Category: science

Science under attack

If you haven’t seen this excellent BBC documentary, here’s your chance. Dellingpole shows himself up wonderfully and the connections between the climate denialists and other conspiracy theorist denialists are elegantly described.
It’s also nicely made, with the usual BBC production levels.
I hope they start showing this in schools.

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The buzz about neonicotinoids: Hive minding your own business.

ImageI noticed a request to sign a petition on facebook with the heading

BAN THE PESTICIDES THAT ARE KILLING BEES

I was also alerted to the same issue on facebook via a butterfly conservation page that said

Today the March of the Beekeepers, organised by Buglife and others, will advance on Parliament Square, Westminster to support a temporary ban of neonicotinoid pesticides. Could these pesticides affect butterflies and moths as well as bees?

and linked to details of a protest against neonicotinoid insecticides called March of the Beekeepers.

So, the claim is that neonicotinoid insecticides, having proven to be killing bees, may also be the cause of butterfly decline. Facebook messages followed in support of the march.

This seems like a good thing, right? The huge german company Bayer are manufacturing these pesticides, and there’s a ton of evidence to prove the connection between this stuff and the bees dying. Surely.

So, I decided to take a look at some of the evidence on offer, linked from the campaign. Here’s their science (a very short pdf). Now, straight away, I have little problem. They say

…independent studies showed serious sub-lethal impacts on non-target invertebrates.

which suggests to me that nobody is talking about the killing of bees, oh, except for the

BAN THE PESTICIDES THAT ARE KILLING BEES

people.

Secondly, I have a problem with the way they casually broaden out the category to include any environmental impact, including earthworms and mammals, however interesting that is, when the issue at hand is bees. To me this looks like cherry picking, although it’s very hard to be certain because the most relevant sounding studies listed are seemingly unavailable (google-wise).

For a little balance, I came across the Scientific Beekeeping site which appears to present quite a different story.

Yes, bees can be effected by this pesticide when dosed enough. It appears to be general scientific consensus, seen here in the Relatively objective reviews section, however, that it is very unlikely to be the cause of Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD).

My concern is that people are allowing their political judgement (perhaps a suspicion of companies like Bayer, and a dislike of “unnatural” pesticides) to cloud their scientific judgment. In my view, this situation could become another mass moral panic, resulting in a blanket ban. My fear is that the campaigners will move on to some other issue and the bees will keep dying.

The science is not simple here, and the slogans of the marchers (who I suspect may not be exclusively beekeepers) do not reflect the scientific complexity, resulting in an emotion-driven movement that is unlikely to be productive.

PIK

PIK

The Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research

I went here today. There are actually a whole group of beautiful old buildings around here, including the famous Einsteinturm, but I posted this photo because this is the building that supplies a great deal of info to the IPCC and other groups, and they’re just generally a good bunch of scientists doing what they can. So often so much good work is done behind nondescript buildings, but in this case they’re pretty!

Margaret Thatcher on Climate Change and Environment

Just to provide a little balance, here’s Thatcher arguing clearly, and scientifically accurately, for dramatic action to combat anthropogenic climate change at the UN back in 1989.
I believe that when people are right, they’re right, and very few people are all wrong.

She suddenly goes on about how the magic of the free markets will fix everything around the 20 minute mark, but other than that…

Climate Denial Crock of the Week

This is the full CSpan version. My eyes get moist listening, not because I miss Ms. Thatcher, I had no special fondness for her, but because I miss what we once had in pre-Fox America –  a dialogue with intelligent conservatives who took the time to actually think, feel, reason, and deduct. A common set of basic human values, and a respect for fact and science.

Can you imagine a contemporary Republican making glowing mention of Darwin? (first 5 minutes)

thatchpalin

It’s 36 minutes. Worth playing in the background, or if you don’t have time, see the Yale video I produced using this footage,  and commentary below in another post.

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New Video: Arctic Ice – The Death Spiral Continues

Climate Denial Crock of the Week

After watching several videos of the breakup of Beaufort sea Ice during the dead of winter, I decided to contact a leading ice expert, Walt Meier of the National Snow and Ice Data Center, for analysis and perspective. I mixed his comments in with the increasingly-on-the-same-page warnings from his fellow scientists around the country.

I’ll post our full conversation later in the week.

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the site with no reply

www.realclimate.org

This website, RealClimate, appears to be infuriating for global warming “skeptics”, those of you who proclaim an understanding of science, but present misinformation based on nothing of any scientific value.

I’ve seen no attempts to address any on the arguments and counter arguments methodically laid out by working climate scientists from RealClimate during my review of the “skeptic” position.

I’ve dealt with every kind of fallacious argument you can imagine.

For asking a series of questions to the “skeptics”, I’ve been called hysterical, alarmist, a “warmer”, an eco-fascist, a liar, an ideolog, privileged, condescending, and an arsehole.

I may have missed a few out, but you get the picture.

I’ve also been told how insensitive it is that anyone calls anyone a “denier”.

I was banned from Tallbloke’s Talkshop even though I never swore, insulted anyone, or was rude in any way, and the site claims to have no rules about how people should interact, other than minding manners, which I did. I’m not moaning about this, I don’t care, I point it out merely to indicate the quality of the argument I’m dealing with here.

I was in search of a fair-minded, scientifically credible discussion, with openness and a certain intellectual rigor. I got none of these things, as shown in the comments on my previous post.

The only possible conclusion I’m left with is that they have no argument, no data, no evidence, and the attempt to characterize their position as in any way scientific is patiently deceptive.