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Thursday
Aug132015

Is there a backstory to the EPA pollution incident?

Further to the story that the EPA was responsible for a major pollution incident in Colarado a few days ago, Ivo Vegter posted a scan of a letter that was published in the local newspaper a few days before EPA started work. It's a bit hard to read, but well worth it if you can decipher sufficiently.

Thursday
Aug132015

Fracking planning

I haven't a lot of time to write this morning, but here is a thread to discuss the government's announcement that it is going to try to expedite the planning process for shale gas developments.

Thursday
Aug132015

This year's walrus articles

So I wake this morning to find two stories about walruses in my Twitter feed. Why the sudden interest. There doesn't appear to be any news as such, but the Associated Press are telling readers that there is a steep decline in the walrus harvest in Alaska:

Hunters and scientists say walrus migration patterns are veering from historical hunting grounds as temperatures warm and the ocean ice used by the animals to dive and rest recedes farther north. Village elders also tell biologists the wind is blowing in new directions. In 2013, a late-season icepack clustered around St. Lawrence Island, blocking hunters from the sea.

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Aug122015

Cameron's great white elephant

Nuclear power is in the news at the moment. The Japanese have switched on a nuclear power plant for the first time since Fukishima, as the authorities realise the full cost of their knee-jerk reaction to the tsunami. Here in the UK, there is a growing concern over the cost of Hinkley Point, a project that increasingly resembles a fiscal black hole.

However, less commented upon have been a few apparently small developments in the nuclear market that may make for a better future for the industry.

Firstly, a US developer of small modular nuclear reactors has given regulators the heads-up that it will submit its first designs next year, ahead of possible deployment in 2023. An array of competitors are working on similar timescales and, encouragingly, regulators seem to be responding constructively too, aiming to have the new rulebook in place in time to keep the commercial operators moving forward.

Meanwhile (if somewhat less credibly), Revkin is looking at a claim that we could have nuclear fusion on stream in a decade.

If all goes to plan it is quite conceivable that Hinkley C could be a white elephant before it is even completed.

 

Wednesday
Aug122015

In Poland, workers and windfarms sit idle

It's hot in parts of Eastern Europe at the moment - this happens in summertime I believe - and so people are switching on the airconditioning in droves.

In Poland this has produced some pretty major problems because the electricity grid can't supply sufficient electricity to meet demand. It's a familiar story: Poland relies on coal for the bulk of its electricity, but nobody wants to invest in new coal-fired power plants because the market is being rigged in favour of renewables and the EU is going to shut them all down anyway. Meanwhile there is hardly a puff of wind to be found anywhere in Europe so Poland's wind fleet is not helping either.

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Aug112015

"A Disgrace to the Profession" by Mark Steyn - now available

In the US you can order Mark Steyn's book here and orders can be shipped to the UK, if not from Amazon then try Mark's own bookstore.

It has cartoons by me and was a fun project to be involved in. It is also a hugely entertaining and informative read and, although I might be slightly biased, I think this is going to be this summer's must-read climate tome!

Posted by Josh

Tuesday
Aug112015

The first five years of the RCPs

Further to yesterday's post on butterflies and RCPs, I wondered just how things were panning out for the RCPs since they were issued five years ago. I wasn't really expecting very much from this analysis since five years is not very long, but it turned out that there is more of a difference than might be expected.

The RCP data is for the mid-year carbon dioxide concentration and it turns out that the June figure from Mauna Loa has just tipped the 400ppm mark. RCP8.5 predicted that 2015 would be the first year in which the 400ppm mark was breached at the mid-year point, so at first glance we are indeed on the RCP8.5 pathway.

Click to read more ...

Monday
Aug102015

In which Nature Climate validates my predictive models

In order for a predictive model to be useful it needs to be validated in some way. Here are two predictive models that I suggest might be useful in interpreting scientific papers.

  • If the paper is published in a Nature journal it's probably nonsense. Particularly if it's in (a) Nature itself or (b) Nature Climate Change
  • If it calls RCP8.5 "business as usual" it is political drivel.

With these predictions in mind, readers may be interested in this new paper from Nature Climate Change:

Climate change is expected to increase the frequency of some climatic extremes1, 2. These may have drastic impacts on biodiversity3, 4, particularly if meteorological thresholds are crossed, leading to population collapses. Should this occur repeatedly, populations may be unable to recover, resulting in local extinctions. Comprehensive time series data on butterflies in Great Britain provide a rare opportunity to quantify population responses to both past severe drought and the interaction with habitat area and fragmentation. Here, we combine this knowledge with future projections from multiple climate models, for different Representative Concentration Pathways (RCPs), and for simultaneous modelled responses to different landscape characteristics. Under RCP8.5, which is associated with ‘business as usual emissions, widespread drought-sensitive butterfly population extinctions could occur as early as 2050. However, by managing landscapes and particularly reducing habitat fragmentation, the probability of persistence until mid-century improves from around zero to between 6 and 42% (95% confidence interval). Achieving persistence with a greater than 50% chance and right through to 2100 is possible only under both low climate change (RCP2.6) and semi-natural habitat restoration. Our data show that, for these drought-sensitive butterflies, persistence is achieved more effectively by restoring semi-natural landscapes to reduce fragmentation, rather than simply focusing on increasing habitat area, but this will only be successful in combination with substantial emission reductions.

