Thursday, December 08, 2011

Measuring Scotland's emissions

Here are 8 reasons to question the value of targets set by the Climate Change (Scotland) Act, 2009.

The reasons are all taken from the Audit Scotland report Reducing Scottish Greenhouse Gas Emissions published today.

  1. Uncertainties about the measurement of emissions: "There are numerous uncertainties with reported levels of emissions." Annexe 1 para 4.  
  2. Emissions for many sources are estimated - sometimes using basic assumptions - for the devolved administration in Scotland.  Overall, the data for the devolved administrations are less certain than for the UK as a whole.  Annexe 1 para 5
  3. Current assessment methods do not cater for shipping.   Annexe 1 para 
  4. Uncertainties associated with greenhouse gases other than carbon dioxide can be significant, particularly concerning emissions from agriculture and related land use. For example, the uncertainty level is plus or minus 12 per cent for Scottish emissions of carbon dioxide in 2009, but plus or minus 290 per cent for nitrous oxide.
  5. Reported emission 
  6. levels are estimated not by directly measuring them but by calculating them from the quantities of fossil fuels used and from other relevant processes relating to industry and agriculture - but there are gaps in the data on use of fuel use, and the emissions behaviour of soils is still poorly understood.  
  7. It takes almost two years to obtain data on Scottish emissions. It is difficult to assess the effectiveness of policies on emissions due to the length of time it takes to obtain data on actual levels of emissions.  Report para 54.
  8. It is challenging to assess emissions associated with imported goods and services. "This is a highly challenging field of work"  Report para 56.
  9. Different greenhouse gases vary in their effectiveness at warming the atmosphere. Annexe para 3.

Salmond's Green suicide note

Having listened to Alex Salmond a few weeks ago talking up renewables as "the biggest opportunity for Scotland in 10,000 years" (a bit of hyperbole there), here is another way of looking at SNP policies which is not quite so optimistic.  It relates to the widely reported Audit Scotland report Reducing Scottish Greenhouse Gas Emissions.  The press release includes this text:
The Scottish Government’s plans [are] to reduce emissions by 42 per cent by 2020, compared with 1990. This target is far more ambitious than UK and European Union goals, and the Scottish Government is dependent on action by others to achieve it.
We all like ambition but (according to the summary) this ambition means putting £4m per day into projects to reduce carbon emissions.  Some of these projects will have some value for other reasons but the folly of predicating public policy on science which is deeply flawed will inevitably mean a huge waste of resources.  In the case of targets and wind turbines you might say tilting at windmills, to use an analogy from Don Quixote.  The Daily Express reports the Audit Scotland release highlighting the cost to the taxpayer of £11bn over the next 7 years.  Elsewhere that is described as 'Salmond's Green Suicide Note'.  

I would be surprised if these figures are not a considerable underestimate - knowing all the energy and cost these targets are costing councils.

For the record the targets for reducing emissions against a 1990 baseline by 2020 are:
  • Scotland 42%
  • UK  34%
  • EU  20%

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Renewables - the turning tide

Scottish climate change policy has a significant impact on energy decisions in Scotland.  The SNP government has trumpeted its 'groundbreaking' climate emissions and energy targets. Caught up in hyperbole recently, Alex Salmond described renewables as "the biggest opportunity in 10,000 years"!.

Bill Jamieson is the Executive Editor of the Scotsman and doesn't agree. His column in The Scotsman on Thursday (24th Nov) is well worth reading.  Here are a few extracts.

  • ". . . Scotland's massive gamble on renewables. . . 
  • "From America comes troubling news for the renewables lobby. Reports are legion of bankruptcies, green jobs that failed to materialise and a notable cooling of the rhetoric on global warming as the country now finds itself on the brink of a breathtaking boom – in fossil fuels.
  • "From Europe come warnings of failed renewables projects, disappointing results and voter disillusion."
  • "And from nearer home comes troubling evidence of how the push in renewables is destroying jobs and confronting millions of households with huge rises in energy bills.
  • "For every green job created by the Spanish government, Calzada found that 2.2 jobs were destroyed elsewhere in the economy because resources were directed politically and not rationally.
There is much more cogent analysis in Bill Jamieson's article.  His conclusion is spot on.
  •  do not doubt the geo-political case for renewables, nor that there should be renewables in our energy mix. But energy produced at a horrendous cost that drains the budgets of households and depresses spending elsewhere is neither a rational energy gain nor a “stimulus boost”. It is edifice economics, founded on sleight of hand taxation and powered by a gale of hope. We are going to need more than this to have a hope of keeping the lights on.
It is evident that current energy policies have been shaped by a belief in catastrophic man made global warming.  Perhaps catastrophe could conceivably be round the corner.  But not on the basis of our current scientific knowledge which has been misunderstood and manipulated.  And that has real and negative consequences.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Geoffrey Boulton: No regrets about Russell enquiry

Prof Geoffrey Boulton
This evening Professor Geoffrey Boulton gave a lecture on "Why and How should Science be Open" at the Royal Society of Edinburgh.  He is Chair of a committee of the Royal Society London Study which is investigating Science as a public enterprise.

