Category Archives: Jo Nova

Jo Nova’s blog: conspiracy central

Tin foil hat alert!

Sometimes you have to do a double take when reading the conspiracy claims of the more “extreme” members of the denial movement.

I know I should be more charitable, but really to put it bluntly, much of it can sound like crazy talk. Not the kind of eccentric “Isn’t that an interesting world view”… more  like, far out, crazzzzzzzy man. That this kind of speculation is not challenged in any way, but is positively celebrated within the denial community speaks volumes.

Louis Hissink, a regular over at Jo Nova’s blog, recently revealed the real agenda of the UN, IPCC, socialists and greens. Brace yourselves, its a diabolical plan that threatens your very freedoms – if not your life.

Free of irony... I think

In case you did not get it, the main points are;

  • “The general agenda is to depopulate the US, while some of them enrich themselves at our expense…”
  • “The actual agenda is to destroy the idea and practice of private property, and hence capitalism…”
  • “Australian Nartive Title legislation is part of this diminishment of the concept of private property…”
  • “The Resources Tax is another tax based on the economic fallacy of economic rent…”

This is a paranoid, distorted mirror world that has very little to do with reality.

Nor is Hissink’s view all that extreme as judged by the members of the Nova community: eighteen readers gave it sufficient votes to make it a “well-loved” post.

This kind of speculation is not challenged, instead it is actively celebrated and promoted. I believe it gives us a very good insight into the denial movement and how it engages with the scientific evidence.

Put simply, no evidence will convince those committed to conspiratorial world view. Indeed, any evidence that contradicts their world view is waved away as yet further proof of the conspiracy.

No matter how contradictory the individual pieces of the deniers world view is, it is all hung together by a belief in a global conspiracy that they somehow have seen through.

Should we really be giving “equal time” in the debate to individuals who clearly have such a tenuous grasp on reality?

Nova versus Glikson: finally, we see how empty her claims are

Perth’s Jo Nova is a key figure in Australia’s denial movement, and one of the few to have a science background. That her degree in limited to an undergraduate degree in microbiology does not seem to stop her holding herself as a climate change “expert”.

DeSmogBlog provides a good overview of her career to date:

Joanne Nova holds a Bachelor of Science degree in microbiology from the University of Western Australia. She also has a Graduate Certificate in Science Communications from the Australian National University. After graduation, Nova joined the Shell Questacon Science Circus, a Shell-sponsored program that employs university students to travel around Australia teaching interactive science programs to children. Currently, Nova works as a professional speaker, the Director of Science Speak, and the writer and creator of the blog, JoNova.

In short, Nova worked for an oil company in a “science circus”. Yes, I saw the obvious pun there as well… basically, its the Wiggles meets science. [1]

Nova has no experience outside her undergraduate degree and has published nothing via the peer review system. And yet this former science “entertainer” believes she can take on the scientific community?

Thankfully, we now have plenty of evidence demonstrating her complete misunderstanding of climate science. Normally Jo does not like to tackle “da science” so openly, as it obviously exposes her deep misunderstandings. However we now have some wonderful evidence of what she constitutes her “arguments” against the science.

And yes, they contain the expected howlers.

At this very moment she is engaged in a debate with Dr. Andrew Glikson of Australian National University (ANU) being facilitated by the rather right-wing magazine Quadrant. That Quadrant would adopt the knee-jerk “scepticism” is no surprise. However, the debate is fascinating as we finally have some very good evidence at what constitutes Nova’s argument against climate science.

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The failure of Rudd’s ETS – strangely – does not vindicate the deniers

Following the Rudd government’s announcement that the ETS will be delayed until “at least 2013”, Murdoch papers such as the Herald Sun and The Australian have swiftly denounced the “fat cats” in government.

Other deniers and think tanks such as the Institute of Public Affairs have joined in what can only be described as an orgy of self-congratulation calling out Rudd for his failure.

