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Muck and brass

There is much entertainment to be had this morning from the revelation that the ringleader of a notorious gang of climate scientists has been taking home as much as $750,000 per year from his climate activities. Professor Jagadish Shukla spearheaded last week's attempt to get the Obama administration to prosecute climate sceptics under racketeering laws. These new revelations make it look as if his real motivation was to protect his own income.

The news about Shukla is just the latest in a long line of stories showing that the loudest scaremongers in the Green blob are able to command extraordinary incomes. Lord Stern's speaking fees are one example, and another was last week's reminder that the chief scientist at the Met Office earns more than the Prime Minister.

Muck and brass, you might say.


FiTs: a test of Cameron's conservatism

After Energy and Climate Change questions yesterday, several commenters wondered if the government might be about to backtrack on the swingeing cuts in feed-in-tariffs that were announced recently. MPs on both sides of the house had certainly been very vocal in their demands on behalf of their constituency energy companies and there was scarcely a voice heard in support of the proposals. MP after MP demanded that  FiTs be retained for renewables operators. Meanwhile, Aberdonian MPs wanted cash for North Sea oil operators as well. Pressure of the FiTs front continues today.

It's a vicious circle of course and the government risks getting generating a spiral of subsidy, with money having to be thrown at all market participants simply to keep them afloat.

This is going to be a test of Cameron's resolve. Is he going to play the Conservative, and put the consumer interest first, or is he going to cave into the producer interest?

We watch with interest.



Where are DECC's numbers coming from?

Last week, DECC responded to a question from Labour MP Jim Cunningham about the carbon emissions savings from using "biomass energy crops". Minister of State Andrea Leadsom said this:

The 2013/14 Renewables Obligation sustainability data [1] indicate that, for data available, the average greenhouse gas saving from energy crops on the European Union fossil fuel electricity average, by consignment, was approximately 90% (within a range of 85-94%).

This looks jolly impressive (or should I say "completely implausible"?), but less so when you read in the Renewables Obligation Annual Report that operators of biomass stations self-report this information. Even less so when you actually look for the figures given in the dataset linked. I certainly can't find it.

Can anyone throw any light on where the figures come from?




Naughty Slingo

The Mail reports that the Met Office created a post for the daughter of its chief scientist Julia Slingo. It seems that the position was not advertised but was merely handed over to Dame Julia's sprog, a newly qualified graduate.

What is it with senior civil servants and integrity?




Back when they were opposing the extension of the coalbed methane operation in Falkirk, I remarked upon the evidence from witnesses for Friends of the Earth, which didn't echo any of the claims the group was making in public about health and environmental impacts of unconventional gas operations. Indeed, as Dart's QC noted at the time, neither of FoE's witnesses even opposed permission to drill being given.

It's one thing giving evidence to a fully lawyered inquiry, but quite another to sound off in public, and today Friends of the Earth have returned to the fracking fray, trying to persuade the SNP to turn the moratorium on new developments into an outright ban, backed up with lurid claims about what gas wells mean for health and environment. Interestingly, FoE Scotland boss Richard Dixon seems to have delegated the task to a young lady who is barely out of her teens.

Flick Monk, of Friends of the Earth Scotland, added: “Local communities do not want their health and environment damaged by energy companies aiming to extract gas at any cost."

I suppose Dr Dixon wouldn't want to get caught misleading the political classes himself. Still, it doesn't seem very chivalrous to me.


ECC work plan

The Commons Energy and Climate Change Committee has just published its work plan for the autumn. Two of the inquiries look rather dull - lessons learned from attempts to improve energy efficiency and making the grid more welcoming for windfarms. (This is not precisely how they are described, but I think this is about the measure of what MPs are trying to achieve.)

One inquiry could be revealing, however.

Investor confidence in the UK energy sector. Stakeholders called for greater coherence, transparency, consistency and evidence in the policies coming from DECC. As a result, the Committee is now seeking views on the energy investment landscape in the UK and steps that DECC could take to increase investor confidence.

I'm not sure they are going to like the answer though.


The Monsoon, variability & climate change - Cartoon sketchnotes by Josh

Click image for a larger version

Last night Dr Madhav Khandekar, a former Environment Canada scientist and expert reviewer for the 2007 IPCC Report, gave a talk on the Indian monsoon, variability and climate change. The talk was organised by the GWPF and held at the House of Commons in London.  Madhav is also the author of the GWPF report on 'Global Warming - Extreme Weather Link'.

The main message seemed to be that the monsoon impacts 4 billion people and yet is the biggest climate anomaly on the planet. The variability of the monsoon is not well understood and the current climate models are not as useful as the older statistical-empirical model which uses large-scale atmosphere-ocean circulation patterns.

You can download the Powerpoint slides here

Please do let me know if I got something wrong on the sketchnotes above and I will amend - it was a challenge to keep up!

Cartoons by Josh




Another Lew paper

Updated on Sep 16, 2015 by Registered CommenterBishop Hill

Stefan Lewandowsky's latest paper is out today in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society and features none other than Naomi Oreskes as a co-author, with the scientific oomph coming from CSIRO's James Risbey. With a roster of authors like that I think it's fair to say that one knows what to expect.

The paper is about the pause in surface temperature rises and is an attempt to demonstrate that it doesn't exist. Not very interesting I hear you say. However, the paper is not without its moments of controversy. In particular, this paragraph jumped out at me.

