Eat the rich

The EAT-Lancet Commission on Food, Planet, Health brings together more than 30 world-leading scientists from across the globe to reach a scientific consensus that defines a healthy and sustainable diet.

The Commission is delivering the first full scientific review of what constitutes a healthy diet from a sustainable food system, and which actions can support and speed up food system transformation.

Right, so you’re going to tell everyone in the world what to eat. Ok. Good luck.

Why is the EAT-Lancet Commission needed?

Erm, I suppose the answer isn’t, “to give 22 full time staff and 30 affiliated scientists salaries and access to more research grants”?

Why is the EAT-Lancet Commission needed?

Food systems are a major source of greenhouse gas emissions. They are the main user of fresh water, a leading driver of biodiversity loss, land-use change and cause eutrophication or dead zones in lakes and coastal areas. Simultaneously, unhealthy diets are the leading risk factor for disease worldwide, causing rapidly growing rates of Non-communicable-Diseases (NCDs) such as diabetes, heart disease and cancers. Vast global undernutrition is adding mounting pressure to these challenges. In other words, how we grow, process, transport, consume and waste food is hurting both people and planet.

That paragraph started and ended with concern about the planet, with a little sliver of concerns about people as the meat in the sandwich.

Meeting the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement targets to reduce carbon emissions means urgently and fundamentally changing the way we eat and produce food. But key questions remain unanswered and a lack of scientific consensus is slowing down governments, businesses and civil society actors who want to take action

Right, so it’s less about what the best diet is for me and my family and more about how I can change my diet to achieve the godawful wealth transfer for no tangible outcome that is the Paris Agreement.

• We don’t have a scientific consensus to define what is a healthy diet for all humans.

• We don’t have a comprehensive review of how food production must change to be sustainable.

• We don’t have clear, science-based guidelines telling all actors how we can provide humans with healthy diets from a sustainable food system.

Yes, understood; it’s about the planet more than my health.

In fact, if you really have any interest in reducing malnutrition you’d be spending all your time and effort trying to continue this trend;

Seriously; something has gone very seriously right in the fight against global malnutrition. Work out what it was and do more of it and NOW.

Bill’s Opinion

When I want advice on what changes to my diet I should make, I will ask a medical professional, not a climate scientist, and the opinion I will seek will be specific, not general.

The 22 staff of the Eat Forum team are paid a salary from money donated by The Stordalen Foundation, The Stockholm Resilience Centre, and The Wellcome Trust, the first two of which have “climate” as their prime concerns.

Don’t take dietary advice from people who’s agenda is to save the planet before saving individual humans and who, in fact, view humans populations as an exercise in statistics.

Climate change maths salad

Like cooking, journalisming has its best results when using seasonal ingredients. January wouldn’t be complete without the obligatory look at all the weather records that were broken the previous calendar year. Here’s the Sydney Morning Herald’s effort, under the tagline “extreme weather” (“climate change” seemingly out of favour recently, suggesting some bet hedging is going on).

Unfortunately, the climate team’s intern, Nicole Hasham, was given the task of assembling the maths salad and, as we will see, is really not as competent at the task as her senior colleague, Peter “weather is climate” Hannam.

Regurgitating Quoting a Bureau of Meteorology report, Nicole starts off poorly;

Where to start?

Well, perhaps the first point to make is that averages, by their very definition need some values above and some values below. It would be remarkable if no temperatures were experienced above average during a long enough timescale.

It seems somewhat depressing to have to explain this to a senior climatologist (now there’s a job title of our time) and an environment and energy correspondent. At least one of them will have studied statistics in high school, not that you’d be able to guess it from the statement above.

The second point, and it seems somewhat obvious, is that the climate has no concept of a state or territory.

Finally, does Nicole understand, or expect her readers to understand, what “second warmest on record for daily high temperatures” means?

Or perhaps the only important words she wants us to read are “second warmest“?

Next up is a bunch of rainfall maths salad;

We dealt with this at the time.

Subsequently, the rain came along but just a little delayed.

To be fair to Nicole, she did regurgitate quote the report on this. It probably proves something significant and negative in her mind though;

“Respite”.

It’s almost as if, I dunno, the climate is a complex system that doesn’t drop a consistent volume of rain during a man made time interval known by the English noun, “month”.

