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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.


More than media

This interview with Hans Rosling is rather wonderful in the way that the great man batters away until realisation dawns on the interviewer that the bubble he inhabits reflects only a small part of reality.


Green rump

With mainstream greens all coming out in favour of fracking (Robin Harper signed up yesterday, adding his name to a list that now includes Stern, Deben and Worthington), it looks at though only a green rump - the true oddballs of the movement - want to continue the fight.

(You would have thought that a top person in the creative industries could have thought up their own publicity stunt rather than pinching Guido's idea.)


Death spiral stops

The Arctic death spiral seems to have been postponed for another year. Based on the Danish graphs below, it looks as if the summer minimum may have been reached, although it is not beyond the realm of possibility that we get another downtick.

Click to read more ...


Weak sink sunk

In the years after the IPCC's Fourth Assessment Report a small group of scientists claimed to have demonstrated that carbon sinks were weakening, so that a progressively smaller proportion of carbon dioxide emissions would be mopped up and locked away. Alarm, it would seem, was required. Josep Canadell and Michael Raupach, both of CSIRO, together with Corinne le Quere of UEA, published these claims in a series of papers from 2007-9 and their ideas have led to a great deal of worry among climatologists and licking of lips among environmentalists.

However, since then other scientists have challenged these views. Emanuel Gloor at Leeds published a paper that found that that the earlier claims were assigning to carbon sink weakening changes that should have been explained by other factors, like land-use change.

One of the carbon sinks that was claimed to be weakening was the Southern Ocean, but last night, Science published another paper (£) that finds that this was wrong too:

Several studies have suggested that the carbon sink in the Southern Ocean—the ocean’s strongest region for the uptake of anthropogenic CO2 —has weakened in recent decades. We demonstrated, on the basis of multidecadal analyses of surface ocean CO2 observations, that this weakening trend stopped around 2002, and by 2012, the Southern Ocean had regained its expected strength based on the growth of atmospheric CO2. All three Southern Ocean sectors have contributed to this reinvigoration of the carbon sink, yet differences in the processes between sectors exist, related to a tendency toward a zonally more asymmetric atmospheric circulation. The large decadal variations in the Southern Ocean carbon sink suggest a rather dynamic ocean carbon cycle that varies more in time than previously recognized.



Bryony was glad she had someone to protect her from Bob's furyBack in July Secretary of State Amber Rudd told the Energy and climate change commitee that shale gas was effectively a low-carbon source of energy, a remark that had a harsh response from the usual suspects, including Simon Bullock of Friends of the Earth and BH favourite Bob Ward.



Bob Ward described Rudd's remarks as "bizarre".



Today, of course, Bryony Worthington has said almost exactly the same thing.



We await comment from the Grantham Institute.


Will removing cost make things cheaper?

The Today programme decided that it would invite two anti-capitalist greens on to discuss shale gas. I suppose we should at least be grateful that they picked two greens who had some minor disagreement, with Bryony Worthington wanting a domestic shale gas industry to develop and Friends of the Earth boss Craig Bennett adopting a zero-tolerance approach to any future development (audio posted below). Roger Harrabin's website report on the item also has a quote from Matt Ridley.

Worthington's view is that it's a waste to compress gas in Qatar, ship it thousands of miles and then decompress it again in the UK.

The important thing is to minimize the carbon emissions from gas. That means if we can get our own fracked gas, it's better to use that than importing gas that's been compressed at great energy cost somewhere else.

No doubt we should rest assured that removing this "great energy cost" from the equation will have no impact on gas prices in the UK.

Worthington Bennett fracking


Diary dates, "debate" edition

The British Academy (chairman, Lord Stern) has organised an event looking at energy and environment. It's described as a "debate", but looking at the speakers I think it's fair to say that all the participants are on the same side.

Tuesday 22 September 2015, 6.30-8.00pm
The Royal Society, 6-9 Carlton House Terrace, London, SW1Y 5AG 

Chaired by Nik Gowing, broadcaster 

What are the challenges of meeting future demands for energy for our rapidly growing urban population? How can the growing global demands for energy be reconciled with the need to protect the planet from the impacts of climate change? What role do energy companies and international organisations have to play in meeting our needs to enable growth, whilst balancing this with the long-term sustainability of our activities? 


Juliet Davenport, CEO, Good Energy
Professor David Newbery FBA, Director, Energy Policy Research Group, University of Cambridge
Dr Camilla Toulmin, International Institute for Environment and Development

Details here.


