Category Archives: Climate

Climate Change & UK Energy chaos

JR Max Wheel

4th July 2013

Two irritating items caught my attention on the BBC, particularly appropriate at a time when the Broadcaster has been hauled over the coals for accusations of bias. Firstly, a fatuous piece from science correspondent David Shukman, standing in Death Valley, and delivering an apocalyptic piece about the highest temperature recorded on the planet at 52.5C and the possibility that it might reach 53C, shock horror! The second was a report on the decadal statistics showing that the period of 2001-2010 were the hottest ever, according to the World Meteorological Organization and linking it back to rising sea levels, increased deaths from heat waves and extreme weather events.  The usual subtext is of course it’s all our fault because, like original sin, it’s man-made and hence the other sub text that goes with this type of reporting we should all get behind renewable energy because it is the only hope of reversing or managing this trend.  Contrary views are neither welcome nor encouraged. The truth is that no one actually knows what causes climate change, but without it we would certainly not be here at all.

It is part of the amazing 97.4% of climate scientists are in consensus that global warming is a man-made problem. All your fault then, turn the lights off, unplug the fridge and get back to your cave.

Well-known author Michael Crichton nailed this a decade ago when he pointed out that consensus in science is not a healthy issue at all and that it is precisely the challenges to the status quo that has allowed the most profound insights, so no Galileo, Newton, or Einstein welcome then.

The tissue of fabricated evidence and manipulated figures from the IPCC, not many climate scientists there, and the scandal of Climategate e-mails, pontifical interventions from politicians like Al Gore make for dire reading.

We need some facts because we cannot base any rational policy decisions on the ever-growing pile of selective science and some of it from both sides of the divide.

For the serious review of the literature, it is worth reading the detailed review of SINTEF, a Norwegian think-tank based in Trondheim. Link here: Report A 24071 dated April 2013.

First, here is that famous 97.4% consensus- oh dear only 77 peer reviewed climate scientists, not quite so impressive.

Let us continue the now established practice of selective quotes.

1997/8 was the hottest year on record in the very warm 1990s until the WMO produced its latest figures, (Mann et al) oh no it wasn’t !Go back just a few hundred years more to the period 1000 – 1200 AD and you find that the climate was considerably warmer than now. This era is known as the Medieval Warm Period.” It said, “By 1300 it began to cool, and by 1400 we were well into the Little Ice Age. It is no surprise that temperatures in 1997 were warmer than they were in the Little Ice Age”, and so if “1997 had been compared with the years around 1000 AD, 1997 would have looked like a rather cool year” rather than being the warmest on record. It said that the Medieval Warm Period predated industrial greenhouse gas emissions, and had a natural origin.

Also, measurement is a big problem. A study by Watts et al. (2012) showed that half of the recent warming measured in the US is artificial, caused by measuring problems:

Ah well but it is the dangerous C02 then, – um, no apparently. This paper argues even causality is wrong

Implications of the Secondary Role of Carbon Dioxide and Methane Forcing in Climate Change: Past, Present, and Future (Physical Geography, Volume 28, Number 2, pp. 97-125, March 2007)- Willie H. Soon

The paper argues that: “A review of the recent refereed literature fails to confirm quantitatively that carbon dioxide (CO2) radiative forcing was the prime mover in the changes in temperature, ice sheet volume, and related climatic variables in the glacial and interglacial episodes of the past 650,000 years, even under the “fast-response” framework where the convenient if artificial distinction between forcing and feedback is assumed. Atmospheric CO2 variations generally follow changes in temperature and other climatic variables rather than preceding them.”

If this were not mad or bad enough we have chosen renewable energy, supported by mass subsidies argued by some to be one the largest transfers from poor to rich in history. No objections to sensible renewables, hydro power, tidal and geo-thermal but who seriously would argue that solar is suitable for the latitude of the UK or that wind power is anything less than intermittent, lacks scale, is destructive of the landscape and requires hefty conventional back-up.

The world it is now slowly being realised is swimming in hydrocarbons, conventional and alternative, yet we have closed coal stations at Didcot and we have also embarked on the conversion of the largest power station at Drax from coal to wood biomass. This requires chopping down trees and shipping the feedstock thousands of miles from Canada, the US and Sweden. How green a solution is that? The Electricity Market Reform is so badly drafted as a Bill as to need a complete rewrite to keep the lights on in the UK. Meanwhile Germany racks up new emissions levels and builds more coal-fired stations, albeit not at anything like the rate of China and the pariah state the US has virtually halved emissions by shifting from coal to gas.