This would be amusing if the Australian taxpayer weren’t picking up the bill for this so called “science”;

“Increasingly influenced by global warming”.

Really. Do tell us whose fault this is;

“Can only be explained by human influence”? Well, there’s the Scientific Method dispensed with in just 7 words. One can imagine the reception a researcher would get if they tried to apply for a grant to investigate the influence of solar cycles on global temperature.

Finally, we get to the chart that reveals Australia’s record-breaking run of rising temperatures;

That looks shocking, especially with all that red on the chart.

Let’s look a little closer at the scale and labels though….

The Y-axis is interesting; why set the zero point as the average of 1961 to 1990? Why not take the average of the entire time range? What would that chart look like? Sadly, we don’t know because, as far as I can tell, they haven’t published the data behind the chart. Here’s the link to the original report, where we learn that the chart is showing the anomaly; Anomaly is the departure from the long-term (1961–1990) average. We also discover that the chart above shows, Mean temperature anomalies averaged over Australia, again, calculated against the 1960-91 average for some unknown reason.

Wait, averaged over Australia“? WHAT???? 

So, in summary, you took ALL of the mean temperatures recorded across the entire continent of Australia, averaged them and then compared that against a similar average between the years 1960-91 on a chart starting at 1900?

What insight, pray tell, was this exercise supposed to result in?

 

Bill’s Opinion

To answer my final question above, this chart that is supposed to reveal Australia’s record-breaking run of rising temperatures does nothing of the sort. What it shows is a sliced, diced, mixed together, re-diced and re-sliced set of data and then selectively colour-coded to scare people who don’t understand statistics.

By which, I mean Sydney Morning Herald environment correspondents. Well, either Nicole doesn’t understand statistics or she’s blatantly pushing a political agenda and pushing it with lies.

Which is it Nicole?

Let’s face it, this is the climate science equivalent of a collateral debt obligation, and we all know where that led.

UPDATE; I made an error regarding means vs. median in the original post. That sentence has been deleted.


Sometimes “free” is more expensive in the long term

On my Creepbook for Business feed, the following paid content appeared today;

This piqued my interest because I’ve long suspected that, if species preservation of the “big five” in Africa was agreed to be an important aim (excuse the pun), then making hunting an efficient and sustainable industry would be the most probable route to success.

Certainly, if observable results were something one took seriously, nearly every alternative that had been tried so far hasn’t worked effectively

Similarly, if we wanted to significantly reduce the impact of poaching of elephants and rhino for ivory, flooding the market with cheaper farmed ivory might well be the only solution.

I suppose there are two other alternatives; either raise the standard of living in sub-Saharan Africa to a level where there were plenty of other employment opportunities that didn’t involve killing elephants or persuade a billion Chinese people that ivory powder doesn’t cure bone tumours.

Ockham’s Razor suggests farming is the most likely solution.

I’m not an expert on the complexities of African hunting economics, politics and species protection so I’ll defer to others with more insight.

However, the link to ENergise REsources was intriguing. Firstly, that’s a really annoying capitalisation of the 2nd letters and secondly, who are they what are they all about?

From their website;

Ok, on the one hand it’s admirable that they are offering services pro bono to charities. On the other hand, they are clearly quite choosy about which charities they are going to help.

Which charities?

Basically, any that work in the fields of the Guardian’s favourite cause célèbres.

Exhibit A;

Exhibit B;

Exhibit C;

The website shows a list and the profiles of the current members (about 25 of them) and, frankly, there’s nary a single private sector worker amongst them. If you were a charity looking for some pro bono advice from an IT professional with exactly the same ideas and experience as every other IT professional who’s ever worked for you, you’ve come to the right place.

What’s really amusing though, is the unthinking acceptance of the Guardian/BBC/NY Times prioritisation of issues to be solved. If you hadn’t read the previous paragraphs on this page and I had asked you to write a list of the top 10 priorities for left wing charities, I imagine you’d have repeated nearly all the content on their website.

This is an alternative approach that they have not considered however;

Bjorn Lømborg’s Copenhagen Consensus.

