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An account of the Watts event in Perth

Posted on 2 July 2010 by Anne Young

Guest post by Annie Young

The Watts climate tour appeared in Perth on Tuesday evening. They garnered a turnout in the vicinity of 110 people. The majority were middle-aged and elderly. Three of us stood outside offering 'The Scientific Guide to the Skeptics' Handbook', an excellent booklet addressing the grievous scientific misunderstandings in Jo Nova's 'Skeptics' Handbook'. Almost everyone accepted one, however a couple returned theirs when they realised they had been duped with the real science.

Upon her arrival, Jo Nova asked to see the booklet. She muttered something about the lunacy of measuring temperature with wind shear. A fellow booklet distributor mentioned three recent articles which explained the notion but instead of discussing the contents of these papers in a spirit of scientific curiosity, she diverted from the real issue by challenging him to name the authors.

When questioned about further reading she may have done on other topics, she reverted to stating the authors of one paper she had read. It is thus hard to take her seriously when she says she is looking for evidence. "Show me the science," was also her refrain six months ago at another climate science event. This seems to indicate that she has no interest, or perhaps no ability, to do her own research. The suggestion that it is her responsibility to keep up with the science, not ours to ensure that she does, appeared to make no impression on her. Her response to several enquiries during our discussion about whether she understands the science, was silence.

She accused those of us following evidence-based science of wanting 'our money'. Apparently, in her mind, those who pay attention to the science are aligned against the denialists to fleece the world of money for their nefarious activities dealing with climate change for the benefit of current and future generations.

Bob Carter also came out to have a word. He disparaged the scientists who were acknowledged for their comments on the 'Scientific Guide' dismissing them as "not even climate scientists." Those whom he dismissed include seven professors, associate professors and a Fellow of the Royal Society, some of whom have published in Science and Nature, and all of whom are acknowledged experts in their fields which include statistical modelling of weather and climate data, paleoclimatology and the effects of ocean acidification on coral reefs.

Although I didn't venture inside, a preliminary report from someone who did, bemoaned the fact that he had lost 45 minutes of his life watching Watts' slide show of thermometers which give the same data as his so-called well-positioned thermometers and the satellites.

In this age of open and swift global communication, it is easy to examine technology and strategies in place around the world to reduce carbon emissions whilst building the economy and providing jobs. As was shown the preceding evening, when the real science was presented, Germany is a case in point. With far fewer sunlight hours and less coastline than us, they have used a variety of renewable energy sources including solar and wave to reduce carbon emissions by 28% whilst increasing GDP by 32% in real terms and creating more than 300,000 clean-energy jobs. Australia is extraordinarily well positioned to follow suit.

One has to wonder why Nova, Carter, Watts and their ilk oppose such action, especially as it also addresses other pollution about which they claim to be concerned.

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Comments 51 to 75 out of 75:

