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'. 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

First 'legally binding' target missed. Cold weather blamed

Paul Wheelhouse
The official figures are out for the estimates of of greenhouse emissions from Scotland for 2010.

And Paul Wheelhouse, the recently appointed Climate Change minister, without a hint of irony, notes that one of the reasons the 'legally binding' target was missed was that 2010 was a particularly cold year.

Details here and the BBC has the whole announcement here.

I have some advice for the minister.  Persuade your government to suspend the 'legally binding' emissions targets to save your government future embarrassment.  The Climate Change (Scotland) Act is a based on a scientific house of cards and, in practical policy terms, does more harm to Scotland and its people than any perceived good it might do to the world environment.  It rests on predictions that carbon emissions are likely to cause dangerous global warming.  The assumption is not based on robust science.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Calculated to mislead

Today Scottish Renewables has issued a press release which the BBC has reported.  It claims that the renewable industry in Scotland is displacing CO2 emissions equivalent to 8.36 million tons.

There are (at least) a couple of problems with that.

1.  The figures appear to take no account of the additional carbon required to get wind generation up and running.  This includes the making of turbines, extra CO2 generation in transmission and back up generation required.

2. The figures include hydro power.  That will be the hydro plants which were installed between 1922 and 1965?  These facilities produce about 50% of 'renewable' electricity.  If my figures are correct that suggests the following quote from Scottish Renewables is deceptive:
"This is proof that Scotland's renewables industry is establishing itself as one of the most effective weapons in tackling climate change and addressing the greatest threat to our natural environment"
It is the present continuing tense which implies that what was established over 45 years ago is actually part of our brave new response to a (supposed) grave threat.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Wind of change reaches Museum of Scotland

Stuart Haszeldine
Last evening a debate was held in the Museum of Scotland entitled "Scotland's energy policy is a load of hot air".

It featured Niall Stewart, the CEO of Scottish Renewables, and Professor Stuart Haszeldine of Edinburgh University speaking against the motion.  They were countered by Andrew Montford and Conservative MEP Struan Stevenson. There are several accounts of the debate available though notably, I can find none which come from the Scottish Renewables perspective. Here are two.

Support for those arguing for the motion grew from 66 before the debate to 126 after.  Those supporting Messrs Stewart and Haszeldene  grew rather more modestly from 36 to 50.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Its academic value is zero

Paul Wheelhouse MSP
The Government consultation - and significant line of justification - for the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 was the Stern Review of the Economics of Climate Change.  It had been commissioned by the UK Government and was published in 2006.

Although as a media event it initially carried all before it creating an aura of academic substance, (or at least economic competence), in its role as a driver for the Climate Change Acts, it had mixed reviews from economists from soon after its publication.

Now, six years later, a further critique expands on the early criticisms.  Richard Tol, Professor of Economics at the University of Sussex says this of Stern in his foreword to  What is Wrong with Stern?:
"The Stern Review was a tactical masterstroke, but it will likely prove a strategic blunder.  Its academic value is zero."
Professor Tol is one of the authors of the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report published in 2007.

This raises some uncomfortable questions about the economic credibility of Scotland's 'groundbreaking' Climate Change Act.  A headache for our new minister for Environment and Climate Change?

Saturday, September 08, 2012

Change at the ministry

Paul Wheelhouse MSP has this week taken over as Minister for Environment and Climate Change at Holyrood.

Whilst it is not clear that he has said very much publicly about climate change he arrives at a fascinating juncture.

The 'groundbreaking' Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 was significantly justified by the Stern report and the IPCC fourth assessment report.  The latter has faced growing credibility difficulty and now the much quoted Stern Report has been the subject of a devastating critique by MP Peter Lilley.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Is the CO2 narrative cooling in Edinburgh?

Professor Tom Crowley has a distinguished academic career and is a paleoclimatologist based in Edinburgh.

