Friday, February 9, 2018

Science or silence? My battle to question doomsayers about the Great Barrier Reef

The scientific process has been under attack with concerted efforts to marginalize or shut down any skeptical arguments , and avoid the scrutiny and debates that good science demands. The latest has been launched against Dr. Peter Ridd for criticizing the conclusions of his colleagues as unsubstantiated. The University receives huge funding for investigating catastrophic coral demise, and so suppresses opinions that call for a more objective analyses. In contrast to promoting healthy debate among scientists, the university attacked Ridd for not being "collegial."
Professor Peter Ridd leads the Marine Geophysical Laboratory, James Cook University, Australia and has authored over 100 scientific papers.
Dr. Peter Ridd has given me permission to re-post his essay in its entirety any place. I encourage everyone who understands,  Good Science Must Require Healthy Debate, to post Dr. Ridd's essay in its entirety and expose these disturbing attempts to denigrate the scientific process.
Science or silence? My battle to question doomsayers about the Great Barrier Reef
Around the world, people have heard about the impending extinction of the Great Barrier Reef: some 133,000 square miles of magnificent coral stretching for 1,400 miles off the northeast coast of Australia.
The reef is supposedly almost dead from the combined effects of a warming climate, nutrient pollution from Australian farms, and smothering sediment from offshore dredging.
Except that, as I have said publicly as a research scientist who has studied the reef for the past 30 years, all this most likely isn’t true.
And just for saying that – and calling into question the kind of published science that has led to the gloomy predictions – I have been served with a gag order by my university. I am now having to sue for my right to have an ordinary scientific opinion.
My emails have been searched. I was not allowed even to speak to my wife about the issue. I have been harangued by lawyers. And now I’m fighting back to assert my right to academic freedom and bring attention to the crisis of scientific truth.
The problems I am facing are part of a “replication crisis” that is sweeping through science and is now a serious topic in major science journals. In major scientific trials that attempt to reproduce the results of scientific observations and measurements, it seems that around 50 percent of recently published science is wrong, because the results can’t be replicated by others.
And if observations and measurements can’t be replicated, it isn’t really science – it is still, at best, hypothesis, or even just opinion. This is not a controversial topic anymore – science, or at least the system of checking the science we are using, is failing us.
The crisis started in biomedical areas, where pharmaceutical companies in the past decade found that up to 80 percent of university and institutional science results that they tested were wrong. It is now recognized that the problem is much more widespread than the biomedical sciences. And that is where I got into big trouble.
I have published numerous scientific papers showing that much of the “science” claiming damage to the reef is either plain wrong or greatly exaggerated. As just one example, coral growth rates that have supposedly collapsed along the reef have, if anything, increased slightly.
Reefs that are supposedly smothered by dredging sediment actually contain great coral. And mass bleaching events along the reef that supposedly serve as evidence of permanent human-caused devastation are almost certainly completely natural and even cyclical.
These allegedly major catastrophic effects that recent science says were almost unknown before the 1980s are mainly the result of a simple fact: large-scale marine science did not get started on the reef until the 1970s.
By a decade later, studies of the reef had exploded, along with the number of marine biologists doing them. What all these scientists lacked, however, was historical perspective. There are almost no records of earlier eras to compare with current conditions. Thus, for many scientists studying reef problems, the results are unprecedented, and almost always seen as catastrophic and even world-threatening.
The only problem is that it isn’t so. The Great Barrier Reef is in fact in excellent condition. It certainly goes through periods of destruction where huge areas of coral are killed from hurricanes, starfish plagues and coral bleaching. However, it largely regrows within a decade to its former glory. Some parts of the southern reef, for example, have seen a tripling of coral in six years after they were devastated by a particularly severe cyclone.
Reefs have similarities to Australian forests, which require periodic bushfires. It looks terrible after the bushfire, but the forests always regrow. The ecosystem has evolved with these cycles of death and regrowth.
The conflicting realities of the Great Barrier Reef point to a deeper problem. In science, consensus is not the same thing as truth. But consensus has come to play a controlling role in many areas of modern science. And if you go against the consensus you can suffer unpleasant consequences.
The main system of science quality control is called peer review. Nowadays, it usually takes the form of a couple of anonymous reviewing scientists having a quick check over the work of a colleague in the field.
Peer review is commonly understood as painstaking re-examination by highly qualified experts in academia that acts as a real check on mistaken work. It isn’t.  In the real world, peer review is often cursory and not always even knowledgeable. It might take reviewers only a morning to do.
Scientific results are rarely reanalyzed and experiments are not replicated. The types of checks that would be routine in private industry are just not done.
I have asked the question: Is this good enough quality control to make environmental decisions worth billions of dollars that are now adversely affecting every major industry in northeast Australia?
Our sugar industry has been told to make dramatic reductions in fertilizer application, potentially reducing productivity; our ports have dredging restrictions that threaten their productivity; scientists demand that coal mines be closed; and tourists are scared away because the reef is supposedly almost dead – not worth seeing anymore.
Last August I made this point on Sky News in Australia in promotion of a chapter I wrote in “Climate Change: The Facts 2017,” published by the Australian free market think tank the Institute of Public Affairs.
“The basic problem is that we can no longer trust the scientific organizations like the Australian Institute of Marine Science, even things like the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies … the science is coming out not properly checked, tested or replicated and this is a great shame because we really need to be able to trust our scientific institutions and the fact is I do not think we can any more,” I said.
The response to these comments by my employer, James Cook University, was extraordinary.
Rather than measured argument, I was hit with a charge of academic serious misconduct for not being “collegial.”
University authorities told me in August I was not allowed to mention the case or the charges to anybody – not even my wife.
Then things got worse. With assistance from the Institute of Public Affairs, I have been pushing back against the charges and the gag order – leading the university to search my official emails for examples of where I had mentioned the case to other scientists, old friends, past students and my wife.
I was then hit with 25 new allegations, mostly for just mentioning the case against me. The email search turned up nothing for which I feel ashamed. You can see for yourself.
We filed in court in November. At that point the university backed away from firing me. But university officials issued a “Final Censure” in my employment file and told me to be silent about the allegations, and not to repeat my comments about the unreliability of institutional research.
But they agreed that I could mention it to my wife, which was nice of them.
I would rather be fired than accept these conditions. We are still pursuing the matter in court.
This case may be about a single instance of alleged misconduct, but underlying it is an issue even bigger than our oceans. Ultimately, I am fighting for academic and scientific freedom, and the responsibility of universities to nurture the debate of difficult subjects without threat or intimidation.
We may indeed have a Great Barrier Reef crisis, but the science is so flawed that it is impossible to tell its actual dimensions. What we do know for certain is that we have an academic freedom crisis that threatens the true life of science and threatens to smother our failing university system.