  1. Its *not* meaningless at all John D (though how did I know that it would be *you* that would take issue). What matters is that those citing deaths of birds as a reason for banning wind farms obviously don't care less about birds, or else they'd be seeking a ban on other activities that put birds at risk. The numbers only becomes meaningless if-like the other denialists-you're just afraid of a shift away from fossil fuels as our primary source of electricity. What ultimately matters is the *total* potential for bird fatalities from additional Wind Farms vs the total deaths from other human activities. After all, if more than 300 million birds are dying from collisions with cars, buildings & power lines every year, then what is even an additional 1 million bird deaths per year (which would require 500,000 of the pre-1990 wind turbines, sufficient to generate around 300GW of electricity)?
    That, said, I do have the numbers of fatalities for wind turbines on a per turbine, per year basis-based on a 2001 study-which amounts to an average of 2 deaths/turbine per year. As I said, though, this number has been falling due to a shift towards better siting policies & a shift towards turbines with slower blades-& as a result of birds becoming accustomed to the farms & changing their flight patterns on the population level. By comparison, in the US, around 1.5 animals (primarily birds & mammals) are killed per car in the US & between 200 to 400 birds are killed per km of electricity transmission lines (there are 180 million bird electrocution deaths per year & 300,000km of electric transmission lines in the US). I don't have figures for deaths/window, but my rough calculation puts collision deaths at around 20 to 50 bird deaths per commercial building. Let me add some additional perspective by saying that US oil & gas extraction-alone-kills between 1 to 2 million birds per year-not including those killed in disasters like the Deep Sea Horizon accident. No doubt your compassion for birds will cause you to demand an immediate cessation of all oil & gas extraction activities? Also, according to B.K Sovacool, 20 times more birds die-per unit of electricity generated-as a result of coal-fired electricity than by wind (5.2/GWh for Coal vs 0.3 to 0.4 per GWh for wind).
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  2. Eric (Denialist), unless you can provide any science source that backs your claim that the BAU argument is purely speculative, then it sounds like *you* who is making political arguments. Though this is proven by the fact of your constant ignoring of my simple point that the drop in air flights during that period already cancels out the emissions from your beloved volcano.
    However, that aside, you are comparing annual emissions cuts to total emissions cuts-& you deliberately misrepresented your source materials whilst doing so-both of which are common tactics of those from the Denialist Industry. What part of the: Germany produced around 900Mt of CO2 in 1997, & would have generate a total of 9900Mt of CO2 by the end of 2007 had it continued to do so? That's not *speculation*, as you claim, that is a matter of SIMPLE FACT-a matter of SIMPLE MATHEMATICS. Instead, though, by cutting their CO2 emissions steadily between 1997 & 2007, they generated only 9200Mt during that time period-which amounts to a saving of 700Mt over a 10 year period-not 111 as you now claim (seriously, Eric, simple MATHEMATICS really isn't your strong suit, is it?) It may seem only represent only a small fraction of the global total on a per year basis (which is apparently your new argument now that you've clearly lost the other one-another common tactic of the Denialist Industry) but the whole point is to encourage other developed economies to follow suit. That Germany achieved such a large reduction in CO2 emissions without harming its economy should convince other nations to follow suit, but unfortunately denialists use much the same erroneous arguments as you present here to prevent or delay such actions being taken.
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  3. Now, just to show how non-speculative the BAU argument is-consider the following example. The United States generated a *total* of 62.5Gt of CO2 between 1997 & 2007. Now, even if they'd only *stabilized* their emissions at 1997 levels (they've risen from 5.47Gt per year to 5.83Gt per year) then they'd only have generated 60.2Gt of CO2 over that same period-which would have amounted to a 2.3Gt cut in CO2 (roughly 10% of the global total). Now if Germany could *cut* its CO2 emissions compared to 1997 levels with no economic cost, then I see no possible reason why the US couldn't do the same (especially when one considers that the US currently generates 0.45kg of CO2/$ of GDP vs Germany's 0.3kg of CO2/$ of GDP-which speaks of an energy inefficient economy).
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  4. It is true Marcus that it was a 700Mt reduction over that 11 year period. Over those same 11 years, the world produced about 286Gt. That's about a quarter of one percent reduction. "Without harming their economy" is an argument without substance. It may have helped their economy, it may have hurt their economy. Unless you present facts, it is just speculation. To encourage other countries to follow suit is a political argument. It may be valid and I am not going to argue against it, but I would like to see a little more rigor if that is possible.
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  5. Eric (skeptic) at 22:23 PM on 4 July, 2010

