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

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The science of flooding

Anthony has an interesting report about a new paper that finds that increased flooding is mostly due to increased exposure - in other words that we are building homes closer to rivers than before. Flooding is therefore yet another area in which an impact from the warming at the end of last century is yet to be demonstrated.

Is there any justification for the kind of ambulance chasing exhibited by the Committee on Climate Change, for example this little gem from Lord Deben?

I hope floods will cause pause among dismissers. Can't forget "some woman Slingo" It revealed contempt they have for science.

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On another planet - Josh 287


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Terraforming Mars would be such good value - see here (about this blog post).

Cartoons by Josh


Paleoclimate, the movie

America's PBS has commissioned a documentary about paleoclimate science which will air at various times over the next few months depending on where you live. Entitled Taking Earth's Temperature, it features lots of familiar names, including Jonathan Overpeck (will he discuss getting rid of the medieval warm period?), Caspar Ammann (will he talk about Monte Carlo analysis?), Darrell Kaufman (will he be the right way up?), Bette Otto-Bleisner and Thomas Stocker.

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Terraforming Mars

Andrew Lillico has put a rather brilliant blog post up at the Telegraph about terraforming Mars. His case is that the money we intend to spend on mitigating small amounts of climate change are vastly greater than the cost of terraforming Mars and would come to fruition on similar timescales.

There are two standard objections to such terraforming. First, it is said to be too expensive, altogether, to be plausible. Second, it is said to require too long a timescale to be plausible.  Both of these objections appear decisively answered by climate change policies and indeed energy policies in general. Between now and the 2035 alone, global investment in energy and energy efficiency (in many cases with a many-decades payback period) is estimated at about $40 trillion, of which $6 trillion is in renewables and $1 trillion in low-carbon nuclear. We are willing to spend many trillions on projects that could take over a century to come to fruition.

The post has only been up for a few minutes, but the reaction on Twitter has been hilariously splenetic and entirely devoid of any substance. Get yourself some popcorn.


Climate scientists' views on aerosols

A few days ago I linked to the new Verheggen (John Cook) et al paper, a survey of opinion among climate scientists. A tweet today reminded me of something I had noticed in skimming through the paper which is rather interesting. It concerns climate scientists' views on feedbacks, forcings and climate sensitivity.

At first glance the survey results on ECS are unremarkable, with the modal position being right in the middle of the official IPCC range, centred on 3°C. However, recall that if GCM output is to correctly hindcast the observations, there is a balance to be struck between climate sensitivity and aerosols: to the extent that sensitivity to carbon dioxide is high and therefore warming is large, you have to have a big cooling effect from aerosols in the twentieth century to prevent the GCM hindcast of warming outpacing what happened in the real world.

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Diary dates, fracking edition

Some more dates for your diary.

On Wednesday at 8pm, BBC Radio 4 is going to look at fracking, in the first of a new series that looks at intractable differences and sees where common ground can be found:

Most discussion formats set out to define opposing points of view and offer the listener a choice between them - maximum disagreement, minimum consensus. Agree to Differ is Radio 4's new discussion programme where the aim is to give listeners a completely new way to understand a controversial issue and to decide where they stand. Often when it comes to debates in these contested areas the protagonists spend more time attacking and caricaturing each other than they do addressing the heart of the issue. Agree to Differ will use techniques from mediation and conflict resolution to discover what really divides them - and just as important - if there's anything they can agree on. The mediator is Matthew Taylor the chief executive of the RSA and subjects for this first series will be fracking, vivisection and the future of Jerusalem.

Matthew Taylor has deeply "right-on" views, and indeed had the RSA doing research into individual carbon allowances - what I call "carbon communism" - at one time. Nevertheless I have always had the impression that he favours open debate, so I hold out considerable hopes for this programme.

Then on Friday we have a debate on fracking at the Edinburgh Book Festival (tickets here). This will feature a geologist, Zoe Shipton of the University of Strathclyde, against Richard Dixon of Friends of the Earth. Shipton seems to be thoroughly mainstream, both on global warming and on fracking (she also features in an edition of Life Scientific here). Friends of the Earth need little introduction of course, being one of the most disreputable of the green groups. I'm looking forward to the outrage from the sci-policy people about a scientist being given equal billing with a pressure group.


Heroic projections

Updated on Aug 18, 2014 by Registered CommenterBishop Hill

The Responding to Climate Change website has one of the perennial "climate change impacts on exotic south seas island" stories today. This time it's about the Solomon Islands.

A small community in the Solomon Islands is preparing to relocate entirely to a neighbouring island, as the pressures of climate change threaten to overwhelm the town and its inhabitants.

As usual, the link to climate change is a complete fabrication, as the author of the piece notes that the plan was prompted by the 2007 tsunami.

I particularly enjoyed this bit:

The Solomon Islands, along with other small island nations in the Pacific, are among the most vulnerable to climate change. Since 1993, the sea level around the islands has been rising by about 8mm every year – three times faster than the global average.

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Imperical - Josh 286


Spot the troll - Josh 285

There's been a bit of closet trolling recently, a pretence of being polite but blatantly not, and generally trying to derail posts. Fortunately we have a helpful cartoon for that.

