Monday, January 27, 2014

Bias shown in 14 out of 15 Met Office predictions

Again the Met Office predicted higher temperatures for 2013 that actually proved to be the case.  This is the 14th out of the 15 last years where the Met Office over predicted the temperature.

The Met Office forecast  for 2013 was published on 21st December 2012. It's best estimate was for 0.57 C above the 1961-1990 average.

Here are the figures for the last 15 years:

Year Forecast Actual
1999 ...0.38 ...0.26
2000 ...0.41 ...0.24
2001 ...0.47 ...0.40
2002 ...0.47 ...0.46
2003 ...0.55 ...0.46
2004 ...0.50 ...0.43
2005 ...0.51 ...0.47
2006 ...0.45 ...0.43
2007 ...0.54 ...0.40
2008 ...0.37 ...0.31
2009 ...>0.40 . .0.44
2010 ...0.58 ...0.50
2011 ...0.44 ...0.35
2012... 0.48 ...0.45
2013 ... 0.57...0.49
2014 ...0.57 ...?

Here is the Met Office prediction for 2014.

Now here is Vicky Pope from the Met Office:



Vicky Pope: “By 2014 we’re predicting it will be 0.3 degrees warmer than 2004, and just to put that into context the warming over the past century and a half has only been 0.7 degrees, globally, there have been bigger changes locally but globally the warming is 0.7 degrees. So 0.3 degrees over the next ten years is pretty significant. And half the years after 2009 are predicted to be hotter than 1998 which was the previous record. So these are very strong statements about what will happen over the next ten years, so again I think this illustrates we can already see signs of climate change but over the next ten years we are expecting to see quite significant changes occurring.”

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Edinburgh economist key in challenging govenment energy figures

An article in this week's Spectator challenges the assumptions and the figures behind the Government's energy policy.
 "For years Britain has, like Germany, chosen green energy over cheap energy — and piled regulation after regulation, levy after levy, on the providers of fossil fuels. In Germany the effect is now becoming apparent: the sacrifice of industry on the altar of environmentalism. It may sound like economic suicide, but it is precisely the policy which David Cameron’s government is pursuing.Energy now stands at the very centre of British politics, a subject enlivened by Ed Miliband’s pledge to freeze household energy bills. His policy is wildly popular, seeing as gas and electricity prices have roughly trebled in the past ten years. More than five million households are now in fuel poverty. As winter advances, the choice between heating or eating isn’t some abstract slogan, but a daily dilemma. Each winter in Britain, some 25,000 elderly people die from the cold."
 
The article, by David Rose (no relation), highlights the effect of implementation of the current energy bill on fuel prices.
". . .  Parliament has been dealing with the closing stages of the Energy Bill. This, working in concert with its predecessor, the 2008 Climate Change Act, will inflict the biggest fuel bill increases of all. The 2008 measure enforces a legally binding carbon emission target for 2020. But because it’s much harder to cut emissions from transport and heating than electricity generation, this will mean trebling the proportion of power produced by renewables from its current 11 per cent over just six years.
The cost of this swift and radical transformation dwarfs marginal items such as the eco levy. According to the ‘levy control framework’ established by the Energy Bill, it means more than tripling renewable subsidies to £7.6 billion by the end of this decade. The total renewable subsidy which UK consumers will have paid via higher energy bills for the ten years to 2020 will be an almighty £46 billion.  Even this eye-watering figure is a massive underestimate."
 
Then the contribution from Professor Gordon Hughes of Edinburgh University:
"According to the energy experts Professor Gordon Hughes of Edinburgh University and Peter Atherton of Liberum Capital, the Energy Bill figure does not factor in the enormous cost of connecting wind turbines to the National Grid, nor the complicated switching mechanisms needed to deal with the fact that no turbine will actually produce power for more than a third of the time."
 
Then the article goes on to give more details.  Time for a U-turn.
 
 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Three problems with electric cars


The Scottish Government has announced more public money is to be spent to encourage us to buy electric cars in order to fight climate change.

1.  Electric cars are hardly environmentally friendly.  See this source for an analysis suggesting electric cars just shift the problem of tailpipe emissions upstream from the street.  (A while back I posted elsewhere on another report that pinned down electric cars as being little different from efficient traditional vehicles.)

2. Electric cars are hardly convenient.  The are inefficient for anything more than short journeys - with a range of 70-100 miles before charging is required.  And charging can also be inconvenient.  Try charging them in the street if you don't have a garage.

