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Entries by Bishop Hill (6690)


The Royal Society celebrates a hoaxer

The Royal Society has doubled down in its support for notorious scientific hoaxer Stefan Lewandowsky, inviting him to speak at the Royal Society at the end of February.

Following the recent Paris Climate Summit, countries from around the world have backed climate science and committed to reducing emissions. But for years, public and political uncertainty has delayed cooperation and action. Why has uncertainty had such a powerful psychological effect on us and why is it so damaging?
Join cognitive scientist Professor Stephan Lewandowsky to explore where climate change and human cognition collide and discover the science behind uncertainty.

Details here.

Rumours that the Royal intends to awarding a Queen's medal to Hwang Woo-Suk are said to be unfounded.


The greens' next deception

Just before the end of the year, Oxfam put out a press release about the impacts of El Niño on developing countries, which they said is happening at a time when the humanitarian system is under unprecedented strain.

The press release went on to note that niños are not climate phenomena:

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Not so simples

One of the more interesting suggestions about the reasons for the impact of the floods in the UK in recent weeks has been the suggestion that land use may be a factor. George Monbiot has been sounding off on this subject although it's difficult to take him seriously because he keeps drifting off into class-warrior mode, linking the floods to grouse moors and the like.

Today his green colleague Geoffrey Lean takes up the baton, with an article in the Independent which claims that the North Yorkshire town of Pickering avoided being flooded because of preventative measures taken by the locals:

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Environmentalists trashing the environment, part 729

As greens steadily persuade governments to intervene more and more often in energy markets, the unintended consequences flow ever thicker and faster. In a delightful example today, we read that chemical companies are trying to deal with the steadily increasing price of energy by installing their own power generation facilities, burning ultra-dirty but dirt-cheap lignite.

For example, a power plant operated by Allessa Chemie using pulverized lignite recently entered service at Fechenheim east of Frankfurt, Germany. A similar facility will be completed next year by the WeylChem chemical company in nearby Griesheim. This plant will be capable of firing lignite, natural gas, or “white powder”, an inexpensive biomass substitute. Three truckloads of finely pulverized lignite per day will be supplied from the Rhineland about 200 km northwest near Cologne, with ash returned for mining reclamation.

And if you thought that green hurdles would be put in their way, you would be quite wrong:

An electronic capacity control limits both plants to 19.5 MW operation, alleviating the need to purchase EU Allowances (EUA) for emissions trading. Public hearings are also required only for capacities exceeding 50 MW, and environmental impact assessments per Directive 2014/52/EU above 300 MW.

Well done greens.



Suppressing the good news

Just before Christmas, Steve Milloy reported on his successful bid to get the email correspondence relating to an op-ed in the New York Times, ostensibly by Richard Spinrad of NOAA and Ian Boyd, the chief scientist at Defra. this was on the subject of ocean acidification and carried a fairly scary paragraph about what scientists were said to be observing:

Ocean acidification is weakening coral structures in the Caribbean and in cold-water coral reefs found in the deep waters off Scotland and Norway. In the past three decades, the number of living corals covering the Great Barrier Reef has been cut in half, reducing critical habitat for fish and the resilience of the entire reef system. Dramatic change is also apparent in the Arctic, where the frigid waters can hold so much carbon dioxide that nearby shelled creatures can dissolve in the corrosive conditions, affecting food sources for indigenous people, fish, birds and marine mammals. Clear pictures of the magnitude of changes in such remote ocean regions are sparse. To better understand these and other hotspots, more regions must be studied

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Holthaus thoroughly maued and knappenburgered

With all the stories of unprecedented weather in recent weeks it's important to observe that none of these claims ever seem to be accompanied by any historical context.

One of these stories has of course revolved around the warm weather at the North Pole. While much amusement was had at the hapless journalist from Time magazine who mistook the settlement of North Pole, Alaska for the actual North Pole, there is no doubt that the pole proper did experience a short burst of unseasonably warm temperatures, bringing the inevitable claims of impending apocalypse from the usual suspects. 

Kudos then to Ryan Maue of Weatherbell for making available his dataset of estimated temperatures for the Pole and to Chip Knappenburger of Cato, who has published the figures as the graph below.

Apocalypse cancelled.



Splitters, deniers, and circular firing squads

A couple of weeks ago, we were treated to the sight of Naomi Oreskes badmouthing a variety of climate scientists for having the temerity to support the expansion of nuclear power. Her use of the d-word caused shock among some parts of the green fraternity, who like to reserve it for people who disagree about the value of climate sensitivity. Oreskes' great contribution to uncivil society has been to apply this unpleasant term of abuse to those who disagree on policy measures too. Splitters, I tell you! Splitters!

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Gong with the wind

The New Year's honours list was published last night and as usual I have scanned it looking for familiar names. Strangely, yours truly has been overlooked again.

The sense of shock is almost palpable. 

Still, it has been suggested that the majority of gongs go to failed politicians, to celebs and to civil servants who have merely been doing their jobs. So a knighthood for David Mackay was probably inevitable, although I don't suppose anyone will begrudge him: he was certainly the most level-headed occupant of the chief scientist's office at DECC for many a year. Ed Davey's knighthood was just a case of the normal gongs for failure that politicians expect.

More interesting was the award of an OBE to Emily Shuckburgh for services to science communication. I must say this rather took me aback. I've met Emily and she's bright and charming, but I watch the climate scene as closely as anyone and she has only attracted my notice on a handful of occasions. I can think of at least a dozen people who have been more active in the area and who have done more to advance public understanding of climate science. Perhaps Emily's contribution has been more behind the scenes than front of stage, or perhaps it's just that her work has been done in Whitehall rather than out there in the wild west of England, like Richard or Tamsin.