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Cooling off at the Grantham Institute

A reader writes:

I had reason to visit Imperial College last week. I must say, Imperial is a lot sleeker than it was when I did some research there in the 1980s: some funky modern buildings among the concrete and a raised plaza with tables to sit in the sun.

As we sat there waiting for our contact to collect us, I noticed the Grantham Institute For Climate Change. It's based in the Sherfield Building, next door to the faculty that I was visiting. There was a big green sign over the entrance, but no indication of how much space they occupied, or on how many floors. It all looked very impressive, though I couldn't help wondering why they didn't name themselves the Institute AGAINST Climate Change.

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The cost of wind

An article in the Australian Financial Review takes issue with the Abbott government's plans to scale back subsidies for the renewables industry. The counterargument goes that renewables doesn't actually add very much to the cost of an electricity bill, but I was interested in the graphic that accompanied the article, which breaks down the typical Australian electricity bill.

As far as I can see, nearly every single component cost of the bill is increased by renewables.

  • Conventional power stations are forced to ramp their output up and down to compensate for mometary drops in wind, making them much less efficient. Worse, if wind power is subsidised sufficiently to get a lot of turbines connected to the grid, the economics of conventional power stations can be sufficiently adverse to prevent any new investment in new power stations that would take advantage of price reductions in other forms of energy and would also bring more efficient and therefore cheaper power to consumers. In the UK, this has led to the capacity market, in which all market participants will be subsidised.
  • Wind is a dispersed form of energy generations, requiring prodigious quantities of power lines to connect the turbines to the grid.

Only the costs of the retail end are not obviously inflated by renewables.

It would be interesting to know how much of the 52% represented by network costs is inflated by the need to connect wind turbines to the grid.


Belgium shows us the way

In the comments to the previous thread, reader Wellers points us to a story from Belgium that looks very much as if it will presage the situation in the UK over the next year or two.

Belgian energy company Electrabel said its Doel 4 nuclear reactor would stay offline at least until the end of this year after major damage to its turbine, with the cause confirmed as sabotage.

Unfortunately, several other Belgian reactors have been shut down for maintenance in recent months due to what may be a generic flaw in the design - this seems to be the same issue that affected  nuclear plant in the UK last week. The loss of Doel 4 therefore means that fully half of the country's nuclear capacity is offline. Doel 4 could be out for months, so guess what is going to happen.

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The disastrous revolution

Mike Kelly points me to Spain's Photovoltaic Revolution, a learned tome by Pedro Prieto and Charles Hall that I think you are going to want to look at.

The book covers the development of the Spanish solar PV industry from its boom years after 2006 to the bust in 2008 and is mostly devoted to an analysis of the economics of PV in that country. As the authors point out, the nature of the Spanish grid and the history of its PV industry mean that the data is particularly clean and simple to analyse. In essence, this is where we can truly understand the economic usefulness of PV technology.

The chapter analysing the history of the industry in Spain is laugh-a-minute stuff, a tale of incompetent politicians and civil servants bumbling from one disaster to another and fraudulent investors cheating their way to a slice of public funds. We learn how the Spanish government decreed a feed-in-tariff system that guaranteed six times market rates to PV businesses, before a belated realisation that this was going to lead to astonishing surges of investment. They then put in place a series of only partially successful measures in an attempt to stop the expansion, as the whole farrago quickly became unaffordable and ultimately disastrous. We hear about the diesel generators generating "solar power" at night and that at one point the authorities estimated that half of new solar PV connections to the grid were fraudulent.

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Another bind for Bob Bind

...all the projections of climate models are becoming observable facts.

So says Bob Bindschadler, a retired NASA ice sheet specialist. Stop sniggering at the back.

Readers may recall Dr Bindschadler from his 2011 appearance in Horizon, when he got himself into a bit of a pickle over the relative ratios of anthropogenic and natural carbon dioxide emissions.

This new quote, remarkable as it is, comes from a long interview in a publication called Truthout (a title that is vaguely reminiscent of 'Pravda' in my opinion). The whole article is worth a read, covering Dr Bindschadler's knicker-wetting over sea levels in the twenty-third century, his cruise to the Antarctic with James Hansen and Al Gore, and his excitement over changes to glaciers in Antarctica in recent years. In view of his problems during his Horizon appearance I was also amused by this photo caption:

Bindschadler believes one of the things scientists must learn to do better is communicate the information they produce.



Glacier loss of plot

This morning's must-read scientific paper comes from Science, where a team from the University of Insbruck led by Ben Marzeion has been looking at glacier recession. The results seem to have pleased the green fraternity, and a glance at the abstract shows why:

The ongoing global glacier retreat is affecting human societies by causing sea-level rise, changing seasonal water availability, and increasing geohazards. Melting glaciers are an icon of anthropogenic climate change. However, glacier response times are typically decades or longer, which implies that the present-day glacier retreat is a mixed response to past and current natural climate variability and current anthropogenic forcing. Here we show that only 25 ± 35% of the global glacier mass loss during the period from 1851 to 2010 is attributable to anthropogenic causes. Nevertheless, the anthropogenic signal is detectable with high confidence in glacier mass balance observations during 1991 to 2010, and the anthropogenic fraction of global glacier mass loss during that period has increased to 69 ± 24%.

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