3.  They cost the purchaser and taxpayer dear.  The Renault Zoe can be bought for £14,000 plus £70 per month to hire the battery.  The taxpayer has to pay £4,000 for each of them purchased   And the Zoe, just on the market, is by far the cheapest I am aware of with a £5,00 subsidy for more the more expensive ones.

Oh, and as the Scottish Government markets its policy on electric vehicles, it claims that 'the Government' (ie the Scottish Government) funds the subsidy.  But it turns out it is the UK Government which provides the subsidy.

And the UK Government helpfully notes on its website that up till the end of the end of June a meagre 4,553 electric cars have been sold since the grant came into being.  Compare that to the 1,163,623 cars registered in the first 6 months of 2013.  So we can see the number of electric cars sold is equivilent to 0.39% of all vehicles sold. 

Wait a minute though.  The plug in car grant numbers, that's the 4,553 number, is the total since January 2011.  Perhaps the percentage should be 0.08% - which, doubtless reflects how poor value they are to potential purchasers. 

Oh, and that number of 4,553 electric cars.  Many of them will be purchased with public money and grants such as the ten cars obtained by Edinburgh Council and other public agencies in order to encourage others, as this press relase reveals

So there are not many people buying electric cars. 

Saturday, July 27, 2013

A costly public exercise in futility

Paul Wheelhouse - a difficult job
The current Scottish Government consultation on its programme for adapting for climate change over the next 87 years is an exercise in public sector futility.

It is not that there are not sensible things to do to adapt to climate change in the coming years (and some of them are included in the proposals).  The problem is that the project is based on information which is either uncertain, out of date or just plain wrong.

There are over 130 impacts identified for Scotland.  There are three themes each of which are allocated three policy objectives and around 145 policy proposals in the Scottish Climate Change Adaptation Programme document.

These impose burdens:
"Everyone in Scotland must accept responsibility for their share of action and working collaboratively. . . " Foreword by Minister for Environment and Climate Change, Paul Wheelhouse MSP. 
 
Costly burdens:
". . . requires that a public body. . . must, in exercising its functions, act in the way best calculated to deliver the Programme." From the Introduction.

As I leafed through the document I wondered about the assumptions behind all these policies and proposals.  I found the Evidence Report on which the Programme is based.  It is 488 pages long but I found some key caveats near the beginning under the heading 'How confident are we about future climate risks in the UK?':
"The overall confidence (in the risks) is generally 'low' to 'medium', with only risks that are already experienced and those related to increased temperatures classified with 'high' confidence.'

On other words there are only two areas where we can have high confidence that the risks are real.  One of those is in the risks relating to increasing temperatures.   Yet it is now widely admitted that there has been a significant reduction in the rate of increase of temperatures over the last 15-17 years.  (Actually there has been no statistically significant increase in global mean temperatures in the last 15-17 years - depending on which data set is used. The Met Office and some other climate scientists are very reluctant to admit this publicly.  We can now go back 15-17 years with no increase in temperatures.)

So on the basis of this lack of confidene and evidence the Scottish Government are bringing forward 145 policy proposals (with legislation to enforce them), and spending quite a lot of our money in the process.

Alice in Wonderland stuff.


 

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Assumptions and the locust years

Andy Myles
Sometimes disagreements come because we don't understand or acknowledge the assumptions which are contained the arguments of the other side.  This post is occasioned by a conversation with a Green councillor and another conversation with Andy Myles who led a fringe meeting at the Scottish Conservative Conference last week.

What struck me was how strong convictions (Andy is the Parliamentary Officer for the Scottish Environmental Link) conceal assumptions about what underpins beliefs.

In both cases I was up for engaging with the assumptions on some of their core beliefs using evidence.  In the case of Andy's seminar, as soon as I mentioned an alternative critique to the Stern Report he dismissed the Peter Lilley and Richard Tol report out of hand as something he was not going to engage with because - well, there was no reason given  - other than the Stern Report was from an expert and anything else would go against 'the vast majority of scientists'.  I find this total absence of curiosity strange, especially as I find myself asking at least every week if I have understood the evidence on climate thus far correctly. 

Now, doubt is not necessarily a good  thing, but critical self examination is.

For my Green councillor colleague, almost certainly the most intelligent, measured and affable of the clutch of Greens on the council, I was taken aback by the our discussion.  In the context of his assumptions on climate the possible benefits of shale gas (reducing emissions) came into the discussion.  It was remarkable to hear him rehearse uncritically the same old arguments about water contamination, earthquakes, fossil fuels etc. so uncritically and, to my surprise, superficially.