Yesterday’s HUN attacked the Federal Government’s Department for Climate Change & Energy Efficiency for having “nothing to do” now that the ETS has been delayed. It also questioned both the staff numbers and salaries of staff attached to the office.

This is classic “old school” media trope: government “fat cats” living off the back of the tax payer. It plays right into the stereotype of public servants as corrupt, out of touch and “bludgers”.

They continued to editorialize about Rudd’s failure:

The latest policy to be abandoned is the Emissions Trading Scheme, which was to confront what we were told was “the greatest moral challenge of our time”.

The Prime Minister wanted to lead the world, but the world didn’t listen at the failed global warming conference in Copenhagen. His call to arms was ignored.

Now, to use the overblown terminology of the Prime Minister, he has laid down his shield and surrendered by saying the ETS is off the agenda until 2013.

Not that that’s such a bad thing. It was always better to wait to see whether the world would follow.

A nice example of schadenfreude, as the Editors glee that the ETS – and by extension our response to climate change – is seen to fail is barely masked.

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What the denial movement has wrought: the collapse of public trust in science

Bad moon rising.

  

Quite a few blogs – and readers of this blog – have already made mention of the fascinating study “Social influences on paranormal belief: popular versus scientific support“.  

In short, the study looked out how individuals weighted the opinion of the majority versus the scientific consensus (in this case ESP). As suspected, it was found the more popular a view the more readily the individual would accept that consensus of the majority.  

However – shockingly – if the scientific community discounted the pseudo-scientific belief, and it was seen to have broad popular support, then individuals where more likely to reject the view of science. Here’s the abstract:  

“Paranormal claims enjoy relatively widespread popular support despite by definition being rejected by the scientific community. We propose that belief in paranormal claims is influenced by how popular those claims are as well as by dominant scientific views on the claims. We additionally propose that individuals will be most likely to be positively influenced by the views of science when claims are unpopular. An experimental study varied instructions to participants in a 2×2 design which informed participants that a particular paranormal belief/claim (ESP) was very popular or not and was rejected by science or not. Participants then watched a brief video that appeared to present evidence of ESP. As predicted, participants became more likely to believe in ESP when claims were more popular. Contrary to predictions, participants appeared to react against the views of science when evaluating claims, particularly when they believed those claims were unpopular. This finding may reflect decreasing trust in the institution of science…”  

Some of the observations are worth noting:  

“Although trust in science remains generally high, Americans are willing to depart from dominant views of science on particular issues such as evolution and global warming (Lang 2005). The 2009 Pew poll which found that trust in science remains high also found increasing scepticism about science. When asked America’s greatest achievement in the prior 50 years, 47% of Americans in 1999 listed a scientific achievement. In 2009, only 27% of American’s listed a scientific achievement in response to the same question. The growing acceptance of paranormal claims combined with a decreased trust in science and willingness to depart from science on particular issues leads us to predict that individuals will selectively adhere to dominant views of science…”  

It should be noted, that views most frequently rejected but the public those that directly contradict the world view of some religious conservatives (evolution) or represent a threat to specific industries (CO2 emitters).  

That both creationists and the denial movement are now working together and share the same tactics is no coincidence.  

There paper concludes:  

“Overall, our research demonstrated that individuals responded positively to perceptions of the popularity of paranormal claims when making decisions about belief in those claims. Results also suggest that participants reacted against the views of science in making decisions about paranormal claims. These findings may be due to individuals seeing paranormal belief as a matter of faith rather than evidence and therefore reacting against science. Alternatively, perhaps endorsement from peers provides a stronger source of legitimacy for paranormal beliefs than authorization from a higher authority. Or, the findings may result from a decreasing trust in the institution of science…”  

For both myself and other advocates of science and reason it highlights what we have been saying for some time: the collapse in trust of science has been manufactured and orchestrated by the denial movement.  

It is having an adverse effect not just on climate science, but all science.  