    In the real world, 0.4% could be highly significant. Let us say you reduce total manufacturing costs by some small but greater than zero percentage whilst your overall manufacturing output increases and your supplier and component costs have risen. That would be remarkable?
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  6. Eric, it didn't harm their economy because they enjoyed a 32% growth in their GDP over that same time period. Again, that's not *speculation*, that's a matter of FACT! It's also a far cry from the "we'll all be rooned" spiel of the Denialist Industry, who'd love nothing more than to keep us chained to an ongoing, inefficient use of fossil fuels (in part at tax-payers expense). This last bracketed point is very important-according to an IEA report from 2009, direct & indirect government subsidies for the fossil fuel industry amounted to almost $600 *billion! This in spite of the industry ranking as *mature* (coal & oil have now been mined & used for fuel & electricity for over 100 years). This compares with the Renewable Energy Sector, with barely a 30 year history, which still receives far less than 10% of the same subsidies-yet its always the Renewable Energy subsidies that get the Denialist Industry kicking & screaming. Now if that's not political, then I don't know what is.
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  7. Also, Eric, that 0.4% is only "small" because Germany's total CO2 emissions represent less than 3% of the global total. Its not like Germany is acting all alone though. If you want to think of analogy, then consider it like a boat taking on water. You have one guy with a big bucket who refuses to bail the water, & about half a dozen people with small buckets. Now those people can just sit back & say "well if guy #1 won't bail, then there's no point doing it ourselves", or they can recognize that-together-they can either bail as much water as guy #1 or, at the very least, buy a bit more time before the boat sinks. Also, who knows, watching everyone else in the boat working hard to keep the boat above water might encourage guy #1 to finally get to work in the bailing efforts himself. That's not political, that's Enlightened Self Interest.
    Lastly, it doesn't change the fact that you conveniently changed your argument-you started by saying "Germany shouldn't have cut its emissions because a volcano pumped out more CO2 in 3 months"-even though that claim was patently false. You then switched to "Germany shouldn't have cut its emissions because it represents only a fraction of the global total." Well sure, if it had damaged Germany's economy, I might be tempted to agree with you-except that, with that attitude nothing would *ever* get done (similar arguments, btw, were used by some people to justify continuing the slave trade-just so you know what side of the ideological fence you're sitting on).
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  8. Eric's point is a common denialist argument now being used in the USA. It is political, not scientific so I do not know if it is appropriate to address here. The basic argument is if I reduce my carbon output and everyone else does nothing my reduction is insignificant. Therefore it is a waste of time to do anything and we should all continue BAU. This argument is used in the US Senate. Of course in order to have an effect we ALL have to work on reducing emmisions. Germany has demonstrated that it is possible. Eric is not interested in people demonstrating actual solutions to the warming problem.
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  9. Marcus at 21:39 PM, it's a simple matter of consistency and clarity.
    After all, if you were intending to use the M=HxE formula (mortality equals individual hazard times exposure) as a means to demonstrate that newer wind farms had a lower mortality than older wind farms, then it becomes incumbent upon you to use the same formula to compare the mortality rate of all the other causes of bird deaths documented if you want to be consistent.

    On the matter of clarity, given the recent difficulties you had with interpreting the FACE data we had extended discussions over, then you should appreciate the necessity to present comparison data in a form that is readily understood.
    Granted terms used in the FACE data was probably unfamiliar to people like yourself who are not industry savvy, but even though the data was presented in a manner that made the results easy to read and make comparisons, it still didn't prevent some misinterpreting it.
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  10. johnd, you are out of order and badly self-unaware.
    As far as I am aware from reading your comments, and the comments all everyone else who got involved, you are the only one who was able to put a credulous so-called skeptical positive spin on those trials - seemingly more from wishful thinking than any real connection with the facts.
    You are either taking the p**s or...well, look up the Dunning-Kruger effect - Wikipedia should give the simplest explanation.
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  11. Marcus, my volcano argument had some bad numbers, so it was wrong. My new argument using your reference is that the volcano pumped out about the same per day (150-300kt) as Germany's cuts per day (600mt / 11 years / 365 days). When the volcano stopped, Germany's cuts started to matter again. The reduction in air travel was economically harmful so not a worthwhile source of CO2 cuts. Your fossil fuel subsidies probably don't include leases, fuel taxes and other payments to the government. Most subsidies I have read about were tax credits not grants.