And Caroline Lucas, the Green MP has some very big assumptions I would contend with.  I read her preface to the Green Party report, The New Home Front, in which she, with the usual apocalyptic, sky-about-to-fall-on-our-head language, made huge assumptions about changes under way in our climate and how we must control them.  The assumption, as always, is that human driven climate change is dangerous.  Although I consider there may well be a human influence on climate, the hard evidence that it is significant and dangerous is remarkably thin.  Certainly there are uncertainties.  Yet  Green assumptions are used as the basis of a huge swathe of public policy.   

In The New Home Front, Churchill's description of the 30s as 'the locust years' - where the chance to re-arm against an enemy was eaten up by wasted years - the Greens see the parallels in our inaction and failure to take measures to control the climate.  Yet the assumptions behind huge swathes of public policy are short of any scientific basis.

Rather, the huge swathes of public policy and resources, devoted to what is unquestionably turning out to be a a Canute like attempt to stop inevitable changes in climate, are the real locust years. To use another apt metaphor, we are tilting at windmills, like Don Quixote seeing imaginary threats in every shadow that appears before us. 

Yes, these are the locust years, not because we have failed to act but because we have over reacted on the basis of blind faith rather than sound scientific evidence. Thus has the environmental locust eaten our confidence in real evidence, public policy and the scientific endeavour.  And the plague of environmental locusts has also eaten up a good deal of our prosperity and well being.

 

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Argument from authority - depends on the authority

There has been much debate in the letters pages of the Scotsman recently about wind energy.  Stop Climate Chaos Scotland is a grouping of around 60 organisations including the Church of Scotland, Unison the trade union and the RSPB.  It is a pressure group dedicated to preventing emissions, enforcing the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 and strengthening legislation to prevent climate change.

On Monday this week Tom Ballantine, its chair, had a letter published in the Scotsman in which he appealed for readers to listen to arguments from authority (which he described as facts) as opposed to the opinions of his opponents.
"The context for decisions on wind energy is the need to address the onward march of climate change.  On that score it does seem reasonable to base decisions on the opinion of climate change experts in the form of the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).  It's views on the man-made causes of climate change are shared by 97% of climate experts with relative expertise of the unconvinced 3 per cent "substantially below that of the huge majority"
So two arguments here.  Because they are experts and because they are in a majority they are right.  Not only are neither of the arguments a good way of establishing science, but the figures and 'facts' don't stand up.

So I responded with a letter published on Tuesday including this:
(Dangerous human caused climate change) is a fear which cannot be substantiated by his appeals to authority.  The paper he cites, Expert Credibility in Climate Change, was compiled by a partisan group of activist scientists whose definition of climate sceptics and climate experts lacks credibility.
Then on Wednesday Joss Blamire, from the industry pressure group Scottish Renewables, joined in to give dubious figures on how effective wind turbines are at 'tackling climate change, the greatest threat to the environment'.

On Thursday I countered with four challenges to the figures Joss used.

Friday saw Tom Ballantine come back repeating the rather ridiculous 97% figure without any attempt to justify it and professing ignorance of any brilliant scientists who disagreed with his position.

I responded today suggesting some reading for Mr Ballantine and why, in the face of uncertain evidence for dangerous climate change, we would be better to do nothing that do the wrong thing.  I note that Professor Tony Trevawas also gently deconstructed his 97% figure.

There are many other arguments and comments intertwined, including from a range of other contributors.
You can judge for yourself which are the better arguments at the six links above.

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Margaret Thatcher on climate (2)


In her 11 pages devoted to global warming in Statecraft she traces the development of her views and analyses the evidence.   She emphasised repeatedly that the science was uncertain.  Then she railed against the alarmists, such as Al Gore, who had gone all apocalyptic without any firm basis in science.  Her recognition of the limits and uncertainty of science in this area, and her smoking out unscientific alarmism looks very impressive from a present day perspective.   

Let me give you a flavour from the 11 pages as she analyses the (then) current state of the arguments.
  • 'Firstly, is the climate actually warming?. . . But the facts are in some doubt. . .'  (depends on the time period being analysed)
  • 'Secondly, is carbon dioxide responsible for whatever global warming has occurred? Here too the uncertainties are formidable. . .
  • 'Thirdly, is human activity. . . responsible for the production of carbon dioxide which has contributed to any global warming?  . . . The facts are unclear. . .'
Her conclusions:
  1. We should be suspicious of plans for global regulation that all too clearly fit in with other preconceived agendas.
  2. We should demand of politicians that they apply the same criteria of common sense and a sense of proportion to their pronouncements on the environment as to anything else.
  3. We must never forget that although prosperity brings problems is also permits solutions - and less prosperity, fewer solutions.
  4. All decisions must be made on the basis of the best science whose conclusions have been properly evaluated.
Cautious scepticism.

