Campaign for disinformation: Watts up with that?

Seems like Anthony Watts is a little upset over Ove and John’s appearance at his seminar here in Brisbane the other day. We mentioned earlier on the blog:

The Climate Shifts crew and other scientists will be there en masse to record and debunk the lies that will be told.

After the event, Anthony noted that the:

“en masse” was about 5, maybe 6 people by my count.

After seeing the event, i’m thinking that maybe Anthony is right, this isn’t all big oil funding. For a little context, here’s what the ‘lecture tour’ looked like:

As for Ove? See for yourself. More on the ‘lecture tour’ shortly…

Nikon Camera Lost at Sea Found 1,100 Miles Away With Video Taken by Sea Turtle

Epic! Camera and waterproof housing found intact in Florida, turns out it was lost in Aruba 6 months prior, complete with video footage taken by a sea turtle somewhere in Honduras:

On May 16, Coast Guard investigator Paul Shultz was walking along a Key West, Florida marina when he came across a red Nikon L18. Although the underwater housing surrounding the camera was battered from what appeared to be a long period at sea, the camera was in tip top shape.

After finding nothing in the photos and videos on the memory card that pointed to the owner, Shultz turned to the Internet, posting the photos to Within days, it was determined from clues in the photos that they were taken in Aruba, about 1,100 miles from where the camera was found.

The clues included a plane’s tail number that revealed that the plane was in Aruba the day the photo was taken, a blue roof that was located on Google Maps, and a school poster written in Dutch (Aruba is a Dutch island).

Once the camera’s origin was known, Shultz published the photos to Within two days a woman recognized the children in some of the photos as her son’s classmates and, after contacting the family, the mystery was solved.

Dick de Bruin, a sergeant in the Royal Dutch Navy, was salvaging an anchor from the USS Powell for a WWII memorial when his camera floated away. One way or another it ended up 1,100 miles to the north and into the hands of Paul Shultz.

An interesting part of this story is that among the things found on the memory card was a video recorded by a sea turtle that dragged the camera for a period of time during the journey. The shaky video has amassed hundreds of thousands of views on YouTube:


(via Reddit)

The lies of Bob Carter and Anthony Watts

Denier disciples Bob Carter and Anthony Watts are giving a talk in Brisbane tonight at The Irish Club (175 Elizabeth Street, 7:00 pm).

The Climate Shifts crew and other scientists will be there en masse to record and debunk the lies that will be told.

But as a primer, we thought a simple compilation of the lies these two fools have been spreading would be valuable background information for any media planning to cover the event.

Bob Carter: Bob is a geologist associated with James Cook Uni.  Bob was a key player in one of the most recent denier scandals, aka “Cartergate” (see here and here).  The CS collection of articles on Bob’s falsehoods and shoddy science is here.  Also see Deltoid’s impressive collection here.

Anthony Watts: Tonight’s headliner is a former TV weatherman, known for his claims that the earth is cooling and is really square.  Well see here and here and  watch the videos:



The art of denial

I was sent this insightful article by ANU academic Andrew Glikson about denialism written by two medical scientists, Pascal Diethelm and Martin McKee.

Whether it is the belief that the world is only a few thousands of years old, that HIV does not cause AIDS, or greenhouse gases don’t affect the energy balance of the planet, there are five unifying characteristics of denialism according to Diethelm and McKee.

As I listed them here, I found myself ticking them off one by one.

See what you think:

1. Belief that a major conspiracy is blocking the truth from being told (yes, we’ve heard that one!  A massive army of thousands of zombie scientists are keeping a dark secret about climate change).

2. The use of fake experts which is accompanied by the denigration of established experts and researchers (anyone come to mind … Watts, Carter, Bolt?)

3. Selectivity – drawing on isolated papers that challenge the consensus or highlight flaws in the weakest papers so as to discredit an entire field (sunspots anyone?).

4.  Creation of impossible expectations of what research can deliver (… GCM models can’t predict the weather next week … so we can’t use them to study climate change!)

5. Use of misrepresentation and logical fallacies (remember Bob Carter’s line several years ago?  Atmospheric CO2 went up this year but global temperature didn’t, therefore climate change does not exist).

According to Diethelm and McKee, the normal academic response is to engage with the opposing argument, testing the strengths and weaknesses of the differing views. But as the authors point out, this only works as long as both parties obey certain ground rules, such as a willingness “to look at the evidence of the whole, and to reject deliberate distortions and accept the strength of logic”.

