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« Today does sensible | Main | Diary date: rock talk edition »
Monday
May052014

Geosciences' green strategy

Two tweets by Professor Iain Stewart (of Climate Wars fame) caught my attention over the weekend.

The first concerned the Geological Association conference I mentioned in the previous post:

What are the strategies for getting the UK public to engage with shale gas?

The second concerned an article in the Canadian press:

Is UK oil and gas industry failing to attract young people in same way as Canada seems to be?

Prof Stewart is a bright guy and I'm sure he has begun to realise that the climate change narrative that he so ably promoted in Climate Wars creates an interesting tension for geologists. On the one hand, oil and gas are pollutants that are going to fry the planet and lead to disaster. On the other they are the raison d'etre of many university earth sciences departments; shale gas could in theory create a whole new demand for their services too.

So it can hardly be a surprise to Prof Stewart if prospective students are put off earth sciences by their association with such awful substances as methane and crude oil, just as chemistry departments have withered away because of the barrage of negative PR from environmentalists.

But never mind, John Ludden, the head of the British Geological Survey has an idea:

some universities are starting use a green strategy for recruiting into earth and environment programmes.

You have to wonder if a "green strategy" for student recruitment is sustainable (to coin a term). Are students really going to fork out tuition fees for the prospect of a badly paid job in the eco-consultancy market? Does the economy need any more eco-consultants anyway? (And given the pressing question of whether the economy needs any eco-consultants at all, this may well be a "no"). It's certainly hard to imagine their generating any wealth, let alone how the economy of Aberdeen will fare once all they have replaced all those geologists and oilmen who currently pump money out of the ground.

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Reader Comments (84)

Iain Stewart has children to feed. I cannot otherwise explain his being such an extreme outlier to the geological fraternity who, in general, see through the mist of cAGW propaganda. Being genial and engaging does not divert (me at least) from his slanted agenda.

May 5, 2014 at 9:16 AM | Unregistered CommenterHenry Galt

I am thinking of changing my blog name to "Lost for words"
Then I wont need to comment on articles of information which
are bereft of common sense.

May 5, 2014 at 9:20 AM | Unregistered Commenterpesadia

Let's try to keep this about the travails of the earth sciences rather than about Iain Stewart.

May 5, 2014 at 9:22 AM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

...some universities are starting use a green strategy for recruiting into earth and environment programmes.

Unofficially it's been going on much longer. I've seen it in at least one. Those are the students who have never even seen calculus before arriving.
Whether they end up writing for the Guardian or the BBC, I don't know.

---------------------------------------------------
typo: last sentence "current" should be "currently"?

May 5, 2014 at 9:23 AM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

Is this a case of the biter being bitten. I enjoy most of his televisual work and he has a good voice for broadcasting, but climate wars was a rant. I'm afraid though that proper geology and geomorphology have been rather unsexy for a long time and examination boards have long used the eco angle to appeal to our rather diffident student population. Nobody seems to realise that the realpolitik of the job market has changed, and manufacturing and extraction will be making a comeback, get over it yougsters a job is a job - you need it to pay back your student loan and bills.

May 5, 2014 at 9:33 AM | Unregistered CommenterTrefjon

[O/T - I've asked that this thread not be about Iain Stewart]

May 5, 2014 at 9:33 AM | Unregistered CommenterCharmingQuark

The motive Iain Stewart himself gives for speaking positively about shale gas is that it is less carbon intensive than done alternatives, such as coal. So there's no necessary contradiction between his stance on climate change.

You know what the real cognitive dissonance is for geologists? Every single academic department in the UK teaches the best available science on climate change, which attests to the very likely negative consequences of carbon emissions. And probably a very large share of geologists accept the science. Ipsos mori polling showed 86% of people with advanced degrees believed in man-made climate change. If you start from that understanding, it's not surprising you want to make a living from an more sustainable energy system.