Bill’s Opinion

The refreshing thing about the Copenhagen Consensus is their recognition that, when talking about about finite resources, environmentalists almost always forget that economic resources and human hours are also finite; a dollar spent on the solution to a problem cannot be spent on another problem. Similarly, an hour of your time spent on one solution can’t be re-spent somewhere else.

In fact, it’s worse than that; there are a myriad of potential solutions to the same problem, and logic states these should be prioritised by likely success and impact.

In effect, what the Copenhagen Consensus recognises that few others in the field do, or choose to ignore, is the concept of opportunity cost.

Once you apply that economic lens, our old friend Vilfredo Pareto can bring his ruler into play and measure which activities we should do first and which we should drop because they only feel nice rather than doing any good.

But if you really want to confirm that Lømborg is an outcome-driven, facts don’t care about your feelings sort of chap, sign up to the website; when you’re asked to select a country of residence, they list USA first, not Afghanistan.

This is a group that logical thinkers can get behind without having to suffer the ideological crap.

How refreshing.

Academic rigour

The researchers at the University of New South Wales have released a study suggesting the marsupial “lion” died out as a result of climate change, not because of competition with humans.

After analysing the chemical structure of fossil teeth, the researchers concluded thylacoleo carnifex was a highly specialised apex predator, hunting primarily in forests and unlikely to be capable of competing in more open geography.

Therefore, they conclude, the climate change that impacted the Australian landscape significantly during the “lion’s” nearly 2 million year reign on the continent was responsible for its extinction, not the humans who just happened to have arrived about 15,000 years before its demise.

We’re not in a position to challenge the chemical analysis of the teeth, this isn’t a scientific blog after all. But there are some significant questions that jump out at us;

1. How big was the sample size used and how geographically diverse were the locations they were discovered?

The newsdesk report doesn’t say and the actual study isn’t available to us yet but I have a memory of a previous report about the “lion” that suggests around 65 individuals have been found to date (if anyone can correct this, please do so below).

2. What’s the time line of the known existence of the “lion” against ice ages and human arrival?

The marsupial was around for about 2 million years, dying out 35 to 40 thousand years ago.

There have been many glacial and interglacial periods during the current ice age (yes, we are currently in an ice age), during which the flora of Australia was significantly impacted.

Humans first arrived around 60 thousand years ago.

Coincidentally, the Australian megafauna mainly died out 15 thousand years after the humans arrived.

Bill’s Opinion

Prima facie, this looks like some solid scientific research followed by blatant propaganda and over-reach.

The analysis of the fossils is probably solid; the animals likely did live and hunt in forests.

Claiming that as the reason for their extinction because the climate started changing 350,000 years ago seems an extremely long bow to draw.

For example, why then did it take 305,000 years of climate change to kill them off, along with all of the other major fauna and, coincidently, this was just 15,000 years after a new apex predator had arrived replete with mechanical hunting advantages and “fire stick” land clearance techniques?

Occam’s Razor works on the principle that the answer that relies on the fewest assumptions is likely to be the correct one.

An assumption that humans arrived and out-competed with the previous apex predator beats the dual assumptions that they co-existed but the animals failed to evolve to gradually-changing conditions over several thousand years.

There’s another point in favour of the “humans killed them off” theory; researchers try to find a “climate change” hook to all their research because that’s where the money flows.

Beer and climate change. More heavy lifting by “could”

As we’ve shown previously, dire warnings of impending climate catastrophes rely on a lot of heavy lifting from the word “could”.

Here’s the latest example; beer could be more expensive in the future climate dystopia.

Don’t bother following the link to the article for any actual details or hard predictions of by how much or by when this price increase will be experienced. This is climate science, after all, the normal rules of the Scientific Method don’t apply.

We’d link to the academic study but it hasn’t been published yet.

Which illustrious ancient seat of academia is responsible for this auspicious and credible claim?

The University of East Anglia.

Now where have we heard of that institution before? Oh yes, Climategate.

Bill’s Opinion

If you are a British taxpayer, consider how you feel about paying money for a study grant that results in some vague claim about a future crisis in the beer brewing industry, and is motivated by a desire to get you to change your life and pay more tax for “green” issues.

In the meantime, let’s make some predictions of our own.

