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.