May 5, 2014 at 9:37 AM | Unregistered CommenterPaul Woland

"86% of people with advanced degrees believed in man-made climate change"

Link please.

May 5, 2014 at 9:40 AM | Unregistered CommenterAndrew Duffin

He's the same as all the BBC rent seeker. He gets to hammer the BBC travel card every so often and travel worldwide looking at geological things. Like Cox, Aubrey Murray OU and all the other BBC Greenpiss associates he loves the green stuff (money that is).

May 5, 2014 at 9:50 AM | Unregistered Commenterstephen richards

http://www.bsa-29.natcen.ac.uk/read-the-report/transport/belief-in-climate-change.aspx

May 5, 2014 at 9:51 AM | Unregistered CommenterPaul Woland

Paul Woland, from your link the participants were asked to select from one of the following three statements

I don't believe that climate change is taking place

I believe that climate change is taking place but not as a result of human actions

I believe that climate change is taking place and is, at least partly, a result of human actions


Now technically, I can agree to the last of the three. But I don't see any evidence that the effect of human actions is large or even measurable, yet. Much less catastrophic.

Yet, the article clearly interprets this acquiescence as a licence to loudly claim that

"3 in 4 believe climate change is happening and that humans are responsible"

Can you not see the difference?

May 5, 2014 at 10:34 AM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

"What are the strategies for getting the UK public to engage with shale gas?"
Why the heck do we need a strategy for getting the public to engage with shale gas?
Why do I, as a member of the UK public, need to 'engage with shale gas? I don't remember getting 'engaged' with North Sea Oil. I don't get 'engaged' with pig rearing because I like bacon. Someone sells it; I buy it.
I expect energy companies to be allowed, subject to sensible regulation, to develop energy sources; they sell energy; I buy some. Job done. Don't spend my taxes coming up with expensive ways to pass the decision making to pressure groups, special interests and tree-huggers.

May 5, 2014 at 10:35 AM | Unregistered CommenterAlex

"86% of people with advanced degrees believed in man-made climate change"
May 5, 2014 at 9:51 AM | Paul Woland

That was not the question asked and therefore your statement does not reflect its results.

The question asked was "I believe that climate change is taking place and is, AT LEAST PARTLY, a result of human actions." (My bold). I think a number of sceptics would believe there is some truth in that statement.
But when we look at the Poll results we find the statement/question altered to: "[I] believe climate change IS caused by humans."

I don't think we need concern ourselves about a Poll of this standard.

M. Stevens.

May 5, 2014 at 10:41 AM | Unregistered CommenterM. Stevens

Alex

Bravo. This is why talk of "social licences" is so dangerous.

May 5, 2014 at 10:42 AM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

Paul, the question in that survey is poor. The most extreme pro-consensus option they offer is "I believe that climate change is taking place and is, at least partly, a result of human actions" which a majority of sceptics/lukewarmers would agree to too. But if "partly" means something like "less than 5% man-made, and it's not dangerous", the distinction isn't meaningful. It doesn't mean somebody will believe in the "sustainable energy" ideology, or oppose fossil fuel extraction and use.

The question you need to ask is whether people believe in the likely potential for *dangerous* man-made climate change that we ought to take mitigating action on. But for some reason nobody does.

May 5, 2014 at 10:44 AM | Unregistered CommenterNullius in Verba

"Why the heck do we need a strategy for getting the public to engage with shale gas?"

Because the environmentalists have a strategy to get the public to engage in opposition to it, and if you do nothing you'll lose. Where public opinion goes, funders and businesses, then politicians and legislators soon follow. All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.

May 5, 2014 at 10:55 AM | Unregistered CommenterNullius in Verba

Paul Woland @ 9.51am: Oh dear - ask a silly question and.......... A poll that tries to shoehorn a complex range of perceptions into 3 pigeonholes must necessarily restrict the depth of the subsequent outcome. Witness the phrases "closest to" , (in light years) and "at least partly" (not zero - as in question 2). If this is compounded by having 2 pretty specific options and one loose enough to be (closest to) including a multitude of opinions, even contradictory ones, then the result is a foregone conclusion. Whether to pollsters are aware of their bias or not I don't know but judging by the fields of research they choose - I would guess it is systemic. Even Lewandowsky offers more multiple choice than this.

