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A few sites I've stumbled across recently....

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Curiouser and curiouser

While looking for something else, I came across an article in the Mail about the recent report on Net Zero from the Committee on Climate Change. Apparently, in order to reach that target, we are going to need to quadruple the offshore wind fleet to 7500 turbines.

This took me aback somewhat because 7500 is a much smaller figure than I had assumed would be necessary. Reading on, these 7500 turbines were supposed to produce 75 GW of output, implying that they are all 10MW machines. (This also caused me to raise an eyebrow, because it’s quite a lot larger than anything in operation today, but that’s by the by.)

The problem is that 75GW of output at a load factor of 40% will produce only 261 TWh, or 22,466 kilotonnes of oil equivalent, which is about 15% of current energy demand.

This raises all sorts of uncomfortable questions. How much energy are we going to be allowed to use in this brave new world? And where is it going to come from if not from offshore wind?

A little further digging reveals the CCC’s illustrative scenarios for power generation in 2050. Item 2.5 gives us the CCC’s idea of total energy use: a figure of 645 TWh, around 40% (!) of current levels. (Update - this is electricity not energy - they have 270TWh of hydrogen too) Of this, 369 TWh is “variable renewables (largely offshore wind)”.

Which causes my eyebrows to raise again. How are you going to get 75 GW of offshore turbines to generate 369 TWh of electricity? That implies a load factor of 55% averaged over the lifetime of the turbine. This is entirely implausible. The best, biggest, newest turbines start out at around 40% and decline from there.

Incidentally, the cost of 75GW of offshore wind turbines, at an optimistic £3m/GW, is £0.2 trillion.

The CCC seems to be using a figure of 58% for offshore wind load factor (see p.27 here). They cite as their source a BEIS report, which can be found here. BEIS do not explain how they arrived at this figure.


An attack that is nothing of the sort

Yesterday, the New York Times got rather upset over changes to President Trump’s climate policy, which it represented a hardening of his “attack on climate science”.

Interestingly though, you have to read quite a lot of words before you actually get to the point – usually a sure sign that there is actually nothing much by way of news and quite a lot by way of hand waving. It turns out that Trump’s attempt to “undermine the very science on which climate change policy rests” is down to this:

[Director of the US Geological Survey,] James Reilly, a former astronaut and petroleum geologist, has ordered that scientific assessments…use only computer-generated climate models that project the impact of climate change through 2040, rather than through the end of the century, as had been done previously.

To describe this as an “attack” is obviously absurd. Reasonable people can question the ability of climate models to give us useful information about the climate in 20 years’ time, let alone 80. In a GWPF paperpublished last week, it was pointed out that climate models are overestimating warming in the tropical troposphere by a factor of three. With errors of that magnitude, how much trust can we really put in projections for the end of the century? You would have to be quite an innocent to take them at face value.

In another GWPF paper Professor Judith Curry points out that the climate may be fundamentally beyond our ability to predict it:

Arguably the most fundamental challenge with [climate models] lies in the coupling of two chaotic fluids: the ocean and the atmosphere. Weather has been characterised as being in state of deterministic chaos, owing to the sensitivity of weather forecast models to small perturbations in initial conditions of the atmosphere…A consequence of sensitivity to initial conditions is that beyond a certain time the system will no longer be predictable; for weather this predictability timescale is a matter of weeks.

To describe the President as “attacking” climate science when he doubts projections out to the end of the century is therefore clearly nonsense. Indeed, he should probably be congratulated for recognising the powerlessness of the field in the face of an overwhelmingly complex climate system.


Toby's eyes have been opened

The journalist Toby Young has been looking at yesterday’s rather lurid story about biodiversity, and the claim that a million species are going to be lost if we don’t become communists. Or something like that.

Young appears to have done some brief research and has shown that the underlying estimates, sponsored by the UN, are bunk. The authors of the report have taken some data from official “Red List” of threatened species and extrapolated it in precisely the way that the Red List authors say should not be done. They have then published a somewhat hysterical press release, but not the underlying report.

This is a familiar story for anyone who is interested in environmentalism, but Young has been rather taken aback, both at the shoddiness of the research and the way the press have dealt with it. After all, if some brief research has revealed to Young (with a degree in PPE) that some scientific research is nonsense, surely the massed ranks of science journalists would have been expected to find the problems too? But of course, as eco-nerds know, science journalists see themselves as part of the green movement and asking questions is therefore frowned upon. The science-page news articles are declarations of faith, not inquiries, or debates. So with the extinctions story, just as with everything else, science journalists have reprinted the press release or, more daringly, rewritten it in their own words. Nobody, but nobody, asks any questions.