Professor Peter Ridd leads the Marine Geophysical Laboratory, James Cook University, Australia and has authored over 100 scientific papers.

Friday, January 5, 2018

My Interview for the Infectious Myth regards California fires, floods, and natural climate cycles

Comparing increased wildfires since 1980 compared to the 1920s

I was recently interviewed by David Crowe for his Infectious Myth podcasts, as we discussed California fires, floods, and natural climate cycles that have nothing to do with global warming and finished discussing thriving polar bears.

You can hear the podcast at

Starving Polar Bear 😜

Friday, December 22, 2017

The 97% climate consensus Fake News!

The 97% climate consensus Fake News?

Meteorologists examine causes of weather change every day. Climate is the long-term change in weather. If a scientist does not understand how weather changes, he wont understand how climate changes. Meteorologists are the scientists most likely to understand if unusual weather extremes are weather or climate change. Thus they have been polled every year about climate change.
However most don’t respond. Basically three fourths of weather scientists choose NOT to get entangled in a political, non-scientific debate. In 2015 the response rate was 22%, just 32% in 2016 and in 2017 just 22%. And as true for most skeptics, most agreed climate change is happening. However the question is: What is the cause of that change?
Of 2017’s respondents, only 15% thought climate change was entirely due to humans, while 34% thought 60 to 80% could be attributed to human activity. However the survey did not separate human contributions to climate change from urbanization, deforestation, loss of wetlands or CO2 .
One fifth, or 21% thought changes were mostly or entirely natural while 8% admitted they just didn’t know.
So for ALL meteorologists surveyed only 11% actually claimed humans were mostly responsible for observed climate change: 22%(response) X 49% (attribution).
Survey of Meteorologists On Causes of Climate Change

