Sunday, January 12, 2020

GWPF Newsletter: Science Scandal Deepens As New Study Refutes Alarming Ocean Acidification Claims

Peter Ridd Calls For Investigation Into Scientific Fraud & Cover-Up

In this newsletter:

1) Peter Ridd: Scientific Misconduct At James Cook University Confirms My Worst Fears
Global Warming Policy Forum, 10 January 2020
2) Ex-Judge To Investigate Ocean Acidification Research Controversy
Times Higher Education, 8 January 2020

3) Study Disputes Carbon Dioxide-Fish Behavior Link
Science Magazine, 10 January 2020 
4) What 50 Years Of Global Hurricane Landfall Data Can Teach Us About Climate Change
Roger Pilke Jr & Ryan Maue, Forbes, 9 January 2020
5) Glacier National Park To Replace Signs Saying Glaciers Would Be Gone By 2020
The Washington Times, 8 January 2020
6) Trump Moves to Speed Infrastructure Projects by Curbing Environmental Reviews
The Wall Street Journal, 9 January 2020
7) And Finally: Bank of England Won’t Print Money For Green Revolution, Says Mark Carney
The Daily Telegraph, 9 January 2020

Full details:

1) Peter Ridd: Scientific Misconduct At James Cook University Confirms My Worst Fears
Global Warming Policy Forum, 10 January 2020

Seven scientists expose massive scientific incompetence –  or worse – at James Cook University

The paper by Timothy Clark, Graham Raby, Dominique Roche, Sandra Binning, Ben Speers-Roesch, Frederik Jutfelt and Josefin Sundin (Clark et al., 2020) is a magnificent example of a comprehensive and very brave scientific replication study. The 7 scientists repeated experiments documented in eight previous studies on the effect of climate change on coral reef fish to see if they were correct.

Clark et al. (2020) found 100% replication failure. None of the findings of the original eight studies were found to be correct.

All the erroneous studies were done by scientists from James Cook Universities highly prestigious Coral Reef Centre. They were published in high profile journals, and attracted considerable media attention.

The major findings of the original studies that were found to be wrong were that high CO2 concentrations cause small reef fish to

* lose their ability to smell predators, and can even become attracted towards the scent of predators,

* become hyper-active,

* loose their tendency to automatically swim either left or right, and,

* have impaired vision.

This is the second time these 7 authors have got together to reveal a major scientific scandal. They were the whistle blowers of the infamous Lonnstedt scientific fraud in 2018. Lonnstedt, originally a PhD student at JCU, is also one of the scientists involved with these latest erroneous studies. She was found guilty of fabricating data in Sweden.

JCU has failed to properly investigate possible scientific fraud by Lonnstedt. Government funding agencies should insist that the highest responsible officer at JCU be sacked to send a message that institutions must take fraud seriously and not try to cover it up.

I was fired from JCU in 2018 after stating that work from JCU’s coral reef centre was not trustworthy. The latest work by Clark et al. (2020) is more evidence that those comments had considerable substance.

I was awarded $1.2M for wrongful dismissal by the Federal Circuit Court in 2019. JCU has appealed the decision which will be heard in May.

Replication and Science Quality Assurance

Clark et al. (2020) is exactly the type of replication study that I have been requesting for other scientific evidence regarding the Great Barrier Reef.

Such replication studies have been opposed by all the major GBR science institutions.

Clark et al. (2020) shows a 100% failure rate of the replication tests, which is higher than the science standard of about 50% failure rate for most peer reviewed literature.

Clark et al. (2020) demonstrates, yet again, the inadequacy of peer review as a quality assurance check for scientific evidence that may be used to develop important public policy decision.

I have been proposing an “Office of Science Quality Assurance” that would be in charge of replication and audit studies to test scientific evidence to be used for government policy decisions.

James Cook University (JCU) Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies (ARCCoE)

The replication tests were performed on work mostly authored by scientists from JCU’s ARCCoE.

The 100% failure rate of these tests indicate that there is a serious quality assurance (QA) problem within that organisation.

I have been saying since 2015, in both public statements and the scientific literature, that the ARC COE has a QA problem. The head of the ARC COE made complaints to the Vice Chancellor of JCU about these public comments.

Those complaints led to my dismissal from JCU in 2018 after an almost unbroken 40 year association with the university.

Clark et al. (2020) demonstrates beyond doubt that my statements on Quality Assurance had considerable substance.