He has been linked with the narrative that CO2 is associated with the warming of the world's temperature and in the past his work, extensively quoted in IPCC Assessment Reports, has come in for some criticism, most notably by Steve McIntyre.

However in a press release today from the American Geophysical Union, Professor Crowley is quoted for his views of a study suggesting the sun is more linked to climate than previously thought:
"With the new paper, Sirocko and his colleagues have added to the research linking solar variability with climate", said Thomas Crowley, Director of the Scottish Alliance for Geoscience, Environment, and Society, who was not involved with the study.
“There is some suspension of belief in this link,” Crowley said, “and this study tilts the argument more towards thinking there really is something to this link. If you have more statistical evidence to support this explanation, one is more likely to say it’s true.” (My emphasis.)

I reported in 2011 that Professor Crowley had softened in his stance in an argument with Steve McIntyre to the point where he proffered an apology.

Signs of change?

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Edinburgh Professor pans wind energy costs

Gordon Hughes is Professor of Economics at Edinburgh University.

His recent submission to the House of Commons Energy and Climate Change Committee is not very complimentary about the economics of  investing in wind energy.  A couple of paragraphs from the executive summary illustrate:
[Capital Investment] "Meeting the UK Government’s target for renewable generation in 2020 will require total wind capacity of 36GW backed up by 21GW of open cycle gas plants plus large complementary investments in in transmission capacity.  Allowing for the shorter life of wind turbines, the investment outlay for this Wind scenario will be about £124 billion.  The same electricity demand could be met from 21.5 GW of combined cycle gas plants with a capital cost of £13 billion - this is the Gas scenario."
[Revenue costs] "Wind farms have relatively high operating and maintenance costs but they require no fuel.  Overall, the net saving on fuel, operating and maintenance costs for the Wind scenario relative to the Gas scenario, is less than £200 million per year, a very poor return on an additional investment of over £110 billion."

Saturday, July 07, 2012

Edinburgh company leads in wave energy

Aquamarine Power, an Edinburgh based wave energy company, are leading the way in developing energy from waves.

They recently received the Renewables UK award for innovation in a product or process top take forward the renewables agenda. 

(Renewables UK is an industry body to promote renewables which was the subject of a recent post). 

I will monitor the company's progress with interest.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Professor Geoffrey Boulton has an epiphany

Professor Boulton
This post on Steve McIntyre's blog Climate Audit compliments Edinburgh's Professor Boulton on his editorial in Nature which covers the hotly contested issue of archiving data used in scientific reports.

McIntyre has forensically unpicked Boulton's part in the Climate Change Emails Review headed by Muir Russell, which purported to investigate the conduct revealed in the emails released from East Anglia.  He described the Review as a whitewash.

Now, McIntyre has welcomed Boulton's recent Royal Society report urging that the data behind scientific reports be archived and made publically available.  This was a key issue leading to the anonymous Climategate email release and a host of contentious issues which have been influential in the global warming debate.  McIntyre urgesfull disclosure of data.
"Perhaps Boulton’s new report will help change perceptions on this point. It’s too bad that Boulton’s epiphany came after his participation in the Muir Russell whitewash."

Thursday, June 28, 2012

"Turbines keep us alive"

Millour windfarm
With these words a primary school child at an Ayrshire school summed up his knowledge of the community benefits of wind turbines in a video presented at a RenewableUK seminar earlier this week.

With its pathetic highlighting of the indoctrination of our children, these words marked the low point in the presentation.  The onshore wind seminar was one of a number of presentations throughout the UK by RenewableUK, 'The voice of wind and marine energy'.

Surprisingly, RenewableUK chose to focus their pitch (to a mixed audience - planners, local residents, tourism representatives, councillors, wind farm objectors, manufacturers) on the creation of jobs as the 'main benefit' of wind energy.  Green jobs.

There was time for questions and one guest gently asked about the contradiction with recent reports of each green job replacing more than one in the wider economy. Spain was mentioned.  Adam from RenewableUK dismissed the Verso report alluded to, with a comment about there being other problems in the Spanish economy.

