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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If only Yes Minister had done the global warming thing (oh look…!)

Excellent comedy, if you haven’t already seen this. (Adapted from the Stage Play “Yes Prime Minister”)

Yes Prime Minister Global Warming etc Part 1 from Aris Motas on Vimeo.

Part II

Yes Prime Minister Global Warming etc Part 2 from Aris Motas on Vimeo.

Written by Antony Jay and Johnathan Lynn. BBC.
h/t Waxing Gibberish and Friends of Science on Facebook.

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Shocking electricity price rises coming in Australia: Not a failure of energy policy but a complete “success”

The numbers are breathtaking. On the east coast of Australia (which means most households in the nation) they are looking at 15 – 20% increases next month on electricity bills which are already at bleeding point.

Get a grip on these numbers:

Charis Chang, –

POWER prices are set to rocket after three major retailers announced increases of up to 20 per cent and $600 a year for the average customer in some states.

Origin, EnergyAustralia and AGL have all announced price increases for electricity and gas starting from July 1.

Small businesses may be the hardest hit, especially Origin customers in South Australia, which will see prices rise by a whopping $1453 a year when increases to gas and electricity bills are combined.

The biggest increase for residential customers will be for AGL customers in ACT, who will pay an extra $579 a year for a combined electricity and gas rise.

In NSW, residential EnergyAustralia customers will see electricity prices increase by up to 19.6 per cent. Origin Energy customers will get a 16.1 per cent rise.

The price hikes will take effect from July 1.

Many are blaming a “failure of energy policy”, but miss the point entirely — this is not failure but success. The aim of those energy policies was to close down coal fired stations and it worked. The Renewable Energy Target, the carbon tax, and other anti “carbon” policies did what they were supposed to do and forced the closure of both the Port Augusta power stations and Hazelwood (which supplied as much as 5% of Australia’s electricity). That left us dependent on gas instead of having the flexibility to ignore the current gas price outlandish cost.

NSW and SA customers walloped:

Keep reading  →

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Now that was “climate change” 8200 years ago — California lashed by 150 years of storms

Don’t tell me that cold is nice and the climate was ever ideal

A few scientists thought that the climate was stable and well behaved during the Holocene until we invented coal power and the Ford Model T and everything fell apart “unprecedentedly”.

But 8200 years ago things apparently got pretty wild. See the GISP graph below where there was a three degree fall in temperatures suddenly (circled in red below). A new study found that at the same time China and California also cooled. Strangely, this cooling effect probably did not produce calm, happy days for the Californians at the time. Instead it looks like they got 150 years of intense winter storms and a lot of wet weather.

Greenland GISP2 ice core - last 10,000 years.

UPDATE: This graph shows the ice-core data up until 1855. The last 150 years (1705 to 1855) are highlighted in red to show the warming as the Earth began coming out of the LIA. Obviously that red line would continue up further if it was drawn to the present.

Looks like real climate change….

The reason for the sudden snap is possibly that a couple of massive glacial lakes in North East America collapsed and suddenly drained out into the Atlantic, dumping a bucketload of freshwater there. That is said to have changed a few oceanic currents and raised the seas by 2 – 10 feet. (1 – 3m). The effects appear to have been found around the world, also weakening the monsoons in Asia, and strengthening them in South America, while increasing drought in Africa.

And since we have stalagmites in Australia, hopefully someone can study our caves and tell us something about our own, largely unknown paleohistory. We may not have many deciduous trees to get nice tree rings from , but we certainly have caves.

In this press release, no one even mentions CO2.

Greenland, California, Cold snap, 8200 yr.

The 8200 year even in California and China.

The Press release for those who want the details:

Wet and stormy weather lashed California coast…8,200 years ago

The weather report for California 8,200 years ago was exceptionally wet and stormy.

That is the conclusion of a paleoclimate study that analyzed stalagmite records from White Moon Cave in the Santa Cruz Mountains published online Jun. 20 in Nature Scientific Reports.

Keep reading  →

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Stupid Nation: Australians crave cheap energy, yet think “low cost” renewables need support

It’s like an Easter Island moment for an advanced economy: somehow “cheap” energy can’t compete in a free market without government subsidy. A Nation of Serfs have forgotten what a free market is. Will cheap desirable stuff sell itself, or not?

The contradictions mount. Electricity and gas prices are hitting escape velocity:

The wholesale electricity spot prices was about $35 a megawatt hour during 2011, rose to $58 after the carbon tax was introduced and is now about $130 as gas prices push up energy generator costs.