Scientific Fraud

No direct evidence of fraud was presented in Clark et al. (2020)

There is, however, considerable evidence of very lax scientific standards such as the lack of videoing of the behavioural experiments. This is a remarkable omission considering that videoing experiments is very easy.

Combined with a 100% replication failure rate, it is clear that there was not an institutional culture of high scientific standards and integrity at the JCU ARCCoE.

Oona Lonnstedt, a PhD student at JCU, was trained within this lax institutional culture. She is an author of one of the studies tested in Clark et al. (2020).

She was later proven to be fraudulent by the very same authors of Clark et al. (2020) for work she did in Sweden.

There is compelling evidence that other work she did at JCU on Lionfish may be fraudulent.

The response of JCU to Lonnstedt’s fraud

JCU has failed to properly investigate Lonnstedt’s PhD and Post-Doc work at JCU since she was found guilty of fraud in Sweden. JCU has repeatedly said it would investigate with an external review but it appears that the committee to do this has not been appointed almost 2 years after she was found guilty of fraud in Sweden.

Scientific fraud is a serious issue. The integrity of science is at stake.

Failure to investigate fraud when there is a strong prime facie case that it has occurred is a far greater crime than fraud itself. It is a failure at the highest levels of an institution.

It demonstrates that fraud will be tolerated at James Cook University.

Suggested response by funding agencies

JCU receives large sums of tax payer funds and there is an expectation by science funding organisations that fraud would be properly investigated.

Science funding bodies, such as the Australian Research Council, should insist that a high penalty be paid by the highest officers of the University who were ultimately responsible for the failure to investigate possible fraud.

If this does not occur, funding bodies should withdraw all support for JCU.

A message must be sent to other science organisations and universities that there is an expectation that fraud will be investigated properly.


The results of Clark et al. (2020), as the authors mention, do not mean that ocean acidification is not a serious environmental threat. They reveal that the effect of high CO2 levels on reef fish behaviour is not a concern. As an aside, in my opinion ocean pH changes are a credible, though not proven, threat to the GBR. This is in contrast to other well publicised threats, such as from agriculture or modest temperature increases, which I do not believe are a significant threat.

Dr Peter Ridd —

2) Ex-Judge To Investigate Ocean Acidification Research Controversy
Times Higher Education, 8 January 2020

Australian university scrutinises former student’s research record, as whistleblowers refute ocean acidification theory

An Australian university has launched an investigation into the research record of a discredited scientist it educated, as findings by academics who supervised her doctoral training are challenged in the journal Nature.

James Cook University said it has appointed an external panel to look for evidence of misconduct in the research conducted by marine biologist Oona Lönnstedt between 2010 and 2014, when she was undertaking PhD studies at the Queensland institution.

The university said the panel’s as yet unidentified members include “eminent academics with expertise in field work, marine science and ethics” and a former federal court judge.

The university announced the investigation a year ago after Dr Lönnstedt had been found guilty of fabricating data underpinning a study in her native Sweden, following her departure from JCU.

That study, published in 2016 in the journal Science, was retracted in 2017. Formal concerns have also been raised over data missing from three of the 15 papers Dr Lönnstedt co-authored while at JCU.

A spokesman for the university said the panel appointments had been delayed by internal investigations. He said the panel would report by the end of February “or such other date as agreed with the university”, and that JCU intended to release the findings “subject to legal and privacy considerations and any other obligations”.

Meanwhile, seven researchers who exposed Dr Lönnstedt’s misconduct have now cast doubt on a theory of ocean acidification that was championed by her PhD supervisors and featured in her doctoral thesis.

The researchers say that their paper, published in Nature on 8 January, “comprehensively and transparently” refutes research findings that rising carbon dioxide levels in the oceans will make small coral reef fish easy pickings for predators.

Their three-year study harnessed more than 900 fish from six species, in attempts to replicate studies including JCU research published over the past decade. The team could not reproduce experimental findings that the carbon dioxide concentrations predicted by the end of the century would jeopardise small species’ sustainability by making them hyperactive, predictable and oblivious to predators.

Lead author of the three-year study, Timothy Clark, said it was the first time anybody had attempted to replicate the “profound” effects of carbon dioxide on fish behaviour outlined in dozens of studies conducted by “a small group of researchers”. He said the team had taken great care to match the conditions of the previous studies while improving the methodology “to maximise transparency and minimise the potential for experimenter biases”.