To some extent, the problem can be blamed on a lack of scientific literacy among the press corps. Most people on the science-environment beat are humanities graduates, and would struggle to question the press releases that cross their desks, although Young of course has shown that an inquiring mind can take you a long way. But inquiring minds are not common among science journalists, most of whom are comfortable in their faith.

Sensible people should discount all science headlines, particularly the lurid ones about “new research” (today’s one is about future increases in floods in the UK). Your best bet is to find some contrarians on social media and see what they have to say. The wild headlines are usually shot down on the same day by some awkward customer, but not before the mainstream media have done their damage.

With that in mind, let us return briefly to today’s impending crisis and note that climate models are really, really bad at simulating current rainfall patterns (the IPCC says their ability in this area is “modest”), and thus are no more useful for predicting future floods than tea-leaf gazing. No journalist will mention this awkward fact, but at least Toby Young will not be surprised this time.


The practical issues of installing EV charging points

A reader posted this in the comments to the previous post. It's by an electrician in Melbourne, and describes some work he had done on the feasibility of installing EV charging points in a local apartment building. I was amused.

I recently did some work for the body corporate at Dock 5 Apartment Building in Docklands to see if we could install a number of electric charging points for owners to charge their electric vehicles. We discovered:

  • Our building had no non-allocated parking spaces (i.e. public ones). This is typical of most apartment buildings so we cannot provide shared outlets. The power supply in the building was designed for the loads in the building with no spare capacity.
  • Only 5 or 6 chargers could be installed in total in a building with 188 apartments!
  • How do you allocate them as they would add value to any apartment owning one?
  • The car park sub-boards cannot carry the extra loads of even one charger and would have to be upgraded on any floors with a charger, as would the supply mains to each sub-board. The main switch board would then have to be upgraded to add the heavier circuit breakers for the sub-mains upgrade. 
  • When Docklands was designed, a limit was put on the number of apartments in each precinct and the mains and transformers in the streets were designed accordingly. This means there is no capacity in the Docklands street grid for any significant quantity of car chargers in any building in the area.

It gets better.

The whole CBD (Hoddle Grid, Docklands) and Southbank is fed by two sub-stations. One in Port Melbourne and one in West Melbourne. This was done to have two alternate feeds in case one failed or was down for maintenance. Because of the growth in the city/Docklands and Southbank, neither one is now capable of supplying the full requirement of Melbourne zone at peak usage in mid- summer if the other is out of action. The Port Melbourne 66,000 volt feeder runs on 50 or 60 year old wooden power poles above ground along Dorcas Street South Melbourne. One pole is located 40 cm from the corner Kerb at the incredibly busy Ferrars St/ Dorcas St intersection and is very vulnerable to being wiped out by a wayward vehicle.

The infrastructure expenditure required would dwarf the NBN cost excluding the new power stations required. These advocates of all electric vehicles by the year 2040 are completely bonkers. It takes 5-8 years to design and build a large coal fired power station like LoyYang and even longer for a Nuclear one (that’s after you get the political will, permits and legislative changes needed ). Wind and solar just can’t produce enough. It’s just a green silly dream in the foreseeable future other than in small wealthy countries. It will no doubt ultimately come, but not in the next 20 years. So don’t waste your upcoming vote in the federal election on the Greens or Labor because electric cars won’t be happening for a long time yet!

In related news, Lord Deben and his colleagues at the CCC foresee few problems in converting the whole country to electric vehicles in the near future.


What will net zero cost?

Yesterday's CCC report was a masterpiece of bureaucratic obfuscation, with acres of verbiage and a generous sprinkling of buzzwords that was never entirely successful in obscuring a marked shallowness of thought. One of the things that struck me about it was the almost complete lack of any cost information. We were told that all the CCC's whizzbang scheme would cost just 1-2% of GDP in 2050 (pull the other one!) but there was nothing to substantiate this figure (or indeed most other figures in the report).

It all struck me as extremely unlikely. Just a couple of days before I'd come across a study that put the cost of deep retrofitting insulation measures to the UK housing stock at £2 trillion, which over 30 years is £67 billion per year. That's 2% of current GDP on its own. The report puts the cost of converting to low-carbon heat (heat pumps etc) at £15 billion per year.

With this in mind, I wondered whether BH readers could come up with some more capital costs of the Great Leap Forward that our lords and masters are intending to unleash. 

As a start, I reckon that current UK energy demand is around 1600 TWh per year. How many offshore windfarms will we need to deliver that? And what will they cost to build (every 15-20 years)?




Making the poor cold, and miserable

I have an article up at Think Scotland, on the subject of induced energy poverty

WE HAVE JUST learned something of the human cost of the government’s increasingly absurd energy policies. It’s not a pretty story. Buried in depths of a rather obscure statistical report, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has given details of how much energy households use for heating and lighting compared to the amount that they actually need.