The complex science of climate is driven by many factors from ocean temperatures to space weather, so a consensus from the self-interested and doom sayers is no basis for framing policy whatsoever,

Fracking Great! UK Energy & Shale Gas

JR Max Wheel

9th May 2013

The above sign seen in a shop window in Ulster neatly points up one side of the great UK energy debate, or rather debacle. The sheer size of the shale gas deposits in the UK, now estimated by the British Geological Survey as approx 5 trillion cubic feet (TCF) should be considered an extraordinary beneficial windfall at a time of anaemic economic growth, weak tax revenues and positively transformative for our increasingly over-priced energy.  Yet it is not and one should ask why?

In a rare moment of clarity amid a fog of disinformation, Peter Lilley, part of the Parliamentary Advisory Board has fingered the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) , the EU and the Green Lobby as culprits in deliberately talking down the importance of shale gas. By tying us to an energy strategy, which is based on costly renewables will prove extremely expensive for the consumer and utterly short-sighted. Almost unbelievably DECC has sent the Geological Survey back to re-do its figures. It is clear that this Ministry needs to focus on energy supply and dump the other initials.

It is already estimated that energy bills will rise by the end of the decade by £300 p.a. due to “green” policies, whilst energy cost is a vital driver across the spectrum for industry and transport. Cheap coal imports diverted from the US are now having perverse effects as the US benefits from cheap gas and redirects coal to European markets, where it can out-compete our very high natural gas prices. Meanwhile the renewables sector and the Green lobby  is looking increasingly vulnerable, both from challenges to its fundamental premise of man-made climate change, and the immaturity of its technology, especially wind , but also the questionable value of subsidy-fuelled solar installations at these latitudes.  German industry is also increasingly concerned at the cost of energy, the cancellation of any new nuclear capacity in a hysterical over-reaction after Fukushima and the intermittency of renewable capacity, which requires a mass programme of building coal-fired stations! Therefore, whilst the US actually reduces CO2 emissions, the EU is actually increasing them. So distorted has this tangle become that the EU Commission President has urged the EU to focus on competitiveness and security of supply rather than climate change. Despite the falling apart of the European Trading System for carbon credits, the UK is determined to bring in a carbon floor price, demonstrating how politicians are stuck in the rut of 2005 era green arguments, just as the whole agenda is unravelling.

This is another perfect storm as pointed out to Bloomberg by Peter Atherton at Liberum Capital, the UK Government has totally underestimated the costs of decarbonising the economy by switching to a mix of baseload nuclear and renewables in financial, engineering and in economic terms.

Even nuclear looks vulnerable now with withdrawal by all UK companies and leaving only French energy giant EDF in the picture for building Hinkley Point.

How could the Governments get this so wrong, to run the risk of a serious energy squeeze, rolling blackouts and unaffordable bills?  A good deal of this mess is down to climate change alarmism, a policy set determined by EU political and international scientific group think and a refusal to acknowledge the cost and inefficiency of most renewables. The cost to meet artificially constructed targets in Germany alone is a staggering € 300bn, of 400Twh of installed renewables capacity generates on 70TWh of output, barely a sixth.

Against this dismal background of bad or inconclusive science, near theological belief in manmade climate change and wrong-headed policy choices the UK is now seemingly determined to inflict higher bills on its citizens to pay for their mistakes. The botched UK Electricity Market Reform needs a complete rewrite and fracking needs to be actively encouraged. It does not need subsidy, will bring jobs to areas of weak economic activity like Lancashire and raise significant tax revenues. What is not to like and why don’t they bloody get on with it.

 

Why the Greens have got the Blues

JR Max Wheel

26 February 2013

That Energy policy is fundamental to any economy is hardly news; yet the UK seems to have created a shambles from an already impending problem. It has been well known for years that UK nuclear stations with one exception, Sizewell,  have reached the end of their operating life, that there has been chronic underinvestment in National Grid infrastructure and that thanks to EU binding Co2 emission targets,  we have to phase out coal and oil-fired stations. By 2023 Britain will lose some 25-30GW of power capacity, roughly 10% of total production.  In Germany, the decision to switch to renewables from nuclear is widely anticipated to cost over € 1tr.in the next 20 years. This is beginning to make itself felt amongst German industry who having looked across to the US see power prices falling and dragging hitherto uncompetitive slugs of US heavy industry back into a position of comparative advantage.  Almost everywhere in Europe the effects of high power costs and austerity measures are provoking a backlash against climate levy costs and have driven large numbers into so-called fuel poverty.