Previous post is here.

Monday, April 08, 2013

Setting the record straight on Margaret Thatcher's views on climate

'Madness in their method' (of alarmist scientists)
In distinction from her earlier enthusiasm for taking measures to prevent harmful climate change her later views were firmly in the sceptical camp.

Here is what she said in her last book Statecraft in 2002 in a passage titled 'Hot Air and Global Warming':
"The doomsayers' favourite subject today is global warming.  This has a number of attractions for them.  First, the science is extremely obscure so they cannot easily be proved wrong.  Second, we all have ideas about the weather:  traditionally, the English on first acquaintance talk of little else.  Thirdly, since clearly no plan to alter climate could be considered on anything but a global scale, it provides a marvellous excuse for worldwide, supra-national socialism.
"All this suggests a degree of calculation.  Yet perhaps that is to miss half the point.  Rather, as it was said of Hamlet that there was method in his madness, so one feels that in the case of some of the gloomier alarmists there is a large amount of madness in their method.  Indeed, the lack of any sense of proportion is what characterises many pronouncements on the matter by otherwise sensible people. . . 
" It would, though, be difficult to beat for apocalyptic hyperbole former Vice-President Gore.  Mr Gore believes: "The cleavage in the modern world between mind and body, man and nature has created a new kind of addiction:  I believe that our civilisation is, in effect, addicted to the consumption of the earth itself."  And he warns:  "Unless we find a way to dramatically change our civilisation and our thinking about the relationship between humankind and the earth, our children will inherit a wasteland."
". . . . . I was more sceptical about arguments about global warming, though I considered that they should be taken very seriously."
"But why pick on the Americans? Britain’s then Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, has observed: ‘There is no greater national duty than the defence of our shoreline. But the most immediate threat to it today is the encroaching sea.’ Britain has found, it seems, a worthy successor to King Canute.

"The fact that seasoned politicians can say such ridiculous things – and get away with it – illustrates the degree to which the new dogma about climate change has swept through the left-of-centre governing classes." 
Pages 449-451
 
See also Margaret Thatcher on Climate (2) here.

(Last two paragraphs of quote added 9.4.13)

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Wind farms on peat don't save emissions

More than half of UK onshore wind farms are built on peat land.  But they don't save emissions, according to research published in Nature recently.

The researchers, based at Aberdeen University, and substantially funded by the Scottish Government, published last autumn and their conclusions have been recently given exposure by various media outlets including  the Telegraph here.

A contradiction at the heart of the Scottish Government policy

Murdo Fraser exposes a key contradiction in Scottish Government policy in an aside in his article on oil and gas in Think Scotland today.  He analyses the two reports emanating from the SG this week giving wildly differing prospects and impact of oil  a future independent Scotland.
"Incidentally, how does building an economic future on exploiting hydrocarbons square with 'the world's most ambitious climate change targets', Mr Salmond?  Or should we ask your partner in the Yes Campaign, Patrick Harvie?"

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Climategate 3.0: Edinburgh scientist first up

Comments in 2001 from Edinburgh scientist Professor Simon Tett about work of Michael Mann (Hockey Stick) seem to be the first published extract from the newly unlocked batch of Climategate emails:
". . . (I don't think we can say we didn't do Mann et al because we think it is crap!). . . "
See here for more context.

Update: I note the email above was also in the 2.0 release.

Climategate 3.0 is out there

And now Climategate 3.0
It looks like Climategate 3.0 is out there - not released like the first two installments, but in the form of a password giving access to the rather extensive remaining data to a limited number of people.  And there is a commentary signed by FOIA:
It's time to tie up loose ends and dispel some of the speculation surrounding the Climategate affair.

Indeed, it's singular "I" this time.  After certain career developments I can no longer use the papal plural ;-)

If this email seems slightly disjointed it's probably my linguistic background and the problem of trying to address both the wider audience (I expect this will be partially reproduced sooner or later) and the email recipients (whom I haven't decided yet on).

The "all.7z" password is [redacted]

DO NOT PUBLISH THE PASSWORD.  Quote other parts if you like.

Releasing the encrypted archive was a mere practicality.  I didn't want to keep the emails lying around.