I thought it was time to refer to the Hughes reports, The Myth of Green Jobs, and Why is Wind so Expensive? Adam was quick to point out that Hughes (Professor of Environmental Economics at Edinburgh University) had his reports published by the Global Warming Policy Foundation, 'and they have an agenda'.  Um, what about you, Adam?

It seems Hughes was  using 'out of date data' and Adam later explained that the newer more efficient combined cycle gas plants were now much more efficient at plugging the gaps of intermittent wind.  In any case the 'first report depended on the calculations in the second'. I'm still trying to understand why that was the killer argument intended.

Questions covering a wide range of issues were raised.  The flicker, health and low frequency noise effects were all reported on by attendees who had knowledge or experience of them.  Some contributions were passionate.

Then a lady from the tourism industry, concerned about the negative tone, berated us for disrupting the purpose of the seminar which she said was 'to learn about the wider economic benefits critical to the economy'. 

Time to point out that some of us consider there are a few disbenefits of wind power to the economy and that her purpose was presumptious and narrow on behalf of many of those in attendance.  Not least amongst the economic disbenefits were the very substantial subsidies.

The chair responded by pointing to the significant subsidies to fossil fuels* and questioned why I had not factored other 'externalities' as benefits.  She referred to reduced pollution.  Guessing that this reference might be to reduced CO2 emissions and the mitigation of climate change I ventured that increased CO2 might not be so dangerous as some claimed and that the assumption of dangerous climate change was hardly well based in science.

The chair's air of courtesy shifted to one of contempt.  We were not to waste time with such outlandish rubbish.

But someone also raised the issue of a survey of public opinion on wind farms which had inexplicably discounted the views of respondents over 64.  Ah, responded Adam, that was a Mori poll not a RenewableUK poll.  If I heard him correctly he declaimed that it had anything to do with renewableUK.  As this was getting tiresome I pointed out that RenewableUK had made use of the poll quoting the results which excluded a significant portion of respondents.  I now note from the BBC report that the poll was indeed commissioned by our hosts.

Now, how do we go about removing the 'fact pollution' from that unnamed Ayrshire child in the video.  And his head teacher.

NB * A discussion about subsidies can be seen here.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Lovelock: "Sustainable Development" is meaningless drivel

Inscription for award of Edinburgh Medal 2006
James Lovelock, the well known environmentalist who formulated the Gaia theory, at 92 is still causing ripples with his views.  A few weeks ago he was quoted as admitting that his predictions about global warming had been 'alarmist' and 'extrapolating too far'.

Now, he has described 'Sustainable Development' as 'meaningless drivel'

Edinburgh University, an organisation with a growing reputation for hosting cheerleaders of alarmism about global warming, is one of those places where you can get a degree course in 'Sustainable Development'.   Here, from the course description, is a sample of what Lovelock was alluding to:
"Our accelerating consumption of natural resources is damaging the ecosystems on which all life depends, posing fundamental challenges to modern assumptions about economic progress, democracy and social relations. Sustainable Development refers to the challenges of reducing global inequity and poverty, and improving well-being, while reducing threats to the earth's life support systems from industrial production and consumption. Effective environmental care and management in relation to climate stability, other species and natural resources requires the examination of how humans relate to each other and to their surroundings. The critical analysis from diverse perspectives that this degree provides will be essential to understand these challenges, and to evaluate the proposed responses."
That seems to me to be pre-programmed to engender doom and alarm with little acknowledgement of positive effects of development and progress.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Edinburgh's new bank

Lord Smith of Kelvin
After the failures of two big banks (both with Scotland in the the title: Royal Bank of Scotland and Bank of Scotland), Edinburgh is to host the fledgling Green Investment Bank.  Currently looking to seal a deal on premises in the centre of Edinburgh the Green Investment Bank is due to be up and running by the end of the year.