If either party chooses not operate under those rules, then they will tend to win (unfairly), often resulting in a false impression of the resolution of the debate to the non-expert observer.

Diethelm and McKee argue that the end of this article that “it is necessary to shift the debate from the subject under consideration, instead exposing to public scrutiny the tactics (denialists) employ and identifying them publicly for what they are. An understanding of the five tactics listed above provides a useful framework for doing so.”

After the frustrations of trying to pursue rational academic debate with people like Peter Ridd, Bob Carter and others, I would tend to agree with this perspective.

Four grader wins NSF science contest for a project proving AGW isn’t real?

Now this is something you’d think all those self-proclaimed skeptics would be skeptical about.  But you’d be wrong, e.g., see herehere and here.  Note that despite being debunked days ago, all these sites are still carrying the story with no correction.  Including Mark Morano’s Climate Depot:

It took scientist Michael Tobis, a scientist at the University of Texas, just a few emails and questions to debunk the entire crazy story.

See full coverage here on the excellent Yale Forum on Climate Change and the Media.

A Cruel Climate Hoax Perpetrated On Texas Fourth Grader in Name of NSF

By Zeke Hausfather | June 8, 2010

On June 5th the local newspaper in Beeville, a small town in Southern Texas, published a story about a local 4th grade student who had it said had just won the Junior Division of the National Science Fair for a project entitled “Disproving Global Warming.” The student, Julisa Castillo, had received a package containing a trophy, medal, and plaque, along with a letter purporting to be from an official at the National Science Foundation and announcing her selection as the first place winner out of 50,000 projects entered from 50 states.

In the course of two days, the story had spread around to dozens of blogs, hundreds of twitter posts, and various media outlets. It also appears to have been an elaborate hoax.

The human fingerprint in global warming

The new indispensable climate change blogger John Cook of Skeptical Science (sorry Joe, but John is blowing your doors off) just released a nice new pamphlet that simply explains some of the science behind climate change.  See his new related post here and a low-rez PDF (1.7Mb) of his awesome talk last month at the University of Queensland.

On the question of human caused global warming, there’s not just a consensus of scientists – there’s a consensus of evidence. Our understanding of climate doesn’t come from a single line of evidence. We use multiple sets of measurements, using independent methods, to further our understanding. – John Cook

Also see other wonderful resources at skeptical science including the huge list of global warming links and skeptic arguments.  The current number one argument is “It’s the sun”.

Good news for the GBR story on ABC’s AM show

Read and hear the full story here.

Report finds some good news for Great Barrier Reef

Sarah Clarke reported this story on Saturday, June 12, 2010 08:15:00

ELIZABETH JACKSON: After facing what appeared to be a gloomy outlook, there’s finally some good news for the Great Barrier Reef.

After a hot summer, and a series of heatwaves last year, scientists say late monsoonal conditions protected much of the coral from a major bleaching event.

But a new study shows mortality in the world’s tropical oceans is increasing, and as bleaching becomes more common, corals simply aren’t getting enough time to recover.

Our environment reporter Sarah Clarke travelled to the Great Barrier Reef for this report.

SARAH CLARKE: 2009 may have been the second warmest year on record, ending the hottest decade in a century, but that heat didn’t translate to ocean temperatures, with a trough delivering last minute respite for much of Australia’s oceans.

Ray Berkelmans is from the Australian Institute of Marine Science.

RAY BERKELMANS: Thankfully, just around Christmas time the active monsoon trough started and that persisted for just about most of the summer.

So together with high cloud cover and strong winds, that kept us from getting warm conditions for most of the summers.

SARAH CLARKE: Those cooler conditions chilled the ocean, protecting much of the Great Barrier Reef. There was some mild bleaching recorded in the southern region but the worst was further north.

Ove Hoegh-Guldberg is from the University of Queensland.

OVE HOEGH-GULDBERG: Right up in northern Australia, you know, in the Torres Strait region you had extremely warm weather for a very long period of time; that pushed sea temperatures above the long term summer maximum by several degrees, and of course that’s what drove bleaching.

SARAH CLARKE: Bleaching occurs when coral’s stress in unusually warmer waters. The worst events in Australia were recorded in 1998 and 2002. Some parts of the Great Barrier Reef have since recovered, but there has been some coral mortality.

And a study by John Bruno from the University of North Carolina now shows between one and two per cent of the world’s tropical corals are being lost each year.

