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A change to the playing field

Doug Keenan has posted a note at the bottom of the notice about his £100,000 challenge, indicating that he has reissued the 1000 data series. This was apparently because it was pointed out to him that the challenge could be "gamed" by hacking the (pseudo)random number generator he had used.

Brandon Shollenberger emails to say that this is a terrible thing, but I can't get terribly excited about it. Presumably it doesn't make any difference to those who think they can detect the difference between trending and non-trending series.


Settled science

Much amusement is to be had from a posting at a blog called Sudden Oak Life. The author has recorded images of the Radcliffe surface temperature station in Oxford, part of the Central England Temperature Record and one of the longest temperature records there is.

It's fair to say the quality of the record has declined since the 18th century.

Read the whole thing.


Backing fracking

In a bit of a turnup for the books, a pro-fracking demonstration took place in Lancashire yesterday ahead of the appeal against the county council's decision to block Cuadrilla's planning application.

Video here from 9 minutes (expires tonight).

Ironically the following item is about the "Northern Powerhouse" strategy, with one talking head saying that it is a mirage and that there is no new investment coming to the North of England.

Funny that.


Eco journalists just can't help themselves

Made up of 33 low-lying coral atolls, Kiribati is shrinking as sea levels rise.

Claim made by Paul Gregoire, without citation, in Vice magazine

4.84, 4.66, 3.57, 0.48

Percentage increase in area per decade of islands in Tarawa, the main atoll in Kiribati, as reported by Kench et al.


Gas crackers

A team from the Karlsruhe Institute for Technology claims to have made a breakthrough on the energy front. They have developed a process to "crack" methane, removing the hydrogen, which can be used as a fuel, and leaving behind black carbon rather than carbon dioxide.

My initial reaction to this was to wonder what we would do with all that black carbon, but the press release has this to say:

It is already widely employed in the production of steel, carbon fibres and many carbon-based structural materials. The black carbon derived from the novel cracking process is of high quality and particularly pure powder. Its value as a marketable product therefore enhances the economic viability of methane cracking. Alternatively, black carbon can be stored away, using procedures that are much simpler, safer and cheaper than the storing of carbon dioxide.

It would be interesting to do the maths here - just how much black carbon might be produced, how much energy would be required to turn it into structural materials and so on. At the moment I remain somewhat unconvinced that this is the breakthrough claimed.


Guardian goes full ecobonkers

Yesterday, the IUCN, the body set up to worry about endangered species, issued the latest estimates on polar bear numbers. As Susan Crockford reports, the polar bear population seems to be at a record high, although the IUCN will not be drawn on the current trend and they seem to have been persuaded to leave the bears' status as "vulnerable".

Meanwhile, over in cloud cuckoo land, the Guardian is going the full ecobonkers on the report, with a gory headline about climate change being polar bears' 'single biggest threat'. Three subpopulations, they tell us, are in decline already. Strangely they seem to have neglected to mention the overall increase, and also the fact that two of these allegedly declining subpopulations were determined to be so more than ten years ago.


What's in a tax?

One of the most interesting parts of Amber Rudd's speech yesterday was the suggestion that renewables operators must pay for all the extra costs they bring to the system. Most people seem to be concluding that this means some kind of a tax on renewables.

This is all well and good, but the devil is in the details. So when the minister says:

In the same way generators should pay the cost of pollution, we also want intermittent generators to be responsible for the pressures they add to the system when the wind does not blow or the sun does not shine.

Does she mean that the rest of the grid is going to have to pick up the tab for connecting all those hundreds of wind turbines to the grid?

Watch this space.



A new edition of the Hockey Stick Illusion

The Hockey Stick Illusion went out of print recently. This meant that the rights to the title reverted to me and I have spent most of the last couple of weeks trying to put my own edition out there so that it remains available.

The Kindle version is now available. A print version will follow in due course.

Details here.



A $100,000 climate prize

Climatologists often claim that they are able to detect the global warming signal in the temperature records. If they are right then they are going to be having a very happy Christmas indeed, because Doug Keenan is offering them the chance to win a very large cash prize at his expense. Here are the details.

There have been many claims of observational evidence for global-warming alarmism. I have argued that all such claims rely on invalid statistical analyses. Some people, though, have asserted that the analyses are valid. Those people assert, in particular, that they can determine, via statistical analysis, whether global temperatures are increasing more that would be reasonably expected by random natural variation. Those people do not present any counter to my argument, but they make their assertions anyway.

In response to that, I am sponsoring a contest: the prize is $100 000. In essence, the prize will be awared to anyone who can demonstrate, via statistical analysis, that the increase in global temperatures is probably not due to random natural variation.

The file Series1000.txt contains 1000 time series. Each series has length 135 (about the same as that of the most commonly studied series of global temperatures). The series were generated via trendless statistical models fit for global temperatures. Some series then had a trend added to them. Each trend averaged 1°C/century—which is greater than the trend claimed for global temperatures. Some trends were positive; others were negative.

A prize of $100 000 (one hundred thousand U.S. dollars) will be awarded to the first person, or group of people, who correctly identifies at least 900 series: i.e. which series were generated by a trendless process and which were generated by a trending process.

Each entry in the contest must be accompanied by a payment of $10; this is being done to inhibit non-serious entries. The contest closes at the end of 30 November 2016.

The file Answers1000.txt identifies which series were generated by a trendless process and which by a trending process. The file is encrypted. The encryption key and method will be made available when someone submits a prize-winning answer or, if no prize-winning answers are submitted, when the contest closes.

More here.