It was a largely unexceptional talk where he urged more openness by scientists and explored some of the limitations there might be.  The meeting was part of a public consultation on the project and so there was a lengthy question and answer session with a panel.

He responded to one question with the following comment which may be of interest to some:
"The structures (of the scientific community) of which many of us are a part have some pretty fierce ways of dealing with those benighted souls who disagree."
That evoked a question in my mind.  I read the above quote back to him and asked:
 "Some of those at the cutting edge of new media science (blogs to which he had referred) may well consider that that quote describes how they have been treated.  Do you have any regrets about your participation in and conduct of the Russell enquiry?
Well his response was clear enough.
He added something to the effect that there was no need to say any more.

For those who observe Professor Boulton's career with interest there were a couple of points of note:

  • He is no longer Secretary of the RSE - see here for the current Executive Board.
  • In passing he described himself as no longer being Vice-Principal of Edinburgh University or, indeed employed by the University.  

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Energy debate in The Herald

The Herald newspaper, more than other, is reporting the current debate on Scottish energy policy.

On Monday, having reported that permission has been granted by SEPA to Greenpark Energy to begin shale gas exploration in Scotland, in its leader it called for a proper public debate of the contribution of shale gas to Scotland's energy supply.

Today the Herald kindly published my contribution to that debate:

Clear Day
Your call for a proper public debate on the contribution of shale gas to Scotland's energy supply is well timed ('Exploiting fossil fuel will harm renewable targets', Leader and 'First fracking project in Scotland', November 7th).

The problem facing the Scottish Government is that they have 'bet the bank' on renewables. Should the promised relatively cheap and plentiful supply of shale gas comes to fruition our excessive dependence on expensive renewables will become even more of an albatross for Scotland.

Targets for renewables are designed to meet emissions targets set as part of our ''world-leading' Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009.  It is becoming increasingly clear that the scientific 'evidence' on which that Act was based relied excessively on models, alarmism, false claims and flawed science.  The evidence for a human induced global warming catastrophe is looking increasingly threadbare.

A proper debate will include consideration of suspending the emissions targets enshrined in the 2009 Act.

Cllr Cameron Rose
City Chambers,

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Almost nothing we've been told about the IPCC is actually true

This piece from Donna Laframboise, a Canadian journalist, is worth a read.

The book she has written is an expansion of her phrase in the heading.

Fracking comes to Scotland

Things are moving fast in the development of shale gas. 

Whereas a couple of years ago there was no indication there was any prospect of the shale gas bonanza in the UK, a licence has now been granted for drilling in Scotland.  SEPA (Scottish Environmental Protection Agency) has granted a licence to Greenpark Energy to drill near Canonbie just north east of Gretna.  More details here and here.

Recently Cuadrilla estimated there is 200 trillion cubic feet of gas underground Lancashire.  Although not all of it may be recoverable, that equates to several decades of UK supply. 

The SEPA principal policy officer seems to be unperturbed by the scare language of some opponents:
"I don't associate the risks associated with fracking as being any more significant than a lot of things we do.  They are not high risk provided they are done properly."
The Friends of the Earth spokesperson is to be commended for predictably managing to get the following alarm into her very short quote in The Herald report:  ". . . increasing lists of the devastating impacts of fracking. . . emissions from fracking could be higher than coal. . . the Government should place an immediate ban on fracking."  Well I suppose that is what you is paid for.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Our climate and energy policies are based on pseudoscience - and why it matters

Like me, perhaps from time to time you come across an article which is a must read.  One such was a lecture given on Monday evening at the Royal Society of Arts in Edinburgh.

It was delivered by Matt Ridley and is entitled Scientific Heresy.  You must read it.  The few minutes will repay your investment of time handsomely.  I'm not saying everything he says is on the nail but the key argument is and the detail he offers is rich and revealing.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

SNP energy policy: £46bn?