    michael sweet, that is partly true, I have strong political arguments against the proposed solutions that have been presented by others many time so there's no need to go into them. I have also separately concluded there is no "warming problem" (which I obviously need to address on other threads). But also I have not seen a convincing case that the minuscule (ok Marcus, small) cuts made by Germany scale within Germany and the rest of the world. Rather than gum up this thread even more, perhaps someone can post a strawman "denialist talking point" about the infeasibility of alternatives, then papers that study that question. My quick search shows me there are a lot, but many of them seem quite myopic to me.
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  12. JMurphy at 06:39 AM, I have posted this response also at the thread referred to, so feel free to respond either here or continue on the other thread.
    The bottom line for grain yield in the FACE trial in question was this:-
    (1) 2.68t/ha @13.8% protein.
    (2) 3.23t/ha @13.25% protein.

    You tell me which result produces the highest overall nutritional value, and then explain whether that is a positive outcome or not.
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  13. Yeah, well done John D, you know how to copy & paste a couple of numbers from a presentation-"Monkey See, Monkey Do"-that's a far cry from being able to properly read & CRITICALLY ANALYZE a paper/presentation. It most certainly DOES NOT PROVE that you're "industry savvy". As someone who *did* read the presentation & *did* critically analyze, I still come up with the same few issues:

    (1) To the best of my knowledge, the results you cite were only for the best conditions (TOS1 & irrigated).

    (2) In spite of the decline in protein, the demand for nitrogen increased 23%-greater than the total increase in yield (+22%)-thus highlighting the critical, limiting role of nitrogen in increasing biomass.

    (3) That the results you cite were for only 2 out of 8 wheat varieties. The other varieties did not produce a statistically significant change in yields (yet still had a similar decline in protein content).

    (4) That they were already seeing evidence of acclimation after only 3 years. Therefore it's difficult to extrapolate the results you cite into any kind of long-term trend.

    Of course, as I was *critically* analyzing the results of this study, I had a few issues with their presentation-namely:

    (1) they tell us that the results for TOS2 were lower than the +22% for TOS1, but not by how much (that is vital information that any decent reviewer would insist upon).

    (2) They tell us that nitrogen uptake increased by +23%, but they didn't say whether or not they needed to supplement these crop with additional nitrogen-that's vital info for a farmer. Additionally, they didn't say whether or not an addition of +23% nitrogen to the aCO2 crop might have produced similar yield increases.

    (3) The thing you seem to fail to understand, John D, is that there results in t/Ha are an *extrapolation*-from an average of several small plots. As such, I have to ask-"where are the standard deviations"? If you're averaging the results of several plots, then you'd expect to see deviations around the average. How large were the deviations? If they were 20% or 30%, then the results cited are utterly meaningless. Even a 10% variation around the average would give extrapolated ranges of between 2.41t/Ha to 2.95t/Ha for aCO2 & 2.9t/Ha to 3.5t/Ha for the eCO2-which is really borderline in terms of statistical significance-especially for a 3 year trial.

    (4) Regardless of the lack of SD's, extrapolations of small trial plots to t/Ha are only useful as a speculative exercise. Until they're able to move such a trial to a large scale system (probably in a contained environment that also properly simulates consistently warmer temperatures & constrained water & nitrogen) then the results are intriguing, but not by any means definitive. Yet you would have us believe that this is the final word on the extremely simplistic "CO2 is plant food" argument. The lead investigator of this trial was at least decent enough to be circumspect about these results, yet you take the results entirely at their face value-a common failing of so-called "skeptics".