Not surprisingly 70% of Australians want cheaper, more reliable electricity. Only one person in four would rather cut emissions than cut the bill. Yet the agitprop telling people that renewables are “cheap” has been so pervasive that fully 38% of Australians think the government should raise the renewable energy target, and 23% think it should stay the same. It follows that around 4 in 10 Australians apparently hold the bizarre idea that wind and solar are cheap and yet in need of government support, as if there are no investors willing to put money into supplying something that 100% of people want at a price cheaper than what they currently pay. So screwed is our national commentary that a large slab of the nation think a cheap and highly desired product can’t profit without complex schemes and assistance.

Message to Australia, if renewables were cheap they wouldn’t need a RET, LET or CET scheme. People would just buy them!

No wonder there is policy gridlock. The situation won’t be resolved until the propaganda bubble pops and the national debate advances to the point where people know how expensive renewables are. Find me one country in the world running on wind and solar that has cheap electricity and no interconnector supplying coal or nuclear powered electrons. Exactly.

The answer for the Liberal-conservatives is clear, unless they get the message out that renewables are a hideously expensive deadweight burning a hole in our wallets they can’t possibly win this debate. As long as the nation blindly drinks from the Kool-aid-Cauldron the Conservatives are on a hiding to nothing –  locked into endless cycles of “uncertainty” and hip-pocket pain.

Welcome to the clean green future — pack the whole family under one electric blanket while boat loads of our cheap coal set sail for China.

Canberra offers tips on snuggling up for a clean, green winter

Angela Shanahan

A few weeks ago I received a pamphlet from the ACT government on energy-­saving tips. For winter it featured a picture of a family all in overcoats and beanies, huddled under an electric blanket.

Welcome to your clean green future huddled under an electric blanket, and reverting to wood fires to keep the house warm.

The Finkel report aims to provide incentives for all energy ­sources that produce electricity with lower greenhouse gas emissions, but the suggested benchmark means a high-efficiency, low-emissions power plant with carbon capture and storage would not qualify. That is why plenty of people think this is a backdoor attempt to block coal and even gas with an effective “tax on coal”.

The crisis has arisen because of the over-reliance on wind and solar power. In South Australia, combined with the closure of two coal-fired power plants, one in SA and one in Victoria, it has destabilised the whole grid. Added to that is the shortage of gas and the lack of storage for renewables.

Meanwhile, despite the domestic opposition to coal, we send our coal to Japan and China to be used in high-­efficiency, low-emissions coal-fired generators to produce cleaner and cheaper power where people don’t have to sit ­inside wearing beanies under an electric blanket.


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What is the sound of a dying planet?

UPDATE: It is apparently funded by the Arts Council England. Couldn’t we guess?

A new climate forcing, let’s call it Musikiness, will change the upper trough-o-sphere:

Climate change data is being transformed into beautiful symphonies

What is the sound of a dying planet? Translating hard facts into feeling is the issue of our age – and it is the task Climate Symphony have appointed themselves. A collective of artists and scientists, the London-based team are inspiring action by transforming climate change data into music.

Listen at the link

Wait til you see what it can do. This is a pretty powerful tool:

“Climate Symphony has developed a side-project – calling out lies in politics.”

“We want to create a formal record,” she says, “A method of fact-checking the things Trump is saying, of finding distortions. It’s revealing. You’re looking at it, and listening to it, and you find that it’s distorted. It’s all distorted.”

Musikiness could replace the US GAO. (Who needs auditors). But I worry about what happens if they use the wrong key.

Finally, twenty years late, EcoWorriers care about transparency and “hard facts”:

“…it isn’t just background noise…  music is the data.   “These are still hard facts – that’s the beauty of it.”

The data used is derived from a range of sources, all with the emphasis on transparency.

Climate data has been accumulated from NOAA and Nasa (sic)…

But what if the symphony is using adjusted data and it’s wrong — It’s not the sound of a dying planet, but a homogenized one?

I bet raw data would sound better. (Do you want to tell them or should I?)

Still, this may be the tool the Goddard Institute of Space has been waiting for to make their climate models work.

Borromeo and her team at Climate Symphony, including co-director Katharine Round and composer Jamie Perera, chart this data across musical notation, working with meteorologists, conservationists, sound artists and investigative journalists. Every bar of music in Climate Symphony is equivalent to one year of scientific data – with recordings amassing a total of 20 years from 1994 to 2014.

That’s a lot of “experts”. (Wonder who paid for them.)