Here is an analysis from Citigroup, a multinational financial services and investment organisation, of the risks associated with green investments in Scotland under an SNP Government.  Here is an extract:
  • Two main policies — the SNP has two flagship policies; first to hold a referendum on Scotland seceding from the UK; and second for Scotland to aggressively develop
    renewable energy to drive an industrial renaissance and deliver 130,000 jobs.
  •  Policy 1 - Referendum — the Scottish Government plans to hold a referendum in 2013 or 2014. If a yes vote is the outcome then this would mandate the Scottish Government to negotiate terms for Scotland to secede from the UK. Secession could
    take place as early as 2016/17, although the timetable is naturally unclear given the lack of precedents.
  • Policy 2 - Renewable energy — the Scottish Government is targeting a massive increase in renewable power generation from the current 10TWh to around 50TWh by
    2020. To achieve this, generation capacity in Scotland needs to double from 13GW to
    circa 26GW with the increase being achieved through building on-shore and off-shore
    wind. This would cost approx. £46bn.
 And the analyst's conclusion?
  • Conclusion - in our view utilities and other investors should exercise extreme caution in committing further capital to Scotland. This particularly applies to SSE and ScottishPower (Iberdrola) who may already be over exposed to these risks.
And my point?  The political drive for groundbreaking energy policies is already founded on an interpretation of climate science which is proving to be a pack of cards.  But even if the science underpinning energy policy turns out to be correct the economics is also looking like a pack of cards.  That can be called a lose, lose situation - which is the current Scottish Goverment's energy and climate policy appears to be.

Green energy policy

For the avoidance of doubt one of the two Green MSPs in the Scottish Parliament, Patrick Harvie,  has confirmed his unrealistic energy dogma at the Green Party conference in Aberdeen last week end. He urges the SNP energy minister to do the following:
"First, the new coal-fired power station at Hunterston must be blocked. Then he must rule out shale gas extraction, which his energy minister has refused to do.
"Then, because carbon capture and storage can never be applied to most uses of oil anyway, he must drop his support for dangerous deep water oil drilling in Scottish waters."
I wonder if the other Green MSP, Alison Johnstone, who is the rather more acceptable face of the Green movement in Holyrood, agrees with him. 

The problem is that Green party policies have had a considerable influence on public policy in the past - as witnessed by the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Scottish Carbon Capture Bombs

Longannet Power Station (Wikipedia)
The flagship £1bn Carbon Capture and Storage experiment at Longannet Power Station in Fife has been abandoned.  The UK government are maintaining that they will use the £1bn to fund other CCS projects under a new bidding process.

This Reuters report points out
"CCS is still a commercially unproven technology . . . "
Well obviously it is commercially unproven if you can't even begin to make the books balance on the project even with £1bn of subsidy.

The project is an example of rational thinking which has been subverted by an irrational expectation of catastrophe.  That expectation is based on poor science, bad politics and, above all, exaggerated and ill founded fear.   Cue Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond:
"At a time when North Sea revenues are coming in at record levels, it was surely not too much to expect that the Treasury would make the necessary funding commitment for Longannet to go forward," said Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond, who supported the Longannet CCS project.
The BBC report can be found here.   The side bar analysis comments in this BBC report suggest CCS public policy has been influenced by Sir David King, Prime Minister Tony Blair's scientific advisor for 7 years.  As I said, poor science, bad politics and exaggerated and ill founded fear.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

New book questions role of Edinburgh IPCC scientist

Book argues the 2500
number is not what it seems
In a book published last week analysing the processes and procedures of the IPCC, a leading University of Edinburgh climate scientist comes in for some trenchant criticism.  Gabriele Hegerl is Professor of Climate System Science at the School of GeoSciences based at King's Buildings in Edinburgh.

After relating how Hegerl and the IPCC refused to allow the data underlying her paper to be subjected to external scrutiny,Canadian journalist Donna Laframboise summarises the story:
'Hegerl isn't just anyone.  Rather, she served in seven distinct capacities with regard to the 2007 Climate Bible.  Significantly, she was one of the two most senior people in charge of the attribution chapter - the section that decides the degree to which human influence versus natural causes are at work.
'In other words, the IPCC entrusted the most central question of all to the judgement of a person it was fully aware had declined to share her data with one of its own expert reviewers. 
Laframboise highlights malpractices at the heart of the IPCC process, noting that publication cut off dates for the publication of scientific papers to be relied upon in the 2007 report were in many cases ignored -preventing proper scrutiny:
'The IPCC says that its reports are based on already-published scientific literature'  Yet in this case a group of IPCC authors appears to have favoured a particular conclusion regardless  of what the scientific literature actually said.  The fact that necessary information had not been published posed no impediment.  They simply wrote the IPCC chapter they desired and arranged for the necessary papers to be published after the fact.
'. . . in a particular section of the report, the IPCC was basing its arguments on two research papers that hadn't been published.  In itself, this should ring alarm bells. Since the wider scientific community had been given no opportunity to scrutinise them, it was surely premature to consider them solid pieces of evidence.'
Indeed, she notes, the underlying data for the two reports was refused to an IPCC appointed external reviewer.  Laframboise continues:
'It's worth noting that the author who refused outright to make her data available prior to her paper's final publication was Gabriele Hegerl.
There is much, much, more of interest in the book which can be found at Amazon here.  It is entitled 'The Delinquent Teenager Who Was Mistaken for the World's Top Climate Expert.' PDF version can be purchased here.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Flagship green project on brink

The past week saw reports that the 'ground breaking' carbon capture and storage (CCS) project at Longannet in Fife is on the brink of being abandoned.   From the BBC report:

"ScottishPower is bidding for £1bn in funding from the UK government to help pay for the project.   Both ScottishPower and the Department of Energy and Climate Change insist negotiations are continuing.   But sources have told BBC Scotland the future of the scheme is now in serious doubt.   They said there were question marks over the UK government's commitment to an "as-yet unproven technology".