...some researchers (albeit a minority) have taken the “pause” to imply that the climate system may be less sensitive to greenhouse gas emissions than previously thought (Lewis 2013; Otto et al. 2013; Curry 2014; Lewis and Curry 2014).

Click to read more ...


The academy is broken

Joe Duarte is co-author of a new paper about political bias in the social sciences. It's paywalled, but there is a summary here. I recommend it.

Featuring well-known names such as Jonathan Haidt and Philip Tetlock the paper looks as though it might create something of a stir, especially as it essentially concludes that social psychology is so dominated by woolly liberals as to make its findings untrustworthy:

Psychologists have demonstrated the value of diversity – particularly diversity of viewpoints – for enhancing creativity, discovery, and problem solving. But one key type of viewpoint diversity is lacking in academic psychology in general and social psychology in particular: political diversity. This article reviews the available evidence and finds support for four claims: (1) Academic psychology once had considerable political diversity, but has lost nearly all of it in the last 50 years. (2) This lack of political diversity can undermine the validity of social psychological science via mechanisms such as the embedding of liberal values into research questions and methods, steering researchers away from important but politically unpalatable research topics, and producing conclusions that mischaracterize liberals and conservatives alike. (3) Increased political diversity would improve social psychological science by reducing the impact of bias mechanisms such as confirmation bias, and by empowering dissenting minorities to improve the quality of the majority’s thinking. (4) The underrepresentation of non-liberals in social psychology is most likely due to a combination of self-selection, hostile climate, and discrimination. We close with recommendations for increasing political diversity in social psychology.

The authors reckon that there is a golden opportunity at hand to correct this bias within the academy. I must say I'm entirely unconvinced. I think the rot, and the bigotry, are so ingrained as to make the system unreformable. I have often wondered if the future is not in independent scholars and independent funding streams, secure from the depredations of the liberal left. Certainly, it's hard to see why the public should be paying for the academy in its current state.


Sahel greening confirmed

Another paper has confirmed that the Sahel is greening. A team from South Dakota State University led by Armel Kaptué have looked again and confirmed earlier reports:

The predominance of increasing rain-use efficiency in our data supports earlier reports of a “greening” trend across the Sahel. However, there are strong regional differences in the extent and direction of change, and in the apparent role of changing woody and herbaceous components in driving those temporal trends.

That's (yet another) one in the eye for Desmog's (alleged) debunking.


Turnbull's not for turning?

It's all go on the political front. While attention here has been focused on Jeremy Corbyn, in Australia, staunch sceptic Tony Abbott has been ousted by the considerably more eco-emollient Malcolm Turnbull, news that has been greeted with considerably satistifaction by our green friends.

Unfortunately, Turnbull has now gone and spoiled it all:


Autocorrelation in the Sahel

Sahelian forest in Mali, courtesy Wikimedia

This is a guest post by Doug Keenan.

In August, the journal Nature Climate Change published a piece by a researcher at the Earth Institute of Columbia University. The researcher, Alessandra Giannini, is an expert on precipitation in the Sahel, and her piece was on that topic.

Giannini’s piece notes that Sahel precipitation has been slightly increasing during the past few decades, but then warns as follows.

… a gap in research: a complete understanding of the influence of [greenhouse gases], direct and indirect, on the climate of the Sahel. This is needed more urgently…. While precipitation may have recovered in the seasonal total amount, it has done so through more intense, but less frequent precipitation events. This state of affairs requires more attention be paid to the climate of the Sahel, to ensure that negotiations around adaptation, such as those taking place in the run-up to the Conference of the Parties of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change that will be held in Paris at the end of this year, are based on the best science available….

Click to read more ...


Lucas to DECC?

Guido has just tweeted a rumour that Corbyn is to appoint Green Party MP Caroline Lucas to the DECC portfolio. If true, that should go down like a lead balloon with ambitious Labour party backbenchers.

I assume it's not true though.


Red, but not green?

The somewhat bizarre decision of the Labour party to elevate Jeremy Corbyn to the position of supreme leader (or is it "beloved" leader?) has prompted me to take a look at his positions on climate and energy. It's fair to say although he's a keen cyclist and doesn't own a car, green issues seem not to be at the forefront of his thinking. Indeed his major policy position in this area - the renationalisation of the power companies - seems unrelated to any concerns about the environment.

You get a similar impression by looking at his website, where there is not exactly a plethora of climate-related material, and there is not even a category for energy.

Still, he's a politician, so his own views on issues may not actually be a good guide to what he decides to put on the Labour party menu for the next election - that of course will be dictated by what he thinks will go down well with target groups of voters.


Countryfile does shale gas

The BBC's Countryfile programme is not normally somewhere you look for balanced coverage of environmental issues, so it was interesting to see a piece (from 6 mins) on the prospects for unconventional gas development in England that was not exactly balanced, but still a far cry from the corporation's early coverage of the subject.

So we heard it was "controversial", but only once, and fracking fluid was described as "a mixture of water and chemicals", which struck me as rather misleading. You could still have come away from the report thinking that fracking was a new or "untried" technology. But we did get to see what a completed well pad looked like and the focus was more on greenhouse gases than the wilder claims of the environmental movement.

I suppose this must count as progress.