A science presenter, writer, speaker & former TV host; author of The Skeptic's Handbook (over 200,000 copies distributed & available in 15 languages).



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Coral reef totally recovers (for 400th time) and researchers surprised

If only coral researchers read skeptic blogs, they’d know that corals have been getting bleached and wrecked by cyclones for millions of years. They have adaptable genes, honed by 500 million years of natural selection, plus epigenetic tricks, and with safe zones to seed recovery. The Great Barrier Reef spans 2,000 kilometers and five degrees Celsius from 27 to 32°C and we’re still finding reefs we didn’t even know about. The pH swings on a daily basis, and fish do better when it does. One coral has adapted to ocean “acidification” in 6 months. Other fish remarkably adapted from salt to freshwater in just fifty years. As Peter Ridd says: Of all the ecosystems in the world, the reef is one that’s best at adapting to climate change.

So once again, corals have recovered — and yet the “experts” who wear their dogma covered glasses didn’t see it coming.

‘Teeming with life’: New hope for the Great Barrier Reef as island shows remarkable coral growth

By Melissa Martin and Erin Semmler, ABC

One Tree Island was lashed by Cyclone Hamish in 2009, destroying much of the island’s coral.

In the five years following the […]

Finally “world first” study on nine houses shows wind towers make pulsing noise for 3.5 km

Generic wind turbine near farm. Photo: @gonz_ddl

Finally, a study looks at data on nine houses within ten kilometers of an old (probably small) wind turbine. What’s amazing about this research is not the result but that this study is so tiny, yet it’s still a “world first”.

There are already probably around 400,000 wind turbines installed around the world.* So you might think that there would have been scores of studies involving hundreds of people and followed up for a year or two. They would have looked at the effect of wind turbines upwind, downwind, side wind, in low wind, high wind, and at different times of day. They’d check for altered sleep patterns, lack of deep sleep, REM sleep, cognitive performance, blood pressure, cortisol levels, and school marks. Dream on. It’s like everything with climate change — who needs data?

Renewables are a $300 billion annual global industry. This work was done with a $1.4 million National Health and Medical Research Council grant. Where is the precautionary principle when we need it?

Can wind turbines disturb sleep? Research finds pulsing audible in homes up to 3.5km away

Nicole Hasham, Sydney Morning Herald


“Surprise” Climate change, 900ppm CO2, acidification is good news for squid

Squid, “surprise” are going to do well with climate change. (If only it was going to happen).

In the new post-CO2 world, corn and soy may become weeds, but squid may take over the oceans:

Squid will survive and may even flourish under even the worst-case ocean acidification scenarios, according to a new study published this week.

Dr Blake Spady, from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies (Coral CoE) at James Cook University (JCU), led the study. He said squid live on the edge of their environmental oxygen limitations due to their energy-taxing swimming technique. They were expected to fare badly with more carbon dioxide (CO2) in the water, which makes it more acidic.

No academic could have guessed that squid would have evolved ways to control their own blood pH:

“Their blood is highly sensitive to changes in acidity, so we expected that future ocean acidification would negatively affect their aerobic performance,” said Dr Spady.

Atmospheric CO2 concentrations have increased from 280 parts per million (ppm) before the industrial revolution to more than 400 ppm today. Scientists project atmospheric CO2 — and by extension CO2 in […]

In a warming world we may get overun by cheap soy and corn

New research shows that the impending climate disaster puts the world in danger of growing too much corn and soy. People won’t know what starving is!

H/t to CO2Science

Qiao et al discovered that when temperatures are raised by a “catastrophic” 2 degrees C, and CO2 is raised to 700 unthinkable ppm corn (aka maize) increases its yield by a remarkable 25%. When hit by both high temperatures and extra CO2, soy bean yield increased even more — by 31%.

Presumably this means crop prices will fall and corn and soy may take over your garden. (So make sure you put in a solar panel to control those new weeds!)

Rumour that nutrient densities will fall — proved to be false. Increased temperature raised the oil content of both crops. And the combo of warmer weather plus CO2 increased most of the nutrients as well. Both crops had more phosphorus, potassium, iron, and zinc. There was a statistically small decrease in calcium in maize, so small it may not be there. The only mineral that definitely declined was manganese in soybeans, and as far as humans go, there is apparently no one on Earth who has a clinical manganese deficiency […]

Climate disasters are less costly, less deadly, and corporate warnings are just $1T of hot air

Hitting the presses today, the vacuous news that lots of companies picked huge numbers out of the air using broken models to guess hyperbolic climate losses coming in the next five years, counter to all the trends for the last hundred years which show declining losses on a GDP basis. The world got warmer but the disasters got less nasty. Less bushfire, less cyclones, less tornadoes, less death per capita. The trends are all good. The only thing that’s up is the number of panic merchants.

World’s biggest firms foresee $1 trillion climate cost hit

LONDON (Reuters) – More than 200 of the world’s largest listed companies forecast that climate change could cost them a combined total of almost $1 trillion, with much of the pain due in the next five years, according to a report published on Tuesday.

So hundreds of companies have offered the climate world a free hit for PR by making a guess. They fall into two kinds of companies –The badgered and harried and the profiteers. See below for examples. Firstly, here’s the only chart that matters.