1. A pint of beer will cost about 10% more, at least, in 10 years time because of inflation. Did the East Anglians consider that?

2. Barley grows quicker in a CO2 rich atmosphere. Did they reference and factor any studies of relative rates of growth in their study?

3. If my mother had wheels, she could be a trolley.

We’ll revisit this once the actual study is published. Our suspicion is it is a bullshit paper written purely to spark headlines like these.

Lastly, I wonder if there’s a clue to the study’s unbiased motivation?

What we’re saying is that … if people still want to have a pint of beer while they watch football, we have to do something about climate change.

I’d translate that into even more frank and honest English but I suspect the message is already hiding there in plain sight.

Somebody has been reading George Orwell;

So long as they (the Proles) continued to work and breed, their other activities were without importance. Left to themselves, like cattle turned loose upon the plains of Argentina, they had reverted to a style of life that appeared to be natural to them, a sort of ancestral pattern…Heavy physical work, the care of home and children, petty quarrels with neighbors, films, football, beer and above all, gambling filled up the horizon of their minds. To keep them in control was not difficult.

Reefer madness

The Climate Council (no, not a shite Paul Weller band) quoted a UN official recently;

The inference being, of course, if you care about the Great Barrier Reef, you need to care about climate change because that’s the biggest cause of damage to said reef.

Obviously these scientists know what they’re talking and in no way are they obfuscating or trying to mislead.

Oh, this is awkward.

The overarching consensus is:
Key Great Barrier Reef ecosystems continue to be in poor condition. This is largely due to the collective impact of land run-off associated with past and ongoing catchment development, coastal development activities, extreme weather events and climate change impacts such as the 2016 and 2017 coral bleaching events.

Current initiatives will not meet the water quality targets. To accelerate the change in on-ground management, improvements to governance, program design, delivery and evaluation systems are urgently needed. This will require greater incorporation of social and economic factors, better targeting and prioritisation, exploration of alternative management options and increased support and resources.

The evidence base supporting this consensus is provided in a series of four supporting chapters. The main conclusions were:

1 The decline of marine water quality associated with land-based run-off from the adjacent catchments is a major cause of the current poor state of many of the coastal and marine ecosystems of the Great Barrier Reef. Water quality improvement has an important role in ecosystem resilience.

2 The main source of the primary pollutants (nutrients, fine sediments and pesticides) from Great Barrier Reef catchments is diffuse source pollution from agriculture. These pollutants pose a risk to Great Barrier Reef coastal and marine ecosystems.

3 Progress towards the water quality targets has been slow and the present trajectory suggests these targets will not be met.

4 Greater effort to improve water quality is urgently required to progress substantial pollutant reductions using an expanded scope of tailored and innovative solutions. Climate change adaptation and mitigation, cumulative impact assessment for major projects and better policy coordination are also required to protect the Great Barrier Reef.

5 There is an urgent need for greater investment in voluntary practice change programs, the use of regulatory tools and other policy mechanisms to accelerate the adoption of practice change, and robust monitoring and evaluation programs to measure the rate and effectiveness of adoption.

6 Strengthened and more effective coordination of Australian and Queensland government policies and programs, further collaboration with farmers and other stakeholders, and strong evaluation systems are critical to the success of Great Barrier Reef water quality initiatives.

7 Priorities for reducing pollutant loads are now established at a catchment scale, based on the exposure of coastal and marine ecosystems to land-based pollutants, and should be used to guide investment.

8 A greater focus on experimentation, prioritisation and evaluation at different scales, coupled with the use of modelling and other approaches to understand future scenarios, could further improve water quality programs.

Hang on, the biggest problem is water quality, primarily due to agricultural run-off?

How curious.

Why then, would the Climate Council of Australia suggest climate change is the biggest enemy?

Bill’s Opinion

Follow the money (highlights mine);

The Climate Council is Australia’s leading climate change communications organisation. We provide authoritative, expert advice to the Australian public on climate change and solutions based on the most up-to-date science available.

We’re made up of some of the country’s leading climate scientists, health, renewable energy and policy experts, as well as a team of staff, and a huge community of volunteers and supporters who power our work. As an independent voice on climate change, we get climate stories into the media, produce hard-hitting reports, call out misinformation as we see it and promote climate solutions such as the transition to renewables.