Lord Smith of Kelvin has given a roadmap of how the bank will invest its £3bn.  Out are carbon capture (CCS), wave and tidal technologies.  
Wave and tidal technology and carbon capture and storage are quite far away from becoming commercially viable.  That is real venture capital stuff. That would be a step too far for us.”
In are five priority areas:
  • Offshore wind
  • Industrial waste recycling
  • Energy from waste
  • Non-domestic energy efficiency schemes and
  • Green Deal projects.  (Green Deal is the government’s plan to improve the nation’s draughty homes at no upfront cost to the consumer).  In fact the
Lord Smith notes that the loans will be expected to give a return of around 3.5%.

Here is more information.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Evidence of deception surfaces

Steve McIntyre
A retired Edinburgh scientist and academic is at the centre of allegations of  incompetence or cover up in his high profile investigation of an alleged deception which has been influential in science and public policy.

Retired Edinburgh University Professor Geoffrey Boulton was the key investigator in the 2010 Russell enquiry into charges of alleged misconduct at the University of East Anglia (UEA).

New evidence has surfaced which points to scientists at UEA deliberately concealing adverse data which contradicted their central assertion that late 20th century temperatures were unprecedented in the last thousand years.  This assertion had become widely accepted by policy makers and contributed to the evidence underpinning the ground breaking Climate Change (Scotland) Act, 2009.

Allegations of malpractice at the influential Climatic Research Unit at the UEA intensified after an unauthorised release in November 2009 of thousands of emails from the university.  

The emails appeared to indicate malpractice by some scientists, and in the face of intense criticism, Professor Boulton was a leading member of the enquiry appointed to investigate. 

In the last few weeks, following the release of data by the University of East Anglia in response to Freedom of Information procedures, criticism of the conduct of the enquiry has focused on Professor Boulton for failing to investigate adequately key allegations.

The allegations from a Canadian, Steve McIntyre, appear to have been substantiated by the data in a recent FOI release showing that evidence contradicting the assertions of unprecedented twentieth century warming was knowingly suppressed.

Submissions to the Russell inquiry had flagged up concerns, but were either ignored or examined in a cursory manner.

The Russell inquiry largely exonerated the UEA scientists and has been widely quoted in defence of them.  Professor Boulton, whose appointment to the Russell enquiry team was strongly criticised at the time, had previously worked at the University of East Anglia for some eighteen years, including a period overlapping with one or more of the scientists he was investigating.

The new information and a more detailed account are summarised in The Yamal Deception which is available for £0.75 here, or on the meticulously detailed evidence laid out by Steve McIntyre.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

A blow for offshore wind

Map: British Geological Survey
Two developments in the last few days have affected confidence in wind in Scotland.

First, Major Japanese investor Doosan, who were expected to deliver a major offshore wind turbine prototype by 2013, have announced they are shelving plans to enter the market in Scotland.   BusinessGreen website has described the decision thus:
"The news will be seen as a blow to the UK offshore wind market, which is hoping to attract new manufacturers to a number of ports around Britain."
Here is how the BBC reported the decision.

In another development the UK Government has received advice to give the green light for fracking for shale gas.   The Telegraph reports:
"Proponents of fracking say that there is enough gas to meet Britain’s energy needs for 70 years. Furthermore, the fuel it releases, natural gas (methane), is relatively “clean”. Fracked gas could be the 21st-century equivalent of North Sea oil, they say."
Whilst it is early days in the UK, the indications in the US and elsewhere are that relatively cheap shale gas could change the market, making the cost of wind and other renewables even more uneconomic.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Edinburgh Medal

Dr James Hansen was presented with the Edinburgh Medal last night in the City Chambers.

The public presentation in the Council Chamber was far from full.  The formal proceedings constituted an uncritical acceptance of what Dr Hansen had to say with the cheerleader being Ms Dana Linnet, Principal Officer at the US Consulate in Edinburgh.

The talk itself was almost identical to his recent TED talk.  He added his comment (reported here yesterday) that he and 'science' seem to be losing the public debate.