I prepared CG1 & 2 alone.  Even skimming through all 220.000 emails would have taken several more months of work in an increasingly unfavorable environment.

Dumping them all into the public domain would be the last resort.  Majority of the emails are irrelevant, some of them probably sensitive and socially damaging.

To get the remaining scientifically (or otherwise) relevant emails out,  I ask you to pass this on to any motivated and responsible individuals who could volunteer some time to sift through the material for eventual release.

Filtering\redacting personally sensitive emails doesn't require special expertise.

I'm not entirely comfortable sending the password around unsolicited, but haven't got better ideas at the moment.  If you feel this makes you seemingly "complicit" in a way you don't like, don't take action.

I don't expect these remaining emails to hold big surprises.  Yet it's possible that the most important pieces are among them.  Nobody on the planet has held the archive in plaintext since CG2.

That's right; no conspiracy, no paid hackers, no Big Oil.  The Republicans didn't plot this.  USA politics is alien to me, neither am I from the UK.  There is life outside the Anglo-American sphere.

If someone is still wondering why anyone would take these risks, or sees only a breach of privacy here, a few words...

The first glimpses I got behind the scenes did little to  garner my trust in the state of climate science -- on the contrary.  I found myself in front of a choice that just might have a global impact.

Briefly put, when I had to balance the interests of my own safety, privacy\career of a few scientists, and the well-being of billions of people living in the coming several decades, the first two weren't the decisive concern.

It was me or nobody, now or never.  Combination of several rather improbable prerequisites just wouldn't occur again for anyone else in the foreseeable future.  The circus was about to arrive in Copenhagen.  Later on it could be too late.

Most would agree that climate science has already directed where humanity puts its capability, innovation, mental and material "might".  The scale will grow ever grander in the coming decades if things go according to script.  We're dealing with $trillions and potentially drastic influence on practically everyone.

Wealth of the surrounding society tends to draw the major brushstrokes of a newborn's future life.  It makes a huge difference whether humanity uses its assets to achieve progress, or whether it strives to stop and reverse it, essentially sacrificing the less fortunate to the climate gods.

We can't pour trillions in this massive hole-digging-and-filling-up endeavor and pretend it's not away from something and someone else.

If the economy of a region, a country, a city, etc.  deteriorates, what happens among the poorest? Does that usually improve their prospects? No, they will take the hardest hit.  No amount of magical climate thinking can turn this one upside-down.

It's easy for many of us in the western world to accept a tiny green inconvenience and then wallow in that righteous feeling, surrounded by our "clean" technology and energy that is only slightly more expensive if adequately subsidized.

Those millions and billions already struggling with malnutrition, sickness, violence, illiteracy, etc.  don't have that luxury.  The price of "climate protection" with its cumulative and collateral effects is bound to destroy and debilitate in great numbers, for decades and generations.

Conversely, a "game-changer" could have a beneficial effect encompassing a similar scope.

If I had a chance to accomplish even a fraction of that, I'd have to try.  I couldn't morally afford inaction.  Even if I risked everything, would never get personal compensation, and could probably never talk about it with anyone.

I took what I deemed the most defensible course of action, and would do it again (although with slight alterations -- trying to publish something truthful on RealClimate was clearly too grandiose of a plan ;-).

Even if I have it all wrong and these scientists had some good reason to mislead us (instead of making a strong case with real data) I think disseminating the truth is still the safest bet by far.

Big thanks to Steve and Anthony and many others.  My contribution would never have happened without your work (whether or not you agree with the views stated).

Oh, one more thing.  I was surprised to learn from a "progressive" blog, corroborated by a renowned "scientist", that the releases were part of a coordinated campaign receiving vast amounts of secret funding from shady energy industry groups.

I wasn't aware of the arrangement but warmly welcome their decision to support my project.  For that end I opened a bitcoin address: 1HHQ36qbsgGZWLPmiUjYHxQUPJ6EQXVJFS.

More seriously speaking, I accept, with gratitude, modest donations to support The (other) Cause.  The address can also serve as a digital signature to ward off those identity thefts which are part of climate scientists' repertoire of tricks these days.

Keep on the good work.  I won't be able to use this email address for long so if you reply, I can't guarantee reading or answering.  I will several batches, to anyone I can think of.

Over and out.

Mr. FOIA
Details at Bishop Hill and, doubtless, many other places.

