Tuesday, February 17, 2015

You couldn't make this up

The Australian Academy of Science has just issued an updated "explanation" of global warming.  They note that "Most available material ... usually omits some of the basics, such as how scientists know humans are causing global warming and what future projections are based on".  So in their latest "explanation", what did they do to remedy that deficiency?   Below is their full "explanation" of how human activities enhance the ‘greenhouse effect’:

"Today, human activities are directly increasing atmospheric concentrations of CO2, methane and nitrous oxide, plus some chemically manufactured greenhouse gases such as halocarbons. These human-generated gases enhance the natural greenhouse effect and further warm the surface. In addition to the direct effect, the warming that results from increased concentrations of long-lived greenhouse gases can be amplified by other processes. Human activities are also increasing aerosols in the atmosphere, which reflect some incoming sunlight. This human-induced change offsets some of the warming from greenhouse gases"

In short, they have done NOTHING to fill the gap they identified.  Their screed is all just assertion and in any case completely ignores the key question of climate sensitivity -- i.e. even if we accept everything they say above about the greenhouse effect, how do we know HOW BIG the effect will be?  Most skeptics do believe that there is some human effect but can see neither theoretical nor empirical grounds for expecting it to be anything but trivial.  It is the Warmists who shriek about it not being trivial but what is their evidence for that?  There is none.  It is all just poorly founded speculation

If that's the best that the scientific establishment can do to explain Warmist beliefs, then the explanation is an utter failure. One wonders if they really believe in Warmism themselves.

Australia's leading science body has reissued its climate change booklet in a bid to improve public understanding of the contentious subject.

The Australian Academy of Science was prompted to update the information based on new research and public questions since its original release in 2010.

Most available material is either too technical for the lay reader and usually omits some of the basics, such as how scientists know humans are causing global warming and what future projections are based on, said Steven Sherwood, a climate scientist at the University of NSW.

"There is so much misinformation or confusing information out there, that we thought it would be nice to gather in one place an accessible explanation," Professor Sherwood said.

About 97 per cent of scientists who study the climate accept that humans are having an impact, with carbon dioxide – mostly emitted from humans burning fossil fuels – the primary driver.

"Even though carbon dioxide is not the only influence on climate, over the long term it will have such a large effect, it has to be brought under control no matter what else we do," Professor Sherwood said.

The academy report notes global carbon dioxide emissions rose at an average annual rate of 3.2 per cent between 2000 and 2012, at the top end of previous projections. These emissions, though, will have to start falling at a pace between 5.5 and 8 per cent for the planet to have a 50-50 chance of keeping temperature increases to within 2 degrees of pre-industrial levels.

World leaders will gather in Paris in December to thrash out a global climate treaty aimed at reducing carbon emissions beyond 2020. Countries, including Australia, are expected to announce their targets by the end of next month.

The heads of Britain's three main political parties agreed at the weekend to phase out all coal-fired power plants unless their emissions can be captured.

The academy report notes average surface warming had slowed since 2001 despite rising carbon emissions but said decadal variability in how oceans and the atmosphere exchange heat meant extra warmth had been absorbed by the seas. Other changes such as the increasing incidence of heat extremes, shrinking Arctic sea ice – its thickness dropping 30 per cent in 30 years – and rising sea levels had all continued unabated.

It is well known that the greenhouse effect is important for sustaining life on Earth – temperatures would be 33 degrees cooler without it. Perhaps less well known is the role rising temperatures have on concentrations of water vapour, a key greenhouse gas.

"When global average atmospheric temperatures rise, global water vapour concentrations increase, amplifying the initial warming through an enhanced greenhouse effect," the report says. "[T]his feedback approximately doubles the sensitivity of climate to human activities."

"For Australia, a warmer future will likely mean that extreme precipitation is more intense and more frequent, interspersed with longer dry spells," the report says.

By the end of the century, a high temperature event that would now occur only once in every 20 years would be occurring annually or once every two years on our current emissions trajectory, the academy says.

While societies and nations will face varying challenges to cope with climate change, many natural ecosystems are likely to face extinction.

Native animals that depend on cooler mountain habitats, for instance, will be particularly vulnerable. Scientists examining the fate of 50 species in the Wet Tropics bioregion in north Queensland found they would be all but wiped out with a 5-degree temperature increase.


Aspiring teachers abandoning HSC maths

One in six aspiring teachers did not do any maths for the HSC, with new research showing the proportion of students starting teaching degrees in NSW without maths beyond year 10 has tripled in the past decade.

The serious decline in maths participation means an increasing number of primary and high school teachers in NSW are in the classroom with only the most basic level of maths.

Researcher Rachel Wilson, a senior education academic at the University of Sydney, warned that the findings had serious ramifications for school students as well as industry and the national economy.

"Not only are we seeing declines in math and science participation among high school students in general, we are seeing a steeper decline among those students going on to study to be teachers," Dr Wilson said.

The research found between 2001 and 2013, the proportion of students who received university offers to study teaching but did not do HSC maths tripled, and those studying 2 unit maths dropped from 30.6 per cent  to 14.2 per cent. The only rise was in elementary-level general maths.