Astonishingly, 69 per cent of households consume less energy than they need, with an average underspend of 10 per cent. This may overstate the case somewhat, but it’s clear that there is a real problem for those in fuel poverty, who underspend by 20 per cent. It’s particularly acute for households with children.

Click to read more ...


Another Attenborough tragedy porn exposé

This was posted up at Reaction magazine earlier today.

"Tragedy porn” is now a standard green propaganda technique. You’ve probably been on the receiving end of it, and will recognise it once I describe it. First of all you need a victim. Animals – preferably fluffy ones, and preferably with large eyes – are ideal, but people will do at a pinch. Then you have to film them in the process of dying or otherwise suffering. A presenter or scientist needs to be on hand to describe the events, preferably choking away their tears. Then you blame global warming.

It is often an effective technique, but care is required. Last week, tragedy porn proved to be the undoing of Sir David Attenborough, when on Netflix a carefully contrived story that global warming was driving walruses over cliff tops unravelled over the course of a week, as a series of flaws were discovered in the narrative and in the tales spun by the production team as they attempted to cover up what they had done. Once it emerged that the production team may well have played a role in causing the tragedy, it all started to look a bit problematic.

Click to read more ...


Attenborough does climate

This is an open thread for discussion of tonight's David Attenborough does climate thingy.


More walrus articles

Over the last week, the walrus story has developed a lot.

I wrote an update at the GWPF blog, and then looked at some potentially explosive details of the geography of Cape Kozhenikova.

Then I summarised the whole story for Reaction magazine.

I'd say the Netflix team coming out of this looking very bad indeed.


On walruses

My article on walruses appeared behind the paywall at the Spectator Coffee House blog earlier this week. 

Over the weekend, social media and the newspapers were full of stories of Pacific walruses plunging over sea cliffs to their deaths. Heart-wrenching film of the corpses of these magnificent beasts piled up on the shore have been driving many to tears.

This all came about as the result of the latest episode of Our Planet, the new wildlife extravaganza from Netflix. As is normal for such programmes, the story that accompanies the animal eye-candy is told by Sir David Attenborough and, as is positively compulsory, it is spiced with multiple references to the horrors of global warming. In fact, we are told, it is us who should shoulder the blame for the slaughter of the walruses, because shrinking sea ice caused by climate change forces them to haulout – leaving the water to take refuge on the shore instead.

The programme ends with Attenborough directing viewers to a website run by WWF, the co-producers of the series. It is therefore, in essence, an eight-part, multi-million pound fundraiser.

Which is a pity, because there is now considerable evidence emerging that the story is not quite what it seems.

For a start, as the zoologist Susan Crockford has documented for the GWPF, walrus haul out behaviour may not be related to global warming. In her 2014 paper On the Beach, she cites examples as far back as the 1930s, long before global warming. She also explains that there doesn’t appear to be a strong correlation between sea-ice levels and haulout behaviour.

Nor is the phenomenon of walruses falling to their deaths from sea cliffs new. American TV recorded the same phenomenon in 1994 and the New York Times reported 60 deaths in a single incident in 1996. Attempts were made to install a fence at one site, while another employs rangers whose sole job is to keep the walruses away from the cliffs. At the time, scientists explained that the most likely explanation  was overcrowding at the water’s edge.

Crockford thinks that the footage on the Netflix show comes from a well-documented incident that took place in the village of Ryrkaypiy, in eastern Siberia, in October 2017. September and October are the peak period for walrus haulouts, and there are numerous examples, which date back to the 1960s, of the cliff phenomenon taking place on Wrangel Island, a few hundred kilometres to the north.

However in 2017, as the Siberian Times reported, the colony attracted polar bears that frequent – and indeed at the time terrorise – the area. The bears drove several hundred walruses over the cliffs to their deaths, before feasting on the corpses. They continued to frequent the area right through into the winter.

I’ve been able to show that Crockford’s supposition about the geographical origin of the footage is correct: analysis of the rock shapes in the film and in a photo taken by the producer/director both match archive photos of Ryrkaypiy. The photo was taken on 19 September 2017, during the events described by the Siberian Times.

But whereas the Siberian Times and Gizmodo website, which also reported on the 2017 incident, were both quite clear that the walruses were driven over the cliffs by polar bears, Netflix makes no mention of their presence. Similarly, there is no mention of the fact that walrus haulouts are entirely normal. Instead, Attenborough tells his viewers that climate change is forcing the walruses on shore, where their poor eyesight leads them to plunge over the cliffs.

