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Matt Ridley on bloggingheads

Here's a long interview with Matt Ridley, which is notable because it is all so civilised.

(Direct link to video here)


The Scotsman conference

I spent yesterday at the Scotsman conference on unconventional oil and gas. This was very much an industry affair, with nobody on hand to put the green point of view. To my mind this was a missed opportunity, since it's rare that environmentalists appear before an audience that has the knowledge to answer back. Having said that, in the audience we did have Maria Montinaro, the Falkirk Community Councillor who has been highly visible in the campaign against Dart Energy and she was given plenty of opportunity to ask questions.

The speakers were pretty high profile, including Chris Masters, who had led the Scottish Government's expert panel on unconventional oil and gas, Gary Haywood, a high heidyin at INEOS, Ken Cronin of the Onshore Operators Group and Gordon Hughes.

Click to read more ...


Lewin on Lamb

Bernie Lewin's new report for GWPF is a must-read. Exhaustively researched, beautifully written, and extremely insightful about how climatology was diverted from a scientific to a political imperative, you absolutely should not miss it.

Here's the press release.

London, 10 February: A new paper by Bernie Lewin and published today by the Global Warming Policy Foundation re-examines the legacy of the father of British climatology Hubert Lamb (1913-1997).

After leading and establishing historical climatology during the 1960s, Hubert Lamb became the founding Director of the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia (CRU). What is not widely known is that, in contrast to current research directions at CRU, its founding director was an early and vocal climate sceptic.

Against the idea that greenhouse gas emissions were (or would soon be) noticeably warming the planet, Lamb raised objections on many levels. “His greatest concern was not so much the lack of science behind the theory,” Mr Lewin said, “it was how the growing preoccupation with man-made warming was distorting the science.”

Lewin said that “Lamb was already sounding this warning as early as 1972; soon after that the entire science would be transformed.”As research into man-made warming began to dominate climate studies, Lamb worried that the recent advances in our understanding of natural changes were falling into neglect.

A foreword by eminent climatologist, Professor Richard Lindzen, explains how, “in this new paradigm, the natural variability that Lamb emphasized was now relegated to ‘noise’.” Speaking from his own experience, Lindzen says that “Lamb’s intellectual trajectory is typical of what many other senior climate scientists around the world experienced.”

Bernie Lewin is an historian of science investigating the global warming scare in the context of the history and philosophy of science. Over the last 5 years he has published many essays on various sceptical blogs, including his own, Enthusiasm Scepticism and Science.

Read the whole thing.



Today I'm off to the Scotsman conference on unconventional oil and gas, so blogging will again be light-to-nonexistent.

Normal service should be resumed tomorrow.


New Atlantis, same old problems

Well you can't fault the green movement's persistence. With the National Theatre's Greenland having being a spectacular flop and last year's 2071 having apparently failed to set the pulse racing too, the London luvvies are having yet another attempt to bring the public on board.

The new show is called The New Atlantis and, being green, gets lots of free publicity courtesy of the BBC.

At the futuristic venue, The Crystal, on the Thames in East London, the cast of New Atlantis is rehearsing for the new production, named after a fictitious intergovernmental organisation managing water supply in the capital.

Click to read more ...


Energy costs in the absence of policy

Since the government published its most recent estimates of the costs of renewable energy policy I have been trying to get to the bottom of the question of how they estimated what the costs would have been in the absence of policy.

After several months of effort I have managed to get the underlying spreadsheet and a bit of a steer (link).

In relation to your question on the price before policies, page 66-67 of the prices and bills report, sets out that the wholesale price in the baseline (no policies) is modelled using DECC’s Dynamic Dispatch Model, and requires making a number of assumptions, particularly about the no policy baseline.  To estimate the electricity wholesale cost in the baseline, we used historical trends in build rates and plant characteristics where possible to match capacity margins, and plant efficiencies as closely as possible to what is most likely to have happened in a world without policies. This is therefore a modelling output, and not a result of a simple calculation.

Click to read more ...


The absence of mathematics

Marotzke and Forster have published a response to Nic Lewis's critique of their paper. It can be seen here, at Ed Hawkins' Climate Lab book site. Here's the start.

No circularity

It has been alleged that in Marotzke & Forster (2015) we applied circular logic. This allegation is incorrect. The important point is to recognise that, physically, radiative forcing is the root cause of changes in the climate system, and our approach takes that into account. Because radiative forcing over the historical period cannot be directly diagnosed from the model simulations, it had to be reconstructed from the available top-of-atmosphere radiative imbalance in Forster et al. (2013) by applying a correction term that involves the change in surface temperature. This correction removed, rather than introduced, from the top-of-atmosphere imbalance the very contribution that would cause circularity. We stand by the main conclusions of our paper: Differences between simulations and observations are dominated by internal variability for 15-year trends and by spread in radiative forcing for 62-year trends.

Unfortunately, when they continue to the section called "Specifics" I can't actually see any mathematics that purports to show that their original regression model was not circular. My impression is of handwaving. Steve McIntyre, in the comments at CA seems to have reached similar conclusions:

I’ve done a quick read of the post at Climate Lab Book. I don’t get how their article is supposed to rebut Nic’s article. They do not appear to contest Nic’s equation linking F and N – an equation that I did not notice in the original article. Their only defence seems to be that the N series needs to be “corrected” but they do not face up to the statistical consequences of having T series on both sides.

Based on my re-reading of the two articles, Nic’s equation (6) seems to me to be the only logical exit and Nic’s comments on the implications of (6) the only conclusions that have a chance of meaning anything. (But this is based on cursory reading only.)