Climate change is an area of politics in which facts are all-too-often purported as fiction.

In this case the facts are purporting to be “music”.

With these concern about transparency in politics, Borromeo stresses that Climate Symphony is committed to peer-reviewed science.

Yes, because all good artists are committed to supporting the grant-machine, sorry, establishment.

I’m glad these people are not building our bridges.

From public rallies to government legislation, Borromeo hopes that “any and all of these things” can arise from the project. Her message is simple: “Existence is resistance.”

Existence is resistance? It takes so little effort to be a reactionary these days — just keep breathing.

The warmists now want to transpose,
Climate data into work they compose,
For alarmists and greens,
As homogenized, means,
In their symphony, anything goes.

 — Ruairi

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Weekend Unthreaded

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This is only 1 percent of a real mass extinction

Peter Brannen argues a real mass extinction doesn’t just wipe out 1% of species, it wipes out 90%.

It turns out humans are not quite as bad as a one-kilometer-deep lava layer covering an area as big as the US.

 Earth is not in the midst of a Sixth Mass Extinction

Humans have changed the ecosphere:

So things don’t look so good, no matter where we look. Yes, the victims in the animal world include scary apex predators that pose obvious threats to humans, like lions, whose numbers have dropped from 1 million at the time of Jesus to 450,000 in the 1940s to 20,000 today—a decline of 98 percent. But also included have been unexpected victims, like butterflies and moths, which have declined in abundance by 35 percent since the 1970s.

Is this a mini extinction?

…the only reason we know about mass extinctions in the first place is from the record of this incredibly abundant, durable, and diverse world of marine invertebrates, not the big, charismatic, and rare stuff like dinosaurs.“

So you can ask, ‘Okay, well, how many geographically widespread, abundant, durably skeletonized marine taxa have gone extinct thus far?’ And the answer is, pretty close to zero,” Erwin pointed out. In fact, of the best-assessed groups of modern animals—like stony corals, amphibians, birds and mammals—somewhere between 0 and 1 percent of species have gone extinct in recent human history. By comparison, the hellscape of End-Permian mass extinction claimed upwards of 90 percent of all species on earth.

When mass extinctions hit, they don’t just take out big charismatic megafauna, like elephants, or niche ecosystems, like cloud forests. They take out hardy and ubiquitous organisms as well—things like clams and plants and insects. This is incredibly hard to do. But once you go over the edge and flip into mass extinction mode, nothing is safe. Mass extinctions kill almost everything on the planet.

–The Atlantic

h/t GWPF

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Finkel report destroys baseload coal power economics

Demand enough renewables and you might as well ban coal

There’s a lesson Australia needs to learn from South Australia. When intermittent renewables reach a certain percentage of daily average supply they make baseload power unfeasible. The situation develops into an impossible dead end that can only be solved with container-ships of cash.

The intermittent supply of wind and solar is the immoveable problem. It eats into the daily chart of the cheapest stable electricity supply — which is coal fired. Coal can’t be ramped in and out in minutes. It is a creature that runs best non-stop, efficiently, smoothly, at a high capacity factor (meaning it works best when it is producing around 90% of it’s design limit continuously).

Tom Quirk points out that sometime after these intermittent renewables hit 30% of the average daily supply, as they have in South Australia — locally sourced coal power becomes uneconomic. There are times during the daily cycle when renewables are providing almost all the demand. There is little demand left for the massive coal turbines to supply, so they spin on pointlessly, but costs remain, and profits are zero.

In SA, the owner of the last coal fired station was still willing to pour in money, but even large cash injections didn’t change the daily bad news cycle, and the coal station was closed.

If the electricity markets were left to run free, and compete purely on price, coal would provide the baseload (unless we had nukes) and obviously, electricity would be cheaper. But no amount of word mangling can dress up the situation. The insistence on having a large slab of intermittent power forces coal out of the system, and that forces prices up.

– Jo


The Levellers

Guest post by Tom Quirk

The claim that there is an opportunity for coal burning power stations depends on the extent of renewable energy sources.

The Blueprint target of 42% renewables destroys the opportunity to build baseload coal burning power stations independent of the choice of technologies.

This is because the Blueprint analysis uses the levelised cost of electricity (LCOE). LCOE is the net present value of the unit-cost of electricity over the lifetime of a generating plant using a particular technology. It is often taken as a proxy for the average price that the plant must receive in a market to break even over its lifetime.