The last few words in (my) bold sum it up.

The funding is public money and derives from a number of public policy assumptions about carbon and its relationship to global warming.   These assumptions are also unproven - at the very least in respect of the catastrophic effects which Al Gore portrayed a couple of weeks ago in his fear-fest with the Scottish Government.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Move to form sceptic group

Cartoons by Josh caricature
 the exaggerated claims
This is a re-post of a call to interested parties.

I draw your attention to the call to challenge the exaggerated claims in the public arena associated with global warming.  Those interested in forming an association to co-ordinate the work might like to attend a meeting later this week.

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

If the science is settled why do some respected scientists still disagree?

Last week I asked Al Gore that question (in a slightly different form).

His lengthy reply included the analogy that if you had chest pains you would take the health advice of 98 doctors and ignore the other two that said there was nothing to worry about.

Ignoring the logical fallacy that being in a majority equates to truth, the "100 doctors" argument is worth examination.  In Mr Gore's world the problem is that there is a world of other doctors out there who are not invited to the table.

There are many top class scientists who are deliberately ignored or are kept away from the table.  One of the top class scientists who seems rather appalled by the conduct of the debate is Professor Judith Curry    She is  Chair of the School of Earth Sciences at Georgia Tech in the USA and has broken ranks with the so called consensus.   In this post on her blog yesterday she draws attention to a book review by Fred Pearce, a Guardian journalist. Pearce noted that the book huffs and puffs against 'deniers', but simply does not address the views of respected climate scientists such as Judith Curry herself, Professor Roger Pielke Jnr of the University of Colorado or Professor John Christy of the University of Alabama.    One could add Professor Richard Lindzen of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a good number of others.

But there is a second (and related) reason why Al Gore is wrong with his analogy of a 98:2 ratio.  And that is because of gate keeping. I find the evidence compelling of a sustained attempt to keep people away from the table by gerrymandering the rules of engagement.   The Climategate emails contain significant evidence of gate keeping and there is much more in the excellent and well researched book, the Hockey Stick Illusion by Andrew Montford.

All of which is another reason why I will be attending this meeting to explore the setting up of a Scottish grouping to be a rallying point for realism in climate science and consequential public policy.  And perhaps we will in due course uncover a few scientists in Scotland who should be at the table.

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.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Roundup: credibility, carbon and wind contracts

Chris Huhne is Energy Secretary and battling on carbon reduction targets

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Scottish Greens flatline, Aussie Greens abandon target

Hopes, created by opinion polls, that the Greens might gain eight seats in the Scottish Parliament were dashed at the Scottish election last Thursday.  Again standing only for the list, they obtained 4.4% of the votes in that poll - slightly up from four years earlier when they polled 4%.   On both occasions the vote translated into two of the 129 seats.

Joining Patrick Harvey MSP is Alison Johnstone MSP.  Alison is undoubtedly one of the more moderate and pragmatic Scottish Greens (I have served alongside her as a councillor on Edinburgh Council for the last four years).  But whether she will have the ability to revive the faltering Green cause in Scotland, is, I suggest unlikely.

The broader environment is becoming more unfavourable, exemplified by this report from Australia's Brisbane Times, where Greens became kingmakers in the last election.  It notes that the Greens there have dropped their insistence on a reduction of 40% in emissions by 2020.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Elections: Green star rising or falling

Unintended consequencies?
Polls predict the Greens will do well in Thursday's Holyrood election.  I spoke with a buoyant Green friend a couple of days ago who is expecting 8 MSPs.

Greens electoral fortunes can be an indication of how the anthropogenic global warming message is faring.  The truth is very mixed.  In the March German state elections the Greens did very well gaining their first ever premier in Baden-Wurtemburg.  However, in Ireland they were wiped out in February, losing all six members of the Dail, having triggered the election in the first place.  From having two cabinet ministers they went to 1.8% share of the national vote.

What of the Green Party in Canada in yesterday's elections?  Elizabeth May, their leader was elected - their first ever MP.  A triumph?   Well not quite.  Provisional results indicate their vote share nationally was down from 6.8% to 3.91% - a reduction of 42% on the 2008 result - and her election is widely attributed to the implosion of Liberal votes in her riding.   However, perhaps the Conservative Government of Stephen Harper, now with a clear majority, will send opponents to the Greens over the next few years.