I guess we will have to wait and see what Nic Lewis makes of it before reaching firm conclusions.


Climate rhetoric

The ongoing war of words over Richard Tol's summary of the various estimates of the costs of climate change seems to have come to an end, with the Journal of Economic Perspectives publishing another revision to the paper. The key change is in Fig 1, which previously looked like this:

Click to read more ...



No blogging today because I'm on my travels.


Marotzke's circularity

A few days ago I noted a new paper by Marotzke and Forster which claimed to show that the recent divergence of model predictions and observations was all down to natural variability. The paper was getting considerable hype from Marotzke's employers, the Max Planck Institute:

Sceptics who still doubt anthropogenic climate change have now been stripped of one of their last-ditch arguments...the gap between the calculated and measured warming is not due to systematic errors of the models, as the sceptics had suspected, but because there are always random fluctuations in the Earth's climate.

Marotzke was also quoted as saying: "The claim that climate models systematically overestimate global warming caused by rising greenhouse gas concentrations is wrong" and he went on to get quite a lot of media coverage, including the Mail, the Sydney Morning Herald, Deutsche Welle, and the Washington Post

Based on media coverage of the paper's contents, I expressed considerable concern over what the authors had apparently done. It seems, however, that my criticisms at the time were understated. It is in fact "worse than we thought".

Click to read more ...


Green, peaceful?

I have an article up at the Spectator Coffee House blog about Greenpeace and its recent travails:

For the best part of half a century Greenpeace’s constant campaigning on environmental issues has been an almost unmitigated success. Its effectiveness has brought it both astonishing wealth and almost unimpeded access to decision-makers. During this time, it has had what amounts to a free pass from the media, its claims and methods rarely questioned by credulous environmental correspondents.

But are the wheels finally coming off? Looking back over the last few years it’s easy to get that impression: an organisation that once seemed untouchable has found itself having to answer some very sharp questions about the way it behaves and operates.

Read the whole thing.


The sheep in Wales

With the Scottish Government having made its absurd - if understandable - decision to put a moratorium on shale gas developments, lawmakers in Cardiff have noted the benefits to their own careers and have followed suit.

The Welsh parliament has voted against the use of shale gas fracking in Wales, just one week after Scotland passed a fracking moratorium, highlighting growing discontent with the British government's push to tap shale gas resources.

A proposal against shale gas fracking was voted through in the Welsh Assembly late on Wednesday, effectively making it impossible for shale gas developments to receive planning permits in Wales.

As ever with the public sector, you see that decisions are made for the benefit of the staff rather than those they allegedly work for. There are 100,000 unemployed people in Wales.


Chronique du climat

A reader pointed me to a very interesting French book that may be of interest to readers. In Chronique du Climat en Poitou-Charentes Vendee Jean-Luc Audé extracts accounts of climate-related disasters from historical records of this area on the west coast of France.

He starts right back in 567, with the flooding of the Ile de Bouin and takes us quickly on to the droughts - Gaul-wide - in 874 which led to "sterility of the soil, a dearth of bread and of all the fruits of the earth". Then we learn that just a couple of years later "the rivers came in flood and annihilated castles, villages and people everywhere". The litany of climate disasters, which continues right up to the end of the twentieth century, is rather amazing and puts claims of global weirding in their proper context.

It's in French unfortunately for the majority of readers here (the translations above are mine, errors and all), but if you have a smattering of the language it's well worth dipping into. Someone really ought to translate it.

You can get it here.


Diary dates, intellectual incuriousity edition

The Royal Society of the Arts is going to do one of those interminably dull events in which a bunch of pseudo-academics and green activists preach to the converted. The flyer is reproduced below, but note that the first sentence is completely untrue.

In a bid to generate a new dialogue that sparks enduring change, the RSA is embarking on a series of climate change events with a difference. 

The 2015 Paris climate conference is looming, and there’s widespread consensus that it is our final chance for a truly international, multilateral resolution to the planet’s most pressing challenge. But why is it so hard to find a way forward?

For the second event in our brand-new series, we are adopting a 'Question Time' format, gathering expert representatives in each of what we feel are the seven main dimensions of the climate problem: science, behaviour, democracy, law, technology, economy and culture.

Our panel will provide expert insights into the competing priorities, responsibility voids and overlapping areas of jurisdiction that make climate change such a difficult issue to resolve. But above all, we are keen to hear what you, our audience, consider the key barriers to progress.

Panellists to include: Economist, LSE, Lord Nicholas Stern; climate scientist, UCL, Chris Rapley CBE; Green Party member of the London Assembly, Baroness Jenny Jones; Co-founder, Futerra, Solitaire Townsend; green-energy entrepreneur and founder of Solarcentury, Jeremy Leggett; psychoanalytic psychotherapist, Rosemary Randall


Details here.


Quote of the day: can't trust Greenpeace edition

Stephen Tindale is a research fellow at the Centre for European Reform. He spent six years as executive director of Greenpeace UK, which opposes GM crops. However, he has always thought that GM technology should be assessed case-by-case. He minimised campaigning on GM – never authorising direct actions against GM during his time in charge – and told Greenpeace’s campaigners to focus instead on how to make agriculture less environmentally-damaging.

The extract above is from this recent article, in which Tindale argues for just such a case-by-case assessment. Despite what he says, this does seem to be quite a turnaround.

You can see the problem for a Greenpeace director. If he had said what he really believed ten years ago, the flow of funds from the terrified public to Greenpeace would have dried up. So he kept mum; at best toned things down a bit (although not that much as these (1,2) statements from his time in office make clear). Then when he had flown the coop he could tell us the truth.

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