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Jo Nova: climate science denier

Joanne Nova has a Net site named "Skeptical Science for dissident thinkers". This page was brought to my notice by a wind farm opponent. Reading some of the content of the page suggested to me that neither the wind farm opponent, nor Ms Nova, could have a good understanding of science.

Ms Nova used data which she intended would discredit climate science; instead, the data contradicted her climate science denial.

Written 2014/12/05, modified 2016/09/02 – ©
Contact: email daveclarkecb@yahoo.com
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Jo Nova has a request for donations in this position on her front page. Her site is popular. She probably does very well by telling people what they want to hear.

Who is more credible, Jo Nova or the Bureau of Meteorology?

Ms Nova wrote a page on 2014/12/04 criticizing the Australian Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) which had reported that the Spring of 2014 was the hottest on record.

 
Ms Nova's graph
Jo Nova's graph
Ms Nova's graph, which she used to illustrate her point, is shown on the right. Ms Nova stated that she obtained the data she used in the graph from the University of Arizona at Huntsville (UAH) who had interpreted it from satellite observations. (There is an interesting examination of this data set in Wikipedia.)

Does Jo Nova understand science?

Anyone with any knowledge of science would be aware that several sets of measurements of a complex system, using entirely different methods of data collection, will come up with slightly different results. One would certainly expect satellite temperature data to differ somewhat to data collected using thermometers on the Earth's surface.

Does Jo Nova understand her own graphs?

What does Jo Nova's graph show us? That, according to satellite data, this last Spring might have been the forth hottest in the last 35 years rather than the hottest. Even using Ms Nova's graph, seven of the hottest springs in the last 35 years have occurred in the last nine years.

This graph, and the three others that Ms Nova gave for the other seasons, shows a warming trend; a trend that became especially strong in the last twenty years and yet Ms Nova claims "there hasn't been much climate change in the last 15 years".

 
Ms Nova's graph with a trend line added
Trend line on graph
The mathematically calculated trend line indicates rising temperatures
The graphs that Ms Nova used provide strong evidence for climate change and suggest that the rate of warming is increasing! It certainly does not back up Ms Nova's criticism of the Bureau of Meteorology.

I added a mathematically calculated trend line to Ms Nova's graph; the result is shown on the right. Not only does the trend line show that the temperatures recorded by the satellite are rising, but it shows that the rate of rise is itself increasing.

The trend line was a 'power' curve generated by Open Office spreadsheet.

Ms Nova's qualifications in climate science

It is worth noting that Ms Nova has no formal qualifications in climate science and has not published anything in peer-reviewed journals, yet claims to know the facts on climate science better than most qualified and published climate scientists; see DeSmogBlog.
 
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Why accept that humanity is causing climate change?
(Anthropogenic climate change; ACC)

First, the science:
  • About 99% of papers published in peer-reviewed climate journals accept the fact of ACC;
  • The vast majority of climate scientists accept the reality of ACC;
  • I doubt that there is any scientific organisation that has any interest in climate, anywhere in the world, that does not accept ACC.
In addition:
  • Almost every national government in the world accepts the reality of ACC;
  • I doubt that there any respectable university in the world that teaches that ACC is not true;
  • The world's mainstream churches are pushing for serious action to slow climate change.
More on this on another page on this site.

Why do we need more than one way of measuring temperatures?

Ms Nova seems to believe that we should accept the satellite as interpreted by UAH and ignore the Bureau of Meteorology data. In fact, if we are to get the clearest possible picture of historical climate change, we must look at many data sets.

The most reliable data are the actual temperature measurements recorded by organisations such as the Bureau of Meteorology. Satellite data is also very valuable, but as mentioned in the Wikipedia article, satellites do not measure temperatures directly. The data that they record has to be interpreted to obtain temperatures. And, of course, while satellite data goes back to around 1980, Bureau of Meteorology temperature records go back well over a century further.

Temperatures interpreted from indirect observations, such as the satellite data that were used in Ms Nova's graphs, are called proxies.

There are a number of other ways of implying past temperature: they include tree-ring data and oxygen isotope data from ice cores. These can tell us about the temperatures much further into the past than direct temperature recordings.

A graph of temperatures from the last 1000 years interpreted from proxies is given in Wikipedia.

 
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Ms Nova claims to be a science writer

 

Where do we look for the credible science?

Ms Nova seems blissfully unaware of a body of work called the peer-reviewed science literature.

Overwhelmingly the science literature is telling us that climate change is happening and is due to the actions of mankind. Similarly, the opinions of climate scientists are overwhelmingly accepting of anthropogenic climate change (ACC).

"When ignorance is bliss, 'tis folly to be wise"?

More on Jo Nova

For more informed discussion of Ms Nova's deficiencies in her understanding of science I can recommend ItsNotNova. DeSmogBlog gives some background to Ms Nova.
In an article titled "Australia: more skeptics than believers, and few really care about "Climate change" Ms Nova wrote:
First up, despite the endless repetition in the media that the science is settled and the evidence is overwhelming, the latest CSIRO survey shows 53% of the Australian population don't agree that "humans are causing climate change". When the ABC gives 50% of its climate budget and time to skeptical arguments we will know it is fulfilling its charter. Right now, the ABC serves less than half the population. Secondly, even with 47% of the population agreeing that humans are "largely" causing climate change, many of these people still don't think climate change will be that bad.
This is not a scientific point of view. Ms Nova, questions of science are not decided by popular opinion. Any well informed layman realises that, many non-scientists in the ABC realise that, certainly someone who claims to be a science writer should realise that.

The science is settled, climate change is real and it is a hugely serious threat.

Again, Ms Nova confuses opinion polls with science

In a piece she wrote about climate change denial, headed 'What to call a doubter?' Ms Nova writes:
"Most surveys and polls show 50% of the population are skeptical. A real newspaper that was leading and shaping the public debate would find the most informed views from both sides and put them forward..."
No Ms Nova, a responsible investigative journalist would look at the most credible information; he/she would look at the science! And a real science writer would be referring to the science journals Jo, not claiming that we can decide on the reality of ACC by looking at popular opinion.
 
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More sloppy work from Jo Nova

Apparently Jo Nova doesn't confine herself to climate science denial, she also rubbishes renewable energy. The two often go together. What does this suggest? A financial link between Ms Nova and the fossil fuel industry?

In July 2016 Ms Nova wrote a piece titled "Wind power sucks money and electricity in South Australia". The first inaccuracy was in the first sentence. Ms Nova wrote:

"On a good day South Australia has more than 40% renewable energy..."
The facts are rather different, SA averages around 40% renewable energy; on a good day it gets up to 90% or even higher. The graph below shows that at 9:25am on 18th August over 80% of SA's power was coming from our wind farms and another 9% from solar PV. Later in the day it got up to 93% renewable energy. The previous few days and the following few days showed similar amounts of renewable power in SA.

Live generation

I didn't bother checking any other of Ms Nova's claims in this piece. I have little doubt that the quality of her work was consistent.
 
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Links

Jo Nova, sourcewatch

It's not Nova; an 'Analysis of "science" performed by Joanne Nova', debunking 'as many of her science-related articles as possible'.

desmogblog, Joanne Nova.





Index

Links
More sloppy work from Jo Nova
A science writer?
Science or opinion?
Where do we look for the credible science?
Who is more credible, Jo Nova or BoM?
Why accept that humanity is causing climate change?
Why do we need more than one way of measuring temperatures?
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