The Climate Council was founded in 2013 by tens of thousands of Australians to create a new, an independent and 100% community-funded organisation in response to the abolition of the Australian Climate Commission.

Please keep donating money so that we can all keep our jobs“, in other words.

There is an uncomfortable axiom about charities and not for profit organisations; they have an ecosystem (no pun intended) around simply existing that keeps many people employed and feeling important.

That the initial facts justifying the creation of the charity/NFP may have changed, are no longer compelling or worse, are proven false, can be of little interest to the organisation when so many people rely on its existence for their day to day subsistence.

A recent example of this is the UK’s Kids Company. Similarly, there were cases of US polio eradication charities that struggled with the existential threat following the success of the vaccination programme and, in a few cases, resorted to changing their mission and committing fraud.

Obviously, one hesitates to accuse the Climate Council of fraud so there must be some other reason that they would have forgotten to mention the significant role of agricultural run off in the damage inflicted to the reef.

In other news, the head of the Climate Council is Tim Flannery, a man with a stellar track record of science-based predictions.

Describing the ends but not the means

The sheltered workshop and tax dodging former newspaper, The Guardian, ran an opinion piece about science by a writer whose entire qualification seems to be that he writes a genre of fiction with the word “science” in the category description.

Science fiction writer Kim Stanley-Robinson wants to save the planet.

Of course, the usual Malthusian Fallacy is the main theme of the opinion piece. No surprises there and the consistent formula is employed;

1. Define an unverifiable looming catastrophe,

2. Define an untestable solution,

3. As a consequence, demand resources and behavioural changes from the population.

What’s quite interesting in this article is the use of gentle language to describe what would require severely authoritarian measures to implement.

Some examples follow;

The tendency of people to move to cities, either out of desire or perceived necessity, creates a great opportunity. If we managed urbanisation properly, we could nearly remove ourselves from a considerable percentage of the the planet’s surface.

Just a mild “if we managed urbanisation” there, you might say. Of course, everything hinges on one’s definition of “managed“.

It could be said that Hugo Chavez managed the distribution of food in Venezuela, for example…..

Many villages now have populations of under a thousand, and continue to shrink as most of the young people leave. If these places were redefined (and repriced) as becoming usefully empty, there would be caretaker work for some, gamekeeper work for others, and the rest could go to the cities and get into the main swing of things.

Redefined and repriced? Sure, by whom, when, to what price and how?

If we recall, Robert Mugabe redefined and repriced the fertile farmland of Zimbabwe….

So emptying half the Earth of its humans wouldn’t have to be imposed: it’s happening anyway. It would be more a matter of managing how we made the move, and what kind of arrangement we left behind. One important factor here would be to avoid extremes and absolutes of definition and practice, and any sense of idealistic purity. We are mongrel creatures on a mongrel planet, and we have to be flexible to survive.

Quite right; people have been self-selecting and moving to urban centres since the Industrial Revolution. Urban living overtook rural living over a decade ago.

So what’s Kim’s call to action here, if we’re doing this by free will already?

Ah, he wants to lock the gate once we’ve left so it’s harder to return.

We will have to have decarbonised transport and energy production, white roofs, gardens in every empty lot, full-capture recycling, and all the rest of the technologies of sustainability we are already developing. That includes technologies we call law and justice – the system software, so to speak. Yes, justice: robust women’s rights stabilise families and population. Income adequacy and progressive taxation keep the poorest and richest from damaging the biosphere in the ways that extreme poverty or wealth do. Peace, justice, equality and the rule of law are all necessary survival strategies.

That’s quite a word salad which can perhaps be summarised as “people like me need to rewrite the law“, such as;

….because we will be safest if we can get the CO2 level in the atmosphere back down to 350 parts per million.

Says who? If I’m living in a violent urban neighbourhood in Lagos, Nigeria, I might question Kim’s assertion about precisely what actions might keep me safest.

All these working landscapes should exist alongside that so-called empty land (though really it’s only almost empty – empty of people – most of the time). Those areas will be working for us in their own way, as part of the health-giving context of any sustainable civilisation. And all the land has to be surrounded by oceans that, similarly, are left partly unfished.

