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Solar heat

A fire at Hove Town Hall was caused by solar panels on its roof, it emerged today.

"The source of the fire is believed to be an electrical fault with a solar panel on the roof. An investigation is under way."

The council said all its solar panels were checked annually, with those at the town hall checked two weeks ago.

ESF&RS said solar panels were no more dangerous than any other electrical product.

Although according to this website, this is not actually true

Research commissioned by the DCLG and carried out by BRE on fire safety and solar electric/photovoltaic systems, identifies the major obstacle facing firefighters: “In contrast to the power used by conventional mains electrical equipment, the power that PV systems generate is DC (direct current) and parts of the system cannot be switched off. DC installations have a continuous current, making them more hazardous (volt for volt) than normal AC (alternating current) electrical installations.”  

The issue is that a household’s AC supply can easily be shut off by firefighters, however, the DC current supplied by the solar panels will also be generating as long as the sun is out.

The whole article is pretty interesting, pointing out for example that if a fire breaks out in your solar panels, it is not going to get picked up by your smoke detectors.


The Iris Hypothesis from the archives

Today, most mainstream researchers consider Dr. Lindzen’s theory discredited.

Justin Gillis in the New York Times

...the basis of Lindzen’s argument, which itself is the basis of all remaining relatively credible climate contrarianism, is entirely false...

Dana Nuccitelli

You have people who keep propping [the discredited theory] up,...Lindzen may still hold to it, but no one would still be listening to him. He wouldn't be given a platform.

Prof Joel Norris of Scripps

Refuted by four peer-reviewed studies within a year of the publication of Lindzen's hypothesis.

Nuccitelli again



Iris hypothesis bridges model-observation gap

Some months ago I picked up wind of a new paper that was going to provide some support for Richard Lindzen's Iris Hypothesis - the idea that in a warming planet there would be reduced levels of cirrus cloud, which would allow the extra heat to escape from Earth.

The paper in question seems to be this one, published in Nature Geoscience. The authors are Bjorn Stevens and Thorsten Mauritzen, the former the author of a much-discussed paper on aerosols and the latter best known for his paper on the subject of GCM tuning.

Here's the abstract:

Missing iris effect as a possible cause of muted hydrological change and high climate sensitivity in models

Equilibrium climate sensitivity to a doubling of CO2 falls between 2.0 and 4.6 K in current climate models, and they suggest a weak increase in global mean precipitation. Inferences from the observational record, however, place climate sensitivity near the lower end of this range and indicate that models underestimate some of the changes in the hydrological cycle. These discrepancies raise the possibility that important feedbacks are missing from the models. A controversial hypothesis suggests that the dry and clear regions of the tropical atmosphere expand in a warming climate and thereby allow more infrared radiation to escape to space. This so-called iris effect could constitute a negative feedback that is not included in climate models. We find that inclusion of such an effect in a climate model moves the simulated responses of both temperature and the hydrological cycle to rising atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations closer to observations. Alternative suggestions for shortcomings of models — such as aerosol cooling, volcanic eruptions or insufficient ocean heat uptake — may explain a slow observed transient warming relative to models, but not the observed enhancement of the hydrological cycle. We propose that, if precipitating convective clouds are more likely to cluster into larger clouds as temperatures rise, this process could constitute a plausible physical mechanism for an iris effect.


Diary dates, daily edition

The BBC's Daily Politics is having an energy and environment feature today, with representatives of all the main parties in attendance. My expectations are low.



This will mean that we will have a series of half-baked claims about the climate from the Conservative, Labour, LibDem and Green spokesmen, with Roger Helmer expected to rebut the lot of them. I'm not even sure we will get heat, let alone any light. It will be largely declarations of the faith and damning of the heterodox.

Roger Harrabin's presence is interesting. I'm not a regular viewer of the show, but I can't recall an occasion on which Andrew Neil was given an overseer. Are BBC managers worried he might ask awkward questions?


The Left does abhorrence - Josh 321

Divesting from Fossil fuels seems to be flavour of the week, see here, here and here, but leaves a bitter taste. Our House troll makes an appearance.

Cartoons by Josh


Climatologists and moral choices

Yesterday's posts seemed to generate quite a lot of heat, with several commenters reading rather more into them than they should. The object was not to blame climatologists for the actions that their climate models are used to justify, but to ask them what they thought about those actions. I had hoped that we might get some condemnation of the attempts to prevent Africans getting access to fossil fuels, but there was nothing along these lines.

As an aside, I should point out that it is my understanding that these attempts span more than just coal - it's the whole range of fossil fuels that politicians are now seeking to sideline, as this paper makes clear.

...under US Senate Bill S.329 (2013) the Overseas Private Investment Corporation – a federal agency responsible for backstopping U.S. companies which invest in developing countries – is essentially prohibited from investing in energy projects that involve fossil fuels...

Click to read more ...


BBC joins Guardian divestment campaign

With Alan Rusbridger's divestment campaign being relentlessly hammered in the Guardian, it's no surprise to see Roger Harrabin answering the call to arms with an article at the BBC on the same subject. It's quite funny in parts:

Are we approaching the twilight of the fossil fuel era? A few years ago that question would have seemed absurd. But a combination of forces is squeezing carbon assets like never before.