    Now, unless you've actually got some way of *properly* answering those questions I've put to you previously (& no, this FACE trial doesn't properly answer them-for the reasons I've just given) then I suggest that you stop trying to sell us Denialist Propaganda-& that you stop trying to cast aspersions on my qualifications.
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  14. So Eric (Denialist) you've finally nailed your colours to the mast. You admit that the fossil fuel industry receives significant government support-but you're perfectly OK with that. A subsidy is a subsidy, whether it is a tax concession or a direct payment-it still amounts to money out of the tax-payers pocket. Here in Australia, both kinds of subsidies apply for the fossil fuel industry. All kinds of tax concessions (like the R&D concession), covering the cost of fly-ash waste disposal, paying for the construction of infrastructure, free water & the fact that every single coal-fired power station in Australia was built using tax-payers dollars. Yet still the industry receives generous support whilst renewables have to get by on the smell of an oily rag. I know that, in Germany, the coal industry also still receives direct cash hand-outs from the government, though the Government is trying to phase this out. Given this, though, I'm still left wondering how a mature industry can boast about its low-cost electricity whilst still claiming significant levels of government support-without even a whimper of protest-yet suggest that the wind, solar or geothermal industry gets even a modest leg-up towards being cost-competitive, & the howls of indignant outrage start immediately. That simply suggests a desire to retain monopolistic control over our electricity supply-which is a wholly political issue.
    Also, at the end of the day Eric, your entire argument has been one straw man after another. The cuts to CO2 made in Germany actually began as far as 1991, with emissions falling from 961Mt per annum to 899Mt per annum over that time period-6 years before the Kyoto protocol. The 175Mt/annum cuts in CO2 made between 1991 & 2007 represent an almost 20% emission reduction compared to 1990 levels-far greater than anything even several large volcanoes could produce-even if you had 5 30Gt of CO2 volcanoes per year for the next 20 years. These emissions cuts were achieved at a time of *significant* expansion in Germany's GDP-which suggests a combination of a less energy-intensive economy (greater energy efficiency/less kw-h per $ of GDP) & a less CO2-intensive economy (more kw-h from low or zero carbon sources). Now if Germany can achieve such a goal, then why do the denialists constantly citing "economic ruination" as an excuse for *not* cutting CO2 emissions? Either way, Germany is saving money on its electricity costs as a result of its less energy intensive economy-which is good for bottom line-& less power derived from coal also means less mercury, radon, Sulfur Dioxide, particulate emissions & fly-ash waste getting into the environment. So for Germany, cutting CO2 emissions has been a win-win-win scenario (i.e. a political win, an economic win & a broad environmental win). Still, I'm sure you & John D can discuss how "wrong" I am at the next Watts or Jo Nova meeting.
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  15. Marcus, you are not wrong about fossil fuel reduction in general especially about things like the drop in incidental pollution which is a good thing. But here's a paper abstract describing how reunification had a significant impact on GHG reductions. They seem to attribute 1/2 or a bit less of the reductions to reunification, 1/2 or more to policy changes.
    http://en.scientificcommons.org/20336706
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  16. Eric, what you've posted is really more of a matter of opinion that scientific fact. I'm well aware of the fact that Re-unification with East Germany had a role to play in Germany's emissions, but remember that they also took on an added & highly significant economic burden when West Germany reunified with East Germany. Yet in *spite* of these difficulties, Germany has continued to significantly increase its economic output whilst cutting the CO2 emissions (& general pollution levels) of both the Western & Eastern portions of Germany. So, if anything, the reunification adds greater weight to my argument that even more prosperous nations-like the US-which *haven't* been burdened with the dead-weight of a soviet style economy-should be more able to reduce their CO2 emissions without economic damage or-at the very least-*stabilize* their emissions (US emissions were-as of 2007-1Gt/annum higher than they were in 1990).
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  17. I'd also like to point out that Michael Sweet is dead right. I signficantly reduced my CO2 footprint-first by cutting my daily electricity consumption from 12kw-h/day to 6kw-h/day, then by switching to a 50% renewable energy scheme. My total annual savings are somewhere on the order of $400 per annum & my CO2 footprint has been cut from around 4t/annum to around 1t/annum. Now I'm saving money & reducing my contribution to both CO2 emissions & general pollution-so does it *really* matter that the guy next door might be using 16kw-h/day to 20kw-h/day? Does that make my contribution any less significant-to either the overall environment or to myself personally? No, of course not. From everything I've read, Germans feel exactly the same way.
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  18. Marcus, your reunification argument is plausible if we, for example, in effect "reunified" economically with China. Ignoring population, our GDP to carbon ration compares very favorably with theirs. Reunification in Germany shut down inefficient state-run industries and the same should be done in China. The problem is that China has its own industrial policy that encourages a large amount of seriously polluting industry in exchange for rapid economic growth. In effect we have exported our pollution. By making energy more expensive here in the U.S. that problem is likely to get worse.
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  19. I have always been a conservationist. My heating is about 90% renewable wood in an EPA-certified stove. My hot water is still grid-electric. I plant more trees than I cut and that are cut to provide my wood. I have about 250 watts of solar panels (no subsidies of any sort) with batteries to match for some lighting and most electronics. Just looked at my last bill, 2608 kwh over the last 12 months, so I am just a bit above you for electric use. My footprint is made higher due to living 75 miles from work, but most days I grab a bus which is 12 miles from my house. Most Germans would probably be aghast at that kind of commute.
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  20. Eric, once again I'm forced to debunk a claim you've made. Here are some interesting comparisons of several major nations-in terms of their current CO2 output & industry composition of GDP-as of 2009.