Back in Scotland, at a hustings we shared last week, Kenny McAskill, SNP Justice Secretary in the last SNP government,  managed to (falsely) call me a 'climate change denier' and trotted out the now rather old canard  that people are fleeing man made floods in Pacific islands and Bangladesh as evidence that we must reduce our CO2 emissions in Scotland.

However it cannot be long before Scotland wakes up to the reality of the folly of some of the 'green' policies which have been visited upon us.  As one example, it is rather extraordinary that Scottish wind farms companies were paid over £300,000 to STOP producing electricity during a couple of days in early April because of the crazy subsidy system operated under the guise of kick starting the renewables industry.  See the full  story from the BBC here.

Another example of supposed green actions having unintended consequences. 

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The 2011 election manifestos 4. Little choice

For those who are not aficionados of catastrophic anthropogenic global warming (CAGW) the manifestos present little choice.  The question is not "Who represents me?",  for none of the parties do, but "Which party is least enthusiastic about CAGW?"

The Green Party, (which I have not always included, though they are expected to pick up at least one seat in the Lothians), is, of course, closest to a full-on CAGW position.

The full SNP manifesto is full of little things designed to be seen as business incentives as well as 'green' measures.  They are proud of piloting through the 'groundbreaking' 2009 Scottish Climate Change Act with its emissions targets, at that time, beyond those of any other country. And their manifesto indicates they are keen to keep up that momentum with a pledge for 100% renewable regeneration of electricity by 2020 (up from the 40% target when they were elected in 2007).

Despite the criticism of the inequitable and iniquitous feed-in tariffs, the Lib Dems and Labour are particularly keen to extend this particular style of public subsidy.  There is a review under way which will begin to tame them at the UK level.  On another issue Labour, of course have now joined the Conservatives as being in favour of nuclear energy, at least in principle.

And the Conservatives (despite my best efforts) are still worshiping at the feet of the Great Green God of global warming - but at least more cautiously than the other parties.

Still, some of the measures proposed might lead to more efficiency - which is good.  The problem is locating those which might have good impacts when you strip out the CAGW belief system, based as it is on flawed science and sentiment.

The 2011 election manifestos 3. Carbon Capture

Carbon Capture:

Conservative (2)   ["Let's get a slice of what is already committed up to Scotland!"]
"Our colleagues at Westminster are spending £1bn on CCS.  That's more than any government anywhere in the world is giving to a single plant, and we want that to be invested here in Scotland, at Longannet."

Labour (2)   [ "Not sure about this CCS.  No more coal until you prove it can be done".]
"We will not consent to new, non-replacement fossil-fired power stations unless they can demonstrate effective carbon capture and storage technology from the outset."
Lib Dem:    [No room for additional use of coal (I think!)]
"Support the development of carbon capture and storage technology for existing power stations and as a potential avenue for export.  We do not see the need for a new coal fired power station at Hunterston." 

 SNP (3)   ["We'll keep the door open just a tiny bit for new coal]
"Any new coal-fired station would need to demonstrate Carbon Capture and Storage on at least 300MW of its capacity from day one and retro-fitting for those stations by 2025, with 100% CCS expected from new builds by 2020."

Greens (2)   ["Unproven technology, this CCS.  Beware of it becoming a Trojan horse for coal!"]
"Carbon Capture and Storage technology remains unproven and, while research continues into its viability, the possibility of success must not be an excuse for new unabated coal generation."

The 2011 election manifestos 2. Nuclear

 Nuclear generation of power

Conservative (4)
"We will end the policy of the current Scottish Governement of refusing to consider the replacement of existing nuclear power generating capacity."
Labour (1)
"Any application for consent for new nuclear capacity will be considered on its merits. . ."
Lib Dem (1)
"Continue to oppose the construction of new nuclear power plants in Scotland."
SNP (8)
"We will continue to oppose. . ." 
Green (10)   [Fulmination!]
"No nuclear."

The 2011 election manifestos 1. Emissions

With just over a week to 5th May when Scotland votes in the Holyrood elections here is a look at the manifestos of the main parties on a range of climate change issues.  I will compare on emissions and then, in later posts, look at views on nuclear generation followed by carbon capture.   The fourth post will be my own brief comment.  (The numbers in round brackets are the number of times a phrase or word appears in the main manifesto)  [Square bracketed comments are mine]

Emissions (targets and measures)