Which is fine until we get around to talking about how we are planning to keep the people off the land and stop them dropping a net in the water.

All this can be done. All this needs to be done if we are to make it through the emergency centuries we face and create a civilised permaculture, something we can pass along to the future generations as a good home. There is no alternative way; there is no planet B. We have only this planet, and have to fit our species into the energy flows of its biosphere. That’s our project now. That’s the meaning of life, in case you were looking for a meaning.

There is no alternative way? Is that like, “the science is settled“?

Bill’s Opinion

Comparing expressed preferences with revealed preferences is always an interesting exercise.

Kim Stanley-Robinson is urging us to move to large conurbations and then for armed police (no really, how else is he proposing we enforce it?) to close the gates to the newly-vacant countryside.

Out of curiosity, Kimbo, where’s your primary residence? Where exactly is Chez Stanley-Robinson?

The high-density sprawling metropolis of Davis California (pop. 65,622).

Just to illustrate the hypocrisy, this is the satellite view of Davis;

With a strong right arm, one could probably throw a frisbee the entire length of the town in one shot. Although, it sounds like the sort of place where Ultimate Frisbee has no social shame so there’s a good chance it might be intercepted.

In Kim’s own words, from his wiki page (emphasis mine);

Politically, Robinson describes himself as a democratic socialist, going on to say that libertarianism has never “[made] any sense to me, nor sounds attractive as a principle.”

No shit, Sherlock.

Peter Hannam is either mendacious or stupid

Peter “weather equals climate” Hannam has been fighting the good fight with more intensity recently, with many words written bemoaning Trump’s disdain for the Paris Agreement, despite it making no logical sense to anyone who cares to examine the facts.

One of his recent pieces of work is interesting;

Australia’s driest September on record“?

That’s quite a claim and it would certainly indicate a major problem with the environment if true.

Firstly, let’s just mention that nature doesn’t really have a concept of what a “September” is. No, really it doesn’t; think about it for a moment.

Let’s have a look at Peter’s opinion piece kwality jernalism and see if we can find the factual basis for that headline;

Australia has notched its driest September on record, with less than a third of the usual rainfall for the month, extending the dry spell that has farmers and firefighters increasingly desperate for rain.

Yes, you’ve said that in the headline already (but thanks for confirming it wasn’t an editorial decision to make up a headline). What’s the data source?

Victoria posted its second driest September, also collecting just a third of its typical September rain.

Ok, so a large portion of the country was dry but not as dry as it has been before. That’s not supporting the headline though, is it?

Also, as with a “September“, Mother Nature doesn’t really understand the concept of “the Australian State of Victoria“.

NSW also had another dry month, with less than half the normal rain, bringing the state’s year-to-date tally lower than any year but 1902 and 1965, according to Blair Trewin, senior climatologist at the Bureau of Meteorology.

Nope, still not hearing any data supporting the “driest ever” claim.

“Below average rainfall covered almost the entire country” last month, Dr Trewin said, adding that it pipped 1957 as the driest September, and trailed only April 1902 as the driest for any month.

Still not “driest ever” though, is it?

Melbourne posted its fifth-driest September on record, with no days recording more than 5 millimetres of rain – only the second time that’s happened for that month in records going back to 1855.

Yawn. There’s a pattern emerging here, dry but not “driest ever“.

Sydney’s rainfall was less extreme, coming in about one-quarter below average.

Snore.

A lack of rain has been a standout feature of much of eastern Australia this year, drying out soils and forests. All of NSW has been declared in drought, while the fire season has started early and is forecast to be an active one.

For the rest of the year, the bureau’s outlook suggests odds particularly favour drier than average conditions in Victoria, southern South Australia and Tasmania.

Still not “driest ever” though?

“The signal in the outlook [for October to December] that’s really strong is warmth,” Dr Trewin said, noting that almost all of the country has an 80 per cent chance of warmer than usual maximum and minimum temperatures.

For September, daytime temperatures were 1.41 degrees above the average for the 1961-90 period.

The Murray-Darling Basin, Australia’s food bowl, had its driest January-September since 1902 – the end of the Federation Drought – Dr Trewin said.

Warm but not “driest ever“?