My predictive models appears to be working splendidly.

Monday
Aug102015

Environmental regulators trashing the environment

My concern over a massive discharge of polluted water into a river in Colorado is lightened at least slightly by the discovery that the culprit was the Environmental Protection Agency.

The city of Durango and La Plata County, Colorado, have declared a state of emergency after a federal cleanup crew accidentally released mine waste into the water.

An estimated 1 million gallons of waste water spilled out of an abandoned mine area in the southern part of the state last week, turning the Animas River orange and prompting the Environmental Protection Agency to tell locals to avoid it.

A deserving case, I would say.

Monday
Aug102015

Social licences

A few weeks ago I chanced across an oil company executive who was expounding earnestly on his company's "social licence to operate". I raised an eyebrow at the time because it struck me as a case of big oil adopting the language of the environmentalists.

Interestingly though, it turns out that the whole concept of a social licence was introduced by a mining company executive:

[Jim] Cooney was racking his brain for a concept to describe why projects from Peru to Angola were getting delayed and shut down by protests. The companies lacked “social license,” he told the audience.

Click to read more ...

Friday
Aug072015

Thoughts on aerosols

I've been reading a bit about aerosols in recent days. As many BH readers will know, these are one of the great uncertainties in the Earth's climate and so they crop up all the time.

This interest was provoked in part by a conversation I was having with Ed Hawkins about his new paper. I had invoked Bjorn Stevens' study from which it is possible to infer a value of -0.5 Wm-2 for the overall effect of aerosols, around half of the IPCC's best estimate of -0.9 Wm-2. This of course would imply that climate sensitivity would have to be much lower than the IPCC suggests it is.

Click to read more ...

Friday
Aug072015

Letts accuse

For such a trifling programme, Quentin Letts' What's the Point of the Met Office is really making waves. Booker reviews it over at the Mail and there's some interesting coverage by Damian Thompson at the Spectator.

Yesterday [Harrabin] went into overdrive. ‘Accusation’, he declared, as he linked to Black’s attack on Letts. The sceptics got ‘their’ programme when the BBC allowed Quentin Letts to raise an eyebrow at the Met Office’s alarmist and utterly false claim that thermometers would shoot up between 2004 and 2014.

Don’t get me wrong: Roger Harrabin is a highly respected science writer. He doesn’t set out to deceive his readers. But, as Letts might put it, What’s the Point of a supposedly impartial ‘environment analyst’ who – apparently – takes offence at his bosses allowing another journalist to offer views different to his own?

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Aug052015

What DECC knew

Updated on Aug 6, 2015 by Registered CommenterBishop Hill

Greenpeace have been doing some rather odd FOI work in recent months. It seems they have decided to investigate the series of parliamentary questions that Lord Donoughue put to to DECC ministers about the Met Office's statistical reasoning. Readers will recall that these questions were formulated with Doug Keenan's advice, were aimed at determining how the Met Office justified its claim that recent temperature rises were statistically significant, and that the eventual result, after months of non-answers from the Met Office, was that they effectively withdrew the claim.

The documents Greenpeace have made public are very interesting but I'm not sure that our environmentalist friends have considered exactly what it is they have got.

It does rather come across as if the DECC team wanted to "move on". In Document 4, the briefing ahead of the meeting between Keenan, Donoughue and the DECC team of Baroness Verma, David Mackay and David Warrilow, officials list their objectives for the meeting as being:

  • to demonstrate a willingness to listen
  • to demonstrate to Lord Donoughue that DECC's scientists are reasonable and, erm, scientific
  • to steer Lord Donoughue away from Keenan.

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Aug052015

The point of the Met Office

The BBC has a programme on at the moment entitled "What's the point of the Met Office", a light-hearted, but critical look at this august institution. Apparently Peter Lilley and Piers Corbyn are featured at one point.

 

Tuesday
Aug042015

That voice

I get called up quite often by Radio Scotland to talk about energy. It's a hot topic north of the border and they struggle for people who are willing to do anything other than parrot the received wisdom (if you can call it that) on renewables.

So it wasn't altogether a surprise when they called this morning to see if I might be willing to talk about Obama's energy plan and what impact a change in the US situation might mean for further developments here in Scotland. The researcher sounded quite interested in what I had to say - you can guess the content - and went away to talk to her producer.

Unfortunately, when she got back to me half an hour later she said they already had "that voice" in the show, and explained that they wouldn't be needing me. Fair enough.

But now take a listen to what "that voice" had to say. It made me laugh, anyway.

Radio Scotland Renewables