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Facebook: the greens' pet censor

Phelim McAleer - the man behind the Fracknation documentary film - has been covering an important US court case in which residents of Dimock Pennsylvania are seeking compensation from a shale gas driller, who they say has contaminated their water supply and poisoned their children.

It's hard to imagine that the case is not going to be thrown out as a complete fabrication - the judge has already expressed concern over the veracity of the claims. When you read that the plaintiffs reacted to their children coming down with neurological, gastrointestinal, and dermatological conditions by not taking their children to a doctor, the house of cards starts to collapse before your very eyes.

Expect a determined silence on the subject from the BBC.

In fact, you should probably expect a determined silence everywhere, because it seems that Facebook has started to remove posts about the case from McAleer's page at the behest of green activists.


A strange convergence of interests



The Telegraph reports that complaints have been made to the Charities Commission about green NGOs campaigning on Brexit. 

The charities watchdog will on Monday issue new guidance on political neutrality after Friends of the Earth, The Wildlife Trusts and Greenpeace all made public comments backing EU membership.

The charities have all insisted that Britain being a member of the EU is vital to protecting Britain’s wildlife - with one suggesting that those backing Brexit want to make the country “the dirty man of Europe”.

The author of the piece, political correspondent Ben Riley Smith, seems to have missed the fact that Friends of the Earth and the Wildlife Trusts are heavily funded by the EU.


Stupidity signalling

Everyone has now heard of "virtue signalling", the idea that words are uttered or actions taken simply to demonstrate membership of the group of "right-thinking people". Taken to its extreme, however, virtue signalling becomes "stupidity signalling" and here we have a truly epic example in the shape of the EP Tender, a trailer containing an electric generator, which you tow behind your electric car on longer trips.




The parliamentary arm of Veolia

When Lord Deben stepped down as chairman of Veolia UK, I did wonder who would take on the role of company "spokesman" in Parliament. Today, Guido reveals that Laurence Robertson, the MP for Tewkesbury, has got himself into trouble for arranging a parliamentary pass for Veolia's PR people. 

How interesting.


Outlook bad for Shukla

Remember Jagadish Shukla, the American professor who called for racketeering laws to be used against sceptics? There was considerable interest when it was revealed that Prof Shukla appeared to be working full time for a charity he ran, as well as taking his university salary. This "double dipping" seems to have been brought to the attention of US lawmakers, who have asked auditors to investigate. It's not looking good for Prof Shukla:

According to [House Science Committee Chairman Lamar Smith]’s letter, the audit “appears to reveal that Dr. Shukla engaged in what is referred to as ‘double dipping.’ In other words, he received his full salary at GMU, while working full time at IGES and receiving a full salary there.”

Mr. Smith cites a memo from the school’s internal auditor in claiming that Mr. Shukla appeared to violate the university’s policy on outside employment and paid consulting. The professor received $511,410 in combined compensation from the school and IGES in 2014, according to Mr. Smith, “without ever receiving the appropriate permission from GMU officials.”

Couldn't happen to a nicer guy.


Corals not as threatened as we thought

Blogging is going to be light for a few days. In the meantime, Ben Webster (£) notes that corals are not nearly as threatened as previously thought.

Claims that coral reefs are doomed because human emissions are making the oceans more acidic have been exaggerated, a review of the science has found.

An “inherent bias” in scientific journals in favour of more calamitous predictions has excluded research showing that marine creatures are not damaged by ocean acidification, which is caused by the sea absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.


Quote of the day, hypocritical lowlife edition

You are self employed and I was told that your work takes you to the USA. I can not resist surmising that you may get there using air travel.

District Judge Wright draws attention to the almost unbelievable hypocrisy of Robert Basto, one of the Heathrow 13.


High tide for the shale gas scare?

The Herald (£) is reporting that the Scottish LibDems have seen the writing on the wall and are about to reverse their policy on shale gas developments.

The party today reversed its policy on the issue, having voted in 2013 to back a temporary fracking ban. The decision was taken in light of a 2014 report on the topic, commissioned by the Scottish Government, which concluded that fracking could be carried out safely if robust regulation is in place.

You wonder what they have been thinking about for the last two years.

Given just how wedded the LibDems have been to the green yoke, this looks like a pretty significant development to me. It may have come too late for the guys at Dart, whose jobs were sacrificed to electoral expediency. It's probably also too late too allow Scotland to become the UK centre for shale gas expertise - it looks as though that will be in England. But the tide may be turning.