A key factor in calculating the levelised costs is the utilisation of the plant expressed as the capacity factor. Levelised costs are referred to in the Blueprint. In particular an appendix shows a comparison of levelised costs for a wind farm and an ultra-super-critical coal burning plant having similar levelised costs. This is misleading,

There is a good illustration of the difficulty of levelised cost comparisons from the Energy Information Agency (EIA) in the United State[1] where assumptions are made about plant utilisation expressed as the capacity factor. These are based on regional analysis. This is shown below in Table 1, extracted from the EIA report on levelised cost of electricity (LCOE) for new generation resources for 2022.The comparison with Australian states shows very different values for capacity factors and the comparison shows the importance of analyzing the particular electricity system and not a regional average.

Table 1. Estimated and measured Capacity Factors

Plant type

Capacity factors

Dispatchable Technologies





South Australia


 Conventional Coal



 Conventional Coal with 30-90% CO2 sequestration


Natural Gas-fired
 Conventional Gas-fired Thermal



 Conventional Combined Cycle Gas Turbine



 Conventional Combustion Turbine









Non-Dispatchable Technologies








 Solar PV





*Energy Information Agency (United States)

The difference in the capacity factors for coal fired plant is that demand in Victoria was 85% coal fired supply but only 2.5% wind while for South Australia coal supplied 17.1%, wind 26.6% and solar PV 3.8% of demand.

So the claim that there is an opportunity for coal burning power stations depends on the extent of renewable energy sources in the region being examined. It is clear that there is no opportunity for base load power in South Australia. A 33% capacity factor for 1203 MW of wind farms in 2012 gives variations from 0 to 1200 MW. But with average demand of 1493 MW and demand variations during the day from 1000 MW to 1800 MW wind farms can drive out baseload supply.

The Blueprint target of 42% renewables therefore destroys the opportunity to build baseload coal burning power stations independent of the choice of technologies.



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Surely not: Climate revolt and another Australian PM?

It’s hard to believe Turnbull could fall for this one twice.

Dennis Shannahan warns us:

There is a revolt in the Coalition ranks and there are those prepared to say that Finkel is dead or worse.

More than 20 Coalition MPs spoke against the Finkel report last night, including Tony Abbott, all concerned that the priority is for cutting emissions and not electricity prices.

History repeats?

David Crowe on what he’s heard about the same liberal party room meeting:

Former prime minister Tony Abbott was a sharp critic of the clean energy target and made interjections throughout the ­discussions.

“He was the most sceptical about it — he said it wasn’t going to cut prices or provide certainty for consumers,” one Liberal said.

“He was probably the strongest critic throughout the whole ­meeting.”

One of the senior Liberal figures who took notes on the meeting said last night that about 32 people spoke and about one-third of them were not in favour of the Finkel proposal, while one-third supported the clean energy target and another third asked questions or had suggestions for changes. Victorian Liberal MP Russell Broadbent, who has held his marginal electorate against determined assaults from Labor, was one MP who argued fiercely for a policy outcome that focused on ­affordability.

People keep hoping bipartisanship will finally solve the climate question, but this is a neverending loop as long anyone is talking about using windmills to change the climate. How many reruns of the same pointless dilemma will we do before we find the Ship called Bipartisan is docked in a town where no one uses a solar panel to prevent droughts, cause rain, or “save Greenland” from being … green?

Commenter Sophocles asks: Whenever you’re told a reform is going to be `cheaper’ start demanding proof. Loudly. Numbers.

So lets gets real data. Let’s separate one state in Australia, run it on 42% renewables, and see what the price is…  Oh wait. Experiment done: spot the renewable mega success in South Australia: blackout costs $367m, normal electricity twice the price, reserve shortfalls coming in January

Time to write to your Liberal MP’s. Can someone get an email list ready so I can update the old one?

Links from The Australian.

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Finkel: Turn the whole country into South Australia by 2030 — 42% “renewable”

In one of the most massaged spin-doctor sales messages in Australian history, the Finkel Report is here to “take the politics out” and solve our energy instability and out-of-control prices. But it’s actually an aggressive green-left weather-control program where cost and stability are secondary to the unspoken but main aim which is to slow storms in 2100. If Finkel were really aiming for stability and price control he’d let the free market run, get the government out of our electricity grid and look at the evidence that shows that solar-panels and wind farms don’t, won’t and can’t work as global air-conditioners for us or our grandchildren.

Australians, read this line and weep:

“Modelling for the Review estimates that by 2030, 42 per cent of electricity demand will be met by renewable generation.”

