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Ross Clark on winter resilience

Ross Clark has an interesting article in the Express about planning for winter in the UK. While I'm unconvinced by his idea of using wholesale gas prices as a proxy for global temperature, some of his other points are much better. Take this for example:

So why is government policy so obsessed with the prospect of hotter summers and so complacent about that of cold winters? A fortune has been spent establishing a Committee on Climate Change which last September came up with its emergency plan for adapting to higher temperatures – by fixing shutters to British homes and planting trees in the streets so we can walk in the shade.

Yet planning for cold winters has been woefully deficient. An official report into transport failures last winter concluded that, beyond building a bigger stockpile of grit, we didn’t really need to do much to cope with cold winters because they would become much rarer in future. It has taken just five months to expose the folly of basing transport policy on  predictions for climate change.


Haunting the Library

One of my regular email correspondents has started a blog. If the quality of the stories I've been fed in the past is anything to go by, Haunting the Library may well be one to watch.

I enjoyed this look back to an extraordinarily precise Hadley Centre prediction from 2003 that Scotland was going to suffer from [up to] 89% less snowfall. Even funnier is WWF's conclusion that this would make Scotland uninhabitable.


Richard Smith on peer review

I cite Richard Smith, the former editor of the British Medical Journal, a couple of times in The Hockey Stick Illusion. Smith was a pioneer of the formal study of peer review and his work has led him to believe that the technique is well past its sell-by date. He has recently published a very cogent summary of his views. Although Smith speaks naturally of the medical sciences, `Classical peer review: an empty gun' applies equally to other fields.

The article is full of good quotes. Take this for example:

Doug Altman, perhaps the leading expert on statistics in medical journals, sums it up thus: 'What should we think about researchers who use the wrong techniques (either wilfully or in ignorance), use the right techniques wrongly, misinterpret their results, report their results selectively, cite the literature selectively, and draw unjustified conclusions? We should be appalled. Yet numerous studies of the medical literature have shown that all of the above phenomena are common. This is surely a scandal'

Read the whole thing.

Classical peer review: an empty gun


HSI citations

A couple more citations of The Hockey Stick Illusion have appeared in the academic literature.

'Science at the Crossroads: Fact or Fiction?' is a review article in the Journal of Medical Biochemistry by David Goldberg of the University of Toronto. Goldberg looks at the pressures of modern science and how these can sometimes lead to misconduct.

The second citation is from Jörg Friedrichs of the University of Oxford. Entitled 'Peak energy and climate change: the double bind of post-normal science' it is in press at the journal, Futures. The abstract can be seen here.


Monbiot on wicked energy companies

George Monbiot is bemoaning the wicked energy companies who are keeping energy prices high:

In 2002 the regulator, Ofgem, decided it would stop regulating consumer prices. The energy companies immediately increased their profit margins: tenfold in one case. When world energy prices rise, the companies raise their tariffs, often far more steeply than the wholesale price justifies. When they fall, domestic prices often stay where they are.

As several commenters note, this is an odd argument for someone who has been campaigning to increase energy prices in the name of saving the planet.

It's interesting to note from the Household Energy Price Index, however, that energy prices in the UK appear rather low compared to prices elsewhere.

Natural gas household customers in Stockholm pay by far the highest prices within the capital cities of the EU15. Prices in Stockholm are almost 70% higher than in the second most expensive city Copenhagen, and over 4 times more than Londoners who enjoy the cheapest prices.

I think the conclusion that we have to draw from this is that the wicked capitalists in the UK are stinging poor consumers far less than their counterparts elsewhere - (state monopolies?).


Comedy of errors

The New American has been taken to task by Simon Dunford, the press officer of UEA. New American had been discussing the relationship between CRU and the Met Office

The Met Office works closely with the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, which made headlines last year at the center of "Climategate." That scandal involved a number of forecasters in Britain involved in fraudulent reporting of data to forward their own climate-change agenda.

I think it may be reasonable of UEA to take issue with the word "fraudulent", which is not really a particularly accurate summary of the allegations. However, Dunford chose to respond as follows:

We are extremely surprised at the inaccurate and defamatory claim in the final paragrah [sic].... Our scientists were exonerated of any dishonesty or malpractice by a series of independent reviews.... Readers of your article would not know that they had been cleared of any such accusations.

Dunford's response seems a mistake to me, opening up the question of the credibiliity of the inquiries, when concentrating on the question of "fraudulent reporting of data" would have done the job just as well. New American has now been able to responsd in turn with a further article looking at the work of Russell and Oxburgh. Your truly is cited in the process.


Green reviews of the year

I've been struck by a couple of the environment correspondents' reviews of 2010, particularly as regards Climategate and the impact of my own GWPF report on the inquiries.

For example, when the report was issued, the contents, which to my mind show pretty conclusively that the Oxburgh and Russell reviews were whitewashes, were reported by the Telegraph's Louise Gray without disputing either the facts or my analysis. One could see her article as an attempt to divert attention away from my principal evidence, but there was no case that the facts were contested.