May 5, 2014 at 10:58 AM | Unregistered Commenterdiogenese2

I'm afraid though that proper geology and geomorphology have been rather unsexy for a long time... Trefjon

Why can't they be honest and tell students that to do anything to a professional standard, not matter how keen you are, you have to learn to cope with the boring stuff as well. Is this 'sexiness' the reason that no academic seems to be able to answer a question with "yes?" It always has to be "absolutely" instead. How can they help the students to grow up when they haven't done it themselves?

May 5, 2014 at 11:00 AM | Unregistered CommenterAllan M

On itself it is not wrong for a society to put limits : It has been very sound policy of Europe and Japan in the 20th century to heavily tax petrol for cars. The result was car companies building better cars than the gas guzzlers in the US.

However, this was a very open ended approach with little interference in the discovery activity of free people and companies.

Enters the besirk politcally correct crowds of the 21st century who IMPOSE a solution with windmills. This is total madness to strut the deluded thinking of "empowdered wimmin" and "raaaacsim" shouting idiots who have been allowed to sit in places without any justification but maybe a chossologee degree with ecologeee shpecialishm.

I would agree fossils pollute , as do nannystate poopers and their subsidised offspring.

But the low hanging fruit on fossil pollution is a more efficient economy, less nannystate services, and NOT windmills NOT imposing costly savings lamps NOT schmoozing with crony corporations

We should realise the 20th century obstruction of nuclear was all about german unionised coal laborers only.
Nuclear is a killed industry (only a few crony companies and paper pushers and cement pourers allowed) by the posh left parasites.

May 5, 2014 at 11:05 AM | Unregistered Commenterptw

I think this stewart was the one that "proved" on the BBC that CO2 was causing catastrophic warmism , by shining a lamp on a bottle of soda? lol, that was some piece of biased dr paul joseph goebbels work.

May 5, 2014 at 11:12 AM | Unregistered Commenterptw

Having seen the poll Paul Woland linked to, I have to admit that I am more inclined to go for the first point: I don't believe that climate change is taking place.

Radical, perhaps, but – hey – that’s my name!

What are the indications of a changing climate? Warm winters? Wet winters? Cool summers? Wet summers? When have we not had such “anomalies” in the past? Indeed, one could argue that such conflicting weather is, well… part of the British climate.

As for climate in other areas: is a few centuries really enough to be able to identify a climate, and what sort of variation constitutes a change? (I think that we can quite safely exclude forest fires, eruptions, earthquakes and tsunamis from that equation.)

So, as we do not yet have climatometers, we can only really state with some certainty about the average temperatures, and whether they are rising or falling outside acceptable parameters to signify change. As has been pointed out before, there is actually NO definition for “climate change” that definitively identifies it, so let us drop the idea of “climate change”, and accept that it really is a myth. I believe that it is because it cannot be defined that the term has been so enthusiastically adopted as the standard around which so many gather.

May 5, 2014 at 11:34 AM | Registered CommenterRadical Rodent

[Snip O/T]
Most geologists seem to be sceptics.

May 5, 2014 at 11:41 AM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Marshall

...Does the economy need any more eco-consultants anyway?...

We can NEVER have enough eco-consultants!

The early entrants have made a shed-load of money providing 'eco-evaluations' for every activity that the energy companies did, then every activity that local government do, and by now every activity under the sun. Note that in the EU you have to have an 'eco-report' on every house when it is bought....

I am reminded of the apocryphal story, often associated with the Scilly islanders, to the effect that they were so poor that "...they lived on each other, eking out a precarious livelihood by taking in each other's washing..."

