Jo Nova Hopes You’re Gullible

Before I leave the ridiculous climate debate alone, I want to write a little about Jo Nova’s second Skeptical Handbook of nonsense that I’ve been thinking about for a while but really didn’t feel too motivated  to do much about. I won’t both going to the same levels previously, when I compared her handbook to John Cooks rebuttal, because, let’s face it, has she ever had much that’s really worth that kind of effort?

Here it is:


Let’s look at the cover picture a little more closely:

Who’s calling who an alarmist? Hmmm… somewhat hypocritical, don’t you agree?

The next few pages are much the same; SCARE SCARE SCARE!! So I’ll just ignore this rubbish, as should most of her readership if they were willing to give it much thought.


Page 6 discusses that doubling CO2 alone will increase the greenhouse effect by just over the 1 degree Celsius. True. But then she whines about the effect of atmospheric water. Grist and ScepticalScience should explain enough here and here for the casual reader which make her work even more baffling seeing as such information should be easily accessible by Ms. Nova, if she cared to look for it.

Put basically, water content is a function of air temperature (hell, I use this function to work out dewpoint from humidity data on a daily basis). A more energetic atmosphere can hold more water. Water is known to have a greater greenhouse effect than CO2, thus will drive the temperature up, thereby leading to more water vapour to be taken up (the boogie-monster of the deniers – a positive feedback). Eventually, if other climate drivers or energy input stabilise, so too will water vapour. From the evidence available, it is believed that doubling CO2 will add around another degree from the greenhouse effect of water. This brings us roughly to the lower end of the IPCC predictions of 2.5 to 4 degrees Celsius for a CO2 doubling.

More importantly, this same line of thought carries on to silliness on the following page. She seems to hope that cloud cover will save the day. As more water vapour takes flight, she hopes these particles will work together to produce increased cloud to deflect solar energy. But honestly, do you want to live in a world increasingly overcast? I don’t care if it’s warmer, it’ll be grey and drab and as we all know from cloudy nights; cloud cover also traps heat. Cloudy nights that follow a warm clear day are uncomfortably sticky. Drab days and humid night. Gee, what a wonderful world ahead… (oh, btw, is this not, a changed climate?)

Oh and she’s correct; evaporation will be on the increase in a warmer climate. More water moving between the land/ocean and  and an increasingly energetic atmosphere is a given.  All of this results in what we refer as ‘weather’. As stated above, water is a function of air temperature, therefore, (this is something worth keeping in mind) the atmosphere can hold more moister.

The first problem here is that it will take more water to saturate the air and cause precipitation. What concerns me here is the land shadow effect. What happens to deep inland habitats that rely on the hydrological cycle to rain down the required drink? Sure, when you get big cells move over, you’ll get a sprinkle, but for the most, the atmosphere largely stimulates evaporation, drying the place out.

What about the big cells and environments that encourage rain (ie. big water masses that provide evaporation / cloud fuel or hilly regions that produce topographical condensation)? A good example of an active, saturated atmosphere in Australia is the La Niña event. We’ve had a lively La Niña event in the latter months of 2010. See the following reports:

Australian Floods Prompt New South Wales Disaster Declaration, Crop Alert
Australia Floods Damage Crops, Force Evacuations; Coal Shipments Disrupted
Weatherwatch: Floods and fire
Flood crisis spreads throughout NSW, Queensland, South Australia and Victoria
Farmer suicide alert as crops washed away

Not that I’m claiming this weather to be climate change, but rather what we should expect from such a climate as Jo writes about in her latest book.

Nova simply makes a terrible comparison between sweating to cool off and something that is a fair magnitude larger and more complicated; Earth’s climate. Talk about building one massive straw man!


The next two pages attack the hockey stick; another done-to-death denial moan that requires nothing more than a a quote from Mann himself, “Even without my work, or that of the entire sub-field of studying past climates, scientists are in broad agreement on the reality of these changes and their near-certain link to human activity.”

It’s doesn’t sound like his work is important enough to hold up the theory of anthropogenic climate change now, does it?


Before descending even further into outrage and paranoia, she complains about access to data.

Firstly why? Many bright-eyed kids with fresh degrees like I once was  get chucked straight into the tedium of data analysis. Who would willingly do that to themselves? And those who would, why do they think they’re qualified enough to evaluate raw data collected by someone else? Almost all data requires verification and this is usually done by the poor young budding scientist  and the experienced technical crew who look after the equipment simply because they know the site and monitoring equipment well enough to spot errors.

Besides, if you really want data, why not visit here, just like half the climate-focused bloggers already have?


Skipping again a few pages of repetition, simply to build even more outrage, we get to page 14. Spot the denier.

Well, firstly, I’ll ask anyone out there to look at how easy and affordable it is to de-carbonise your lifestyle. I assure you, having trying to make numerous improvements in my own life, it’s not the easy or cheap option – it’s a real pain. Choice – do we have any real choice to reduce our emissions personally? Yet Nova has a screaming bloke in a suit demanding that we change our lifestyle. Hardly seems accurate.

Next to this, we have another, supposedly reasonable looking guy with, “we want a reason.”

Here’s a couple lists of the facts, Nova: [1] and [2] (believe it or not, the same two links from part 2 but there are plenty more, if you want them, just google it). Couple that with the obvious ramifications of climate change on other species and decreasing fresh water, food and energy security, I think we have a few good reasons.

She also picks on the peer-review process; “You get what you pay for and peer review is free.”

Okay… It’s good to know nothing ever printed in science literature is worth much (while typing this out on one of the most amazing breakthroughs of science – the computer)! Get a clue – believe it or not, you cannot buy the respect that journals and scientist earn for their work. It’s not all about the money!


Page 17: CO2 is plant food. How many nutters throw this silly point around? Shouldn’t it have been tossed aside simply because it was one of the now completely discredited (as if he deserved any to begin with) deniers, Christopher Monckton? Surely the opposite of almost anything he says should be taken as very likely true.

Check out Högy et al. 2009. It’s just one of a number of papers doing the rounds at the moment that show that while some plant species might produce greater yields with increased CO2, it’s of poorer quality.

So, we so far have a depressingly overcast future with poor quality food for the future? That’s good to know. Cheers for straightening that up for my Jo.

Oh, then there’s also this video NASA recently produced:

And then she re-hashes the last few pages from her previous work; “It’s the sun!” or “CO2 was much higher in the past [funny that they rely on paleo-data that suits them and reject all else that counter]!”

If you need answers to these, just follow the links provided above in parts 2 and 4 and save me the effort… I’m already bored!


2 thoughts on “Jo Nova Hopes You’re Gullible

  1. Hi Tim , Re Clouds , one thing Ive noticed since Ive got solar panels and talked about on forums is the cloud edge effect , on a day with scattered clouds I can get an extra 300-400 watts an hour showing on my inverter , so on a day with no clouds at miday I get 4400 watts a hour showing on a day with say 25% cloud cover I get 4800watts. This indicates to me that clouds are reflecting more energy back to the earth .
    Just an interesting observation I thought .
    I think its worth doing these becuase someone googleing Jo Novas name may also find your site to and thats a very good thing !!


    1. It would be interesting to work out what’s happening. I might be due to the cloud diffusion countering solar angle… I’m not sure.
      If you look at the solar data on this graph from my site, the spiky business that stops the graph from being a nice curve is cloud. It all depends on how they work. Very interesting stuff and with all the cloud cover over the past couple of months, my panels haven’t had any problems either.


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