Edinburgh Council explores 'urban turbines'

Edinburgh Council has a policy of promoting and supporting community renewables.  It is also keen to find a way of setting up an energy co-operative.   A body has been set up (The Edinburgh Community Energy Co-operative) which will have a meeting in April which will have a range of council staff present.  The following is from the text of an answer to a council question on the order paper for tomorrow's meeting of Edinburgh Council:
The purpose of this meeting will be to identify specific opportunities for the Council to facilitate the development and expansion of community energy projects across the city and to share information.. . . an important context for this meeting is (amongst three other bullet points) . . 

•  Community-scale renewable electricity generating projects (e.g. urban wind turbines)
Any urban wind turbine in Edinburgh is unlikely to be feasible.  Of course it might benefit from feed in tariffs and other public funding. A significant proportion of feed in tariffs currently take money from the poor and redistribute to land owners and large companies.   A sort if Robin Hood in reverse.

In this policy, Council staff and resources are now being invested in exploring an outcome which is harebrained.   The evidence is that at the best of times wind turbines are not economic and save little by way of emissions.

Now how could the council staff be used to save public money - not throw it away.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Green Jobs

Niall Stuart is CEO of Scottish Renewables
A consequence of fears of dangerous climate change is the casual assumption that green is good.    This view was on display when Niall Stuart responded to my letter in the Scotsman last Friday. His response is here, in which, citing jobs and investment, he argues that renewables have a positive effect on the Scottish economy. 

His argument is akin to my boasting that I have spent £30,000 on an electric car ignoring that I could have spent £12,000 on a diesel car with similar net CO2 emissions and a host of functional advantages. 
My full (as yet unpublished) response was sent to the Scotsman on 15th and is replicated below.
"In response to my letter (15 February) the CEO of Scottish Renewables attempts to correct ‘some of the common misconceptions’ (presumably mine) around renewables (letter 16th February).
Asserting that renewables have a positive effect on the Scottish economy Mr Stuart cites renewable jobs and investment.  However, renewables are usually inefficient in producing energy and displace investment from elsewhere.

His argument is akin to my boasting that I have spent £30,000 on an electric car ignoring that I could have spent £12,000 on a diesel car with similar net CO2 emissions and a host of functional advantages. 

Professor Gordon Hughes of Edinburgh University addresses the issue in a recent paper The Myth of Green Jobs.  His closely argued analysis deserves reflection or rebuttal from Mr Stuart. 

As Professor Hughes notes in a related paper, ‘The casual assumption that expenditures on green technology represent an efficient and economic use of scarce resources is a convenient fairy tale for troubled times’.

Then Mr Stuart appears to conflate tax and subsidy. He refers to support for oil, coal and gas of over £3.6bn compared to the subsidies received by renewable energy.  The OECD report in question refers to a figure of £3.63bn almost entirely representing the difference between the lower rate of VAT of 5% for domestic fuel and the standard rate of 20%.  That reduction is also available to renewable energy.  It is not a subsidy

Elsewhere he implies renewables add only 1.56% to consumer costs by referring only to the Renewable Obligation.  In the real world, consumers pick up high costs of capital and system integration as well as additional production costs for goods produced with renewable energy.  Moreover, despite huge investment and landscape impact, renewables currently account for a very small proportion of energy produced.  Costs can be expected to rise rapidly as more renewables come on stream, not least because of a range of issues peculiar to renewables such as intermittency of supply.

Finally, twice Mr Stuart resorts to argument from authority - in both cases politicians being the authority!   I have resolved to examine the evidence for myself."                                            Cllr Cameron Rose, City Chambers
Update:  An abbreviated version of the above letter was published here on 21.2.13

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Lovelock: ". . . I bow my head in shame. . ."


Former Edinburgh Medal winner (2006) James Lovelock has written a letter objecting to a planning application for a wind turbine near his home.   It represents something of a recantation - not of all his previous views - but of some of the movements and causes he has espoused now that he has seen where they have led.  His letter of objection closes thus:
I am an environmentalist and founder member of the Greens but I bow my head in shame at the thought that our original good intentions should have been so misunderstood and misapplied.  We never intended a fundamentalist Green movement that rejected all energy sources other than renewable, nor did we expect the Greens to cast aside our priceless ecological heritage because of their failure to understand that the needs of the earth are not separable from human needs.  We need to take care that the spinning windmills do not become like the statues on Easter Island, monuments of a failed civilisation. [emphasis mine]
You can read the full letter by following this link and selecting the Lovelock letter at the foot of the post.