The survey was done by advocates of CO2 warming at ClimateCentral

Saturday, December 16, 2017

The Polar-Bear-Gate Saga: How a picture is worth a thousand lies - Paul Nicklen and Michael Mann vs Susan Crockford


What oddly seems to surprise so many people, reality can quickly disagree with the hypotheses and speculative models of scientists.  The polar bear is a rich case in point. In 2008, the polar bear was listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act as a result of the Center for Biological Diversity’s (CBD) petition. Due to hypotheses regards future effects of increasing CO2 on sea ice and polar bear health, CBD argued polar bears were endangered. However then Interior Secretary Kempthorne made it clear that “the ESA will not be used as a tool for trying to regulate the greenhouse gas emissions blamed for creating climate change.”  But as seen in other memos and  petitions, such as for the bearded seals, the CBD ultimately wants to use the ESA as a tool to regulate CO2.

So the CBD stepped up their demands and petitioned the Obama administration to list the bears as endangered. Climate scientists Ken Caldeira and Michael Mann co-authored a 2010 letter to Interior Secretary Salazar supporting CBD efforts. They warned “sea ice has been projected to disappear in the 2030s or before” and lost sea ice was both a future and “current threat to this important habitat of the polar bear.” The Polar Bear Specialist Group (PBSG) led by researchers like Andrew Derocher, Steve Amstrup and Ian Stirling warned the world that “two thirds of the world’s bears will be lost by mid-century due to climate change”.  The PBSG published a status table for all the polar bear sub-populations showing in the best studied populations, 8 were declining.

However, since 2010 those predictions have been unravelling. All the evidence now reveals polar bears are thriving and increasing, and the PBSG’s recent status tables show just that. Research by  Chambellant and Stirling determined it was heavy springtime ice that was most detrimental to bears and their main prey, the ringed seal. The loss of Arctic summer sea ice was happening faster than CO2 driven models had predicted, suggesting flawed models. Research revealed that in response to the natural Arctic Oscillation, thick sea ice had been blown into the warmer Atlantic due to a directional shift in freezing winds. Further loss of Arctic sea ice has recently been shown to be caused by cycles of intruding waters from the Pacific and the Atlantic resulting in heat in that gets stored in the subsurface of the Arctic Ocean, dynamics that have not been accurately incorporated into global climate models.  Accordingly, the loss of sea ice has not accelerated. Instead the loss has slowed considerably.

Skeptics argued such evidence challenges prevailing hypotheses about the polar bears’ demise, and question the contention that greenhouse gases are the primary cause of sea ice fluctuations. Driven by the hubris of scientists like Michael Mann whose careers are totally invested in the “dire predictions” of rising CO2, the normal scientific process of challenging a hypothesis was framed as an “attack on science”.

Again in 2010, in the paper Climate Change and the Integrity of Science Peter Gleick wrote, “We are deeply disturbed by the recent escalation of political assaults on scientists in general and on climate scientists in particular. Accompanying his paper (below) was a photo-shopped picture of a polar bear stranded on a shrinking piece of ice. A deception that skeptics quickly pointed out.

Photoshopped picture used in 2010 Gleick paper Climate Change and the Integrity of Science 

So the following correction was placed in the paper’s online version.
“Due to an editorial error, the original image associated with this Letter was not a photograph, but a collage. The image was selected by the editors [of Science, the journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science], and it was a mistake to have used it. The original image has been replaced in the online HTML and PDF versions of the article with an unaltered photograph from National Geographic.”
That replacement picture (below) was from National Geographic photographer Paul Nicklin, who would become infamous for specializing in dead and skinny polar bear photos. If Gleick or his editors were pulling photos from an archive (National Geographic?) of photographs, then the question arises if the fake collage was also the work of the same photographer. And if so, for what purpose were they creating such a dishonest photo? The timing of the article and fake photo also raised suspicions from skeptics as it coincided with the Center for Biological Diversity’s campaign to up-list the polar bear from threatened to endangered,