Click to read more ...


Climate solution? More PR

The IPCC is looking for a new communications bod - a position that Nature describes as "the toughest job in the world". Time for Bob Ward to move on from the Grantham Institute?



Anthony Giddens, economics and logic

A few weeks back, I reported some snippets from the House of Lords debate on energy. The second reading of the bill took place just before Christmas and had many interesting points, several of which came from Lord Giddens, the sociologist and Labour party guru.

Last time round, I majored on the long-since refuted claims that "green" jobs were a benefit of government policy. I therefore read with some hope these words of Lord Giddens:

...job creation is often mentioned as an important outcome of investment in home insulation, renewable energy and wider energy innovation. However, there is an awful lot of loose talk around this, some of which appears in government documents,I am afraid.

Correct. However, the noble lord quickly demonstrates that his own take is remarkably deviod of substance...

Where it is said, for example, that wind power will create so many thousand jobs, what is important is not the jobs that are created by specific technologies or innovations but, because jobs will be lost in the older energy industries, the net new jobs that are created. Have the Government done a calculation of net job outcomes from the innovations in the Bill and the wider innovations that are proposed? Without that, you cannot say that these innovations will create net new employment. Most new technologies tend to reduce the need for labour rather than expand it. This is an important aspect of investment in new energy technologies and I feel that a lot more work must be done on it than I have seen. As I said, many statements on this topic are simply superficial.

They are indeed. As has been said ad nauseam, we want to generate the energy we need with as few people as possible. So Giddens would appear to be one of those people making superficial statements about green jobs.

Earlier in the debate, Lord Lawson had referred to the government's proposals as "dirigiste", a characterisation that seems quite apt. However, he was taken up on this by Giddens, who replied with a spectacular piece of circular logic:

The noble Lord, Lord Lawson, called them “dirigiste” proposals, essentially as a way of dumping on them. I would say the opposite. I think that it is right and proper in energy and climate change, where you are planning for a 20-year or 30-year cycle, to have a plan.



Norfolk Police speak

Climate Change Dispatch has extracted a statement on the progress of Norfolk Constabulary's investigation into the Climategate:

Following the publication of e-mails and other data prior to the COP15 Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in December 2009, the Norfolk Constabulary investigation into the data breach at the University of East Anglia continues.

With the many different lines of enquiry that officers identified, the workload has varied with specialist investigators/law enforcement partners used when needed.

Commenting on the investigation, Senior Investigating Officer (SIO), Detective Superintendent Julian Gregory said:

“This has been a complex investigation, undertaken in a global context and requiring detailed and time consuming lines of enquiry. Due to the sensitivity of the investigation it has not been possible to share details of enquiries with the media and the public and it would be inappropriate for us to comment any further at this time.”

Note to Editors:
It is acknowledged that interest in this case continues, given that the enquiry has now been running for approximately a year and that there is a desire for us to publish further detail. However, the circumstances of the case do not lend themselves to public comment at this time due to the sensitivities of the investigation and this is unlikely to change in the near future.”


David Henderson on Deutsche Bank

I'd forgotten to post this up a week or so back - David Henderson's article in the Financial Post about Deutsche Bank getting into the political activism game and the questions this should raise for their investors.

For any organization of standing, not least a leading multinational company such as Deutsche Bank, an obvious aspect of responsible conduct is a demonstrated concern for accuracy and the truth. The bank’s management board could now manifest such a concern, first, by commissioning an independent and informed review of this report, and second, by withdrawing and repudiating the report if the review supports McKitrick’s analysis.

There is also Terence Corcoran's take on the same affair.

As Mr. Henderson puts it, the Deutsche report on climate skeptics has been rendered worthless as a guide to the science and for investors. It also betrays a larger issue, which is a corporate role on the part of Deutsche Bank that makes Exxon look like a Boy Scout.


Standpoint on green energy

A timely piece about Britain's mad, mad energy policies.

In private, the best-informed analysts now agree that Britain's environmental policies have put the country on track to have the world's most expensive electricity. This is mainly because our competitors are almost certain to choose cheaper routes to emissions reductions, such as natural gas, or to shun emissions reductions altogether. The Coalition's own Annual Energy Statement for 2010 concedes that by the year 2020, nearly one third of the average domestic electricity bill will consist of green energy charges imposed by law (£160 out of £512, or 31 per cent). Business will be hit even harder, with environmental charges for the average medium-sized non-domestic user accounting for £404,000 out of £1.224 million, or 33 per cent.

 Read the whole thing.


In which I ban a commenter

I can't recall ever banning a commenter before, but Macsporan just stepped over the limit.

There has to be a first time for everything I suppose.


Josh 63


Iain Stewart and the MWP

Remember Climate Wars - the BBC hit piece on global warming sceptics? Look at the first few seconds of this excerpt - is that the "hide the decline" graph, with the instrumental records spliced onto the proxy measurements, that Iain Stewart is pointing at?

Remember, Prof Brian Cox reckons this is the epitome of a science documentary!