JOHN BRUNO: Well Sarah, we’ve seen coral reefs degrading over the last three or four decades. So we don’t have a lot of data from the late 60s and the early 70s, but we’re quite sure things started really taking off in the early to mid 80s.

So our best guess is that we’ve lot about half of the world’s living coral cover over the last three or four decades.

SARAH CLARKE: That’s combined with new research which suggests that it can take some corals up to 18 months to recover. And as bleaching events become more common, some species won’t have enough time to rebuild.

And that translates to a grim outlook for unique places like the Great Barrier Reef, according to Ove Hoegh-Guldberg from the University of Queensland.

OVE HOEGH-GULDBERG: Now, you can never say from one season to the next that the next year is going to be a mass bleaching event, but what we’re seeing is that that overall risk is increasing over time as the temperature goes up.

You don’t have to be a mathematical genius to work out that, you know, 30 to 40 years from now we’ve lost most of the coral that we have here today, and that’s why a lot of us are very concerned.

New estimates double rate of oil flowing into gulf

UPDATE: see more coverage of this on climate progress plus two bonus videos:  the iconic “you’re gonna need a bigger boat” scene from Jaws and “Jaws in 60 seconds”.

The New York Times is reporting (here) that new estimates virtually double the rate that oil is thought to be flowing into the gulf.

A government panel on Thursday essentially doubled its estimate of how much oil has been spewing from the out-of-control BP well, with the new calculation suggesting that an amount equivalent to theExxon Valdez disaster could be flowing into the Gulf of Mexico every 8 to 10 days.

The new estimate is 25,000 to 30,000 barrels of oil a day. That range, still preliminary, is far above the previous estimate of 12,000 to 19,000 barrels a day.

These new calculations came as the public wrangling between BP and the White House was reaching new heights, with President Obama asking for a meeting with BP executives next week and his Congressional allies intensifying their pressure on the oil giant to withhold dividend payments to shareholders until it makes clear it can and will pay all its obligations from the spill.

The higher estimates will affect not only assessments of how much environmental damage the spill has done but also how much BP might eventually pay to clean up the mess — and it will most likely increase suspicion among skeptics about how honest and forthcoming the oil company has been throughout the catastrophe.

The new estimate is based on information that was gathered before BP cut a pipe called a riser on the ocean floor last week to install a new capture device, an operation that some scientists have said may have sharply increased the rate of flow. The government panel, called the Flow Rate Technical Group, is preparing yet another estimate that will cover the period after the riser was cut.

The new estimate appears to be a far better match than earlier ones for the reality that Americans can see every day on their televisions. Even though the new capture device is funneling 15,000 barrels of oil a day to a ship at the surface, a robust flow of oil is still gushing from the well a mile beneath the waves.

The question of how much oil is pouring into the gulf has been a nagging one for weeks, especially since early estimates from BP and the government proved woefully low. And the new estimates come as the company, after weeks of failed efforts, is enjoying its first substantial success at preventing a significant volume of oil from entering the gulf.

The new numbers are certain to ratchet up the already intense political pressure on BP.

For days Mr. Obama and his advisers have fended off questions about why he has not spoken with the chief executive of BP, Tony Hayward. The president’s commander for the spill response, Adm. Thad W. Allen of the Coast Guard, wrote on Thursday to the chairman of the BP board, Carl-Henric Svanberg, requesting that he and “any appropriate officials from BP” meet with administration officials next Wednesday. Mr. Obama will participate in part of the meeting, he wrote.

Jackie Calmes contributed reporting from Washington, and Graham Bowley and Liz Robbins from New York.

Pelicans and oil don’t mix

Pelicans are my favorite birds and among my favorite animals.  Seeing them covered in oil really sucks.

I think these images are every bit as disturbing as those Chris Jorden took at Midway island last year of dead albatross chicks choked by plastic they were fed by their mothers (here).

Brown Pelicans were once greatly reduced in numbers and threatened by DDT spraying, which reduced the thickness of their egg shells.  The national DDT ban facilitated a largely successful recovery.

Before I went to grad school, I worked for the Conservancy in Naples Florida and mainly did pelican rehab; we rescued pelicans and other birds that were injured by fishing lines, hit by golf balls, etc.  We used to number their bills with nail polish to tell them apart.  I was always struck by how much their personality varied among individuals.  Some were cranky and aggressive, some were calm and mild.

Lisen to the NPR story about the effects of the spill on pelicans here.