NIcklen's photo used by Gleick

Despite having “carelessly” used a fake photo, Gleick was anointed the Chairman of the new task force on “scientific ethics and integrity” for the American Geophysical Union in 2011. Leading by example, in 2012 Gleick was outed in a flagrant attempt to anonymously smear the Heartland Institute’s climate skepticism by disseminating documents dishonestly obtained, including a damning but forged memo. Quickly identified by internet skeptics, Gleick finally confessed. Although the forged document was only being disseminated by Gleick, he denied any hand in forgery, and there was not enough evidence to convict him of forgery. In a KQED interview, Michael Mann, likely motivated by self-protection, downplayed Gleick’s underhanded actions as “poor judgement”. Mann then argued the release of the climate-gate emails, emails that had exposed Mann’s own underhanded methods, was a more dastardly deed. To this day, it is still unknown if the release of climate gate emails were the work of a whistle-blower or a hacker.

However, consistent with Mann’s efforts to promote polar bears as an icon of catastrophic global warming, Mann expressed no concern about Gleick’s fake polar bear picture. Indeed Mann was actively trying to pull on heart strings by mewing in the CBD release,  “When I ventured up to Hudson Bay in mid-November and saw the undernourished polar bears with their cubs, sitting around at the shore of the Hudson Bay, waiting for the then month-overdue sea ice to arrive so they could begin hunting for food, it suddenly came home for me. For the first time in my life, I actually saw climate change unfolding before my eyes. It was a sobering moment, and one I’ll never forget.”  In contrast to such storytelling, the unpublished research data from Stirling and Lunn, determined polar bear’s Body Condition Index for Hudson Bay bears had been improving since 1998 (in Landscapes and Cycles, p. 217). Improving body condition was also consistent with the increasing number of Hudson Bay bears estimated in subsequent surveys.

Susan Crockford runs the website, that aggregates the most up-to-date, peer-reviewed science and media releases by polar bear researchers. For example, Crockford reported the latest survey showing a healthy rebounding Western Hudson Bay population, months before the Polar Bear Specialist Group (PBSG) researchers publicized the increase. The PBSG had incorrectly predicted a dramatic decline in Hudson Bay bears, so their tardiness to expose their own shortcomings is understandable. Crockford also reported the lack of consensus among polar bear researchers. While Enviornment Canada agreeed with the latest survey that estimated a healthy 1030 Western Hudson Bay bears, PBSG alarmist Andrew Derocher was actively pushing a much lower estimate of 800 bears to the media and suggesting the bears were doomed. This too is understandable as Derocher was invested in his earlier predictions that “by the middle of this century, two-thirds of the polar bears will be gone from their current populations”

Nonetheless despite mutiple surveys suggesting polar bear abundance was and is increasing, others tried to deny the evidence and suggest bears were starving and still on the brink of extinction. In 2015, photos by Kerstin Langenberger and once again by Paul Nicklin were pumped on social media, suggesting bears were suffering from a climate catastrophe. Who were these photographers?

Greenpeace activist Kerstin Langenberger's skinny polar bear photo

The dying bear above was put on Facebook by Kerstin Langenberger whom internet articles referred to as just a German photographer.  But a little digging revealed she is a Greenpeace activist, which is consistent with her catastrophic narratives that accompanied her photo and contradicted our best science. She stated, “With the pack ice retreating further and further north every year, they tend to be stuck on land where there’s not much food,” and “many times I have seen horribly thin bears, and those were exclusively females – like this one here”  and  “Only once I have seen a bear getting a big fat ‘5,’ but several times I have seen dead bears and bears like this one: a mere ‘1’ on the scale, doomed to death.” [polar bears’ body condition is often rated from 1(dangerously thin) to 5 (fat)]. (Amstrup has written polar bears usually head inland when sick, so there are questions about the photo's authenticity)

However contradicting Langenberger’s narrative, Norwegian Polar Institute researcher Kit Kovacs stated there’s reason to question claims that the number of animals experiencing such hardships is increasing. Our monitoring work indicates that (on-average) bears in the Svalbard population have NOT declined in condition over the last two decades – based on male body masses and fat levels”. Similarly, in the South Beaufort Sea population, female body condition had improved despite reduced summer ice.