Conservative (0)  No target mentioned but measures to
  • Improve take up of Green council tax discount
  • Retain Home Energy Reports
  • Consolidate energy efficiency schemes into one system
  • Require LAs to produce heat maps
  • Require all publioc bodies to publish details of energy consumption and commit to a target
Labour (5)  Measures to
  • restates Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 of 42% reduction of carbon emissions by 2020 
  • create a new feed-in tariff to promote the expansion of household renewables and investigate further council tax discounts
  • create 'New Energy' quango
  • loan scheme for energy efficiency
  • consult on raising building standards
  • commit to Green New Deal to create new jobs and provide low carbon electricity for 10,000 homes
  • require LAs to produce heat maps
  • introduce schemes to capture and use surplus heat via new smart heat grids
  • encourage infrasturture for electic vehicles
Lib Dems (10) No target mentioned but measures to
  • provide a single streamlined model for the delivery of energy efficiency in Scotland
  • encourage the use of feed-in tariffs 
  • new buildings to be zero carbon by 2016.  Introduce minimum standards for existing buildings by 2015.
  • divert £250m money from Investing in Scotland's Future Fund to insulation.
  • improve Renewable Heat Incentive
  • improve grid connections
SNP (7)
  • restates Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 of 42% reduction of carbon emissions by 2020
  • develop infrastructure to support electic cars
  • renewable electricity target to be 100% by 2020
  • spend to create a single Universal Home Insulation Scheme and a Future Generations Fund
  • 2GW target for renewable energy consumption by 2020
  • Increase funding for the Climate Challenge Fund and create a District Heating Loan Fund
  • Make use of carbon sinks (sea, peatbogs and more forests)
Parts 2, 3 and 4 to follow.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Nuffield report dubs biofuel policy unethical

Palm oil is used in Scottish produced food
Edinburgh Professor Joyce Tait chaired the just published report from the Nuffield Council on Bioethics.

The  EU Renewable Energy Directive sets a target of 10% of transport fuel from biofuels by 2020.  Currently, UK biofuels are estimated to account for 3% of UK road fuels. 

The problem is that biofuels are often heavily subsidised and grown at the expense of food crops, driving up the cost of food - often for the world's poorest (as reported in this blog post last month).

The report, which has called the biofuels policies unethical, can be accessed here.

From the press release announcing the report:
The two main transport biofuels currently in use are bioethanol, made from maize and sugar cane, and biodiesel, made from palm and rape seed oil. The European Renewable Energy Directive states that 10% of transport fuel must come from renewable sources by 2020. In the UK, 5% of transport fuel must come from renewable sources by 2013. To meet these targets, biofuels are being imported from countries that do not all have responsible or enforceable policies on climate change or human rights. The targets also rely on voluntary agreements on environmental sustainability for biofuels produced outside the EU.
 Ethical behaviour is another casualty of the rush to honour the global warming god.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Nosebleeds and windfarms

Matt Ridley graphically suggests that in response to a problem which might be likened to a nosebleed, we have adopted policies akin to applying a tourniquet round the patient's neck.  He highlights a couple of recent papers.  The first is on sea level rise.
"To translate: sea level is rising more slowly than expected, and the rise is slowing down rather than speeding up. Sea level rise is the greatest potential threat to civilisation posed by climate change because so many of us live near the coast. Yet, at a foot a century and slowing, it is a slight nosebleed. So are most of the other symptoms of climate change. . . "
The second peer reviewed paper addresses the impact of the move to biofuels for energy as reported in a paper in the :
“The production of biofuels may have led to at least 192,000 additional deaths and 6.7 million additional lost disability-adjusted life years in 2010. These estimates are conservative [and] exceed the World Health Organisation’s estimates of the toll of death and disease for global warming. Thus, policies to stimulate biofuel production, in part to reduce the alleged impacts of global warming on public health, particularly in developing countries, may actually have increased death and disease globally.”
A report by the John Muir Trust last week indicated that assumptions for energy produced from wind turbines has been over estimated - at least if the last three years are anything to go by.  The report lists five challenges  to Government claims which are reproduced below.

As you read them think of the public money which has been pumped into this effort to kick start the industry. Perhaps a contributory factor is that 2010 may have been one of the least windy years since 1824.

1. 'Wind turbines will generate on average 30% of their rated capacity over a year'In fact, the average output from wind was 27.18% of metered capacity in 2009, 21.14% in 2010, and 24.08% between November 2008 and December 2010 inclusive.
2. 'The wind is always blowing somewhere'On 124 separate occasions from November 2008 to December 2010, the total generation from the windfarms metered by National Grid was less than 20MW (a fraction of the 450MW expected from a capacity in excess of 1600 MW). These periods of low wind lasted an average of 4.5 hours.
3. 'Periods of widespread low wind are infrequent.'Actually, low wind occurred every six days throughout the 26-month study period. The report finds that the average frequency and duration of a low wind event of 20MW or less between November 2008 and December 2010 was once every 6.38 days for a period of 4.93 hours.
4. 'The probability of very low wind output coinciding with peak electricity demand is slight.'At each of the four highest peak demand points of 2010, wind output was extremely low at 4.72%, 5.51%, 2.59% and 2.51% of capacity at peak demand.
5. 'Pumped storage hydro can fill the generation gap during prolonged low wind periods.'The entire pumped storage hydro capacity in the UK can provide up to 2788MW for only 5 hours then it drops to 1060MW, and finally runs out of water after 22 hours.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

