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Unbalanced - Josh 344


On Wednesday the BBC's Newsnight interviewed Emma Thompson on the newsworthy topic of left wing activists protesting about drilling for oil in the Arctic. And refugees. And voting for Jeremy Corbyn.

Emma clearly did not have a clue what she was talking about - even Richard Betts, from the Met Office, said she was wrong (good on you, Richard). Ed Hawkins, Climate Scientist, also tweeted "what Emma Thompson said was scientifically inaccurate & implausible." 

Sadly Emma had not got the memo on coal not being the 'dirtiest' fuel. It isnt, biofuels and wood burning stoves are worse - the Guardian is not very keen on them either.

Newsnight's Emily Maitlis suggested Emma get herself arrested. Hmm.

Cartoons by Josh

[Update: added Ed's Tweet]


On Syria and climate change

Never a man to let a good crisis go to waste, Barry Gardiner MP is trying to use the deaths of Syrian migrants to advance his climate change agenda. If we want to understand the crisis, he says, we must look beyond Assad and ISIL to the weather and the "ruined farmers" - hundreds of thousands of them apparently - who left Syria's wheat belt for the cities. We learn, moreover, that 2010 was during the longest drought in Syria's records.

Now take a look at a graph of Syrian wheat production (data from here).

Tells a rather different story doesn't it? You can see that the drought wasn't actually in 2010 at all, but rather in 2007/8 and, although rainfall remained sub-par thereafter, by 2009 wheat production had recovered to near normal levels and remained there for several years.

Perhaps there is more to this than meets Mr Gardiner's eye.


Gauges versus satellites

There is a fascinating post at No Tricks Zone on sea level rise, focusing particularly in the difference between the (heavily adjusted, short-term) satellite record and the (relatively pristine, long-term) tide-gauge data. The former is over 3mm per year, while the latter is much lower.

Author Dave Burton has been trying to reconcile the two numbers and has drawn a blank:

It is not possible to torture the tide-gauge data into yielding a globally averaged rate of relative sea-level rise anywhere near 3.3 mm/yr.

The upshot is that the satellite record might be as much as double the correct figure, or at least the relevant figure for coastal planning purposes. I wonder what figure is used for assessing the economic impacts of climate change?


In BBC world, only anti-capitalist opinions are valued

The BBC's new logoThe BBC's love of anticapitalist campaigners knows few bounds and there's a smashing example this morning in the shape of Matt McGrath's article about the UN climate talks. McGrath is riffing on the developing world's demands for "compensation for extreme weather events that they link to large scale carbon emissions".

Demonstrating an almost heroic ability to ignore the elephant in the room, McGrath manages to overlook the almost complete absence of any increase in extreme weather than might affect the developing world. East Pacific hurricanes for example. Or drought. Or flood.

But if McGrath cannot bring himself to note such inconvenient facts, he can always bring himself to find out what anticapitalist campaigners have to say. In his article, there are quotes from two of them:

  • Julie-Ann Richards is a climate campaigner for Oxfam, whose campaigners are generally anti-capitalists, according to this insider.
  • Harjeet Singh is from Action Aid, described here as "the most anti-capitalist of all the major development charities".

No other opinions seem to have been sought.


A Prime Review - Josh 343

Ruth Dixon's excellent book review of "Why are we waiting?" by Nicholas Stern is well worth reading. You can download a pdf version here.

As the cartoon notes, the question 'Why are we waiting?' has already been answered by David Cameron. But today we read that Naomi Klein disagrees with Stern - Naomi thinks the only solution is a 'public uprising' to end capitalism.

Something they might like to sort out before Paris, eh.

Cartoons by Josh


The wisdom of the man in Whitehall

Yesterday came the news that another major power station is to close. Eggborough is a big 'un, its 2GW coal-fired capacity meaning that it generates as much as 4% of the UK's supply. According to the operators, electricity prices have now fallen so far that they cannot operate profitably.

Many might wonder whether this is a big deal or not. After all, businesses close all the time - markets have always weeded out the weak and old and uneconomic. But as the operators also point out, we are on the verge of blackouts this winter because of a lack of supply. Ofgem thinks they can avoid this, but only because the government is paying to have diesel generators on standby and because it is going to pay major industrial users to switch off when margins become unbearably tight.

So Whitehall has managed to get us into the situation where we are going to replace (relatively) efficient coal-fired stations and a productive population with inefficient diesel generators and (potentially) people standing around waiting for the power to come back on.

Such wisdom is not seen every day.

Thank goodness.



Polar bears walk on water?

