A Sunrise climate cock-up and reading cat’s paws

SO you’re the news producer on a prime time Australian television breakfast show that’s been breathlessly covering the devastating affects of the Queensland floods and you’re looking for a new angle. How about a crack at climate change?

For television, the floods are the epitome of the story that has everything. Dramatic footage, a constantly evolving story with several drawn-out climaxes and a literally captive group of people with genuine against-all-odds tales of sadness, stoicism and bravery in the face of adversity.

In towns including Rockhampton, Emerald and Bundaberg hundreds of homes and businesses have been inundated with water. The Queensland Treasurer, Andrew Fraser, believes the clean-up bill could top $1 billion, saying the disaster has now taken on “biblical” proportions.

But back to Channel Seven’s Sunrise show, which earlier this week decided it was time for a segment which asked whether or not all this “crazy  weather” has anything to do with climate change. A fair and important question to ask but, unfortunately for the few hundred thousand viewers of this flagship show, Sunrise instead served-up an overcooked and unappetising “Greenie vs Sceptic” breakfast TV segment which was well beyond its best before date. Watch it here.

The first mistake was to make no genuine attempt to answer the question they posed. Rather than speak to experts in climate science to answer the question, they chose two people who were predisposed to present two sides of an argument – something the producers must have known. Predictably and almost instantly the segment came down to two opposing sides arguing that climate change was, or wasn’t, real. False balance in all its unedifying glory.

On one side was Nick Rowley, a climate policy consultant and one of a number of former climate change advisors to Tony Blair. There’s no doubt Rowley knows a lot about the subject, but why not ask a scientist?

But the real error was in their selection of New Zealand “weather expert” Ken Ring who has no formal training either in meteorology or climate. I suspect had they known what I’m about to tell you about Ken Ring they would have pawsed for thought before booking him.

Ken Ring was a new name to me, so I thought I should find out a little more about him. That’s when things started to get a little surreal. A chance web-hit coughed-up this little hairball. In 1998, a book was published by Penguin Books New Zealand with the title Pawmistry: How To Read Your Cat’s Paws and Ken Ring was listed as the co-author.

On the back of the book, it says

Ken Ring is a mathematician and a long-time magician, mind-reader and public speaker with a passion for the ancient discipline of palmistry. Ken stumbled upon his peculiar calling at a psychic party several years ago, where he was able to deliver a reading of a cat’s paw that proved to be uncannily accurate.

Now surely this couldn’t be the same guy Sunrise chose as a weather expert, could it? To be sure, I called Ken Ring in New Zealand to ask him and he confirmed he had indeed written that book. He claimed, however, that he had written the book “as a joke” and it had “nothing to do with my work in weather” which is comforting to learn.

You can still buy the book on several online stores and there’s nothing which immediately would suggest that it was in any way a joke. The book has been re-printed at least once. Among other things, the book reveals that cats have seven different types of paw and those bearing the “Earth Paw” are courageous, spontaneous and should not be cornered because they become “disorientated and confused”, the latter part of which brings us neatly back to my conversation with Ken Ring. He went on

I’m not sorry I wrote it. I am willing to discuss it with people and people still ring me up and I’m happy to help them where I can. I’m pleased that they have found something in life to give them pleasure. If the book works then that’s fine. It’s a part of my life that’s finished… just like my clowning and school magicianing.

No, that’s not a misquote. Ken Ring also revealed that before being a “weather expert” he was a school teacher and also a clown and a magician. He was a school magician at the time of writing Pawmistry. I asked on what basis was he now a weather expert? How do you go from being a school magician to being an “expert” on the weather with several dozen books behind him? He explained he was making a living fishing when he “started to realise” that tides seemed to coincide with storms. He constructed a theory from that point.

Ken Ring uses moon and solar cycles to try and predict the weather and his predictions carry little to no respect among serious forecasters or climate scientists. On Sunrise, he dismissed the notion of anthropogenic climate change as having “no proof” and claimed that a solar minimum was to blame for “the cold” that we’ve been seeing in the last two years. Neither of the Sunrise hosts bothered to point out that 2010 is likely to be among our planet’s top three warmest years on the instrumental record, adding a big full-stop to the warmest ever decade.

I asked why he hadn’t bothered to mention that it’s widely known that the current flooding in Queensland has been caused primarily by the La Nina weather pattern in the southern Pacific Ocean. He said he only had a couple of minutes on Sunrise, but added

It’s got nothing to do with La Nina. That’s a name that they dreamt-up in order to identify a new anomaly in the weather to get research funding for, and to issue reports on.