Another addition at the end was his account of a recent paper he has written the journal publication of which is being delayed.  He suggested it was because he had included a call for 'action' in the paper.

This fitted a theme.  Although in one sense he is a member of the global warming 'establishment', a recurring burden of his presentation was to cast him as a lonely outsider fighting.   Those sounding an alarm have indeed  captured policy, scientists and public opinion.  Dr Hansen wants the response to be much more urgent and far reaching.  In that sense he is an outlier.

One example was his reference to sea level rise.  The IPCC report of 2007 suggested a sea level rise of 18-59cm this century.  Not mentioning that figure he said 'most scientists' believe it will be over one metre and he thinks it will be 'up to five metres or more'. Others think even the IPCC suggestions are alarmist.

Thankfully, as Dr Hansen acknowledges, the indications are that the tide is turning against his rather extreme views. This report of former NASA scientists' concerns is one of the most recent indicators that his litany of disaster predictions is going out of favour.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Hansen in Edinburgh: We are losing

Lindzen over Hansen
James Hansen is in Edinburgh.  He is quoted as saying that climate scientists (like him) are losing the public debate.  This report in The Telegraph gives details from an interview with him including this comment:
"There is a huge gap between the public's understanding of the situation and the scientific understanding. If the public doesn't understand, it is not going to happen. Political leaders are not independent of public opinion."
Professor Hansen is overstating his case. He should be saying that some scientists are losing the debate.  There are many climate scientists on the other side who do not agree with his alarmist view of the empirical data.  One example (of many) is Professor Richard Lindzen of Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  Earlier this year he said:
Hansen after Lindzen
"The fact that the developed world went into hysterics over changes in global mean temperature of a few tenths of a degree will astound future generations.  Such hysteria simply represents the scientific illiteracy of much of the public, the susceptibility of the public to the substitution of repetition for truth, and the exploitation of those weaknesses by politicians, environmental promoters, and, after 20 years of drum beating, by many others as well." Source.
I will report later on Professor Hansen's speech and events in Edinburgh City Chambers at the award ceremony.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Problems with Earth Hour

Edinburgh Castle on the WWF site
Switching electricity off for 60 minutes on the last Saturday of March is a token, reminding us how good it is not to use electricity.

Three problems.

Likely shale gas reserves
First, while saving money and resources is good, the generation of electricity has brought huge good to humankind and it will be a shame if our token switch off implies the use of electricity and resources is bad per se.  On the contrary, resources add value to human life and existence, especially as a means of relieving poverty as Ross McKittrick emphasises in this article which is well worth a read.  Here is an extract:
"Abundant, cheap electricity has been the greatest source of human liberation in the 20th century. Every material social advance in the 20th century depended on the proliferation of inexpensive and reliable electricity. . . . The whole mentality around Earth Hour demonizes electricity. . . "
Second, Earth Hour is all to do with the fear of catastrophic climate change.  The Earth Hour website says so. (Note how the page is short on a making a direct connection between human activity and changing climate. It implies our action in Earth Hour is needed to counter 'the greatest threat to the planet', global warming.)  So it is not about economy or efficiency or even careful husbanding of resources.  It is about 'preventing dangerous climate change'.

Thirdly, since we have mentioned tokenism and the 'mentality' around Earth Hour, could there be other effects not mentioned on the website.  I suggest the event contributes to a Luddite response to opportunities to address pressing issues which affect people and especially the poor.  Why is it that we are not seizing opportunities to improve the lot of human kind?

Take shale gas for example.
"Thus shale gas has changed the game and not only in terms of hydrocarbons supply: it has provided the US with a chance to launch an economic recovery based on manufacturing and exports." The full article from Standpoint magazine is well worth reading.
Yet the pressing issues of the day are lost on WWF, promoters of Earth Hour. Fear of global warming, 'the greatest threat to the planet' at some future point, in their mindset trumps opportunities to improve the human condition now.
". . .a new dash for gas could see global temperatures skyrocket."  Note the repeated alarmist rhetoric at its website here, ignoring the well established facts surrounding shale gas
Earth Hour and WWF depend on an alarmist mindset which assumes CO2 emissions are causing a catastrophe.  So much of the evidence served up for this assumption has proved faulty so far.  The tokenism and mindset is to set the well being of people well below the fear of catastrophe.

