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.