Back to the Sunrise segment, where host Natalie Barr made the observation that both sides of the argument seemed compelling and  “I think this is why people are confused… ” about climate change.

Well yes, Natalie. But the reason people are confused is because your treatment of the issues has just confused them. One of the most serious challenges facing world leaders and currently facing thousands of flood victims has been handed over to a man who once wrote a book about how to read cat’s paws.

One for the litter tray, wouldn’t you think?

For a simple and reliable explanation of La Nina in the context of the floods, watch the video on this link produced by the BBC. As far as understanding the link between single extreme weather events and climate change, that will have to wait for another post.

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Author: Graham

Graham Readfearn is a Brisbane-based journalist. Go to the About page in the top navigation for more information.

42 thoughts on “A Sunrise climate cock-up and reading cat’s paws”

  1. I feel stupider having watched that video, thanks Graham. I think Nick did well under the circumstances…citing CSIRO, BoM etc. There was really nowhere to go given that the clear intention of Sunrise was to confuse the audience as much as possible.

    Where on earth did they pull this Ken Ring from? He’s got the tactics of Ian Plimer mixed in with the charm of Dr Karl.

  2. Nick just quoted all those who have been conned. But I also enjoyed the excuse for the blizzards – more water in the air! I’d have thought that at least cold temperatures also have something to do with that, not to mention “evaporation rates” in cold weather.
    There are many developing nice incomes from the global warming industry, which does all it can to prevent the public from looking at weather cycles of 10 and 20 years.

  3. Can anyone tell me where specifically they disagree with Ken and when they tested his theories and what knowledge they have of them? This is the standpoint from which to flame, not an assumption about cat’s paws and magic. Thank-you.

  4. I am not a mindreader. I believe they are frauds. I don’t have a passion for palmistry. You have been conned here. What Penguin made up for the cover was what their publicist dreamed up. The book about cats was their idea. Moreover, what someone does 14 years ago has little bearing on what he/she does today. I wrote some stories when I was in primary school about dogs and giants. I suppose they are now to be dredged up too. I guess when journos can’t debate global warming with real evidence they will dredge up old cats books.

  5. “the global warming industry, which does all it can to prevent the public from looking at weather cycles of 10 and 20 years”

    The home page of the Australian Bureau of Meteorology has a link to its climate change section on its home page. At http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/change/ there is time series data going is some cases to as far back as 1850.

    Ken Ring might like to explain to us what the global warming industry has done to him to stop him from clicking on that link.

  6. Is he still around? Back in 2006 when I looked at his beliefs he was touting an astrological weather service, and claiming it was the moon that affected everything (which, to be fair, is a nice change from the usual denialist claims that “it’s the sun!”).

  7. Yeah, Penguin rings me up all the time asking me to publish cranky magical books about cats. I always say no, though, because I know that if I were to get involved in such a cranky magical project, my credibility would be forever found to be lacking.

    However, I am planning on writing a book about how to predict the weather based on the frequency and smell of my farts, though, and as Penguin are capable of publishing any old crap so long as it is cranky enough, I imagine they will publish mine.

  8. “what the global warming industry has done to him to stop him from clicking on that link”.
    It has destroyed weather integrity. The BoM link shows a fudged record, with poltically-adjusted stats. Rain gauges have shifted around, e.g for Perth in the 1960s, everything was moved back and up the side of a hill. When they change location the longterm trends are no longer valid. This is basic science, which climatologists have betrayed. Some staions have been closed that displayed cooler trends, beefing up the averages so that they show warming trends, this to ensure continuance of research funding into so-called “warming”. This has been a worldwide trend, with directives from the UN. Conspiracy theory? You betcha. The global warming deception has thus far been the biggest deception and pack of lies known to man. And that is an understatement.

  9. Oh dear, the media is really doing so much damage. They really need to be held to account. Can’t we have some kind of media ombudsman for major issues which threaten global security like climate change? It’s almost criminal the way the media holds back urgently needed climate action by confusing and dividing the community.

  10. Ken, can you provide proof of the betrayal by climatologists that you refer to in comment #6? It’s well and good to say that there is a conspiracy, and that stations that have displayed cooler trends have been closed or that averages have been “beefed up” to show warming trends, etc, but without proof of this your argument is light on credibility.

  11. @ Ken
    Actually, I said “I feel stupider having watched that video”, not that the “debate” has made me stupider.

    What I mean is, watching the Sunrise video clip and listening to your tired nonsensical argument may well have sucked intelligence directly from my grey matter and into my computer monitor, and is now lost forever. Or, perhaps it will come back with the next moon cycle.