Congratulations to both though.


The greens and the fascists

Taking a few days off from the blog has at least given me a chance to finish reading Jonah Goldberg's Liberal Fascism. This book (buy here) was a bit of an eye-opener for me, setting out in mind-boggling detail the links - both historical and philosophical - between fascism and the ideas espoused by modern day liberals and progressives. The sheer weight of evidence is extraordinary - from welfare, to land reform, to greenery, to the worship of the state it's hard to find any area of public policy on which the two  don't have much in common. (Goldberg points out that anti-semitism was part of the Nazi creed, but not that of the Italian or Spanish fascists, and was therefore a policy of Hitlerism, but not really of fascism.)

But what struck me about the book was how often I noticed that there are also clear parallels between fascism and environmentalism. At a high level, both are alt-religions, which their adherents seek to impose on society with Jesuit fervour, spurred on by fear of impending disaster. Both are openly totalitarian, in the original sense of the word: in other words the creed is supposed to apply in every aspect of life, in every area of policy, and in the private sphere as much as in the public.

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The EU's role in the floods

With a bit of luck, BH readers should by now have worked off the excesses of Christmas and be ready to return to the fray.

With flooding back in the news, I thought it might be useful to point readers to this very interesting piece from a couple of weeks ago, which considers the European Union's role in causing the floods.

[I]n order to comply with the obligations imposed on us by the EU we had to stop dredging and embanking and allow rivers to ‘re-connect with their floodplains’, as the currently fashionable jargon has it.

And to ensure this is done, the obligation to dredge has been shifted from the relevant statutory authority (now the Environment Agency) onto each individual landowner, at the same time making sure there are no funds for dredging. And any sand and gravel that might be removed is now classed as ‘hazardous waste’ and cannot be deposited to raise the river banks, as it used to be, but has to be carted away.

And all paid for by you.


Seitz is no guarantee

Readers are no doubt familiar with Harvard physicist Russell Seitz, a frequent commenter in these parts. If so you may be interested in an email I received today:

Take a look at this 1990 article by Russell Seitz, placed online recently here. It's colourfully written, but ironically it sets out a sceptic position rather well. Does this sound like something that you might have written?

A disturbing reality confronts us:  the deliberate creation of a double standard, with one set of facts for internal scientific discourse and another for public consumption.

On whether CO2 is a "big" problem:

Clearly, a sharp-toothed carnivore is on the prowl. But we've yet to see a full-grown specimen.  Are we dealing with Snoopy or Cerberus? It's hard to tell- it's only just a foundling pup, and the question of its diet remains to he wrestled with-it might grow into either. But grow it will-slowly, and for a long while undetectably. One of these centuries, we're going to have a real dog in our front yard. But what kind?  And when?  An interdisciplinary consensus on the magnitude of the "greenhouse effect" and its impact on sea levels in the next century won't come cheap-or soon.

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US usurps EU's role of climate fool

In the Wall Street Journal, Benny Peiser explains (£) that the outcome of Paris appears to be that the EU has allowed itself leeway to move in a more rational direction on climate energy policy, while the USA is going in precisely the opposite direction.

The toothless nature of the Paris agreement finally allows EU member states to abandon unilateral decarbonization policies that have damaged Europe’s economies and its international competitiveness. Under such circumstances, the unconditional climate policies of President Obama would be left out in the cold. The U.S. administration has pledged to cut carbon emissions by 26%-28% by 2025, no matter what China, India and the rest of the world do in coming decades.



The subsidy cuts and the pea under the thimble

This is a guest post by Phillip Bratby.

Readers will no doubt have seen the apoplexy of Roger Harrabin and others in the media about the cuts in subsidies for rooftop solar power announced by Amber Rudd on 17th December (DECC press release here).  Cuts of 64% (Telegraph, BBC) or 65% (Guardian, Independent, FT) were reported.  The new subsidies (the Feed-in-Tariff scheme which consists of a generation tariff plus an export tariff) were given following a consultation, which had supposedly been proposing cuts of 87%.

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We forgot the geography!

The British Medical Journal recently held a Q&A on climate science with, among others, Brian Hoskins. The results are paywalled, but I was amused by the excerpt from the start of the session in response to a question about why Antarctic sea ice is growing:

The anomaly in the Antarctic is due to its geography. Unlike in the Arctic, where the extent of sea ice is constrained by the North American and Eurasian land masses, Antarctic sea ice forms in the open ocean with less land constraining its formation. Antarctic sea ice is also thinner and mostly melts each summer, whereas Arctic sea ice survives longer (although the amount of sea ice lasting more than two years has declined rapidly since 1979).

If the growth is "due to its geography" you have to wonder why the climate models predicted a decrease. Perhaps climate modellers forgot to put the geography in?


Surfacestations: the punchline

And what a punchline it is. Anthony has finally published the results of his epic Surfacestations project, and it seems that the surface temperature record is as flawed as we thought. Here's the text of the press release.

SAN FRANCISO, CA – A new study about the surface temperature record presented at the 2015 Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union suggests that the 30-year trend of temperatures for the Continental United States (CONUS) since 1979 are about two thirds as strong as officially NOAA temperature trends.

Using NOAA’s U.S. Historical Climatology Network, which comprises 1218 weather stations in the CONUS, the researchers were able to identify a 410 station subset of “unperturbed” stations that have not been moved, had equipment changes, or changes in time of observations, and thus require no “adjustments” to their temperature record to account for these problems. The study focuses on finding trend differences between well sited and poorly sited weather stations, based on a WMO approved metric Leroy (2010)1 for classification and assessment of the quality of the measurements based on proximity to artificial heat sources and heat sinks which affect temperature measurement...

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