So this evening I will celebrate the usual efficient use of the resources available to me.  I care for people and for the planet.  But I am not a Luddite.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Edinburgh scientist proposes cloud-whitening towers

Emeritus Professor Stephen Salter of Edinburgh University has recently proposed building cloud-whitening towers in The Faeroe Islands.  The object of this is to use sea water to 'seed' fine droplets (clouds) which, being white, would reflect energy from the sun back into space and cool the earth.

Professor Salter proposed his ideas at a meeting of the Arctic Methane Emergency Group to which MPs were invited.  As the organisation title (and website) suggests, the group take a rather catastrophic view of the future and it seems the proposal doesn't go down well in some quarters.  The ScienceNordic website, for example, suggests it is a 'wild' idea:
"The melting of the Arctic ice doesn’t only result in our Earth getting warmer and warmer. Another consequence is that climate researchers and engineers are coming up with increasingly far-fetched suggestions on how to combat global warming.  The latest wild suggestion comes from Professor Stephen Salter of Edinburgh University, Scotland.  At a recent meeting with British MPs, Salter suggested that politicians could stop the melting of the Arctic ice by building giant towers that throw seawater up into the atmosphere."

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

More on the Hansen award

I posted earlier today on the decision to award the Edinburgh Medal to James Hansen.  He is head of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and Adjunct Professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Columbia University.    He is both an activist and an alarmist about climate change, going well beyond the position of many scientists who are concerned about global warming - as you will see from the following (background information sent out to those invited to the event).
"Climate change is a moral issue of unprecedented scope - a matter of intergenerational injustice.  As today's adults obtain benefits from fossil fuel use, the consequences will be felt mainly by young people and future generations.  Meanwhile, people in less developed countries and indigenous people across the world are likely to be burdened the most but are least able to adapt to a changing climate.  In his stirring Medal address, Dr James Hansen will draw attention to the science and to the pressing moral issues.. . . a man who is passionate about helping people understand climate change and humanity's role in causing it, and who is admired far beyond the science sphere for his fearless commentary and authority on this crucial issue."
This "stirring address" will take place in the City Chambers in Edinburgh on Tuesday 10th April.

Certainly it is a crucial - even a moral - issue. But there are not a few who think that Jim Hansen is on the wrong side of morality.

By way of example, alarmism has brought us
  • a biofuels policy which has penalised the poor across the world by pushing up food prices
  • a renewables energy policy which takes money from the poor (increased energy prices) to give to the rich (so called renewables subsidies)
  • malpractice in science as evidenced in the 'hockey stick' claims, Climategate emails, and the Russell and other enquiries plus much, much more
I am ashamed that Edinburgh has associated itself in this way with climate alarmism.

Previous recipients of the Edinburgh Medal include
  • 1990 Steven Jay Gould
  • 1992 Heinz Wolf
  • 1995 Sir John Crofton
  • 1997 Amartya Sen
  • 2001 Sir John Sulston
  • 2004 Professor Steven Rose
  • 2005 Prof Colin Blackmore
  • 2006 Professor James Lovelock
  • 2007 Dr Richard Horton
  • 2008 Professor Chris Rapley CBE 
  • 2009 Professor Jonathan Beckwith
  • 2010 Professor Sir Alex Jeffreys
  • 2011 Professor Karl Djerassi

Edinburgh to honour James Hansen

"The Edinburgh Medal is given annually to a person of great distinction in science and technology whose professional achievements have made a significant contribution to the understanding and well-being of humanity."

Well just to confirm you can't believe everything you read, the Edinburgh Science Festival Committee has awarded the the 2012 Edinburgh Medal to James Hansen.