NIcklen's Dead Bear in Svalbard Photo 

Also in 2015, Nicklin posted his photo of a dead bear that went viral. Journalist Andrew Freedman promoted the picture in Mashable writing, “Global warming may have led to the death of this polar bear.” Presenting a thin veneer of objectivity, he quotes polar bear researcher Ian Stirling who suggested that Nicklen’s photo shows a bear that most likely, but not certainly, died as a result of starvation related to sea ice melt. But Stirling’s remarks must be taken with a grain of salt as there is absolutely no evidence to support why the bear died. Furthermore, Stirling has appeared slightly schizophrenic lately as has been detailed. For example despite his research showing cycles of heavy spring ice had been most detrimental to seals and bears, Stirling and Derocher’s review of polar bear “science” used the very same research to falsely imply that less summer ice was the problem.

In contrast to those 2015 photos, Crockford’s website was one of the few places where scientific reports of a healthy bear population could be found. Contradicting Langenberger and Nicklin’s story-telling of dead bears strewn across Svalbard due to climate change, Crockford posted links to actual researchers from the Norwegian Polar Institute who reported fat bears in Svalbard.

Researchers were reporting

“The polar bears on Svalbard is round and full, thanks to a good [ice year] and good hunting opportunities.” And “… Polar bears were fat, many looked like pigs”, says polar researcher at the Norwegian Polar Institute, Jon Aars to the High North News.   Furthermore the Svalbard bears are part of the Barent Sea population and in 2017 Crockford relayed the most recent survey data showing Barent Sea Bears have been increasing. But such facts don’t have the emotional appeal as Nicklin’s fanciful pictorial story telling.

PBSG 2010 Polar Bear Sub-populations Status 

The Polar Bear Specialist Group (PBSG) had created a status table in 2009 to illustrate the trends of each polar bear population. Above is their 2010 version. The trends are boldly shown in red for declining and green for stable or increasing populations. Eight populations were believed to be declining of which 6 were considered very likely to decline further. Only 3 populations were considered stable and only 1 was increasing. These declining PBSG estimates also went viral, and websites such as the one run by psychologist John Cook, who is now part of the well-funded Center for Climate Change Communication, posted an article concluding, “Current analysis of subpopulations where data is sufficient clearly shows that those subpopulations are mainly in decline” and thus support the ESA listing of polar bears as threatened.  In contrast in Landscapes and Cycles I documented how bear populations since 2010 were definitely increasing based on latest research.That analyses has been confirmed while earlier PBSG hype of declining populations and speculation of coming extirpations have not survived the test of time.

Fortunately Susan Crockford’s Polar Bear Science blog has continuoulsy discussed population trends as reported by bear experts plus PBSG’s status updates. While the PBSG removes their old tables, Crockford’s website serves as an archive that allows the public to readily witness how the bears have been increasing. For example the 2014 table (below) revealed the good news that only 3 of the past 8 populations were still declining, one was still increasing, and the stable populatons had doubled to 6.

Oddly in 2017 the PBSG eliminated the trends from their population table. The most likely reason for this omission would be that none of the bear populations are currently declining. Every population would be green or data deficient. Despite rising CO2 and reduced summer sea ice, polar bears are doing quite well and that contradicted the their predictions.

Of the 3 previously declining populations listed in their 2014 status report, the Baffin Bay population has now increased from 1,546 in 2004 to 2,826 in the most recent survey. The Kane Basin bears, that suffer from heavy ice, were estimated at 167 in 1997 but rose to 357 in 2014. The South Beaufort Sea population estimation remained unchanged but this population has been heavily criticized for poor analyses of mark and recatpure data.