The energy case for Brexit

UKIP makes the case that the EU is wrecking the UK energy supply, making it expensive and unreliable. This a party political piece rather than something designed for the Brexit campaign per se.

There were certainly some commenters on my earlier EU thread who thought that British pols were green-minded enough to trash the energy system in this country without any help from Brussels, which in some ways is the case that UKIP are making here.


A retwardian precis

At the Royal Society on Tuesday night there was a meeting about the Paris climate agreement. It was chaired by Lord Stern. During the Q&A session afterwards, Benny Peiser asked a question as follows:

Given that the Paris deal isn't legally binding and given that the Republicans have repeatedly declared that they are not bound by the Obama administration's pledges, what would happen to the Paris deal if a Republican candidate were to win the Presidential elections?

Bob Ward decided to precis this in a tweet: extraordinary statement for a normal human being but not, alas, for our Bob, a point made quite forcefully a few moments later:




Tribunal Dates

This is a guest post by David Holland

BH readers may recall that I reported here that Tom Osborn had jumped the gun at CLB suggesting that I had not appealed the First Tier Tribunal decision to uphold the Met Office refusal to disclose the AR4 ZODs.

On Monday afternoon, 29 February if any BH readers are in London with nothing better to do they might look in at Field House, 15 Breams Building, EC4A 1DZ, before 2 pm to hear my oral request to the Upper Tribunal that it grant me permission to appeal.  I might also mention that my appeal to the Upper Tribunal on the University of Cambridge refusal to disclose Peter Wadhams RE report is also listed to be heard at Field House at 10:30 am on 15 April.





Quote of the day, predictability edition

Even a fully deterministic system is fully unpredictable at climatic timescales when there is persistence.

From a Demetris Koutsoyiannis presentation.


Tabloid academics

Don't you just love it when a bunch of academics goes the full Sunday Sport? You know, putting together an article that makes up in headlines what it lacks in intellectual rigour.

There was a case in point yesterday, when the ReFine group of researchers at Newcastle University published a paper on the traffic impacts of shale gas developments. They did lots of fancy-dan computer modelling and concluded that it was all going to be awful.

As ever the devil is in the detail. One of the main contributory factors to the impact is said to be the lorries that are going to deliver water to the drilling sites. The authors note darkly that as the number of wells that can be drilled from a pad increases, the number of deliveries is only going to increase.

There is just one slight problem with this argument. In the USA, water does indeed tend to be delivered by lorry -the country is large and sparsely populated and there is often no alternative to road transport. The UK on the other hand is densely populated. Water mains are everywhere. 

When you think about it for more than a second then, it's hard to credit the idea that rapacious capitalists would anything other than choose cheap and convenient mains water over expensive road deliveries. Cuadrilla's Preese Hall frack was done with mains water and that is the plan for their two new Lancashire sites too. 

Even more remarkably, the authors of the paper knew all this:

It cannot be ruled out that water transportation to the well pad during exploration, development or after production has commenced could be via pipeline, as was the case for the UK's first fracked shale exploration well at Preese Hall, Lancashire (Mair, 2012).

But they decided that they would go ahead and do a paper based on the assumption that road transport would be used.

Go figure. 

I'm sure they could have got more press coverage if they assumed that bottled water was delivered in transit vans towed by articulated lorries. You can't rule that out either.


Stochastic Stern

You know all that money we have been spending on developing economic models of the effects of climate change? Well apparently it has mostly been wasted. At least that's the case according to Lord Stern, whose article in the sociology journal Nature says that we should be moving onto something more reliable.

Because the IAMs omit so many of the big risks, SCC estimates are often way too low. As a first step, the consequences being assessed should include the damages to human well-being and loss of life beyond simply reduced economic output. And the very large uncertainty, usually involving downward bias, in SCC estimates should always be made explicit...

A comprehensive review of the problems of using IAMs in climate economics called for the research community to develop a “third wave” of models. The authors identify various types of model that might offer advances. Two are: dynamic stochastic computable general equilibrium (DSGE) models, and agent-based models (ABMs).

It's also interesting to see stochastic modelling being touted in a week when climatologists have been outraged by a suggestion that such an approach might be useful in their own field. 


Going down?

The highlight of the day looks as though it's going to be the sentencing of the Heathrow 13 - the gang from Plane Stupid who thought it would be amusing to shut down Heathrow airport for several hours. Expectations are that a jail sentence beckons.

The usual suspects are protesting outside the Magistrates Court and there will no doubt be lots of spurious claims that these were "peaceful protestors", as if preventing people from going about their daily business were anything other than thuggery.




It's about time these people were dealt with.

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