More later.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Edinburgh professor skewers wind

Professor Gordon Hughes of the Edinburgh University School of Economics has released a report on the cost of wind power.  He comes up with an analysis which questions the economic case for wind.  For example:
  • 'A typical wind turbine generates power that is worth around £150,000 per year but attracts subsidies that are worth more than £250,000 a year.'
  • 'Indeed, there is a significant risk that annual CO2 emissions could be greater under the Wind Scenario relative to the Gas Scenario.'
  • 'Wind power is an extraordinarily expensive and inefficient way of reducing CO2 emissions when compared with the option of investing in efficient and flexible gas cycle combined cycle plants.'
  • 'The cost of the Renewables Obligation scheme alone has risen from £278 million in 2002 to more than £1 billion in 2011. . . '
You can read the report here.

Green Investment Bank partly comes to Edinburgh

Today Vince Cable announced that the Green Investment Bank will be headquartered in Edinburgh - though the main transaction team will be based in London.  See this report.

The bank will initially be funded with £1bn of public investment to fund clean energy and low carbon investments.

If it is to have any success the trick will be to avoid lame duck and uneconomic projects and policies - of which there are many.  The next post will give some suggestion as to what  'sub prime' green investments might be avoided.  It is contained in a report from an Edinburgh professor of ecnomics.

Government papers on the backgrounhd to the GIB can be found here.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Cardinal O'Brien's mind captured by 'zealots'?

Cardinal O'Brien in George Square
In the interests of transparency I disclose that I agree with Cardinal Keith O'Brien on many things.

On Ash Wednesday he was identified as a prominent signatory of the Operation Noah declaration on climate change and the purposes of God.  It urges church people to ask four legitimate and worthy questions.  I should also note that I agree with much that is in the declaration.  The many Bible quotations are all accurate and to be admired.

The problem lies with the assumptions incorporated in the foundational statement.  Partisan pressure groups  - and Operation Noah is very partisan - often make a priori assumptions.   Take just the first few words:
"The liklihood of runaway global warming, which will diminish food security, accelerate the extinction of huge numbers of species and make life itself impossiblein some parts of the world. . . "
So there is an assumed 'likelihood of of runaway global warming' with all sorts of dire consequences! The evidence for the probability of this catastrophe (and the statement is replete with hyperbolic phrases), is just not there.

On the day after Cardinal O'Brien signed his intellectual soul over to a pressure group specialising in exaggerations, one of the world's most distinguished climate scientists, Professor Richard Lindzen of Massachusetts Institute of Technology was giving an opposing view in the House of Commons Committee Rooms:
"The evidence is that the increase in CO2 will lead to very little warming, and that the connection of this minimal warming (or even significant warming) to the purported catastrophes is also minimal.  The arguments on which the catastrophic claims are made are extremely weak – and commonly acknowledged as such. They are sometimes overtly dishonest."
Cardinal O'Brien would do well to pay a little more attention to his fellow cardinal from Australia, Cardinal Pell:
"The rewards for proper environmental behaviour are uncertain, unlike the grim scenarios for the future as a result of human irresponsibility which have a dash of the apocalyptic about them, even of the horsemen of the Apocalypse. The immense financial costs true-believers would impose on economies can be compared with the sacrifices offered traditionally in religion, and the sale of carbon credits with the pre-Reformation practice of selling indulgences. Some of those campaigning to save the planet are not merely zealous but zealots."

You can read Professor Lindzen's full talk here. And Cardinal Pell's here.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Sillars on global warming

Jim Sillars
Former deputy leader of the SNP Jim Sillars earlier this week added his trenchant criticism of the global warming lobby who have captured public policy.  In an opinion piece in The Scotsman he characterises 21st century climate science as an embarrassment to the history of science.

Beginning with the lack of increase in global temperatures for fifteen years - during a period when CO2 in the atmosphere has grown steadily - he then critiques the poor science, the IPCC and above all, the lobby which has captured today's political leadership. The article can be read in full here.  Sillars has expressed scepticism previously, for example in this 2010 Scotsman letter.