Both the denial movement and religious conservatives are waging a bi-partisan war on science. Alternative medicine directly challenges the efficacy of evidence based medicine. Today more people believe in pseudo-science than ever before.  

Individuals would prefer to surrender their reason to the beguiling siren song of astrology, “The Secret” and the “Da Vinci” code. How comforting it is to be told “The universe really does revolve around you!”.  

Thanks to poor media reporting on science we have a perfect storm of misinformation: counter knowledge masquerading as facts.  

Public opinion on climate change is important: without it our political responses are paralysed as individuals either pay no attention to the the reality of global warming, or alternatively become hostile to proposed solutions.  

Thanks to the likes of Andrew Bolt, Jo Nova, The Institute of Public Affairs and Ian Plimer both politicians and the public are being actively mislead.  

Reality is not a democracy – even if 90% of the population chooses to belief climate change is not happening, it does not stop the reality that scientists been observing for decades.  

However, our democracy is being corrupted by these agents of the “anti-enlightenment”. Like all anti-science movements they refuse to engage in the scientific debate because they have no evidence or research that supports their claims.  

Their goal is simple: stall our response to climate change by shaping public opinion.  

I lay this collpase in trust at the feet of the deniers. They are one of the chief members of the chorus that tells us “not to trust” the scientists.  

And what have their actions wrought?  

We have missed the opportunity to prevent climate change. We now have only have two courses of action: mitigation and adaption as the reality of climate change makes itself more manifest over the coming decades.  

Our children will come into a world fundamentally different from the one we grew up in, and that our parents and grand parents took for granted.  

All us – those alive today, and those who have only just entered the world – shall inherit the wind.

Tagged

CO2 is magic. It makes plants grow. With money from ExxonMobil.

For the deniers, CO2 really is magic

One of the most common “talking points” used by the denial movement to argue CO2 is not a pollutant is that it helps “plants grow”. Most of us know that, no real argument about that.

And yet for the deniers it’s an argument against the science of climate change. It goes like this:

CO2 helps plants grow. Therefore it is a good. So what’s wrong with lots more it it on the atmosphere?

Jo Nova recently posted a version of this argument, (title: Co2 is the magic gas that makes plants grow) with some “experiments” which prove higher concentrations of CO2 help stimulate plant growth:

The team at CO2science grew seedlings for 42 days in chambers of 450ppm (high) and 1270 ppm (very high) CO2 concentrations. They documented the growth of cowpea plants (Vigna unguiculata) via time-lapse photography, and showed what most market gardeners knew: More CO2 in the air makes for taller, stronger, faster-growing plants. Indeed, CO2 is one of the essential nutrients for plants, and is often the thing that limits their growth. Pretty much all the plants on Earth grow faster when CO2 levels are higher.

Many deniers don’t disagree there is more CO2 atmosphere: the deny a link to global warming. Still, it’s an easy argument to shoot down, and Skeptical Science covers it very well here:

A broader definition of pollutant is a substance that causes instability or discomfort to an ecosystem. Over the past 10,000 years, the level of atmospheric carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has remained at relatively stable levels. However, human CO2 emissions over the past few centuries have upset this balance. The increase in CO2 has some direct effects on the environment. For example, as the oceans absorb CO2 from the atmosphere, it leads to acidification that affects many marine ecosystems. However, the chief impact from rising CO2 is warmer temperatures.

CO2 is magic. Really.

But that’s not the interesting part.

Nova’s source for her article came from a group called Co2Science. Who are they you may ask?

A group that has received funding from ExxonMobil. This is how the local denial movement “imports” propoganda from industry funded think tanks. According to SourceWatch CO2Science received the following funds from ExxonMobil:

  • 1998: $10,000
  • 2000: $15,000
  • 2003: $40,000
  • 2005: $25,000

CO2Science is running a campaign to make CO2 seem friendly, and remove any stigma that may be attached to it as a greenhouse gas. Their argument: this stuff is great! We need more!

For the denial movement, money really can grow on trees.