Dr Clark, an aquatic physiologist at Victoria’s Deakin University, said it was difficult to overturn scientific ideas that had been aired in high-impact journals and the media. “We have exhausted all reasonable methodological avenues to explain the disparity in our findings compared with previous studies,” he said.

“The global scientific community deserves to understand how it is possible to achieve such remarkably different findings when addressing the same question.”

Full story

See also: New Allegations Of ‘Fishy’ Climate Science
3) Study Disputes Carbon Dioxide-Fish Behavior Link
Science Magazine, 10 January 2020

Three-year effort fails to replicate alarming findings about effects of ocean acidification 

Over the past decade, marine scientists published a series of studies warning that humanity’s burgeoning carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions could cause yet another devastating problem. They reported that seawater acidified by rising CO2—already known to threaten organisms with carbonate shells and skeletons, such as corals—could also cause profound, alarming changes in the behavior of fish on tropical reefs. The studies, some of which made headlines, found that acidification can disorient fish, make them hyperactive or bolder, alter their vision, and lead them to become attracted to, rather than repelled by, the smell of predators. Such changes, researchers noted, could cause populations to plummet.

But in a Nature paper published this week, researchers from Australia, Canada, Norway, and Sweden challenge a number of those findings. In a major, 3-year effort that studied six fish species, they could not replicate three widely reported behavioural effects of ocean acidification. The replication team notes that many of the original studies came from the same relatively small group of researchers and involved small sample sizes. That and other “methodological or analytical weaknesses” may have led the original studies astray, they argue.

“It’s an exceptionally thorough replication effort,” says Tim Parker, a biologist and an advocate for replication studies at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington. Marine scientist Andrew Esbaugh of the University of Texas, Austin, agrees that it’s “excellent, excellent work.”

But marine biologist Philip Munday of James Cook University, Townsville, in Australia, a co-author of most of the papers the Nature study tried to replicate, says there are “fundamental methodological differences” between the original and replication studies. “Replication of results in science is critically important, but this means doing things in the same way, not in vastly different ways,” he wrote in an email.

Munday helped launch research on the behavioral impacts of ocean acidification together with Danielle Dixson, now at the University of Delaware. In 2009, their paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences showing that orange clownfish (Amphiprion percula) reared in seawater with elevated CO2 levels no longer recognized the chemical cues that could help them find a suitable habitat on the reef. (“Losing Nemo” was a popular headline for stories about the paper.) That study was followed by dozens of others showing similarly striking, and often large, behavioral effects in clownfish and other species, mostly from tropical waters.

Timothy Clark, the first author on the Nature paper and a marine scientist at Deakin University, Geelong, in Australia, says he initially set out to probe the physiological mechanisms behind those behavior changes. But after he failed to reproduce the changes—let alone explain them—he invited other scientists to set up a systematic replication attempt. It focused on three reported effects of acidified waters: making reef fish prone to swim toward their predators’ chemical cues rather than fleeing them, increasing their activity, and altering the fish’s tendency to favor either their left or right sides in some behaviors.

Overall, the group reports, exposing fish to seawater with acidification levels predicted for the end of the century had “negligible” effects on all three behaviors.

Full story ($)

4) What 50 Years Of Global Hurricane Landfall Data Can Teach Us About Climate Change
Roger Pilke Jr & Ryan Maue, Forbes, 9 January 2020

Note: This column is co-authored by atmospheric scientist Ryan Maue, @RyanMaue

In 2019 the three most costly catastrophes were the consequence of tropical cyclones, according to the reinsurance company Munich Re. Typhoons Hagibis and Faxai struck Japan, together causing more than $26 billion in losses and Typhoon Lekima caused more than $8 billion in losses across Asia.

Tropical cyclones, which are called hurricanes in the Atlantic and eastern Pacific between Hawaii and Mexico, are historically responsible for the greatest amount of damage among weather and climate related events. Understanding the behavior of tropical cyclones on planet earth is thus a priority among scientists, and includes attention to short-term forecasting and long-term climate trends.

The storms that cause the most risk to human life and property damage are those that that make landfall, technically defined as occurring when the eye of a tropical cyclone passes over the coastline. Storms with winds of at least 74 miles-per-hour (119 kilometers-per-hour) are classified as hurricane strength, and those with winds of 111 miles-per-hour (178 kilometers-per-hour) or greater are classified as major hurricane strength. Overall, on planet earth each year there are about 45 tropical cyclones that reach hurricane strength and about one third of those go on to make landfall. Of those 45 storms, about 25 storms reach major hurricane strength and 5 of them, on average, go on to make landfall.