This is where South Australia is currently at, but it has a lifeline to coal power in Victoria whenever it needs it. What happens when the whole National Grid needs a lifeline? Pull out your wallet…

How much does an undersea cable to New Zealand cost? It’s only 2,000km.

For the same price we might be able to afford a new ultra-supercritical coal plant and catch up with Indonesia instead.

Solving our energy stability is really easy and very cheap and if that was his aim, Finkel is not-even-trying. Government efforts to control the planetary climate have created the blackouts and driven cheap electricity providers out of business. Finkel’s “solution” is more of the same but in a different flavor. It’s all things to all people, “finally here” and we’ll all get free icecream, but please, nobody ask how much electricity would cost if the Government got out of the way. Nobody mention that wholesale coal-fired volts are 4c per kilowatt hour.

If you like your coal you can keep it (under the ground)

Technology Neutral. My Foot!

Importantly, the scheme would be technology neutral — that is, all forms of electricity generation would be eligible, including coal with carbon capture and storage or gas — provided they are below the emissions intensity threshold.

Finkel has nothing against coal, as long as people meet conditions that defy laws of chemistry. Supposedly coal fired stations must stuff a massive volume of a beneficial aerial fertilizer into small hot hole underground. New “carbon capture” coal plants would cost something like 60% more to build yet waste around 40% of all the energy they generate. Carbon capture is a secret code for “death to coal plants”, and not surprisingly, in real life, they crash and burn in financial fireballs.

What do you call “paying a lot more”? That’s your “reward”

Finkel-spin says that electricity will be cheaper than a hypothetical worst case scenario:

Consumers will be financially rewarded if they agree to manage their demand and share their resources such as solar panels and battery storage. Prices for all consumers, not just those who own solar panels or batteries, will be lower than they would otherwise be;

Welcome to your renewable future — managing demand means not having the air-con on when it’s really hot and you really need it. And what kind of prices are “lower than they otherwise would be”? Any kind. Theoretically any infinitely high price is still lower than it otherwise would be compared to an infinitely-plus-one-plan. It all depends on the modeling.

Judith Sloan is not impressed: “Malcolm Turnbull, I will bet you power bills don’t fall $90″

If you believe your annual electricity bill will fall by $90 every year for the next decade, you will believe anything.

This politically attractive forecast of falling electricity prices mirrors the equally ridiculous modelling result that emerged from the Warburton review of the renewable energy target released in 2015. We were asked to believe wholesale electricity prices would actually fall if the RET were retained in its then current form, with a target of 41,000 gigawatt hours by 2020. (This was adjusted to 33,000GWh.) That’s right — electricity prices were going to fall between 2015 and 2020.

But take a look at what has happened to wholesale electricity prices — and, with a lag, retail prices — in the context of the ongoing RET, an outcome comp­letely divergent from the one the modellers assured us would occur.

Wholesale electricity prices have soared from $50 a megawatt hour on average to about $150. Retail prices are being raised across a number of states by between 15 per cent and 30 per cent. A household facing an annual electricity bill of $2000 a year easily could be slugged another $400 to $600.

Fake News is everywhere — no sensible word left unspun

The Finkel Review supposedly puts “energy security and stability centre stage“. Ask any electrical engineer how to do that and they’ll tell you to increase spinning inertia — meaning coal, gas, nukes, and hydro — these, especially coal, are the cheap, easy masters of security and stability. Instead Finkel puts “emissions reductions” under everything and “stability” is just the secondary billion-dollar-ball-and-chain, dragged along in the hunt for the sacred weather controlling electron.

At the ABC the report is improbably “taking the politics out” by adopting a green left option that Australian voters have rejected.

If perchance, you don’t think we should be forced to buy expensive electricity in order to change the weather the ABC won’t call you “sensible”, “pragmatic” or “sane”, you’re “pro-coal”. In ABC-land politicians don’t criticize the report, instead pro-coal backbenchers “undermine it”.  It’s a nuance thing. Luckily the ABC are full of national energy-grid geniuses, so they can tell the difference.

Not surprisingly, there is rebellion in the ranks

– some Coalition backbenchers are warning that Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull could, once again, be confronted with open rebellion on climate policy.

 Yes, well. We’ve been there before. How many political careers shall we break on the carbon wheel?

The daft threat politicians convey,
Is that ‘carbon’ will cause a doomsday,
So expect for electric,
Whether warmist or skeptic,
All exorbitant increases pay.


REFERENCE: Independent Review into the Future Security of the National Electricity Market, all 212 fun pages.

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