    What stats package can you recommend to implement a ‘political adjustment’?

  12. Ken Ring ,you fool,please produce the evidence that BOM’s stats are ‘politically-adjusted’ or that the UN has directed a global effort to decommission weatherstations that don’t suit. Can you produce documents,letters,emails…should be easy. Oh wait…it’s a conspiracy,so we can’t know. Just have to take your word.

    What the hell is Channel 7 doing engaging you to comment on something in which you are without expertise? This country is going to hell in a hand basket with nutters like you spouting garbage.

  13. Ken Ring @6: Rain gauges have shifted around, e.g for Perth in the 1960s, everything was moved back and up the side of a hill. When they change location the longterm trends are no longer valid

    What is ‘everything’? That’s a clueless comment. Perth weather stations are listed here: Perth Area Weather Observation Stations. Perth is a very flat place. Only the Bickley station could be said to be on a ‘hill’. All 384m of it. Please explain how that one station (if you’re not just making it all up) corrupted weather data for Perth?

  14. “The global warming deception has thus far been the biggest deception and pack of lies known to man.”

    Even bigger than the moon-landing conspiracy?

  15. “Rain gauges have shifted around”

    A word of advice, Ken: rain gauges do not measure temperature.

  16. Well, why would I tell outright lies when I could be found out? Of course I have evidence. Anybody can find it. This is a blog set up by a journo whose agenda was not to debate climate but spent 80% of the interview time trying to talk about cats paws. Something I didn’t even believe in myself in the way I was being setup to answer.
    I repeat, I am not into astrology, cats paws,mindreading, or palmistry, yet I doubt if anyone heeds this, they are all too busy enjoying the setup. So that’s okay, have a good laugh, but don’t expect me to get serious here about climate to the closed-minded. If you want evidence email me or Google for it. When climate change politics is causing a global financial crisis and people worldwide are losing homes and livelihoods, all to make politicians and carbon traders rich, and the media is misreporting climate information because it is more lucrative to do so, you might realise why I haven’t really got time to take part in a mindless discussion here about cats paws and the like.
    But hey, do the legwork yourself if you want to. It is not too hard to find which weather stations that have changed their locations over the years. Sometimes the Stevenson Screen is merely elevated in the same location, so that it no longer picks up e.g. snow information like it used to. Higher would also register warmer. Sometimes these are put on roofs receiving nice reflected heat from corrugated iron. Incompetence may account for the changed records, and ignorance of science such that a variable must be left untouched in a longitudinal record. It is not necessarily deliberate fudging for political purposes. Of course that dichotomy would be encouraged, to escape accountability if caught. It is unprovable where intent meets strangely coincidental timing. For instance, odd timing that saw some cooler stations across China and Russia suddenly closed before global analyses were carried out for the Copenhagen conference. Go figure.

  17. What moon-landing conspiracy? Is this something the Russians didn’t (and still don’t?) know about, and couldn’t see with their all-seeing spy satellites launched well before Apollo? If they knew, why would they stay silent when during the Cold War it would have been a huge piece of PR ammunition? You DO believe everything you are fed by the money-makers, don’t you.

  18. Stevenson Screens don’t ‘pick up.., snow information’,you fraud. Climate change politics is not causing a global financial crisis. That has its roots dodgy financial products and market bubbles. It isn’t hard to find details of weather station moves,because it is not a secret or sinister process,and the science behind station adjustments is also in the public domain. You really are full of it,Ring.

  19. Ha ha, science behind it!! Good one! Fudging, cheating, lying, deception, all to get dosh. If that’s your science, “”Nick””, then why are you you are hiding behind a synonym for Steal? Subconscious slip maybe? You are clearly one of the frauds who think they are scientists. And you think pawmistry is a con??..talk about calling the pot black!

  20. Eor
    I should say thanks for admitting they change the instrument locations. How did that corrupt Perth? Well, afterwards all readings were higher, especially for hectopascals. Now people think air is running at higher pressure under the Bight than a half century ago, which is total bollocks.

  21. This is the best blog post and subsequent ‘debate’ I have seen all year. I know it’s early days for 2010, but this is priceless.

    Thanks everybody. Makes me realise there’s a strong case for some pranksters to go on commercial television and pretend to be climate deniers, dropping in some cat-palmistry referencing at the end. Hmmm…..