And then, almost as if these things are driven by some kind of natural cycle, the dry weather is replaced by, erm, wet weather;

Note the tagline for Cassandra’s article; “Weather“.

Peter, however, is the real Cassandra in the Greek sense with his default; “Extreme Weather“.

Bill’s Opinion

In addition to Occam’s Razor, there is another shaving device that is useful when analysing people’s public statements and acts; Hanlon’s Razor.

Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.

As much as we would like to use this principle with Peter Hannam, he makes it bloody hard to not draw the conclusion that he is acting in bad faith.

He is a veteran journalist who will have been taught the wisdom of concise, factual writing, critical thinking and use of source data.

So why, therefore, does the headline and opening paragraph make a claim that is not substantiated anywhere within the body of the article?

We suggest one of the following explanations for this discrepancy;

  1. After all these years to hone his craft, Peter made a genuine mistake, forgetting to add the all-important sentence or paragraph that would have corroborated his claim.
  2. Peter is incompetent and has been languishing in the role of serious journalist for several years without being in possession of the requisite skills and experience to perform the role.
  3. He knew that there was no supporting evidence for the claim of “driest ever” but went ahead with the assertion, both as a headline and in the body of the article.

Our suggestion is that, based on his extensive public record of writing, (3) is the most likely explanation.

If you accept this explanation that Peter is deliberately trying to deceive the reader, we perhaps should ask ourselves, why?

Actually, perhaps we should ask Peter that?

Hi Peter Hannam, are you a fool or a knave and, if the latter, to what purpose?

If someone on Twitter could ask him, we would be most grateful – @p_hannam
In the meantime, let’s just remind ourselves of Mencken’s quote;

The urge to save humanity is almost always a false front for the urge to rule.

The world “Could” needs our sympathy again

Could” and his/her/zher’s synonyms are doing all the work in an article about climate change again, the poor things.

By 2050 the average Australian snow season could be between 20 and 55 days shorter under a low risk scenario modelled by the CSIRO.

It’s always good to throw in a graph or chart showing how the trend is pointing to us all going to hell in a handbasket;

Ok, that looks bad. What’s the source, how was it collected and for what purpose? And why does it only start in 1955?

Here it is.

The data was collected by the Snowy Hydro project to keep track of what the likely water flow will be during spring each year.

There’s a handy disclaimer on the website about how much scientific credibility should be given to the data set;

Snow Depths Disclaimer

Snowy Hydro undertakes snow depth readings as required for operational purposes during the snow season. Updates on our website may be made on an irregular basis. For the latest information on snow conditions, we suggest that you visit the appropriate ski resort website.

Snowy Hydro supplies this information in good faith for the benefit of the public. The information was accurate at the time of recording. However, Snowy Hydro advises that the information now posted should not be relied upon, and therefore cannot incur liability for any loss or damage to third parties arising from how the information may be interpreted or used.

Ok. So an employee of the hydro plant goes out each month and shoves a measuring pole into the snow to estimate how much water will flow through the turbines later in the year.

On this basis, we’ve extrapolated that the Australian ski season will be half as long in 30 years’ time.

One might be excused for not putting one’s boots, poles and skis on eBay.com.au just yet then. As David Camacho points out, measuring snow depths in ski fields is not without its challenges too;

David Camacho

One of the biggest reasons for lower snow depths and shorter seasons is increased skier numbers and increased descents/day, carving away the snow which is not totally overcome by piste grooming machines.

Every time a skier descends, they carve away some snow. This is most extreme on warm sunny days. But also important after fresh snowfalls on thin bases. Especially if the season opens before a firm natural base has developed.

Data should be limited to stations where no skiers affect the snowbase, as then you have eliminated an enormous variable from data.

Just like quadrupling the size of resort villages creates an urban heat island effect….

Unfortunately for Eryk Bagshaw (and presumably his boss, Peter “weather is climate” Hannam) his own article suggests that the public aren’t buying this Chicken Little-ism. Expressed preferences versus revealed preferences are most apparent in the price of property in ski fields;

But there have never been more skiers or snowboarders heading to Perisher, Thredbo or Falls Creek.

Houses prices in Jindabyne and Cooma have grown by 42 per cent since 2008, below the 65 per cent average for the rest of regional NSW.