The response to the article in the Scotsrenewables blog is disappointing for its failure to debate or even address the points articulated by Sillars.  Read it here.   Allow me to fisk it (ignoring the ad hominems).
  1. 'He (Sillars) refers to the current scientific consensus on AGW as a ‘lobby’, which is like calling the SNP a ‘minority interest group in Scotland’  The AGW lobby is nothing like a 'minority interest'. The point Sillars is making is that their power is based on lobbying - not science.  It is very difficult these days to maintain that there is an AGW scientific consensus - if there ever was.  There have always been dissenters such as Prof Richard Lindzen of MIT.  It is just that they were marginalised by very powerful lobbying - of which there is increasing and damning documentary evidence.  
  2. 'Sillars claims that climatology is ‘in its infancy -  a particularly stupid statement when you consider the likes of  Edmund Halley, who published a map of the trade winds in 1686. . . '  This portrays the view that climate scientists know more than those who went before therefore are mature.  A more humble approach would be to acknowledge that, in the complex area of climate science, present knowledge is in its infancy.  Scottishrenewables cites models as an evidence of maturity.  That just fails to acknowledge the point behind Sillars' initial paragraph.  Models have been confounded (especially of late) by measurements.  The faith in models to the detriment of observational science is one of the scandals of  modern climate science.
  3. ' Sillars speaks of a ‘delusional world where they believe they  . . .  can stop the world’s climate warming beyond another 2.5 degrees’ – so apparently he DOES he believe in climate change, but believes action is futile.'  Dear Scottishrenewables, please note Sillars was referring to a 'delusional world' as you actually quote!  Nowhere does he say he accepts climate change of a 'disruptive' to 'threatening' nature - the scale you use. Your creation of a clumsy straw man diminishes your comment.
  4. 'So – all in all  remarkable double whammy own goal  from a man who is allegedly a lifelong supporter of independence . . . '   Ignoring the ad hominem attack, why do the views of Sillars on this issue need to be vindicated or otherwise by his views on other matters?  I think I disagree with him on a number of issues but I respect his views on this issue because they seem to me founded on a clarity of thought and evidence.
  5. ' . . . but who just can’t miss a chance to get back at old adversaries, no matter what the cost to his country and his planet.'  Much of your response is based on a priori assumptions which are not a good basis for debate and discussion.  There is now a wealth of evidence out there to challenge the basis of the belief system you exhibit.  I invite you to consider The Hockey Stick Illusion and then the Delinquent Teenager (about deficiencies in the IPCC).  You have to be able to deal with these critiques in order to credibly defend your assumptions.  
Of course you then might want to address the evidence referred to in Sillars' first paragraph: Why has the predicted warming not happened in the face of such an increase in CO2 over almost fifteen years?

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Official bias continues

The Met Office bias in its predictions for global annual temperature continues alive and well.  In December 2010 I posted an analysis of Met Office predictions since 1999.  All but one of the eleven annual predictions had overshot and the 2010 figure looked likely to be an over prediction as well.  (It was - see the table below).

That is 11 out of 12.  What of the 2011 figures?  The prediction is here in their press release of 2nd Dec 2010:
"Nevertheless an anomaly of 0.44 °C is still likely - with the range very likely to be between 0.28 °C and 0.60 °C."
The Met Office assessment in November for the first ten months of the year gave the actual figures undershooting the estimate as follows:
"The global average temperature from HadCRUT3 for January to October 2011 was 14.36°C, 0.36°C above the 1961-1990 long term average."
The figures so far are well below the 'likely' figure - though within the broad range given for 'very likely'. (Final 2011 figures will not be available till March 2012.)

And what of the prediction for 2012?  Alas, I cannot find any trace of the usual December prediction. 

Here are the figures for the last 13 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   ....0.36 (Jan-Oct)