  22. So..I helped a guy write a book about cats. er..can anyone please tell me again why that was bad? I don’t recall that I worked towards driving poor people out of their homes, I didn’t work towards many losing their jobs, I didn’t cause elderly poor people to die because they couldn’t afford energy bills, all which is the wish and outcome of publicly stated green/global warming politics, which people here seem to be advocating. What I wrote 14 years ago was absolutely harmless. The eugenics agenda driven from the UN of the international global warmers, which is akin to the policies of Nazi Germany, which is to reduce human population by creating poverty by halting progress and discouraging economic development in underdeveloped countries is phenomenally disgusting.

  23. You’re right,Kymbos. Ringo can’t believe his luck in pranking Sunrise,or,after deciding he was a weather expert, persuading people to part with their money in exchange for his incoherent nonsense.

  24. I think the book on pawmistry is rubbish because my cat is the reincarnation of Tutankhamen, and he told me so.

  25. There’s no harm in people looking at their cat’s paws, other than the waste of money & time. But the fact is you wrote & profited from something you don’t believe in. It looks like you’re not interested in the truth, only in how you can make a quick buck & get publicity. Why should anyone take your made-up theory seriously when you’ve got no data & no credibility?

  26. Yep. Nazi Germany. I’ve realised that the reason you can’t parody climate deniers is because you would be indistinguishable from the real thing.

  27. I should say thanks for admitting they change the instrument locations. How did that corrupt Perth? Well, afterwards all readings were higher, especially for hectopascals. Now people think air is running at higher pressure under the Bight than a half century ago, which is total bollocks.

    Read my comment. I ‘admitted’ nothing. I asked you for verification of which of multiple stations was moved up a hill and evidence of how this corrupted weather records. Which you singularly ignore.

    By the way, the Bight (which Bight, by the way?) is nowhere near Perth. Your geography appears to be as accurate as your pawmistry.

  28. No Julie, I didn’t profit from it and I didn’t write it. I think you are believing a lying journalist who tricked me. Believe what you want to but please don’t accuse me of something you are aware of only through hearsay.

    I contributed to Pawmistry, yes, because I was a skeptic of it, not a believer, as I have said, but you didn’t listen. I had no control over the production and thought it would be produced as a humour book. It was 14 years ago. It wasn’t my doing. I am not Penguin publishers. They had their own agenda which was unknown to me at the time. But I doubt if you or anyone is actually wanting to hear this, you are all so intoxicated with bashing me. It is silly and rather childish, and at school would be called gang behaviour. Do you condone that?

    My “theory” is not made up. The Asians, Indians, Semitic peoples and Aborigines have been using the moon for weather for thousands of years. My Australian Almanac 2010 nailed the QLD floods to the day and river, described fairly extensively on p34 and 384, and the book was written two years ago (someone may have it and able to verify).

    Thre’s no surprise. That’s why Sunrise ask my opinions. Not because I contributed once to a book about cats at a time when I was a fairly well-known skeptic. My almanacs have gotten major weather events consistently correct. Do you really think Seven are that dumb that they don’t know that, and they pick people off the street to interview? My data and credibility? What on earth are you talking about? Seven and I have had a long association. They fly me all over Australia. Why would they do that to someone who was consistently incorrect? BTW, I couldn’t do it without the assistance and co-operation of the BoM!

    and Eor
    of course the Bight is not near Perth. But most Bight weather comes past Perth. Do you really think Bight weather simply materialises in the middle?

    1. Ken.

      Replying to Julie, you said “I think you are believing a lying journalist who tricked me”

      When I called you, I gave you my name and said I was a journalist. You were not tricked. You told Julie that “I didn’t write it” but in earlier comments you said you did. You also told me that you didn’t regret writing it.

      When I spoke to you, you also said: “There are plenty of good astrologers and palmistry people who just want to help people”.

      There are some inconsistencies here.

  29. @18. I was being sarcastic, Ken.

    Like the “moon landing conspiracy” pushed so hard by Fox and others, you allege a grand conspiracy where the simple fact is that none exists, other than in your imaginative mind.

    You allege fudged data, apparently oblivious to the fact that the raw data can be obtained directly from many of the original sources and analysed by anyone with the know-how to do so (know-how which is extremely scarce among AGW sceptics).

    But your conspiracy theory goes beyond allegations without showing any actual evidence at all. Climate temperature data from multiple sources, many organisations, and literally hundreds if not thousands of people involved in the collation and analysis of scientific data around the world, all largely agrees that the earth is warming.

    So all these people, all these organisations, all these countries, have all managed to secretly conspire – yesirree – to manipulate the raw measurements to magically amount to a clear long term multi decadal trend from many independent sources, and have kept it secret for several decades – so secret that no-one except some intrepid internet sleuths or blokes who do weird things with cat’s paws with no formal scientific qualifications could bust it open.