    Take a look at United States, Germany, France, United Kingdom, India & China. United States has a CO2 intensity of 0.4kg CO2/$ of GDP, per capita emissions of 20t CO2/person & an industrial sector that makes up about 20% of the entire economy. By contrast, Germany has an industrial sector that makes up 27% of its economy, generates 0.27kg of CO2/$ of GDP & has per capita emissions of 10t CO2/person.
    The United Kingdom has an industrial sector that comprises 24% of its economy, a CO2 intensity of 0.26kg CO2/$ GDP & only about 9t CO2/person.
    France also has a relatively small industrial sector, comprising 20% of its economy, but has a CO2 intensity of 0.17kg CO2/$ GDP & per capita emissions of 6t/person.
    India & China both have a relatively large industrial sector compared to the 1st World economies I mentioned-28% of the economy-but China's CO2 intensity is *equal* to the US (at 0.4kg CO2/$ GDP) & significantly lower per capita emissions (2.7t CO2/person). India's CO2 intensity is 0.29kg CO2/$ GDP & per capita emissions of 1t CO2/person.

    So you see, de-industrialization alone cannot explain the emission reductions achieved by Germany (&, also, the roughly 20t/annum reductions achieved by the United Kingdom)-given that both the UK & Germany retain a higher level of industry, but maintain a less CO2 intensive economy & significantly lower per capita CO2 emissions.
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  21. Another point Eric. Just because you increase the unit cost of energy/fuel (in cents/kw-h or cents per Kj or dollars per liter) does not mean that you'll be increasing the total cost of energy/fuel for the consumer. I pay roughly 3c/kw-h more for my electricity than if I got 100% fossil fuel, but my total energy bill (gas & electricity) is still $400/year less due to implementation of good demand management (like gas heaters & hot water, energy efficient lights, only have a single set of lights on at any given time). For comparison, my electricity bill rose by around 7c/kw-h between 1996 & 2003 (before I switched to 50% green power) simply because my energy company wanted to increase its profits. I do find it odd that people are prepared to accept above inflation increases in their conventional per unit electricity costs, but ask them to pay extra for renewable energy & they kick up a stink. I find that most odd behaviour.
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  22. John I respect you and I've learned some things on your blog, but I can't seriously believe anything this person rights, and I think you've damaged the respectability of your blog by allowing her to submit a guest post.
    I don't expect this post to stand but it was meant for you anyway.
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  23. anything this person writes either. :-)
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  24. skepticstudent wrote : ...but I can't seriously believe anything this person writes...


    Care to be a bit more specific or do you not believe every word written ? How about the start :

    "The Watts climate tour appeared in Perth on Tuesday evening."

    What don't you believe about that ?
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  25. JMurphy at 08:12 AM, the correct terminology should probably have been "reappeared" as technically I understand they first "appeared" in Perth enroute to their scheduled presentation at Narrogin the previous day.
    It's a small point but in the spirit of the precision being demanded, perhaps a valid one. ;-)
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