DECC consistently misled public over electricity costs

An interesting tweet from former DECC chief scientist David Mackay yesterday:



As readers here know, I have been quite strongly against the use of levelised costs (LCOE), referring to it as "the great levelised costs lie". It's therefore gratifying to see Mackay publicly agreeing with me.

Click to read more ...


Stuff their mouths with gold

In all the trailers for Amber Rudd's big energy speech today, the news that has struck me is not the phase out of coal, most of which was going to happen anyway because of low natural gas prices and EU regulations.

No, what is interesting is that Rudd will apparently admit that in order to get any gas-fired power stations built they are going to have to be subsidised. So a big "bravo" to the political establishment for managing to turn a functioning energy system into one in which everybody participating will be in receipt of taxpayer largesse. Oh well done indeed.

The six-million dollar question is, of course, just how much subsidy is going to be required to tempt investors back into the market. The political risk of taking part is going to be sky-high. Over the lifespan of a power station, governments will come and go. Will anyone want to risk that the bungs will survive so much change? My guess is that getting anything done is going to involve "stuffing their mouths with gold", and then some.


BBC: "To hell with your charter obligations"

This morning the Today programme welcomed Professor Paul Ekins onto the airwaves to discuss what he saw as the problems with government energy policy (audio below). Professor Ekins came over as a highly media-trained green activist, which is perhaps entirely unsurprising because that is what he is - as a former co-chair of the UK green party and the author of tomes such as "A New World Order: Grassroots Movements for Global Change", he has been in the forefront of green politics for 20 years.

It's just that the Today programme didn't want you to know that, and Professor Ekins was presented as just some disinterested academic brought in to provide some rigour to proceedings. Coming so soon after the episode in which the Today programme accidentally forgot to mention Jeremy Leggett's financial interests this is starting to look like policy rather than oversight.

And when you also take into account the decision of presenter Sarah Montague to let Ekins expound at length, with barely a word of challenge, the impression you got was that this was simply the BBC trying once again to fight battles on behalf of the green movement.

The message from the Corporation is, once again, "To hell with your charter obligations, we're on a mission from Gaia".

Ekins Today


Alarmism in a Huff - Josh 351

Breibart reports on an extraordinary Huffington Post article arguing that the response to the terrorism in Paris should be "a successful Climate Change Conference". Gosh.

Cartoons by Josh


Mackay bashes EU energy policy

David Mackay is in the headlines this morning, having described the EU Green Energy Directive as "scientifically illiterate" in a forthcoming episode of Costing the Earth.  He takes a potshot Ed Miliband for the foolishness of his policy decisions. Excerpts were included in the Today programme this morning, alongside a response from Ed Davey, who comes over very badly in my opinion.

Inevitably a BBC journalist - Tom Feilden - has tried to spin Mackay's comments as an attack on the government. Fortunately Mackay has corrected him - given that the current government was not mentioned at all in the Today programme, Feilden was not even allowing himself a level of plausible deniability, which was a bit daft, even by BBC standards of shamelessness. The offending tweet has now been removed.



The Today programme piece is well worth a listen. It's here.


Mackay Today


Eaten: A novel

Susan Crockford has written a novel about people being eaten by polar bears. Here's what she has to say about it.

This is a polar bear attack thriller. What Jaws did for the beaches of New England, Eaten does for northern Newfoundland. Terror and carnage abound as hungry polar bears come ashore in droves seeking any food available, including human prey.

Set in the year 2025 at the edge of the Arctic, the story considers future possibilities no one has yet contemplated. In this tale, the occupants of hundreds of small towns and isolated outports spread across northern Newfoundland are quite unprepared for an early spring onslaught of hungry polar bears. People haven’t just been killed, they’ve been eaten. As the attacks multiply, people find they are not safe even in their own homes.

Local residents, Mounties, and biologists struggle with a disturbing new reality: they have a huge polar bear problem on their hands, and if they don’t find a solution quickly, dozens more people will die gruesome deaths, and hundreds more polar bears will be shot.

A Newfoundland seal biologist gets help from an expat Alaskan carnivore specialist as they team up with officers of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to address the threat. Stopping the carnage and the relentless terror will be the biggest challenge they’ve ever faced as they struggle to prevent this from being the most horrifying disaster in Newfoundland's history.

From science to science fiction?

I'm a scientist but I grew up in a family of storytellers and avid fiction readers. When it was clear the time had come to try my hand at writing a novel, it felt like a logical progression from science writing, not a leap. Starting with polar bears just felt right.

And here’s why: for years, polar bear specialists have being playing “what-if”. They’ve used computer models to predict polar bear responses to computer-predicted sea ice conditions 25-90 years into the future and insist their prophecies will become reality unless human behaviour changes. They like to call their "what-if" science.

I decided to play too – except I call my “what-if” a novel.

Arguably climate science fiction with a twist, some call this genre “speculative fiction” or “technothriller.” I’ve included a “recommended reading” list at the end of the book for those who want to follow up on the science background but the book is primarily for readers who prefer their science “lite” and those who love a good story.

See the YouTube book trailer.   

More detail and links here.

The paperback is ready to order and will ship as soon as the books are printed; the ebooks are available for pre-order and will download November 30, 2015. Price for the paperback is US$14.49; for the ebooks US$6.99

Here's where to buy it:

(Temporary Kindle links, until Amazon gets it linked to the paperback)

  • ePub version (via Smashwords, which ships to Apple, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo), see 

LIMITED TIME OFFER for the ePub version: November 30, 2015 until December 3, 2015 only

FREE with promotion code GW98Q (not case-sensitive)