    Ken, I worked for the Australian Government for 16 years and I can assure you that most Government departments have great trouble even organising a tea party, let alone a decades long super duper secret manipulation of raw data that no-one else can discover and that hundreds, perhaps thousands of co-conspirators all over the world managed to keep their mouths shut about for many, many years.

    Do you actually realise how mind-numbingly stupid your grand conspiracy theory sounds? Rhetorical question, Ken. You don’t actually need to answer it.

  30. GLOBAL MEAN TEMPERATURE (GMT) PATTERN

    Here is the plot for the 30-years trend for the GMT:

    http://bit.ly/bUZsBe

    It shows:

    1) 30-years of slight cooling from 1880 to 1910
    2) 30-years of warming by about 0.45 deg C from 1910 to 1940
    3) 30-years of slight cooling from 1940 to 1970
    4) 30-years of warming by about 0.45 deg C (nearly identical to that 60 years before) from 1970 to 2000

    Assuming this pattern that was valid for 120 years is valid for the next 20 years, we can reasonably predict:

    5) 30-years of slight cooling from 2000 to 2030

    How does the trend since 2000 looks like?

    Here it is:

    http://bit.ly/hE3vv1

    6) GMT trend flat at 0.4 deg C for 10 years!

    CONCLUSION
    Because of this GMT pattern, the cause of this pattern seems to be natural, and the effect of human emission of CO2 on the GMT appears to be negligible or non existent.

  31. No Graham, you misquoted and tricked me. I didn’t say I wrote the book, I said I was asked to part-write it, part of someone else’s agenda, quite a different thing, especially as I did not know the finished result. I am certainly not and have NEVER been a mindreader, I think all who claim to be are frauds and I have lectured to NZ Sceptics Conferences on the subject in two separate keynote addresses, but you quoted me as a mindreader just because you read the jacket notes. Also, I was NEVER at any party where someone brought a cat in. I said there are plenty of good people because there are in every walk of life. There are also balanced journalists around without private agendae, sadly not here.
    I was a schoolshow maths magician trying to help children enjoy mathematics, for which I was honoured by the NZ government. I was also brought to the UK by the UK government to be international guest performer for their Maths Fair. It was no shonky activity, but your article made out that my performing career was.
    You have slandered me unfairly, with the intent to dent my standing with innuendo and untruths. This blog is the evidence. I request both an apology and that this blog be closed.

  32. “The eugenics agenda driven from the UN of the international global warmers, which is akin to the policies of Nazi Germany, which is to reduce human population by creating poverty by halting progress and discouraging economic development in underdeveloped countries is phenomenally disgusting.”

    Googled UN and global warming conspiracy and one world government – found crackpot websites, no surprises there…. Perhaps you could enlighten me….

    Ken do you really believe that population rising from 1 billion in the late 18oos to nearly 7 billion now, the industrial revolution, and the increasing desire for cheap coal driven energy from 1st and 3rd world countries is going to have no effect on the atmosphere and the planet?

  33. I don’t have a problem with a silly book or a liking for stage “magic”, but I do have a problem with one of the claims in the interview.

    In the interview, Ken said that Australia receives above average rainfall in the period following a solar minimum. That is true for the most recent solar minimum, and it is true of the solar minimum before that (in the late 1990s).

    However, 7 of the 9 other solar minima that occurred in the 20th century produced *below* average rainfall. Ken’s claim accurate predicts above / below average rainfall only 22% of the time for this period.

    You would get more accurate results flipping a coin.

  34. Bizarre. Just completely bizarre.

    Girma predicts in para 5) of his post a 30 year trend from 2000-2030 of slight cooling.

    Then shows as evidence (in the woodfortrees link) that this is happening so far, a trend of warming. It is not flat at 0.4 deg. It is clearly rising slightly, though I’m sure if you stretch the x axis out a little more you can make it look flat to the vision-impaired.

    But it gets better: you can select virtually any data source from Girma’s link you want – and they all show warming for that period. Hat tip to Girma for picking one of the “least warming” trends though.

    And it gets better still: if you take Girma’s link back in time another 10 years, the positive trend gets very pronounced.

    But hang on – this is supposed, according to Girma and Ken, to be a cooling phase now, right? We are 1/3 of the way into this “30 years of slight cooling” prediction. Well you’d better hurry up and find some data which supports that. Because none of the data on woodfortrees does. Nor does the fact that 2010 has been right up there among the hottest years on record. Honestly guys – the planet had better get a move on. It better hurry up and cool, for your predictions to even remotely resemble what’s actually happening.

    Remind me never to ask you guys for horse racing tips.

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