Wrong-speed dating

Last year I posted a series of articles about statistical issues surrounding radiocarbon dating, a subject that is important in its own right but also directly impinges on the climate debate because of the way in which it informs our knowledge of past climates and the carbon cycle.

However, it looks as though a new paper in Earth and Planetary Science Letters is going to extend the debate still further, arguing that radiocarbon dating falls down badly in samples that are over 30,000 years old. According to an article in the South China Morning Post,

Click to read more ...


Minor drying in Iran causes farmers to flee Syria

The origin of the claim that the Syrian refugee crisis is partly caused by climate is a paper by Kelley et al in PNAS. This has picked up quite a lot of media attention, yesterday's Independent  article being just the latest.

Kelley et al is a bit odd though. Consider at what they found. In the top panel of the following figure, they claim to have found a significant drying trend. They are using a significance level of P <0.05. (Questions, questions: why do they calculate trends since 1931 when they have data going back to 1900?)

Click to read more ...


Greenpeace warns of ice age dangers

Greenpeace are fond of telling us that the planet is going to fry because of our evil addiction to fossil fuels. How then to explain their submission to the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, which maintains a register of issues and potential problems with the nation's nuclear waste repositories?

The long-term effects of glaciation on repository safety could be very serious, potentially involving a large release of radionuclides due to glacial flushing from a damaged repository zone. Future glaciations could cause faulting of the rock, rupture of containers and penetration of surface and/or saline waters to the repository depth.

Surely some mistake?


Desperate Dana - Josh 345

The Emma Thompson Newsnight interview made it to the Guardian. The writer Dana Nuccitelli (ironically an employee of Tetra Tech who have interests in the Oil and Gas industry) explains that Emma Thompson was wrong but in the right sort of way, unlike other people who are wrong in the wrong sort of way.

Unhinged. Why would we ever trust them to tell the truth about anything?

Cartoons by Josh


What's in a name?

One of the ideas that has been kicked around the green community for a while is to persuade the WMO and national met offices to name storms after prominent global warming sceptics.

As climate change continues to create more frequent and devastating storms, we propose a new naming system. One that names extreme storms after policymakers who deny climate change.

Now, with a certain air of innocence, the Met Office is suggesting that the public might like to suggest names for major storms that head our way this winter.



More Syria shamefulness

The ambulance chasers are still, rather disreputably, hovering around the fringes of the migrant crisis. Today I came across a cartoon that again seeks to link the 2007 Syrian drought to climate change. Entitled Syria's Climate Conflict, it opens with the 2007 drought and then moves on to the displacement of people thereafter, before moving on to the uprising itself, describing its beginnings in the southern city of Daraa and the spread to Damascus before asking whether maybe climate change had something to do with it. A scientivist type is on hand to insinuate that it did.

If you take a look at the cartoon though, you will notice something odd: there is not even a vague insinuation that the climate in Syria has changed. There has been a drought of course, but Syria is nothing if not a country prone to drought. So where is the climate change? It is so transparently an attempt to use a weather event to advance a climate argument that it is hard to avoid the conclusion that the authors are not just playing fast and loose with the facts.

Click to read more ...


Destroy the planet to save the planet

A new paper in Nature (some readers may prefer to discount the paper on those grounds alone) finds that efforts to abate emissions of two key greenhouse gases that are emitted as industrial wastes have managed to create incentives to produce more of them.

Carbon markets are considered a key policy tool to achieve cost-effective climate mitigation1, 2. Project-based carbon market mechanisms allow private sector entities to earn tradable emissions reduction credits from mitigation projects. The environmental integrity of project-based mechanisms has been subject to controversial debate and extensive research1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, in particular for projects abating industrial waste gases with a high global warming potential (GWP). For such projects, revenues from credits can significantly exceed abatement costs, creating perverse incentives to increase production or generation of waste gases as a means to increase credit revenues from waste gas abatement10, 11, 12, 13, 14. Here we show that all projects abating HFC-23 and SF6 under the Kyoto Protocols Joint Implementation mechanism in Russia increased waste gas generation to unprecedented levels once they could generate credits from producing more waste gas. Our results suggest that perverse incentives can substantially undermine the environmental integrity of project-based mechanisms and that adequate regulatory oversight is crucial. Our findings are critical for mechanisms in both national jurisdictions and under international agreements.

Oh well done Gaia lovers, well done. It seems that we have to destroy the planet to save the planet.