"We owe it to ourselves not to squander our lives on fairy tales"

George Monbiot
The words above are from yesterday's Guardian where George Monbiot, in his column,  announces his conversion from his previous anti-nuclear stance.  Here are some of his startling statements:
"The anti-nuclear movement to which I once belonged has misled the world about the impacts of radiation on human health. The claims we have made are ungrounded in science, unsupportable when challenged, and wildly wrong. We have done other people, and ourselves, a terrible disservice. . .
". . . Failing to provide sources, refuting data with anecdote, cherry-picking studies, scorning the scientific consensus, invoking a cover-up to explain it: all this is horribly familiar. These are the habits of climate-change deniers, against which the green movement has struggled valiantly, calling science to its aid. It is distressing to discover that when the facts don't suit them, members of this movement resort to the follies they have denounced.

"We have a duty to base our judgments on the best available information. This is not only because we owe it to other people to represent the issues fairly, but also because we owe it to ourselves not to squander our lives on fairytales. A great wrong has been done by this movement. We must put it right."
  Now for some speculation.  Notwithstanding Monbiot's unpleasant comments about 'climate change deniers' - not all who are climate change sceptics can be accused of the actions he alleges - one wonders if his instability of views might sooner or later extend to climate change science.

After all how does he now look back on his previous views about nuclear - which he now finds so abhorrent?  Might he be humble enough to admit that other cherished and much fought for certainties might equally be wrong?  Like IPCC assertions about the science of climate change.  As George would say: "We owe it to ourselves not to squander our lives on fairy tales."

An article in the Wall Street Journal  this week by Douglas J Keenan is another strong argument against the 'science' which underpins the scare about global warming.   Access it here.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

"These people are important so they must be right"

From Josh

Last week I was in London for a meeting and took the opportunity to attend a Spectator debate conducted by a selection of the great and the good in the current debate on climate change.  Herewith my brief notes of the evening, including the remarkable claim by Simon Singh (science writer, BBC) that policy on poorly understood issues should be decided according to the reputed authority of a selection of 'experts'.
The motion was "The global warming concern is over - time for a return to sanity".
Speaking for the motion were Lord Nigel Lawson, Dr Benny Peiser, Graeme Stringer, MP. Against were Professor Sir David King, Professor Tim Palmer and Simon Singh (Science writer, BBC).
In a poll taken of those entering the figures were
For: 423
Against: 149
Undecided: 101
In a poll taken during the summing up speeches the results were
For: 428
Against: 214
Undecided: 31 (Actually no one voted undecided - it was just the remainder after the for and against votes were counted)
Lawson: Telling points, good arguments, but not as fluent or persuasive as he might have been. 7/10
Peiser: Made the mistake of arguing the motion (!) and overstated the abandonment of global warming concern. Perhaps it will come but its not there yet. Arguments were economic and political. They don't necessarily persuade. 5/10
Stringer: Superb instant riposte to the argument from (alleged) authority. Well marshalled arguments. Focus on the failings of the science. Not flowing. 8/10
King: Persuasive. Played the fear factor ruthlessly and spoke from (pseudo) authority. Sounded inaccurate on issues of the link between CO2 and warming and some of the graphs seemed to my eyes misleading. 2/10 for argument and 7/10 for persuasiveness. Summary 5/10
Palmer: Played the fear factor and spoke from (pseudo) authority. Arguments logically challenged(!) and a mark deducted for trying to infer that Prof Lindzen agreed with him. 3/10
Singh: Used Powerpoint to superb effect and was very persuasive 8/10. Shame about the arguments (summary: I don't have a clue about the science but these people are famous and important so they must be right - really, that was it!) 2/10. Total 5/10
Further discussion:

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Precautionary principle = reckless principle

In discussion with a Member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP) last week, I was urged to apply the precautionary principle in relation to action to combat climate change.  I responded:
 'Better do nothing that the wrong thing.'
I was asked to give an example of what I meant.  My reply was:
In the UK and Europe we have legislated to produce 10% of our road fuels from 'renewable' sources by 2020.  It is far from clear this will have the claimed effect in environmental terms.  This post last week from the BBC's Paul Hudson is instructive.

The situation with US corn production is much more dramatic.  35% of US corn goes on biofuels.  This figure is widely seen as one of the reasons for the very significant rise in world food prices in the last year.  Corn prices almost doubled between February 2010 and February 2011 driving up the cost of rice and other food staples.  60% of the world's corn comes from the US.

The rush to biofuels has had a devastating effect on the cost of food and this affects the world's poor most of all.   Some argue it causes starvation and is immoral.

Our MSPs, in pioneering more stringent targets,  may have put Scotland in the 'groundbreaking' category with the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009.  But their altruistic eagerness to lead, without due diligence on either the science or the consequences of their actions, is looking more like folly every day.