May 5, 2014 at 11:44 AM | Unregistered CommenterDodgy Geezer

[Snip - O/T]

May 5, 2014 at 11:58 AM | Unregistered CommenterDon Keiller

I think I might join radical rodent — just in case she feels lonely!
I would be surprised if humanity didn't have some effect on its environment. Indeed it's patently evident that it does, not just in terms of weather/temperature/etc but in numerous other ways — some beneficial, some not.
In the absence of personal knowledge to the contrary I am quite happy to accept the mainstream position that increased CO2 has some effect on temperature but I take the view that the earth is robust enough to withstand the marginal effect of a trace gas.
But as for climate change, where is the evidence? Does a one degree rise in temperature change the climate or just the local weather? Would a one degree fall in temperature change the climate or just the local weather?
What the hell do we mean by "climate", anyway?

May 5, 2014 at 12:12 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

[Snip- O/T]

In what way?
I am genuinely puzzled.

May 5, 2014 at 12:32 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Keiller

The media, ably helped by the likes of Professor Stewart, have heaped scorn on business and the fossil fuel industries in general. There is little distinction made between gas and oil. Why would kids look to those industries when all their lives people have been demonising them and saying that fossil fuels are either running out or governments will stop their use?

Businesses are turning to overseas students who don’t come with all the anti business baggage and their training is often more based in practical applications. But that leaves us with emptying science and technology uni departments in this country. The academics have been sawing the branch off from under themselves. At the same time we have a growing, highly educated youth who are neither trained nor interested in the jobs that are available.

Who’s to blame Professor Stewart.

May 5, 2014 at 12:36 PM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

Nullius -

"Why the heck do we need a strategy for getting the public to engage with shale gas?
Because the environmentalists have a strategy to get the public to engage in opposition to it, and if you do nothing you'll lose..."

... and here is a good example of what happens. Another 'sensible pillar of society' goes bonkers, this time Dame Helen Ghosh of the National Trust. 'Country Life' magazine has already gone the same way.

http://www.spectator.co.uk/the-week/leading-article/9197511/green-and-unpleasant/

May 5, 2014 at 12:38 PM | Unregistered CommenterTim

[O/T]

May 5, 2014 at 12:44 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlan Bates

St. Andrews' geography department seems to be leading the pack here with its Sustainable Development degree. I'm told that it's a solid geography-and-geosciences degree at its core, so maybe, hopefully, the students will have a decent chance of getting work or a higher degree in the broader geography/geology field if the sustainability-guru thing doesn't work out. In any case that may not matter all that much from the department's point of view. (There are many enduringly popular courses with dodgy job prospects: first degrees in English, PhDs in physics...) Having both geography and Sustainable Development courses may be a pretty nice setup, like selling both ice-cream and raincoats: you're hedged no matter the weather.

May 5, 2014 at 12:45 PM | Unregistered Commenteranonym

…a growing, highly educated youth…
Not sure I can fully agree with your second point, there, TinyCO2…

Thank you, MJ (reminder to self: check on self next time in shower…). We do have an effect upon the environment – as does every other living thing on the planet. We just do it on an industrial scale, if you will pardon the pun. Whether that can actually change the climate is another matter; it would help if we could actually specify and identify some indications that a climate is changing. The trouble is, "climate" is as amorphous as a politician’s promise.

May 5, 2014 at 12:52 PM | Registered CommenterRadical Rodent

Radical Rodent, no, no, they are highly educated, just not in anything useful or particularly difficult. A relative of mine did media studies and knows all sorts of things from journalism, through advertising to tv presentating skills but hasn't the aptitude, the interest or a cat in Hell's chance of getting a job in any of the fields studied. The upshot is a job that uses none of the things learnt but it gets the CV past the bin on sight stage.

