Sunday, May 16, 2021

Common sense Left on the cutting room floor

 This letter left on the floor by The Oz editor.... 

As a society we tolerate a certain number of deaths from a wide range of causes to trade off for other benefits. Motor vehicle accidents being a good example. We could bring MVA deaths to near zero by implementing 40 kmh speed limits and vehicle tracking. But we tolerate 1000 deaths per annum for the convenience and benefits of speed. Covid should not be any different. At a time when most of the vulnerable are vaccinated and the risk of people dying from the virus are substantially decreased we should be looking at removing ALL restrictions rather than imposing new ones.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

The Rock: if you haven't climbed it you haven't visited

Recent dead letter at the SMH:

Dear Editor,

The climb to the top of Uluru affords one a chance to soak in the geology, geomorphology and environment of this remarkable area. Unfortunately pandering to stone age beliefs has threatened the climb for some time and sadly continues to do so, replete with specious comparisons with climbing man made religious structures (Uluru: to climb or not to climb? 7/8/2017). It may surprise many but climbing the bell towers of many christian churches is a very common tourist practise in Europe that usually comes with a small fee. I understand that you can even climb the Bell Tower at St Mary's if you know the right person.

Climbing the rock is an act that commemorates our collective defeat over primitive mysticism and is a tribute to science and modernity. Not climbing on the grounds that the rock is sacred in some way is an act of wilful ignorance, tantamount to turning your back on the age of enlightenment. Dream time tales, along with other religious fantasies, may make for fine bedtime morality lessons, but they have no role in restricting access to our shared natural heritage. If you haven't climbed it, you haven't really visited it.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Back to the 1800s

Letter to The Australian on the cutting room floor...

Dear Editor,
New research (Climate change to cause twice as many severe floods in Australia, 27/1) indicates we can expect  "almost twice as many severe floods this century like the ones that devastated southeast Queensland four years ago". Looking over the Bureau of Meteorology's charts of flood height for the Brisbane River there were 9 major flood events between 1840 and 1940, and just 2 between 1940 and 2014. Based on this it seems the climate of the future will be a thing of the past.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Confirmation bias preferred at the Sydney Morning Herald

Pity a once great paper has gone to rubbish. Our well crafted letter tossed into the editor's bin in favour of crap.

Professional scientists often request assistance from citizen scientists. However when a group of "amateurs", including retired engineers and scientists find problems with mainstream science, for example with BOM's system of temperature homogenization or errors in palaeoclimate reconstructions made famous by the hockey stick saga, we see their contributions attacked, not by looking at the evidence they present, but by resorting to personal attacks, name calling and appeals to authority (Climate change deniers raise the heat on the Bureau of Meteorology, 10/9).  
It is sad that many professional scientists are unable to work constructively with a veritable army of enthusiastic highly skilled volunteers interested in making substantial contributions to science. It seems these contributions are only appreciated when they confirm the researchers' preferred models. When they show the opposite, the shudders of authority go up and professional heads get buried in the sand. It's time researchers showed more maturity and humility and engaged with an interested public rather than treating them like pariahs.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

The climate bookie

A letter in the Oz today but most of it went missing, here's the full text:

With respect to climate science Brian Schmidt claims to have "considerable knowledge of the science at hand" yet in his proposed bet with Maurice Newman he is unwilling to put a figure on the amount of warming he expects in 20 years. He would be aware that the real debate is not about whether it will warm or not, but the amount of warming, and its effect. Based on the IPCC's current report the range for future warming based on estimates of the climate's sensitivity to CO2 is quite broad and implies anything from inconvenience to catastrophe. With his "considerable knowledge" I would have thought Dr Schmidt would have been confident enough in the science to nominate a figure against which Mr Newman could bet rather than take him for a mug punter.

Monday, April 29, 2013

The slow roast

Left on the cutting room floor at the Sydney Morning Herald...

With CO2 about to breach the 400ppm barrier and likely to continue rising over the coming decades (Greenhouse gas levels highest in 3M years, 29/4) I'm sure readers will be heartened to learn that recent estimates of the climate's sensitivity to this greenhouse gas are lower than previously thought (see link below*). Based on current best estimates (1.6 degrees C per doubling) we are likely to experience further warming of about 0.8 degrees C by the end of the century. The lower climate sensitivity goes some way to explain why the IPCC's climate models have failed to forecast the current hiatus in global temperatures since 1998 despite massively increasing CO2 emissions.
This slow roast hardly represents what former PM Rudd called "the greatest moral, economic and environmental challenge of our generation".  It also pulls the rug from under the feet of ardent alarmists like Clive Hamilton who has moved from calls to suspend democracy to save the planet, to supporting civil disobedience against the coal industry (whatever that entails). Ironically, an industry that through its taxes helps fund Hamilton's generous salary.


Lewis N., 2013. An objective Bayesian, improved approach for applying
optimal fingerprint techniques to estimate climate sensitivity.
Journal of Climate 2013 ; e-View

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Activist Sherpa's views preferred over peer reviewed science

From the cutting room floor at The Australian...

Dear Editor,
Chris Roylance (Letters, 29/2) finds some irony in Des Moore's call for an independent inquiry into the science of climate change by citing the claims of a sherpa. While first hand experience and anecdotal evidence of decreasing snowfall at the top of the world are worth considering, recent satellite data has revealed  "the world's greatest snowcapped peaks lost no ice at all over the past 10 years (Highest peaks have cut no ice in past 10 years, 10/2/12). Claims that Mt Everest is becoming more treacherous to climb are also little difficult to believe when this newspaper reported just 2 years ago that "An estimated 200 people reached the summit on Sunday, the busiest day, when 13-year-old American Jordan Romero became the youngest person ever to climb Everest, tackling the mountain from the quieter north side." (Climate change ups Everest danger, 26/5/2010). Interesting the same sherpa Chris Roylance relies on to rebuke Des Moore, featured in that story too, making the same claims about missing ice after making a record 20th ascent of the world's highest peak; a record your report yesterday indicates he has since broken (Mount Everest perilous as snows vanish, 28/2). Yes the ironies are there for all to see. But that believers in a climate catastrophe now rely on the anecdotal claims of an activist sherpa over the evidence offered by peer reviewed science is the greatest irony of all.