James, originator of the Gaia theory,  joins a growing list of erstwhile devotees who are having doubts about their Green roots.  Earlier this month I drew attention to the apology from Mark Lynas about his opposition to GM crops.  A founder member of Greenpeace Patrick Moore has long since renounced that organisation and many of the causes it espouses.

Now 93 years old, James Lovelock has come to support nuclear energy and, more recently, fracking.



Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Climate change policies put up housing costs

Global carbon deal dead!
Today the Scottish Government published its proposals for new energy standards in buildings.  Saving energy is a worthy objective.  Whilst related, it is not the same as reducing carbon emissions.  The proposed stringent standards are an example of how current change policy focusing on emissions skews the decision making process.

Homes for Scotland is a body which represents the companies which build most new houses in Scotland.  It estimates that the impact of the new regulations will be to reduce Scottish carbon emissions by 0.07% and add as much as £10,000 to the cost of a new home.   See their comments and argument here.

Where we desperately need competitively priced housing here is another negitive impact of our national policy of demonising CO2.

And for what benefit?  Unless there is a global agreement the value of Scottish reductions in CO2 is precisely nil.  And the Kyoto deal which aimed to achieve that global agreement is dead.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Edinburgh graduate changes mind on GM and Greenpeace - spectacularly!

Mark Lynas graduated from Edinburgh University in Politics and History.  He became a journalist and an environmental campaigner.

For years he ripped up GM crops and, along with Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth, he exported, what he now considers unscientific and unfounded fears, around the world.

Last week he apologised for helping to start the anti-GM movement and for demonising something which can be used to benefit the environment.  His speech at the Oxford Farming Conference on 3rd January 2013 is sobering and salutary. You can read it and see the speech at this link.

Now Mark Lynas still seems to believe we are facing dangerous climate change.  And he may well be right.    But his remarkable Damascene conversion on GM suggests he may just be willing to recognise that the so called science on which the climate scare is based, is no more science than the unscientific passion which drove him to destroy crops.

The speech is around 50 minutes and there is a printed text at the site above.   Well worth taking the time to read.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Met Office forecasts show something wrong

The Met Office forecast of annual global temperatures for 2013 was published yesterday.  History suggests it should be taken with a pinch of salt.

The problem is not that the Met Office is a long way out.  Rather it consistently forecasts a warmer year than the figures eventually show.  They have overshot in 12 out of the 13 years between 1999 and 2011.  By the 31st December this year that will almost certainly be 13 years out of 14.  Here are the figures:

Year   Forecast  Actual
1999  ...0.38    ...0.26
2000  ...0.41    ...0.24
2001  ...0.47    ...0.40
2002  ...0.47    ...0.46
2003  ...0.55    ...0.46
2004  ...0.50    ...0.43
2005  ...0.51    ...0.47
2006  ...0.45    ...0.43
2007  ...0.54    ...0.40
2008  ...0.37    ...0.31
2009  ...>0.40  . .0.44
2010  ...0.58    ...0.50
2011  ...0.44   ....0.35
2012     0.48   ....0.45 (Jan-Oct)
2013     0.57    ...

It is not clear why the Met Office make their annual forecast given that it is so consistently flawed.  However, it may be in order to get these headlines year after year:
"UK's Met Office sees 2013 as likely to be one of the warmest on record".
Certainly the recorded annual temperatures are higher this century than for most years of the 20th century.  But the trend from today back in time - where there has been no statistically significant warming - now stretches back for 16 years.  Although comparatively high temperatures temperatures have been sustained, that is in contrast to the expectations contained in the four IPPC assessment reports which have all indicated with a 90% certainty that temperatures would by now have risen steeply.  The contrast is all the sharper given the steady rise in CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere.

There is something wrong in the models and forecasts.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

United Nations and Scottish Widows in Edinburgh



The Scottish Widows Investment Partnership (SWIP), based in Edinburgh, is one of Europe's largest asset management companies and part of Lloyds Banking Group.  It manages investments worth £142bn.


The United Nations has an finance initiative under its Environment Programme (UNEP) establishing and encouraging observance of principles of responsible investment (UNPRI).

Both these organisations are brought together in Dr Craig Mackenzie, who is both Head of Sustainability at Scottish Widows Investment Partnership and chair of the UN PRI reporting framework Technical Committee.  Craig was one of the presenters at the first UNPRI event in Edinburgh which I attended last month.  One area on which he focussed was the danger of climate change disaster.