The oil price remains stubbornly low.

And of course we can't burn the fossil fuels, blah blah.

The oil price is of course low because of a surge in production. I'm struggling to see oversupply of a commodity as the herald of its downfall. Readers should also rest assured that the consequences of divestment for the Third World are not addressed. For the BBC and the Guardian and their fellow travellers it is morally wrong to consider such unpleasantness.


Rusbridger asks my question

In Nature, Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger is calling on scientists to put pressure on organisations like the Wellcome Trust and the Gates Foundation to divest from fossil fuels. Now I'm not sure about the idea of scientists taking up the activist cudgels in this way, but I'm certainly interested in the views of climate scientists on the moral dilemmas involved. A month or so ago I asked climate scientists a very similar question on Twitter.

Click to read more ...


Greens really do go by air

A survey by the website Travelzoo has revealed that greens really do go by air, and bigtime.

Green Party supporters are the most likely to book a long-haul holiday, new research has shown.

As well as being the most likely to jet off to distant shores, Greens are more likely to book a hire car rather than take a taxi. They were also the most likely to pinch the hotel toiletries.

This was reported at the Telegraph, where you can see the full results. Hat tip to John Ferris.


Silliest climate paper ever?

In what looks to be one of the silliest climate papers known to man, researchers at the University of St Andrews are claiming that the 0.1°C warming in ocean temperatures that is alleged to have been caused by human activity has caused whales to migrate one month earlier than they did 30 years ago.

A long-term study conducted between 1984 and 2010, now published in scientific journal PLoS-ONE, has documented for the first time how whales have adapted to increases in sea surface temperature over recent decades.

The research, conducted with Canadian research body the Mingan Island Cetacean Study, has found that over the 27-year period the whales arrived at feeding grounds on average one day earlier each year, suggesting a remarkable ability to react to small fluctuations in sea temperature.

Remarkable indeed. But not so remarkable as the idea that anyone would take this nonsense seriously.



Sometimes you find support for your position in the most unlikely places. In the New York Times, Eduardo Porter has been looking at the "Eco-modernist Manifesto", a document produced by a group of (mainly) academics including several from the Breakthrough Institute and Mark Lynas as well.

Here's the introduction to the manifesto.

To say that the Earth is a human planet becomes truer every day. Humans are made from the Earth, and the Earth is remade by human hands. Many earth scientists express this by stating that the Earth has entered a new geological epoch: the Anthropocene, the Age of Humans.

As scholars, scientists, campaigners, and citizens, we write with the conviction that knowledge and technology, applied with wisdom, might allow for a good, or even great, Anthropocene. A good Anthropocene demands that humans use their growing social, economic, and technological powers to make life better for people, stabilize the climate, and protect the natural world.

In this, we affirm one long-standing environmental ideal, that humanity must shrink its impacts on the environment to make more room for nature, while we reject another, that human societies must harmonize with nature to avoid economic and ecological collapse.

Remarkably, Porter seems to accept these views and even suggest that depriving destitute Africans of the benefits of fossil fuels is not actually a good thing to do.

Exciting times.


Tory comedy

Not that the Conservative manifesto is much better. Here are some excerpts. First up is a proposal to put a non-endangered species on the endangered species list:


We will press for full ‘endangered species’ status for polar bears and a ban on the international trade in polar bear skins, as well as for greater attention to be paid to the impact of climate change on wildlife and habitats in Polar Regions in the Arctic Council and other international fora.

Then there is a case of highlighting "things we have done nothing to change":

Click to read more ...


Comedy greenery

Many people of my generation lament the state of British comedy, so it's nice to have the Green Party to restore faith in our ability to raise a laugh. The party's manifesto, released today, must rank as one of the funniest things I've seen since Four Weddings and a Funeral.

Opening with the observation that there is a big problem with fuel poverty, Ms Bennett announces that the problem must be addressed by a 90% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. That's by 2030. With full conversion to a zero-carbon economy by 2050. Oh yes, and this is going to be achieved through better energy efficiency, a massive investment in renewables, phasing out nuclear and coal and a ban on domestic production of gas from unconventional sources. Simples.

Click to read more ...


Tyndale's pragmatism

Stephen Tindale, the former head of Greenpeace UK, has a post up at the RTCC website. Tindale has come to the attention of this blog before, you may recall, because of his newfound level-headedness on environmental issues now that he is no longer trying to keep a big green scaremongering machine solvent.

In today's post he is speaking in similar vein, taking environmental campaigners to task for their lack of pragmatism. This is welcome, of course, although unfortunately his idea of pragmatism seems somewhat different to mine. So while he takes his fellow greens to task for their visceral anticapitalism and their on-off hatred for technological advancement, he seems remarkably keen on carbon capture and storage, an idea that could best be described as "rather far-fetched". His suggestion that renewables are the best source of energy is similarly preposterous.

Click to read more ...


The Salby lecture

Murry Salby's recent lecture in London can now be seen on YouTube.