Almost a decade ago we realized that the scientific community had never developed a historical time series of tropical cyclones that made landfall around the world. So along with Jessica Weinkle, today a professor at the University of North Carolina-Wilmington, we used datasets available around the world on tropical cyclones to create a historical record of storms of at least hurricane strength that make landfall. Last year we were asked by a group of scientists affiliated with the World Meteorological Organization to update our analysis.

Today we can share with you a preliminary further update, as part of our work in progress (Caveat Lector!) to develop a new and improved analysis of landfalling tropical cyclones. Our updated analysis is made possible by the data of the project on the International Best Track Archive for Climate Stewardship (Version 4). We are grateful to the governments that support this work and the scientists who conduct the analyses. Note that global data prior to 1985 has larger uncertainties, but landfalls that have occurred during the satellite era of observations are highly unlikely to have been missed. Even so, the further back in time, the greater the chances are that our figures are underestimates.

Comprehensive data on landfalling tropical cyclones in ocean basins around the world are available since 1970. Defining landfall can be tricky – for instance, sometimes storms come very close to a coast but do not actually make landfall and our methods do not include all small islands (and for the all of the specific and technical details of our methods, please see our paper).

The graph below shows 50 years of global landfalls of tropical cyclones of hurricane strength, based on the Saffir-Simpson hurricane scale use by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Global tropical cyclone landfalls at hurricane strength 1970 to 2019 -- ROGER PIELKE, JR.

There are a lot of ups and downs in the data, but no obvious trends. Last year saw 17 total storms, with 7 making landfall as major hurricanes. Every landfalling hurricane poses significant risks to life and property, but the major hurricanes are responsible for the most damage. Of course, tropical cyclones, even those that never reach hurricane strength, can also create massive damage through heavy rains and flooding. […]

It is well known that the 1970s were a relative quieter period for tropical cyclones overall as compared to the 1990s, and parts of recent decades.

With our data, we can say a bit more about longer-term trends because reliable records of tropical cyclone landfalls in the North Atlantic and the Western North Pacific are available further back in time (to at least 1900 and 1950 respectively). Landfalls in these two basins account for about 68% of all global landfalls from 1970 to 2019.

The figure below shows a 10-year moving average of tropical cyclone global landfalls from 1950 to 2019. The period from 1970 to 2019 is based on observations and uses data identical to the graph above. The black line shows all tropical cyclone landfalls of at least hurricane strength and the dashed black line shows all landfalls of tropical cyclones of major hurricane strength. For the period 1950 to 1969 we have used actual data on landfalls in the North Atlantic and Northwest Pacific, and added to that the average number of landfalls from the rest of the world based on observations from 1970 to 2019 (there is no trend over this period). The grey line and dashed line represent an estimate of, respectively, total hurricane-strength and major hurricane-strength tropical cyclone landfalls from 1950 to 1969. The dotted lines represent plus and minus one standard deviation from this average.

Global tropical cyclone landfalls 1950 to 2019, 10-year moving average -- ROGER PIELKE JR.

These data help to illustrate why it is so challenging to identify trends in tropical cyclones, even over periods of 50 years or more. Over the most recent 50 years, the decadal minimum worldwide was 120 landfalling storms of hurricane strength (1974 to 1983) and the landfalling maximum was 177 (1988 to 1997), a difference of almost 50% from smallest to highest (which happened over a total period of just 25 years). For tropical cyclones of major hurricane strength the decadal variability is even larger, with the fewest at 33 (twice) and the most at 65 (1999-2008), or almost a 100% difference.

Full post

5) Glacier National Park To Replace Signs Saying Glaciers Would Be Gone By 2020
The Washington Times, 8 January 2020

Montana’s Glacier National Park is updating its signs to no longer predict its signature glaciers would be melted by 2020.

Park spokeswoman Gina Kurzmen said the signs that were added more than a decade ago to reflect climate change forecasts at the time will be replaced to more accurately reflect the glaciers’ fate, CNN  reported Wednesday.

The new signs will reportedly read, “When they will completely disappear depends on how and when we act. One thing is consistent: the glaciers in the park are shrinking.”