His presentation included an image showing the 2090-99 projection of Palmer Drought Severity Index (PDSI - it is the last of the maps in the four below).  Under the heading 'An even bigger tragedy?', and with extra highlighting of the severe drought colours, I considered his presentation both speculative and melodramatic.  By the time he had finished his presentation he had also conjured with the word 'disaster' and I concluded that he wanted to jolt us investors into more radical action to prevent climate change.

There followed a discussion of the barriers to more effective action to prevent dangerous climate change and the discussion identified decision takers, IE politicians, as being a particular problem.  Being the only politician in the room I was asked point blank what needed to be done to get them (us) to act.

I suggested that decision takers were not likely to be impressed by a speculative projection of what might happen 80-90 years in the future as in the PDSI image. Dr Mackenzie's image referenced a paper in Nature Climate Change which seemed to me to be counter to another peer reviewed paper in Nature.  The latter, more recent, paper seems to suggest that the PDSI may suffer from a rather serious calculation error.

What happened next, however, was more interesting.  At the coffee break I offered to explain myself to Dr Mackenzie.  I could hardly believe my ears when he talked about sceptics in the same breath as flat earthers.

But there was more.  I suggested that there were many impeccably qualified climate scientists, such as Professor Richard Lindzen of MIT, who were sceptical of the position Dr Mackenzie had articulated.  His response was that Lindzen has been proved wrong on every point by peer reviewed papers!   He also presented the old saw that sceptics were regarded as wrong by 97% of climate scientists.  He seemed totally unaware of the weaknesses (or even the claims) of the particular piece of research from which that claim had arisen.

There was much else which separated us and I offered to engage with further evidence.  A brief ensuing correspondence, in which I gave sources and reasons for my position, only served to confirm my suspicion that, beyond headline claims, Dr Mackenzie is not very well informed on climate change issues.  In particular, he is ill informed about the arguments and positions of those he seeks to demonise with the terms 'outlier' and 'flat earthers'.

I know Scottish Widows Investment Partnership has some very competent investment managers.  I am sure the Head of Sustainability is better informed in other areas than he is about climate change - and how to persuade decision takers in relation to climate change.

I trust our investments with SWIP are safe.





Saturday, November 10, 2012

Savile and McAlpine failings at BBC overshadow another scandal

The Director General of the BBC has resigned.  On the face of it the resignation is over Newsnight standards.  In the case of the Savile story Newsnight pulled a major report which might have been seen as embarrassing to the BBC which had hosted and featured Savile prominently for a generation.  In the case of Lord McAlpine, Newsnight reported allegations which turned out to be false.

After 54 days in post the BBC's DG resigned after a couple of interviews in which he appeared to be not on top of his brief.  Some critics described him as 'incurious' about events around him.


This week witnessed another instalment in another ongoing saga at the BBC which has received comparatively little publicity but which concerns a matter of rather greater significance than either the Savile debacle or the false accusations against Lord McAlpine.

It concerns a meeting of invitees to a BBC strategy gathering in 2006 on the subject of how to report climate change.   Some believe this meeting was key in setting and confirming the direction of the BBC in cheer leading an overly alarmist agenda instead of reporting more dispassionately.  In fact, many of us feel the BBC has been more than a little 'incurious' in its slavish following of an alarmist agenda.  Propagandist rather than investigative.  There are certainly plenty of investigative opportunities which call into question the basis of alarmist policies which cost billions every year.

The BBC is refusing to release details of who attended the meeting at which the direction of reporting seems to have been set in a manner which chose to exclude or minimise more critical voices.  The BBC has spent a considerable amount of money to keep secret how it came to that position.  Public money.

The latest part of the story is here.

Ignoring its duty of impartiality the BBC has regularly been partisan on this issue.  It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that, hopelessly compromised by its policy takeover by partisan environmental groups, it is now fighting to cover its tracks.  The problems at the BBC are more deep seated than a couple of Newsnight programmes being badly handled.

Here is a more detailed account.

Update 111112:  Here is an extract from one dissident attendee at the 2006 meeting (full article here).
‘Though they purported to be aware that this was an immensely important topic, it seemed to me that none of them had shown even a modicum of professional curiosity on the subject … I spent the day discussing the subject and I don’t recall anyone showing any sign of having read anything serious at all.
I argued at the seminar that I thought most broadcasting coverage on climate change was awful. But I also said there was no need for them to become self-conscious about it, This was because, although the issues were scientifically, politically and economically difficult, the BBC’s reporting of the thing would improve as soon as their audience was asked to vote or pay for climate change policy.’
And here is an article on the Coffee House blog by Sebastian Payne.  As he says, 'sunlight is the best disinfectant'.