The study also found that the proportion of all students going on to do the HSC without any maths tripled between 2001 and 2013, while there was a small increase in general maths but a decline in 2 unit maths.

Dr Wilson said the big concern was the increasing number of students applying to study teaching who had dropped maths before the HSC.

"Together, these analyses raise serious concerns for maths and numeracy standards and for STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education and industry," Dr Wilson said.

"In particular, the declining participation rates among prospective teachers are deeply concerning, with the potential to create a vicious cycle of declining engagement with maths in NSW schools."

Dr Wilson said the last external assessment for maths in NSW was year 9 NAPLAN.

"There is a message going to students that maths is not important."

The research comes as federal Education Minister Christopher Pyne released on Friday the long-awaited review into teacher training, which found that too many teaching degrees were not equipping new teachers with the skills to teach students maths and science.

Dr Wilson, who co-authored the report with Honorary Associate Professor John Mack for the International Journal of Innovation in Science and Mathematics Education, said Australia lagged behind much of the developed world.

She said the redesigned HSC introduced in 2001 removed the long-standing requirement for students in NSW to study at least one maths or science subject.

Dr Wilson said this was at odds with the rest of world, where 45 of the US's 50 states required maths to be studied to the end of secondary school, and   Japan, Korea and China had similar requirements.

"The removal of this requirement and the increase in alternative subject choices over the 10-year period must be seen as contributing factors in the declining rates of math and science study," Dr Wilson's paper said.

A spokesman for NSW Education Minister Adrian Piccoli said the state had the highest standards in Australia, with school leavers entering teaching degrees with the HSC required to have three band five results.

"From 2016, before they graduate, education students wanting to work in NSW schools will have to pass a literacy and numeracy test to demonstrate that their numeracy skills are strong enough to teach mathematics," he said.


Melbourne beats Sydney in American students' Google searches for overseas universities

Melbourne ranks fifth in the world for United States students searching for destinations to study abroad, two places higher than Sydney, data from search giant Google shows.

Sydney is often thought of by Australians as our most internationally visible city, but the search data tells a different story.

For US students planning to study overseas, the most searched-for destination is London, followed by Oxford, Cambridge and Edinburgh.

Melbourne is next on the list at No 5, two places above Sydney, and ahead of Hong Kong, Seoul, Glasgow and Amsterdam.       

Google has also collected data on US students' searches for specific universities, and again Melbourne does well, with the University of Melbourne ranked 13th in the world, one place behind the University of Sydney.

At 33, the University of Melbourne is Australia's top-ranked institution according to the Times World University Rankings, ahead of the Australian National University (45) and the University of Sydney (60).

"We're pleased to be recognised in these rankings, and it reaffirms Melbourne as great destination for university", a University of Melbourne spokesman said.

"It's a testament to the hard work of many staff across the uni, as well as collaboration with various state and national bodies.

"Lots of factors contribute to how Google perceives the university, and we certainly try to optimise for those that we can."

Interestingly, despite its reputation for dullness within Australia, Canberra does very well in the search rankings.

The Australian National University is the most searched-for of Australia's universities, and Canberra itself ranks 10th in the list of searched-for cities.


Bright flight

Most affluent Australian parents send their kids to private schools -- at least for their High School years.  So ....

When I became a father at a frighteningly young age it was a mixture of ideology and lack of money that had me choosing the state system for my daughter. It didn't even occur to me that the state high school where I lived, in Sydney's prestigious eastern suburbs, could be bad.

It was worse than bad. "Bright Flight" had left only the poorest, roughest kids in the area. Girls in micro-minis and with texta drawings all over their thighs smoked cigarettes with slouching, morbid looking boys at bus stops around the neighbourhood.

At a school performance where parents were invited, screaming children ran down the aisles, prompting neither disapproval nor intervention by the seated teachers. At parent-teacher nights, teachers gave glowing descriptions of my kid's performances despite obvious flaws in essay techniques, in general knowledge and grammar.

Eventually, I sent her to a Catholic girl's school. Ten grand a year… ouch!… and I had to pretend I believed in The Almighty, but at least there was a modicum of discipline.

Later in life, when I was better equipped to afford a good school, I put my two little boys into the French system. I figured, I could spend a million bucks putting them through the elite private system and they might make a contact that could get them into the banking system or at least a few stock tips that might set them up for life. Or, I could choose a system that values philosophy, language, history and civil values and all bound in the most secular of educational frameworks.

Hours, days, months, spent on verb conjugation, on learning the poems of Hugo and Rimbaud by rote (and performed in front of their classmates), of complex forays into European history. And they come out of it able to speak, read and write at a high level in two languages.

I figure, I spend the money, I want something concrete. What a party trick...say something in French, kid!

"Bright Flight" is real. The state system, in whichever state you live, is too slack, too willing to let bad behaviour slide. A great student will be a great student anywhere. But an average kid, someone prone to slipping into bad behaviour, what most of us have, will at least have a shot at a decent future if he gets schooled privately.

It shouldn't be this way.


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