of big oil. “Climate scepticism” mimics the creationist/ID movement in that it uses material that appears scholarly, but for many reasons is rejected by consensus science. However it tells people what they want to hear: “AGW is not happening, don’t worry.”

      It does not mean you are a creationist, but the similarities between the tactics of both movements are very strong if you care to look. However, I appreciate that you won’t accept that (special pleading).

      So, here is my proposal.

      Neither of us are scientists – both of us admit that on our respective blogs.

      But let us debate *our* reasons for either accepting or rejecting the science in a serious of 3 posts on our respective blogs. In classic debating style, we get:

      1) Opening comments
      2) Main case
      3) Conclusion

      Mutually posted/linked on each others blogs. Strangely, the idea has come to me after Jo Nova’s recent example. Who’d thunk that?

      What do you say? We’ll keep it civil and I won’t call you “denier”. I’ll take a leaf from Denning if you like.

      Ball in your court.

      Mike @ WTD

      • Rob Yallop says:

        You have a silver tongue but the word denier is not used by AGW promoters my accident; it is intended to denigrate legitimate sceptics in the minds of the public in an attempt to sway them your way.

        You say you don’t mean it seriously, and I may even believe you, but do you call people of African origin “niggers” and say “hey, I don’t mean it in a bad way”?

        You say there is evidence to [sic] suggest AGW is real, and then you say you use the word denier in the sense of denying a fact. So even you believe that the evidence only suggests that AGW is real. On this basis, it is not a fact to be denied.

        That aside, I suppose we could do what you suggest, but I can’t give you a time frame at the moment as I am heavily committed. Perhaps a couple of weeks for opening comments and longer for the other items?

  6. Keep up the good work on this blog. Deniers are pretty much like creationists or Jehovas Witnesses. No amount of reason or evidence can change their minds. Lets face it if deniers were capable of reason they would not be deniers. Repeating fallacies like” C02 has absorbed all the radiation its going too” shows a lack of understanding of both the multilayered nature of the atmosphere and the laws of radiative physics. May i suggest they go to Venus for a holiday. Seems C02 has a lot more absorbing to do? Give them Hell mate. They deserve nothing else

  7. Jo Nova’s publisher in the US is The Heartland Foundation. Guess who they receive funding from? EXXON. Nuff said eh ?

  8. mike williams says:

    However, as you yourself can see he does not hold any advanced degrees beyond a BSc.

    So what.?
    It doesn’t matter what degrees people have.The technical prowess of their work is what matters.
    McKintrye published in a statistical journal the problems with Mann`s proxy reconstructions/models.
    Mann used no statistician yet his paper was flawed and amazingly passed peer review anyway.
    Mann now admits that there are problems with the models.
    the current uncertainties in the TSI and aerosol forcings are so large that they preclude meaningful climate model evaluation by comparison with observed global temperature change. These uncertainties must be reduced significantly for uncertainty in climate sensitivity to be adequately constrained (Schwartz 2004).
    Even Mueller attacked Mann on this..did you mention this..??just joking.

    Yes the BEST data came out and said we re flash..but they also stated that they didn’t know how much was caused by man made CO2..which a lot of the blogs forget to mention. 🙂

    His career was spent in the minerals industry…. what.
    Another CAGW straw man smear..but it works both ways then doesn’t it.?
    Thats like me trying to denigrate every scientist who produces papers on CAGW papers year in and year out (how much has that $$ and how has that helped anyone)and because they are funded to do this by govt/universities/think tanks…that means they don’t count.
    Its the same logic you are using.
    Or..if you are taking about people who work in research..they are the holy group then..Here are some of the holy group producing papers which keep refuting CAGW memes.
    Then you can bring up a “some of these deniers are probably funded by big oil”..piece of “wit” to ignore that. 🙂

    Nova is using two classic denialist tactics to confuse the lay audience.

    And you respond to that by doing the same thing.
    Link/smear/denigrate/trivialise and straw is your “side” /response better.?

    Denialist tactic number two: ignore >180 years of science

    No..your just playing games.
    Your talking about 180 years instrumental records and ignoring geology/dendro/ice/pollen etc.

    Nova’s first claim – that nobody has stopped to consider carbon may have a neutral effect – either betrays a stunning ignorance of basic science, or is a disingenuous attempt to mislead the reader.

    She is tailing about CARBON are talking about who is confused, you would surely know..she is talking about feedbacks.

    Carbon contributes

    Typo?? are misleading your readers

    the basic science underlying climate change is straight forward: as more carbon is released into the atmosphere it amplifies the greenhouse effect.

    How can you write a science blog and still not get basic facts right.
    As more carbon DIOXIDE is released..depending on forcing and feedbacks..the temperature will respond in a logarithmic pattern.
    What part of that simple statement is confusing you.?

    To make the claim that “there are no grants for scientists to demonstrate that carbon has little effect”

    Nova is suggesting that there is little money for grant applications if the scientist said “I would like to test the hypothesis about negative feedbacks and CO2 forcing”.

    Climate scientists well understand the effects of greenhouse gases.

    They may well do..but you are surely as the sun rises have very little understanding. 🙂
    Hence your forced to use “wit”..

    Re the “denier” tag.
    Yes, I have a sharp wit and I’m not afraid to use it, but that’s my style. It’s a robust debate, and I’ll debate robustly.

    No..your confusing wit with a holocaust analogy.
    Since when was a holocaust analogy have to anything a form of “wit” or is that how a postmodernist works now dates.
    Why would anyone sane/intelligent try and be so obviously mendacious with this term.
    Its just a nasty juvenile ad hominem straw man “argument”.
    Please stick to science and not “wit” because its a massive fail.
    Many people sceptical of CAGW modelling..that are interested in this whole phenomena agree that the earth is warming by about 1/3 c per century.
    We just find it difficult to find out how much is just by man made co2..since most/all the IPCC (sacred texts) ..and..funded by us..(so thats out right because of the funding???)feedbacks are positive and we have seen to many games being played(follow the money) by both groups/sides.

    Jo Nova’s publisher in the US is The Heartland Foundation. Guess who they receive funding from? EXXON. Nuff said eh ?

    A free downloadable ebook …wow..great research..but then you would have known this then.
    As for the funding gag which runs through many “green” blogs.
    Here are a few from the $$ side which i am sure you will accept were dodgy and should not have been used.

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