Victorian alpine areas have been more fortunate, mostly due to their closer proximity to Melbourne, according to Domain data scientist Nicola Powell. Bright has seen Sydney levels of price growth, up 122 per cent over the past decade.

Bill’s Opinion

It would be interesting to seek legal opinion on the likelihood of success of a compensation claim for an owner of a ski-field property in Australia who sold on the back of Erik’s advice and subsequently lost money when the big thaw never happened.

What are the consequences of predictions such as these based on highly-questionable scientific methods?

Oh, and we’ll just leave this little gem from today here;

Awkward.

Nihilists gonna nihilist

We’ve all heard that lemmings jump into the sea every year, drowning themselves because they are just following the herd. Except they don’t. That’s actually a myth invented for a Disney wildlife documentary, and it has blinded us to the truth about the weird lives of lemmings for decades.

That’s ok though, we’ve filled the vacuum ourselves;

We’re the only species evolved enough to consciously go extinct for the good of all life, or which needs to.

The Voluntary Human Extinction Movement would very much prefer it if you could refrain from reproducing and persuade everyone you know to follow suit.

Why?

Well for the same reason The Club of Rome would like you to stop breathing;

The Earth has cancer and the cancer is Man.

They’ve taken the Buddhist (and several other religions, to be fair) belief that life is mainly suffering, extrapolated it and come to the conclusion that the most appropriate response is that we put a stop to the whole cycle.

Is this a reasonable conclusion supported by the weight of evidence, do we think?

First, let’s look at the reasons put forward by this group, why do we need to take such a radical step? Is it to reduce human suffering?

No, the explanations given on their website are all to the benefit of the surviving species and, in fact, are quite disparaging and unsympathetic about human suffering, as this example illustrates;

Naturally, it’s not that simple, but just for fun, let’s envision an impossible dream: all human sperm suddenly and permanently loses viability—no impregnated human egg begins meiosis to form a zygote—none transforms from embryo into the sacred fetus, is carried to term and sentenced to life. Zero conceptions, wanted nor un.

A wonderful fantasy. Phones in crisis pregnancy centers would fall mysteriously silent. Sperm banks would go bankrupt after fraudulently milking the infertile. Adoption agencies would fruitlessly increase baby bounties, and charge an arm and a leg for whoever’s in stock, damaged or not. Needless panic would be hilarious. Like people frantically searching for their oars after the boat has beached.

Or, to paraphrase, “Yes, you pathetic people who feel the need to altruistically raise someone else’s orphaned child just because you are infertile, how pathetic of you compared to us, the people with the monopoly of righteousness.”.

So, it’s all about the surviving species.

Ok, let’s ponder that concept for a moment. Will a lack of humans cause flora and fauna to have an increased level of happiness? Well, we could have a lengthy debate about the nature of happiness and even consciousness, but one suspects we’ll not reach much of a consensus before anyone reading this becomes personally extinct.

Flip it around the other way perhaps; will a lack of humans result in a net reduction in pain and suffering of plants and animals?

Sure, factory-farmed animals will not experience the short and poor quality lives they currently have, mainly because they won’t be born. What about those animals that will be born in the wild after we’ve shuffled off this mortal coil? Do we think they will organise themselves in to peaceful communes or will they just fall prey to the next apex predator down the food chain?

We might even ponder a future earth without humans where another species evolves to fill the vacuum. Do we think the new intelligent species will pick up our musty old literature, read what we did to ourselves, be inspired for the love of Gaia and hold a vote to do the same?

Bill’s Opinion

If you’re reading this looking for the answer to the ultimate question of why we are here and what our purpose is on the planet, I’m afraid you’ll have to leave feeling slightly short-changed.

However, we can have a good punt at what the meaning of life isn’t.

We are not born to capitulate, roll over and die. There is nothing unique or beautiful about giving up, it’s been the easiest and most likely thing to happen throughout the history of the planet.

The philosophy behind VHEM has a fundamental flaw; they’ve confused the statement, “life is mainly suffering” with the statement “life is always suffering”. The gap between the two statements is filled with beauty, kindness and joy, albeit brief.

No, if you think humans are a cancer that needs to be surgically removed…. you go first.

Better still, let us know how you get on once you’ve reached TELAH.