Much of the blame for this mess attaches to faulty policy settings, bad science and outright data manipulation about climate change.  This has not been helped by politically-motivated environment correspondents at the BBC and even the once respected British Met. Office. Climate change is not an article of faith, it is a fact that has dominated life on earth, and indeed it can be argued that it created life on earth. What is undeniable is that it has been used as a stick with which to scaremonger and to harass the public into acceptance of the” incontrovertible evidence” – the laughably entitled Inconvenient Truth that was subsequently exposed as a fabrication of evidence. Perhaps the worst culprit in this sorry saga has been the IPCC; an UN body whose members appointed from member countries are often not even expert in the extraordinarily complex science necessary to understand Earth’s weather.

The end result is that we have over 4,000 wind turbines producing a fraction of their rated power output, whilst benefiting from a colossal subsidy – paid for by the hapless consumer. The true cost of wind power is colossal, some 3-4 times greater than conventional technology and with the likelihood of offshore wind installations being about as difficult and expensive to maintain as oil rigs, it is doubtful whether operating costs are even remotely correct.  Even The National Trust, that beacon of middle class Britain and guardian of its heritage is busy fighting a case against wind farms in Northamptonshire whilst its open-minded leader thinks that wind turbines afford some sort of aesthetic beauty, certainly in the eyes of many they do not.

The real weapon that has torpedoed green economics is of course shale gas. This has been extensively talked down by the Government, the DECC and its advisors, on the grounds that it is uncertain and potentially environmentally problematic, but in all probability because it destroys much of the economic case for renewables. It is obvious that most countries would welcome such a find, as indeed many have. The UK Government remains unconvinced – at a recent Energy Event  at the NEC, an executive for Cuadrilla Resources produced two stones, one which was “good” and the other “bad”. One was from the North Sea where fracking has been in use for decades and the other from Lancashire. It does not take a wizard to establish which was the “bad one”!

Renewables UK, the industry body which used to be called the BWEA (British Wind Energy Association), represented the wind lobby, until it took under its wing, hydro, tidal stream and wave power as well. The obvious opportunity is of course the one that has received the least attention, as per Parkinson’s Law. The UK is uniquely well-placed to exploit tidal energy, yet has done very little to do so: SeaGen a pilot plant in Strangford Lough in Northern Ireland has been operating successfully for several years and should have been the get- go for serious commitments. These have all been stifled on fudged cost and efficiency estimates and environmental grounds- the Severn Barrage may be not a good idea as a barrage, but as a tidal stream project,  it could be perfectly viable. There are signs of life in this area in Scotland, both in the Jura/Islay schemes and the Pentland Firth. Repeatedly cost and output calculations have been manipulated to make this obvious resource seem like a pipe-dream. Why then did Siemens acquire SeaGen, surely, because it recognizes the viability of the technology and its worth! It is the wilful misrepresentation and fudged facts that have dogged the whole green energy debate, ably led by the DECC, which should focus on the Energy part of its remit and ditch its Climate Change agenda.

Mmeanwhile welcome to the land of ever rising energy costs, due to a mix of disinformation, mismanagement and political and scientific dogma. It is far less than the UK deserves and time that such matters were made properly transparent.

 

Why we don’t trust science?

25 January 2011

JR Max Wheel

You have to feel somewhat sorry for the eminent Nobel Prize winning biochemist and Royal Society President Sir Paul Nurse, brought in by the BBC to tackle a very important issue-namely why the general public no longer appears to trust science or scientists.  Somewhat off his natural turf, Prof. Nurse got pitched into two of the most polemical subjects – man-made climate change, GM crops and somewhat tangentially, another one, HIV/AIDS.

At a time when Prof. Nurse’s field of endeavour is producing ever more remarkable achievements arising from the decoding/sequencing of the human genome and the explosion of radical new treatments from stem cells to pharmacogenetics, his concern is legitimate but somehow I feel the programme completely missed its target. So 2/10 to BBC’s Horizon team.

Made-made climate change.