It’s magic.

Spinning the failure of the Climategate scandal: Jo Nova on ABC Drum

Facts: we don't need your facts, we have our own!

  

Jo Nova, our resident science mis-communicator is given another chance to confuse the climate debate by posting an article on the ABC’s Drum site:    

 The House of Commons committee was surely supposed to be protecting the citizens of the UK from being deceived and defrauded, so what did they say when faced with obvious malpractice? Did they draw their swords and declare that honest taxpayers deserve better? Not at all. They whitewashed it…    

..We’re supposed to “trust” that guys who wish harm on their opponents, who are hell-bent on finding support for their personal favourite hypothesis, who fear and thwart any effort to audit them, we’re supposed to believe these guys care about getting the research right? “    

Having seen the very personal and human cost of Climategate (see previous entry), it’s time to stand up to these bullies and professional liars.    

Nova has brought an army of posters from her own blog to berate, bully and spin the facts even further.  The debate is still raging.    

Go there, fight the good fight.

Jo Nova’s even bigger claim: old National Geographic article proves “they” are hiding the data!

I know I should be more charitable, more patient and less judgemental. And heck, I hesitated posting this, but sometimes the denial movement spirals into just plain silly.

Jo 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 National Geographic article to show how climate data must have been “doctored”:

“Frank Lansner has found an historical graph of northern hemisphere temperatures from the mid 70’s, and it shows a serious decline in temperatures from 1940 to 1975. It’s a decline so large that it wipes out the gains made in the first half of the century, and brings temperatures right back to what they were circa 1910. The graph was not peer reviewed, but presumably it was based on the best information available at the time. In any case, if all the global records are not available to check, it’s impossible to know how accurate or not this graph is…”

Nova has an interesting point, and in the fine tradition of her reasoning I can now prove – yes prove – the Sun goes around the Earth! Apparently astronomers in the 16th Century had a very good idea of how the solar system was actually arranged:

What other data have those scientists rigged?

What else are those scientists hiding! Demand the truth! Question everything!

Yes Jo, because the methodology of science and collection of data have not changed since the 1970’s. Is that the best the denial movement can do? I mean, really?

It’s like they’re not even trying anymore.

File this under hunting for anomalies.

CSIRO forces the hand of the media, reshapes the debate

The denial movement went into full meltdown yesterday after the CSIRO’s six page document clearly demonstrating the effect climate change has had on Australia. It was a smart move by CSIRO, as it focussed primarily on how climate change has affected Australia – it brings the message home to everyone.

This is how it impacts you.

It makes the issue tangible for most Australians: this is how it’s changed our climate. This is how it’s going to continue to shape our environment. In “State of the Climate” CSIRO makes the science accessible.

Nor does this document simply shape the media debate. It will become a much cited and authoritative document in the blogosphere. Already other media outlets around the world are picking it up.

It was a damn smart move by CSIRO, however I don’t think the implications of their counter-attack on the denial movement – and how it will shape the climate debate – are fully appreciated.

Pushing deniers back to the fringe

Acceptance of CSIRO’s statements on climate change will become the default “mainstream” view in both the media and in the political debate.

CSIRO has forced major media outlets – and by extension political parties – to either accept the science or deny it. The choice is between taking a respectable position or to engage in frothy-mouthed denial.

Politicians that either reject the science or remain ambiguous will either have to publically accept the CSIRO’s statement, or attack the credibility of CSIRO itself. Most politicians understand that this is not a viable strategy. It would make them look irresponsible and foolish.

The CSIRO is a respected institution in Australia. People understand the work they do, and have great pride in its achievements. When the CSIRO speaks most Australians listen and accept their message. To attack and denigrate such a respected authority will only reflect poorly on them (a point Andrew Bolt fails to grasp).

The big shapers of public opinion in the media are also forced to make that same choice, and one can see how it’s already happened.

The Australian: “OK, maybe you scientists are right….”