This is all very troubling as it raises the possibility that Netflix and the WWF are, innocently or otherwise, party to a deception of the public. Exactly who was aware of the presence of polar bears remains unclear, but it seems doubtful that no one at the WWF and the production team was unaware. And given that one of the prime objectives of the show seems to have been to raise funds for WWF, that seems… problematic.


Cartoons by Josh Calendar 2018

The best way to remember how entertaining (or horrifying) climate science, energy policy etc, was in 2017 is to buy a Cartoons by Josh Calendar.

The calendar is a new size this year and while the cartoons are the same size the space for the diary dates is reduced. This cuts the printing and posting costs by nearly half to £10 (+P&P) per calendar - which means less fossil fuel money and every calendar saving the planet just a little bit more!


The calendar is now printed and pre-orders posted. You can order one here

Cartoons by Josh



WHO Science? Not the IARC - Josh 391

From Reuters: 

LONDON (Reuters) – The World Health Organization’s cancer agency dismissed and edited findings from a draft of its review of the weedkiller glyphosate that were at odds with its final conclusion that the chemical probably causes cancer.

Documents seen by Reuters show how a draft of a key section of the International Agency for Research on Cancer’s (IARC) assessment of glyphosate – a report that has prompted international disputes and multi-million-dollar lawsuits – underwent significant changes and deletions before the report was finalised and made public.

IARC, based in Lyon, France, wields huge influence as a semi-autonomous unit of the WHO, the United Nations health agency. It issued a report on its assessment of glyphosate – a key ingredient in Monsanto Corp’s top-selling weedkiller RoundUp – in March 2015. It ranked glyphosate a Group 2a carcinogen, a substance that probably causes cancer in people.

That conclusion was based on its experts’ view that there was “sufficient evidence” glyphosate causes cancer in animals and “limited evidence” it can do so in humans. The Group 2a classification has prompted mass litigation in the United States against Monsanto and could lead to a ban on glyphosate sales across the European Union from the start of next year.

The edits identified by Reuters occurred in the chapter of IARC’s review focusing on animal studies. This chapter was important in IARC’s assessment of glyphosate, since it was in animal studies that IARC decided there was “sufficient” evidence of carcinogenicity.

One effect of the changes to the draft, reviewed by Reuters in a comparison with the published report, was the removal of multiple scientists’ conclusions that their studies had found no link between glyphosate and cancer in laboratory animals.

In one instance, a fresh statistical analysis was inserted – effectively reversing the original finding of a study being reviewed by IARC.

In another, a sentence in the draft referenced a pathology report ordered by experts at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. It noted the report “firmly” and “unanimously” agreed that the “compound” – glyphosate – had not caused abnormal growths in the mice being studied. In the final published IARC monograph, this sentence had been deleted.

Reuters found 10 significant changes that were made between the draft chapter on animal studies and the published version of IARC’s glyphosate assessment. In each case, a negative conclusion about glyphosate leading to tumors was either deleted or replaced with a neutral or positive one. Reuters was unable to determine who made the changes.

Link here

Cartoons by Josh


'Daring to Doubt' Tony Abbot GWPF Annual Lecture 2017 - Cartoon notes by Josh

Click image for larger version

Tony Abbott, former Prime Minister of Australia, gave an excellent GWPF annual lecture last night. 

The text of the lecture is on the GWPF website here and the video is below.

Cartoons by Josh


Media blackout

A couple of weeks back, the BBC's Nick Robinson was bemoaning the fact that the general public is increasingly shunning the corporation, favouring instead the multitude of alternative news sites that have sprung up in recent years.

I couldn't help but think of this today, when I learned of a peaceful demonstration in London yesterday, which had attracted a crowd in the tens of thousands - some have suggested as many as 70,000. It was an anti-extremism march organised by a group calling itself the Football Lads Alliance. Shamefullly, there has not been a word about the march from the corporation (or indeed from any other part of the mainstream media). In fact, the Football Lads Alliance is not mentioned on the BBC website at all.

Yet the BBC is quite happy to report a protest by 150 people demanding changes to disability benefits and a protest by "hundreds" about the Grenfell Tower fire. 

It's fair to say that this will not encourage greater use of the BBC or the mainstream media.



Biofuels in the 2050 calculator

I've been playing about with DECC's 2050 calculator and I wondered if BH readers (if any of you are still popping by) to take a look at something.

I'm interested in how it handles bioenergy. Here's how the relevant help screen describes the process.

In 2007, the UK used 4000 km2 of land to grow energy crops, which is less than 2% of the country. For comparison, 174 000 km2 of land was used for arable crops, livestock, and fallow land. The 2050 Calculator contains two options relating to agricultural biomass and land use: land use management (described here) and livestock management (described on another page).

In his book, Mackay uses a value of 244,000 km2 for the area of the UK, so "less than 2%" is correct.

Click to read more ...