PBSG 2014 Polar Bear Sub-populations Status 

In the face of rapid increases in the Baffin Bay bear population, a social media splash of Nicklin’s starving bear on Baffin Island appears to be another orchestrated attempt to resuscitate the failing claim that climate change is killing bears. National Geographic who sponsored Nicklin reports by “telling the story of one polar bear, Nicklen hopes to convey a larger message about how a warming climate has deadly consequences.” The NY Times pushed the video with similar headlines: Video of Starving Polar Bear ‘Rips Your Heart Out of Your Chest’. The Washington Post hyped the bear as evidence of an environmental disaster with the headlines, ‘We stood there crying’: Emaciated polar bear seen in 'gut-wrenching' video and photos.  If you searched the internet for an objective scientific examination, oddly no matter how many variations of “starving polar bears” are queried Google’s first link brings up the WWF’s plea for money to save the bears, and perhaps a violation of net neutrality.

Snopes who advertises itself as a fact-checker of truth, rated Nicklin’s starving bear video as “TRUE”. But Snopes’ bias is revealed by its discussion on the photo’s relevance, which pushes catastrophic climate change speculation. Snopes quotes polar bear researcher Steve Amstrup, who’s has flipped flopped on several bear issues over his career and whose “expertise model” has been severely criticized by colleagues in released emails. Amstrup promotes the starving bear photo on his website, again with the obligatory thin veneer of objectivity stating, “we cannot say, from the footage captured here, that this bear’s malnutrition was caused by global warming and its associated sea ice loss”. He then launches his speculative catastrophic message, “The problem is that an ever-warmer future means polar bears will have less and less access to their seal prey, so the rate at which bears die from malnutrition/starvation will increase. So, regardless of the proximate cause of this bear’s condition, this heart-wrenching footage provides us with a warning about the future.” Yet not a word about the survey of Baffin Bay bears robustly increasing from 1,546 in 2004 to 2,826 today.

Nicklen's 2017 Starving Bear Photo from Baffin Island

Amstrup and Mann are facing an embarrassing professional dilemma. With all the polar bear populations increasing or stable, their predictions that two-thirds of the polar bears will be gone by the middle of this century appears destined for utter failure. They had to do something. Otherwise who would trust a doctor whose past diagnoses were absolutely wrong. So, Harvey, Stirling, Amstrup, Mann and a professor of psychobabble Stephan Lewandowsky, banded together as coauthors of the paper Internet Blogs, Polar Bears, and Climate-Change Denial by Proxy that fortuitously gets publicized alongside NIcklin’s starving bear hype.

Their paper acknowledges observations that polar bears have yet to be harmed writing, “Although the effects of warming on some polar-bear subpopulations are not yet documented and other subpopulations are apparently still faring well.” But they then confuse speculation with proven facts by suggesting “the fundamental relationship between polar-bear welfare and sea-ice availability is well established.” Clearly the growing bear populations present an undeniable challenge to any belief in the “requirement” of summer ice.

Their paper argued, “a growing body of scientific research reports the wide array of negative effects of AGW on biodiversity” by citing Parmesan whose bogus claims about the negative effects of climate change on wildlife are well documented.  Harvey, Stirling, Amstrup and Mann confuse speculative hypotheses with “fundamental relationship”. Published observations have shown heavy springtime ice is more harmful for seals and bears. Observations by Arrigo determined that reduced ice, whether natural or anthropogenic,  has increased phytoplankton productivity and bolstered the Arctic food web, while fishery researchers find that less ice and warmer temperatures increase Arctic cod abundance that is required to sustain the seals that sustain the bears.

Because skeptic websites like Crockford’s, Anthony Watts’ WUWT, and many others are the best source for alternative explanations that challenge catastrophic hypotheses, they are denigrated by these supposed objective scientists. As mounting evidence continues to turn against their prior polar bear predictions Harvey, Stirling, Amstrup, Mann and Lewandowsky’s were running low on scientific ammunition. So now they chose to publish a paper, solely aimed at shooting the messengers. They offered no scientific facts about polar bears that contradicted anything Crockford had published. Their arguments were based solely on the fallacy of authority, authorities whose predictions are failing.  Their paper is nothing more than a smear campaign hoping to suppress the upwelling call for more debate. Such tactics, tactics that try to obscure any evidence that challenges a failing hypothesis, are the real attacks on the scientific process. That is why Mann has been labeled by some as a disgrace to the profession

And whether or not Nicklin’s latest wretched polar bear photo is part of an orchestrated attempt to resuscitate their failed predictions, the media hype reveals that such photos, taken out of context, are worth a thousand lies.