May 5, 2014 at 1:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

[Snip - venting]

May 5, 2014 at 1:38 PM | Unregistered Commenterptw

Sorry, rr. I used to assume you were male then something somewhere led me to the belief that I was mistaken.
Not by any chance one of those Victor Borge referred to as "convertible", are you? :-)
I think you're right about climate being "amorphous". As far as I'm concerned I live in the region known as "temperate" which has certain characteristics that I believe are pretty much the same as they were when I was born. Different characteristics apply to sub-tropical, tropical, sub-arctic and arctic but I don't believe they've changed in any particularly significant way in the last 70 years either.
So in what way is "The Climate" changing?
And — as ever — where is the real-world, observational evidence?

May 5, 2014 at 1:47 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

Paul Woland 9.51 a.m.

Thanks for the link Paul. An excellent example of the catastrophists moral bankruptcy.

76% vote for this:

"I believe that climate change is taking place and is, at least partly, a result of human actions"

And they turn it into this:

"3 in 4 believe that climate change is happening and that humans are responsible"

The old tricks of a semantic shift followed by a conclusion that is not justified by the evidence. They do it all the time. But don't worry Paul, it is only the mentally retarde4d that fall for it.

May 5, 2014 at 2:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterSteve

@ radical rat

...Having seen the poll Paul Woland linked to, I have to admit that I am more inclined to go for the first point: I don't believe that climate change is taking place...

Um. A long time ago it was colder. A very long time ago it was icy. At various other times it was hotter (if you go by 1970s temperature histories, which are the most recent ones I believe).

So something, which we might call 'climate', seems to change. Naturally. All the time. And in different directions at the same time depending on the timescale you take (Imagine a sine wave imposed on a slope going slightly up or down. Are you going up on a down wave, or going down on an up wave...?).

We're probably in some part of a change cycle now. Which direction is TOTALLY dependent on the timescale you take. Almost certainly it's:

a) completely natural
b) undetectable by us over timescales longer than about 100 years
c) unpredictable by us
d) going to happen whatever we do

May 5, 2014 at 2:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterDodgy Geezer

> Are students really going to fork out tuition
> fees for the prospect of a badly paid job in the
> eco-consultancy market?

The £9k fees don't seem to have reduced enrollment and I have not heard that it has caused a huge shift in subjects being studied. To the extent that many students continue to study subjects that have no obvious future use, that is perhaps a shame, but it does imply that the answer to your question is, 'yes'.

> once they have replaced all those geologists and
> oilmen who currently pump money out of the ground

Pumping money out of the ground has a nice ring to it. I guess the renewable equivalents are "sucking money out of the winds" or "turning sunshine into gold" ...

May 5, 2014 at 2:17 PM | Unregistered CommenterChandra

The last question should have been:

I believe that climate change is taking place and is, at least partly, a result of natural variation.

The we could go on and on about how "99% of people agree climate change driven by natural causes..."

James

May 5, 2014 at 2:29 PM | Unregistered CommenterJames

Pumping money out of the ground has a nice ring to it. I guess the renewable equivalents are "sucking money out of the winds" or "turning sunshine into gold" ...

In the case of 'renewables' the money comes from a heavy subsidy stolen from other people. Rather forgetful of this simple fact, aren't you.

May 5, 2014 at 2:50 PM | Unregistered CommenterJake Haye

For those that missed it:

"...hard to imagine their generating any wealth, let alone how the economy of Aberdeen will fare once all they have replaced all those geologists and oilmen...".

May 5, 2014 at 2:52 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlan Reed

"...some universities are starting use a green strategy for recruiting into earth and environment programmes."

As long as 40 years ago, "environmental sciences" programs were magnets for "green" students (and those who couldn't handle the math of harder sciences).

I think one of the problems with climate science today is that a lot of the people in it had already convinced themselves that man was altering the environment too much before they even started studying the field formally, and that they went into the field "to make a difference".

May 5, 2014 at 3:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterCurt

[Snip - venting]

May 5, 2014 at 3:26 PM | Unregistered Commenterptw

[Snip - venting]

May 5, 2014 at 3:39 PM | Registered CommenterDung

MJ, refer to me as “it”; I prefer to be genderless in these arguments, in an (arguably silly) attempt to prevent people leaping to conclusions because of my gender, orientation, colour or ethnic origins. I am only “convertible” if presented with evidence that indicates my first conclusion was wrong.