Global Weather losses are down:

If CO2 causes climate events we need more of it. The […]

New finding: Phytoplankton are much bigger players in CO2 levels than realized

Mysterious CO2 activity in New Zealand shows Phytoplankton at work

Tom Quirk both finds a mystery and solves it.

Emiliania huxleyi coccolithophore | Alison Taylor.

Carbon dioxide is a “well mixed gas” yet CO2 levels over New Zealand start rising there each year in March — a whole month before we see it CO2 start to rise over Tasmania. Air over Cape Grim in Tasmania will be blown by the prevailing wind over to New Zealand about five days later. So these two stations should be showing similar numbers throughout the year. Instead some process in NZ is pushing up CO2 early. Levels also peak earlier in New Zealand, and by September, in early spring, some process around NZ is pulling the CO2 out of the sky. Both NZ and Tasmania share large forested areas, so that wouldn’t explain the difference.

Quirk wondered if it had something do with phytoplankton, so he searched for satellite data that measures chlorophyll in the ocean and shows, voila, that there is major activity right around the Baring Head station at the same time as CO2 levels are falling. Indeed, the station is smack in the middle of a mass phytoplankton bloom.

He […]

Supernova caused lightning, which caused fires, which (maybe) caused humans to stand upright

Back in the unpoliticized Pliocene it’s possible that cosmic rays bombarded Earth and triggered lightning which started fires all around the Earth. This may (warning: speculation) have pushed human ancestors to stand on two legs. In the politicized Holocene, however cosmic rays are “irrelevant”. Ancient cosmic rays can set the Earth on fire apparently, change dominant species, and leave a charcoal layer around the Earth. But changes in cosmic rays lately can *not* cause any changes in modern lightning and cloud cover.

Color me skeptical that there is a cause and effect link between fires and homo-four-legs becoming homo-two-legs. It’s possible, and interesting, but a little bit “just so”. There are many advantages in standing upright — seeing further, reaching higher, standing in water, and carrying booty or babies. Some dinosaurs also evolved to be bipedal.

The study reminds us that for most of human history Space Weather was important. It’s only modern climate models that decree astronomical-stuff = zero.

Another previous study showed that lightning strikes occur in time with the spinning Sun in 150 year old Japanese farm records.

Did ancient supernovae prompt human ancestors to walk upright?

Supernovae bombarded Earth with cosmic energy […]

Blockbuster: 178 years of Australian rain has nothing to do with CO2, worst extremes 1849, 1925, 1950

Remarkable! A new study by Ashcroft, Karoly and Dowdy pieces together an extraordinary 178 years of rainfall data from Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide. This is a rare study that brings in much older data, looking at trends and extremes. This is pretty much the ultimate long term rainfall paper for South East Australia. Henceforth, there shalt be no more headlines about “unprecedented” rainfall or area’s drying out “due to climate change” unless an event rates against this data…

Australia – a land of floods and droughts: Rainfall goes up and down in long ongoing cycles or change, but no obvious trend that matches the sharp rise of CO2 in the last 30 years. It’s almost like CO2 has no detectable effect… The worst extremes were for the most part — long ago — particularly in the 1840s (assuming those records are reliable). Almost nothing in the last 30 years is unusual or unprecedented despite humans putting out 50% of all our CO2 since 1989. These charts show how misleading it is to use graphs that start in 1970 (or even in 1910) and declare that the recent changes are meaningful, or caused by CO2.

The researchers also use newspaper archives […]

Adapting to climate change “it’s in our genes” — Another reason to ignore the extinction scare

Two different models predict two totally different futures. On the left, catastrophic extinction. On the right, happy bats. Click to enlarge

Yesterday a UN supercommittee of 145 scientists from 50 countries declared that one million species are set for extinction. The same day, ten other scientists published a paper pointing out that most modelers forget to allow for genetic variation and thus overestimate the extinction rate. (It’s like they’re modelling the World of Clones – take one small study, pretend they’re all the same — extrapolate globally.) Have a look at the big difference in model outcomes in figure 1 (right).

As I keep saying, 500 million years of brutal climate change means almost every species carries around an industrial tool-kit of handy genetic tricks. Matz et al estimated corals already have the genes to survived another 250 years of projected IPCC catastrophe (in the unlikely event that it happens). Liew et al showed corals even have epigenetic tricks as well as genetics ones. Another group showed when corals are heated something like 74 different genes are activated — often genes that we don’t even know what they’re there for.

My favourite all time Global Adaptability Prize goes to […]

Deadliest droughts in India were before 1924

Next time someone tells you how extreme the climate is today remind them that five million people died in a drought in 1896 in India. That was the same year a brutally hot summer in Australia caused 400 deaths and people fled the inland heat on emergency trains. Somewhere between 1 and 5 million people died a few years later in the next drought — the same time as Australia’s “Federation drought”.

Spot the effect of CO2 in 150 years of rainfall of India:

Average rainfall anomalies in India from 1850 – 2016 from IMD (black) and GISS (red). | Click to read the official caption.

Famine deaths have largely been eliminated in India, mostly thanks to better transport and organisation, higher yields (thanks to fertilizer and CO2) and irrigation. Droughts still happen but in a population that has grown from 250 million in 1880 to a billion in 2000 the extraordinary thing is that more people starved of famine when the population was only a quarter of the size and CO2 levels were “perfecto”.

Weakened people died of cholera and malaria, and bubonic plague too. Death rates to these diseases often doubled or tripled.

Famine, India, 1896.