The U.S. Geological Survey informed the park in 2017 that the glaciers were no longer expected to melt so quickly due to changes in the forecast model, Ms. Kurzmen told CNN.

Full story

6) Trump Moves to Speed Infrastructure Projects by Curbing Environmental Reviews
The Wall Street Journal, 9 January 2020

Business, energy groups cheer proposal that environmental advocates say would hamper efforts to slow climate change

WASHINGTON—President Trump proposed the first comprehensive overhaul of National Environmental Policy Act rules in more than 40 years, saying changes are needed to streamline approval of highways, energy pipelines and other infrastructure projects, as part of his administration’s broader efforts to pare environmental regulations.

The proposal was hailed by business groups, energy companies and construction unions but criticized by environmentalists, who said it comes as mounting threats posed by climate change make thorough review of infrastructure projects more critical than ever.

Among the more than a dozen proposed changes to NEPA’s environmental-permit rules, the government for the first time would set limits for completion of environmental reviews, which can sometimes take a decade or longer. Full environmental impact statements would need to be completed within two years, while less comprehensive environmental assessments would have to be concluded within one year.

“We want to build new roads, bridges, tunnels, highways bigger, better, faster,” Mr. Trump said from the White House, joined by business and union leaders. “These endless delays waste money, keep projects from breaking ground and deny jobs to our nation’s incredible workers.”

The plan, which is subject to public hearings before it can be approved, faces likely court challenges from environmental groups and Democratic-led states. Some congressional Democrats said Thursday that the proposed rewrite was illegal. But leaders in both parties said the overhaul, if enacted, could mark the administration’s most significant change to environmental regulation.

“Forcing federal agencies to ignore environmental threats is a disgraceful abdication of our responsibility to protect the planet for future generations,” Brett Hartl, government affairs director at the Center for Biological Diversity, said this week, anticipating the overhaul plan. He called it a “gift to the fossil-fuel industry.”

Mr. Hartl and other critics are concerned the overhaul is the latest in a series Trump administration efforts to limit the government’s ability to address climate change. Recent U.S. government and United Nations reports have sounded increasingly urgent alarms, saying the world must sharply curb greenhouse-gas emissions from fossil fuels to avoid the most catastrophic outcomes.

Mr. Trump and his cabinet members have dismissed those warnings or said they don’t have legal, effective ways to address them. They have instead moved to ease environmental regulations to help manufacturing and fossil-fuel development.

Industrial interests and building trade unions have said that NEPA, enacted in 1970, has become a tool of obstruction by environmental groups, which energy companies are fighting to build more pipeline capacity amid the recent boom in U.S. oil and gas production.

Full story

7) And Finally: Bank of England Won’t Print Money For Green Revolution, Says Mark Carney
The Daily Telegraph, 9 January 2020

The Bank of England should not print money to finance a green revolution, radical social change or any other political schemes, Mark Carney has warned.

Mr Carney rejected demands for the Bank of England to print money to fund political campaigns and projects CREDIT: MICHA THEINER

In a review of his tenure at the top of the Bank, which comes to an end when Andrew Bailey takes over in March, Mr Carney said the institution should not succumb to pressure to tackle every challenge facing the country.

The outgoing Governor has himself been a champion of action to tackle climate change. He has sought to prepare the financial system to fund green technologies, and warned of the risks facing those businesses that fail to take the environment seriously.

Mr Carney will become the UN’s special envoy on climate change once he leaves Threadneedle Street.

But that does not mean the Bank should fund the green agenda with quantitative easing (QE), he said, referring to the policy of printing money to buy bonds which was used to boost the economy after the financial crisis.

Instead, the central bank should stick to its main job of setting interest rates to keep inflation at or around 2pc.

Mr Carney said: “There have… been calls for asset purchases to address policy goals not directly related to monetary policy, such as people’s QE or MMT [‘modern monetary theory’] – which essentially equate to fiscal policy – and green QE to support the transition to a net zero carbon world by supporting green finance.

“In my view, these should be resisted. While carefully circumscribed independence is highly effective in delivering price and financial stability, it cannot deliver lasting prosperity and it cannot address broader societal challenges.

“Calls for the Bank to solve broader challenges ignore the Bank’s carefully defined objectives. And they often confuse independence with omnipotence.”

Full story

The London-based Global Warming Policy Forum is a world leading think tank on global warming policy issues. The GWPF newsletter is prepared by Director Dr Benny Peiser - for more information, please visit the website at

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