Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Al Gore preaches catastrophe

Al Gore won a standing ovation for his bravura performance at the Scottish Low Carbon Investment Conference this morning.

I did feel a little uncomfortable being (I think) the only person amongst around 350 delegates limiting myself to polite clapping rather than a standing ovation.   But then, this is a conference for people who have (or are considering) betting the bank on renewables.  They desperately need Al Gore's message on climate change to be true.

His message?  It was couched in his usual cataclysmic terms:  "We need to ensure the survival of our civilisation. . . Scientists have been warning us of this catastrophe for years."   He also had all the professional and emotional graphs and video clips duly tailored for his audience - right down to an interview with a farmer 35 miles south of Edinburgh who has experienced a lot of rain recently who said, "The climate is definitely changing"!    He was careful to mention Joseph Black (1728-1799) who discovered carbon dioxide and whose plaque marks his residence in Sylvan Place in Sciennes.

He was effusive in praise of Scotland, the Scottish Government and the First Minister Alex Salmond for ground breaking leadership on climate change.  In fact he was profuse about Alex Salmond, repeatedly returning to this theme.  Actually, I think the Scottish Government has shown leadership and boldness.  It is just that I have more than a few doubts about the scientific basis for that direction of travel.

Here is not the forum for in depth analysis of the figures he presented.  You can rest assured that it was the usual mix of facts, assertions and half truths:
  • We have raised the temperature 1degree with coal and oil
  • 97-98% of published climate scientists support his assertions
  • He quoted two current scientists Jim Hanson and Kevin Trenberth.  Such reliable authority!
  • The melting of the icecaps has produced significant sea level rise
  • The reason much of the world is not following Scotland's lead is because of money being poured in by big carbon in the same way as the tobacco industry opposed smoking restrictions
  • Oh, and he referred to those like me who questioned his view as "deniers" and as being people whose objective is to sow doubt.
I did get the chance to ask him a question.  Let the Press Association reporter take up the story.
"There was one dissenting voice in the short question-and-answer session after the speech.  Edinburgh city councillor Cameron Rose queried the consensus on climate change, telling Mr Gore that other respected scientists disagree.  But Mr Gore responded with an analogy that a man with chest pains would take the health advice of 98 doctors and ignore the two that said there is nothing to worry about."

Later, Mr Rose, a Conservative councillor, said: "His apocalyptic terms just do not ring true.  He said we're fighting for the survival of our civilisation. The evidence is not there for that kind of interpretation.  There are other reasons to focus on renewable energy, such as cleaner air and energy security."

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Climate Change from the Royal Society of Edinburgh

Below are links to a couple of reports of the discussion forum on Facing up to Climate Change held yesterday in Edinburgh.

Salmond meets Gore in Edinburgh

Al Gore is coming.  Tomorrow. 

The two day Scottish Low Carbon Investment Conference is taking place at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre.  The keynote speaker this morning was none other than the First Minister Alex Salmond.

Indomitably upbeat about just about everything, his optimism is, of course, based on a number of questionable assumptions, including a key one of the effects of carbon.  However, here are a few of the key points I noted.
  • His vision is the re-industrialisation of Scotland through renewables.  If I understood him correctly he referred to the former great industrial areas of Scotland being re-industrialised (he repeated the phrase with great emphasis).   The example he gave was the manufacture of wind turbines!
  • There were three (I think) announcements of new investment in the Scottish renewables sector.
  • There were the rhetorical flourishes about the great significance of the renewables revolution.  He talked of a once in a millennium step change being led by Scotland.  "The tide of history is flowing in evermore strength in favour of renewable industries"
  • He made the usual references to the groundbreaking leadership provided by the Scottish Parliament to the cause of reducing carbon emissions.  Twice he referred to the cross party support for this.  Ouch!
And from the rest of the morning's proceedings two facts stood out.
  1. The world price of solar raw materials (PV equipment, I mean, not the sun) has reduced significantly in the last couple of years making it a rather better.
  2. The renewables revolutionis under continuing pressure from the low cost of gas.  I was intrigued to chat to one industry practitioner for whom the prospects for shale gas appeared a revelation.

Just for the record, this is the second such investment conference. One of the many sponsors is Edinburgh Council.  I regard my attendance as a factfinding mission!

I hope to be able to bring you news from Al Gore tomorrow

Move to form sceptic group

Cartoons by Josh caricature the
 exaggerated claims
I draw your attention to the call  to challenge in the public arena the exaggerated claims of global warming.  Those interested in forming an association to co-ordinate the work might like to attend a meeting next week.

The meeting will be held on 8th October somewhere near Stirling and details can be found on Scottish Sceptic's website here.

I'm going.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Atlas Unbound

Wrong by a factor of 150
Some may have noticed reports of the new edition of the Comprehensive Times Atlas of the World published with a press release noting that it showed
"concrete evidence of how climate change is changing the face of the planet for ever - and doing so at an alarming and accelerating rate."
That part of the advert for the £150 volume was referring (amongst other things) to the maps it contained showing that the ice coverage of Greenland had decreased by 15% in just 12 years.   However, the real decrease is 0.1% according to the Scott Institute of Polar Research at Cambridge:

"The Scott Polar Research Institute points out that the volume of ice contained in the Greenland Ice Sheet is approximately 2.9 million cubic kilometers and the current rate at which ice is lost is roughly 200 cubic kilometers per year. This is on the order of 0.1% by volume over 12 years." 
That seems to me to be an error of a factor of 150.  Now it gets more interesting.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Free energy - not Proven

Wind energy -not proven
The recent demise of Proven Energy, the Scottish maker of small scale wind turbines which is now in  administration, increases the cause for concern surrounding UK energy policy. 

It comes as scrutiny increases on other more high profile failures in the renewable energy sector.  Solyndra in the US for example, has filed for bankruptcy despite very significant government investment and loans. 

This seems like a good time to look at some figures.  The UK currently has around 3,500 wind turbines with a capacity of 5.5 gigawatts of electricity.  As far as I can ascertain they only contribute to the grid between 0.5 and 1.0 gigawatts for the grid at any one time amounting to between 1.5% and 2.5% of demand.  The installation cost of these wind turbines is around £7bn - rather more that the cost to build  a few power stations with other means of generating electricity.

Much of that 'investment' comes from public subsidies.  All of which leaves Alex Salmond's vision of 100% of Scotland's electricity  from green sources looking both expensive and uncertain as Struan Stevenson's article here points out.