In this case the precautionary principle is the reckless principle.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Fukushima, nuclear energy and three follies

Add caption
The global warming narrative has spawned a dash for renewables.   But it has also contributed to the reconsideration of nuclear energy - which is generally seen as a very low carbon way of producing energy.

A paralysing fear is that of cataclysmic consequences should something go wrong.  The initial impression for many was that the disintegration of nuclear production at Fukushima in Japan following the earthquake and tsunami, would set back the recovering cause for nuclear.  Perhaps not.

Today's Guardian contains account of a Damascene conversion to nuclear by one independent minded green.  That person is none other than George Monbiot.  The full article is here but I will reproduce the killer paragraph which challenges the sentimental, doom distorted perspective adopted by many:

"A crappy old plant with inadequate safety features was hit by a monster earthquake and a vast tsunami. The electricity supply failed, knocking out the cooling system. The reactors began to explode and melt down. The disaster exposed a familiar legacy of poor design and corner-cutting. Yet, as far as we know, no one has yet received a lethal dose of radiation.
Some greens have wildly exaggerated the dangers of radioactive pollution."
Considered in a proper context, the anti-nuclear movement is all about exaggerated fears.  Note that the earthquake and the tsunami have probably led to a death toll of 20,000 and the disintegration of the nuclear plant has led to the death of - well, perhaps no one.

That should be another nail in the coffin of the credibility of Alex Salmond's anti-nuclear policies.

The last few weeks have provided a reminder of an earlier nail - the folly of being duped by dictator Gaddafi when the SNP were persuaded to release Megrahi on compassionate grounds when he supposedly had up to 'three months to live'.  That was in August 2009 - over 18 months ago.  Megrahi may have more of a challenge surviving the current bombing of Libya than prostrate cancer.

And these follies are added to the folly of enacting the 'groundbreaking' Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009, demonising carbon on the basis of similarly flawed evidence.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Frequency of severe weather in Edinburgh

Like many organisations, public and private, Edinburgh Council is putting its mind to how best it can prepare for future winter emergencies.  The Policy and Strategy Committee has set up a project to undertake a fundamental review of  preparedness, policies and practices.  The project is to report in Summer 2011 and is expected to cost between £50,000 and £100,000

It has identified twenty five issues for consideration and right at the top is
"What is the likelihood of more frequent severe weather (to be analysed using data from government sources)?"
 After the winter emergency of 2009/10 Edinburgh council commissioned a "lessons learned" report which considered a significant upgrading of equipment to increase road treatment upon threat of severe weather.  A January 2011 report noted these measures were rejected in the lessons learned report of May 2010.
"This view was clearly strongly influenced by the expert advice at the time which suggested
that such extreme conditions were unlikely to be repeated in the near future. As
stated earlier, these expectations are now being adjusted" (my emphasis).
The UK Government had also commissioned the Quarmby Report after 2009/10 winter. David Quarmby asked the question Edinburgh Council's winter emergency project are still asking.  Quarmby's reply from the Met Office advice he had received was:
"the probability of the next winter being severe is virtually unrelated to the fact of just having experienced two severe winters, and is still 1 in 20"
So we have now had three 'severe winters'. On that 1 in 20 basis the Met Office calculates the chance of three 'severe winters' in a row as being 1 in 8000!  Yet we have struck unlucky and the 1 in 8000 has befallen us.  In case you are wondering the chance of FOUR severe winters in a row, according to the Met Office,  is 1 in 160,000!

The Met Office had just spent a lot of money on a supercomputer to improve standard weather forecasting and climate change predictions. And it is asking for more as is shown in this 2011 submission to parliament:
"19. The extent and speed of this development (better forecasting) is of course dependent on the availability of resources – particularly in supercomputing power to enable modelling to incorporate new science and understanding."
The Met Office has form for predicting warmer temperatures than we experience as shown in this post last December.

Memo to Edinburgh Council's winter preparedness review:
"Don't spend too much time on that first question about the likelihood of more frequent severe weather.  At least not from the Government's Met Office!"

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Efficiency and green

". . . recycling each ton of waste employs 10 times as many people as the number required to incinerate or landfill it. . ." 
This was the section which stood out from an article in Friday's Daily Telegraph lamenting the Government's lack of enthusiasm for 'green growth'.   The author, Geoffrey Lean, was commending the regime of ten people doing what one previously did because it generates employment.  Of course, an assessment has to be made about the costs (including environmental) of landfill or incineration (though they are not all costs - both can produce energy which can be harnessed).

But the balance sheet also has to include the cost of employing those nine extra workers.  It is a false assumption that they would be unemployed.  The money released by not employing nine people would be invested in other demand which would, doubtless, require workers to meet it.

Probably more efficiently.  As someone recently put it, we seem to delight in third-world ambition.