The Australian, Murdoch’s national daily has long had a problematical relationship with the science. But now the choice for Murdoch’s stable of deniers at The Australian is quite stark: denial or acceptance.

Fortunately they have conceded that the science is “solid“:

“…SERIOUS climate change debate is not the place for alarmist hyperbole and sophistry. Australians need to come to grips with the issue through quality science and rational argument, which is why a new CSIRO/Bureau of Meteorology analysis is welcome. While more than 90 per cent certain that greenhouse emissions have caused most of the global warming observed since 1950, the report’s balanced approach enhances its credibility….

…CSIRO executive director Dr Megan Clark correctly points out the value of scientific observation and hard data, the hallmarks of the new report, which is based on some of the most accurate meteorology records in the world. The report is a useful resource to inform sensible debate.”

Here the debate shifts from the acceptance of the science to the political, economic and social responses to climate change. It’s a debate that is necessary, and will no doubt be intense. But this is a signal that media outlets are now passing through the denial stage.

Personally, I think the rest of the article has some problems – especially their considerations on the economic implications of responding to climate change. However this blog is about climate change denial, not the policy implications.

The first stage is acceptance of the science.

Implications for the denial movement: their high-water mark is receding

Is this “nail in the coffin” for the denial movement?

Of course not, they’ll continue to sputter and rage for a few more years. However, CSIRO’s document delegitimizes their claims of conspiracies, data manipulation and deceit by the scientific establishment. Responsible politicians and journalists will be forced to distance themselves from their wild claims.

The “sophistry” (i.e. spin and lies) of the denail movement are longer acceptable. It will take some time for the denier community to accept this, but they’ve passed their high-water mark.

Last November it looked like that had gained the upper hand through their manipulation of the Climategate emails and problems with the IPCC fourth assessment report. Yes, they gained some traction in the mainstream press and blogosphere. But ultimately these events will be of no lasting importance.

The debate has moved on. It is moving on, and they are being left behind.

The likes of Andrew Bolt, Jo Nova and Ian Pilmer will continue to rage, however they will be preaching to a ever decreasing, but shrill minority.

When “alarmists” and “deniers” see eye-to-eye

I’ve paid tribute to the curiosity of the forum posters on Jo Nova’s blog, and I genuinely think many of them have questions they feel need to be answered. And while the climate debate can be tough, at least I think both “alarmists” and “deniers” (to chose each others labels for the opposing sides) can agree on some things.

As Tom notes in the continuing discussion on the issue:

“…Richard Courtney’s excellent analyses should be a reminder to all those who, like me, don’t have a profound grasp of the science, NOT to trade counter-theory with warmists. It’s not our job, and it just provides warmists with a fresh diversion from the task we should all be holding them to – presenting their theory in falsifiable form.

I can understand Richard’s reasoning, but I don’t have the knowledge or means to test it. Yet I trust it, (subject to the dictates of true scepticism!) because I can see that it takes the form of falsifiable argument and observed data. Furthermore, his analyses have been published, and therefore available to falsification, for some time, and I have seen no attempt, successful or otherwise, to do so.

With people of Richard’s lucidity (even if he’s wrong – see, I really am a sceptic!) the task of countertheorising is in good hands. As layfolk, this sort of “proxy” reasoning not only can guide our judgement of science, but is probably the best we are ever going to get. So let’s leave the countertheory to those few (although greatly over-represented at this site) who really have the wherewithal to kill the warmist red herrings when they are spawned.

Spot on Tom.

We all have to recognise the limits of our own understanding and capabilities. We need to leave it to the experts – climate scientists – to work out the science. As lay persons, we will never prove or disprove AGW in a blog post or forum discussion.

So what do I think was achieved in this debate?

I think both “sides” walked away with the recognition that science is complex, and that we need to trust the scientific method to determine the facts.

Addendum:  Richard S. Courtney’s qualifications need to be closley looked at.

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:

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greenhouse_effect#Greenhouse_gases

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