Dodgy Geezer (2:11 PM), you correct me by quoting temperatures; isn’t climate something more than an aggregate of temperatures? I am sure that a spell of warm summers or cold winters, or the reverse, is not an indication of climate change; that said, however, what is? Then again, assuming the first part of your comment to be correct, the rest makes sense, and your final points are spot-on.

BTW, why should you call me a rat? I am just an inquisitive mouse who likes to rabbit, when I am not haring around or beavering away at work, or volunteering as a guinea-pig, seeking to squirrel away my experience (and that is agouti far as is possible to go with that pun without going into outrageous coypu!).

May 5, 2014 at 3:50 PM | Registered CommenterRadical Rodent

Radical Rodent
In as much as the climate is still within the upper and lower historical limits of all parameters it cannot have changed. Therefore the Climate is not Changing either due to natural or man made causes, but is varying between known limits as it has done for the last few eons.

May 5, 2014 at 3:55 PM | Unregistered CommenterSandyS

Bish

You thought the whole of my post should be removed and that Alan Bates's post was fine? Mr Bates eulogises about Iain Stewart and says nothing about 'the travails of the earth sciences'.

May 5, 2014 at 4:00 PM | Registered CommenterDung

Jake Haye

> In the case of 'renewables' the money comes from
> a heavy subsidy stolen from other people. Rather
> forgetful of this simple fact, aren't you.

US utilities in sunny places are buying solar farm output for about 8 US cents per KWh. Solar really does turn sunshine into money.

May 5, 2014 at 4:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterChandra

James (2:17 PM): once again, you display your talent at leaping to the most incongruous conclusions. Were you involved in creating the “survey” in question? You seem unable to see the depth and complexity of the argument; the only thing that you might find that most on this site agree on is that there is something flawed in “climate science” and the way politicians have leapt on it with such gusto. The many other aspects are open to much debate and disagreement, which most on this site manage to argue about without reverting to personal insults (the meaning of ad hominem – don’t attack the argument, attack the person!)

May 5, 2014 at 4:11 PM | Registered CommenterRadical Rodent

Academic geoscientists and some people in industry have been lamenting for years the lack of young people entering earth science degrees or entering oil and gas exploration and production industries (the great crew change). Less recruitment and a lack of under 40-year-olds in the demography of staff is better viewed as a market issue. When there are fewer youngsters, experienced hands get to work longer, whereas in the 90's, early retirement and redundancies hit older workers much harder. At that time, I did not recommend to my peers that their children study earth science because employment was so cyclical.
With a move to higher oil prices which have been sustained for a period now, I'm more comfortable recommending earth science or engineering to youngsters because there will be jobs and they will keep them as companies recruit and try to retain younger people and fix the skewed staff demography.
Years ago, propaganda had already disuaded geophysics graduates (from a university that I monitored) from entering oil and gas. They preferred archaeology or etc because they viewed oil and gas as a sunset industry (past its time), which was also dirty and therefore un-cool.
However, as said, the market is helping fix that as younger people see good starting salaries and less cyclicity. They also see an industry that, despite the green propaganda, is important and relevant, and which by necessity will form a part of the energy mix way into the future.

May 5, 2014 at 4:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterKeith

"US utilities in sunny places are buying solar farm output for about 8 US cents per KWh. Solar really does turn sunshine into money."

A perfectly useless bit of trivia, since solar is subsidized every step of the way, from production to land acquisition to installation to the need for backup fossil fuel generation capacity. The final price paid by the utility companies bears no relation to the true cost of production. And in any case, it's irrelevant to the UK since there are no "sunny places" (by US standards) in the entire country..

May 5, 2014 at 4:38 PM | Unregistered CommenterBloke in Central Illinois

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