Polar bears are remarkable creatures, but I bet you don't know just how remarkable they are. Scientists tracking some of these majestic beasts in the Southern Beaufort sea using radio-collars have determined that some of them spent the whole of the month of August in an area in which there was almost no sea ice!

Click to read more ...


Fruit loop - Josh 342

David Appell has been hard at work here on BishopHill. Although highly diverting I am not sure we learned a great deal except that Mr. Appell is keen on circular arguments.

But some of the comments were inspiring, so thank you!

Cartoons by Josh


Changed times

By almost any measure, the UK - and England in particular - is seriously overpopulated. According to the Optimum Population Trust, our numbers are growing by more than 320,000 a year. Addressing this doesn't mean forced sterilisations or a Chinese-style, one-child policy, but it does mean giving incentives for people to have smaller families and addressing rising levels of immigration.

Mark Lynas, vintage 2007

Perhaps today the circumstances have changed...


Quotes of the day

Today's words of wisdom come from Ruth Dixon's review of Lord Stern's latest opus.

Stern is...selective in his choice of data. He frequently ignores mainstream scientific evidence (such as that found in the authoritative reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)) in favour of outlying estimates.

The type of small-scale solar PV [Stern] describes is a good way to supply electricity for lights, phone and internet access to remote communities, but it is fanciful to suppose that such systems can provide enough power for cooking.

Even in his own words, Stern makes clear that he does not view objectivity as an overriding concern.

Read the whole thing.


Diary dates, hold on a minute edition

The Geological Society is holding an event in the autumn which looks as though it is going to ask some slightly awkward questions about this whole global warming malarkey:

Environmental conditions at the Earth's surface have been continuously suitable for life for more than three billion years.  Temperatures, for example, have only varied by few tens of centigrade despite large changes in solar luminosity and atmospheric composition.  Since the Archean, the planet has not once been rendered sterile.  However, the reasons for this long-term life-friendliness remain contentious.  How has Earth’s climate avoided the runaway warming shown on Venus or the runaway cooling of Mars?  Has Earth’s relative stability resulted from geochemical feedback (e.g. through silicate weathering), the stabilizing influence of a complex biosphere (i.e. the Gaia hypothesis), good luck (e.g. purely fortuitous cancellation of solar warming by decreased greenhouse gas concentrations) or is long-term life-friendliness simply the consequence of life’s extraordinary adaptability (allowing it to survive even Snowball Earth events)?  

This conference will bring together proponents of these various views in an attempt to forge a consensus on how to move the debate forward.  This debate will be informed by data relating to the latest understanding of silicate weathering, Neoproterozoic ice ages, and the environmental history of Earth.

This meeting would be suitable for anyone interested in the long-term habitability of the Earth, its long-term climate history, geo-biochemical cycles, the highly controversial Gaia hypothesis or the likelihood of habitable worlds beyond the solar system.

There's a programme here. More details here.



A few people have reported problems with the Captcha on the comments. Could you describe the problems in the comments please, plus all the usual stuff about OS, browser etc.



More Appell comedy gold

The climate change world has, I think it's fair to say, been a little quiet recently, but thank goodness we have David Appell around to provide entertainment.

In his latest offering he announces a "long and useful list of studies that find a hockey stick from reconstructions of paleoclimate data".

Sounds interesting. Here's one of them.

I have to say, an ice hockey team armed with sticks shaped like that would be a sight to behold.



UWA's ethical collapse

Jose Duarte has posted an update on his efforts to have Stefan Lewandowsky deal with the errors and ethical breaches in his Conspiracist Ideation paper.

The journal, PLOS ONE, has forced the authors to publish a correction dealing with most (but not all) of the errors. Lew, rather gracelessly refuses to name Duarte as the person who discovered the problems, prompting Richard Tol to post a comment on the PLOS website:

The anonymous reader referred to in the correction is not Lord Voldemort, but rather Dr Joe Duarte.

However, but it seems fairly clear that university offficials - from the vice-chancellor down - are thumbing their noses at the very idea that ethical considerations might apply to their staff and they appear to be trying to give Lewandowsky retrospective permission for his use of minors in the survey. They are in essence covering up for Lew.

As Joe puts it, it is an "ethical collapse".



Is landfill the greener way to recycle?

Another recycling plant has gone up in smoke. This time the facility involved is in Wales, and there is apparently a fear that it could burn for days.

In related news a plastics recycling facility in Thailand was wiped out by fire a few hours ago.

On Saturday, it was a facility in Virginia that proved incendiary.

On Friday, there were two facilities in flames, one in Forth Worth and one in South Carolina.

Click to read more ...