Prof. Nurse went to NASA to see the latest climate models and we were told that the evidence is overwhelming and that the reductions in”uncertainty” were regular and hence the models better and better. We got very little chance to see the data nor the model despite both running on a multiple real time screen set. NASA claims that so much data is collected – Petabytes from the multiple satellites, yet volume of data is hardly a ringing endorsement for understanding, surely it is what theory developed from such data evidences that is important, and that the hypotheses are subjected to proper peer review and statistically relevant.  We then ran into the consensus argument that if there is a growing or stable consensus, we should pay attention to it. I find this deeply disturbing. This is the scientist elevated to part of the priest caste. Prof. Nurse hit on the issue of “point of view” vs. peer review and in this he is surely right- that is why politicians meddling in the argument are highly contentious. “An Inconvenient Truth” is just such a manifestation as are assertions of incontrovertible evidence. This is rather like papal infallibility. It is clear that Freedom of Information requests directed at climate scientists, like at University of East Anglia had clear political motivation. Yet there is still something unsatisfactory about “Climategate”- if the indirect evidence (like tree rings) does not match other data (direct data) then it is surely correct to point to this and either explain it or agree that it is unexplained. It is not acceptable to fudge it, by splicing statistical data sets. Why is this so important? Primarily because there are very serious consequences for life and the planet, but essentially for policy makers, if we fail to understand what is going on. To that degree this is not like sequencing the genome, no matter how sensational that effort has been. This need for action and what sort of action is what is dividing the public, plus a rash of badly communicated information by scientists, nearly all of whom claim to have if not all the answers, then the ones that matter!  Almost unbelievably, our NASA scientist guru uttered the words” seeing is believing” ; if that were the case we would not have had Newton let alone Einstein or Quantum Mechanics.

GM crops

This is another nightmare subject for many. The scientist chosen to represent this argument also fell into a trap of his own making. Having demonstrated the remarkable resilience of genetically engineered potatoes, he immediately fell into the hole dug for him by the production staff, taking the Professor with him. “Farmers are not stupid, why else would they have planted 130m hectares of GM crops across the world” It is admitted by many that the earth’s ecosystem is little understood and  would argue that the degree of interconnectedness and complexity make both climate change and GM crop arguments less than clear. In our rush to model events we have used them to attribute a direction of causality, which just may be wrong.

HIV/AIDS

Another unfortunate victim of the Professor’s efforts was an American diagnosed as HIV positive some 13 years earlier who advanced the rather interesting, but whacky idea that it may well have been absence or compromised gut flora that affected the immune system and hence AIDS was caused not by the retrovirus but an unrelated immune collapse.

I think the real problem is the one hinted at by Prof. Nurse: that the public is deeply confused and not helped by poor communication skills, fruitcake bloggers and a degree of arrogance following a series of high profile disasters over preceding decades, Thalidomide, BSE (beef perfectly safe to eat) which of course it was not because of  Variant CJD, that the MMR vaccine causes autism, and so on. From Galileo, Kepler, Copernicus and Newton to modern day cosmologists and physicists, discoveries have invariably come from those that challenged the orthodox or consensus view.

I have the greatest respect for Prof. Nurse, but feel that he was badly advised in the making of what should have been a challenging, enlightening and timely film.

Ryanair- a sudden outbreak of common sense? Addendum

22 April 2010
JR Max Wheel
Ryanair has today announced that it will reimburse passengers for the extra costs suffered and not just limited to the cost of the ticket. If the airline had made a considered response rather than a knee-jerk one, it would have done itself a favour by engaging the brain before the mouth.
There is a real issue here highlighted, not least by competitor Easyjet, which estimates according to BBC sources to expect to pay out some £50m in compensation. EU261, the relevant legislation was clearly not framed to cope with a situation like this, but rather to address the problems of overbooking. Airlines are in enough economic difficulties as it stands due to escalating fuel costs, carbon taxes, and cost pressures. The public now expect cheap air travel, but it has a cost downside both to the operator and the travelling public as this experience graphically demonstrates. Being stuck can prove a ruinous end to a cheap weekend. People need to factor in the cost of potential disruption than make invalid assumptions that they will be able to fly irrespective of weather conditions. Mass air travel and vastly improved airline safety have obscured the fact that it is still not a risk free option. There are conditions where even modern aircraft cannot operate safely, something many of us learned in the bad old days of cancellations and unserviceability or U/S as the RAF used to call it.

The Government acted reasonably, in the safety interests of the public; given the advice it was provided. This event was unprecedented largely because of its location, right in the centre of a major Atlantic airway and prevailing winds: if it had happened in a remote Pacific Island this would not have been an issue, except for unfortunate islanders. It should though have been considered by, at the very least the CAA, since it has been an issue before (Indonesia and the Philippines), and it seems that no one had thought to calculate let alone calibrate the threat level until now.