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Parched earth policy

I'm back - after a fashion. I may get back to blogging more regularly in coming days if I can find something to say. Today though, I have a new paper out for GWPF. This is a companion piece to my earlier briefing on precipitation and floods. This one is on drought, heatwaves and conflict. Here's the headline message.

Droughts are not getting worse and they are not causing wars

Claims that droughts are getting worse are not supported in the scientific literature. This is true for both on a global level and for the UK, where historical records indicate much longer and more severe droughts occurred long before human carbon dioxide emissions became significant.

Moreover, claims that “climate change” was behind the conflicts in Darfur and Syria are shown to be based on highly partisan scientific studies that ignore a host of conflicting evidence.

Of course readers here know that papers like the "Drought caused the Syria crisis" one are bunk - I could have written lots more if I'd included all the stuff that has been debunked on the blogs. But there's enough in the peer reviewed literature to kill off this set of disinformation from our green friends.

The briefing is here.

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Reader Comments (103)

Meanwhile, here in the UK, 'Spring' is at least three weeks late...

(Due to global warming, obviously....)

Apr 26, 2016 at 12:47 PM | Unregistered Commentersherlock1

Worth bearing in mind that the Australian Bureau Of Meteorology has not proved itself innocent of accusations of corrupting scientific practices, and supplying information of dubious quality.

The Australian political climate has had some turbulent times in recent years, but the current Australian administration has scaled back on throwing taxpayers money at problems previously imagined to be mountainous, but have turned out to be molehillious.

The Australian BOM is facing an unprecedented crisis in confidence and funding, delivered by the electorate, and this is very upsetting for Greenpeace and their sponsored blog trolls.

Apr 26, 2016 at 12:57 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

Science progresses better without a preconceived dogma...
"Here we show that the previously reported increase in global drought is overestimated because the PDSI uses a simplified model of potential evaporation that responds only to changes in temperature and thus responds incorrectly to global warming in recent decades. More realistic calculations, based on the underlying physical principles that take into account changes in available energy, humidity and wind speed, suggest that there has been little change in drought over the past 60 years."

Apr 26, 2016 at 12:57 PM | Unregistered CommenterJamesG

sherlock1, living in/on the Hampshire Downs, I have been interrupted from work outside, by snow and hail this morning. Nothing unusual in that at all if local oral history is to be believed, the difference now, is that we know that it is due to the ever changing Jet Stream, diverting cold air down from the North.

Historically it would be blamed on witches or something stupid. Now we are told by climate scientists it is due to global warming. I have more faith in witchcraft, having watched climate science and Harry Potter evolve over the last 20 years or so. One has more credibility than the other.

Apr 26, 2016 at 1:11 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

I just stumbled across something that is relevant to this debate at the Climate Prediction website which describes itself as "the world's largest climate modelling experiment." "We run climate models on people’s home computers to help answer questions about how climate change is affecting our world, now and in the future>"

Man-made climate change as important as natural variability in December’s record rains

First results of our new study together with researchers from the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute show that human-induced climate change approximately doubled the chances of an exceptionally warm December in Central England, and significantly increased the chances of high rainfall further North.

Ocean conditions in the Atlantic, and possibly the strong El Niño conditions now seen in the Pacific, also increased the odds of exceptional warmth and rainfall by similar amounts, we found, while random weather variability plays also a large role.

Apr 26, 2016 at 2:03 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoy
Apr 26, 2016 at 2:06 PM | Registered CommenterMikeHaseler


Tell me your not selling out to this Double Dutch climate crowd? Your integrated glass vase technology holds out so much promise. Don't want yet another all British technological breakthrough be exploited by Johnny Foreigner.

Interesting that this foreign crowd, based in the Netherlands, are predicting OUR weather and climate. All that will have to change when the Royal Brexiteers triumph and we can alone be responsible for our climate science co**ups.

Climate science. Buy British!

Apr 26, 2016 at 2:46 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlan Kendall

Phil C,
If you seriously believe those desal plants were a good investment I've got a great bridge you can buy from me...

BTE Golf Charlie, the sea salt comment made me laugh out loud. Many thanks!

Apr 26, 2016 at 3:39 PM | Unregistered Commenterdavid smith

@David Smith: one of the most ironic aspects of the Brisbane desal plant, which I visited during construction in late 2009, was that it was supposed to create from Brisbane pee the replenishment boiler water for use in the Wivenhoe coal fired power station 100 miles distant! Not even Lewis Carroll could come up with something like that!

Apr 26, 2016 at 4:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterNCC 1701E

PS: the reason for the power station backup plan was that with the oncoming Flannery drought, the 1000 year desert, the Wivenhoe catchment area would dry up so the dam would be empty. Because of the advice to keep the dam full until the end of the then La Nina, it was not able in 2011 to act as a brake on the flow of the Brisbane River, which then flooded the City!

This failure of Climate Alchemy remains my top of the list of many such failures. Indeed, the only thing that is stopping the whole fraud from being shut down is Obama's bloody legacy!

Apr 26, 2016 at 4:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterNCC 1701E

Meanwhile, here in the UK, 'Spring' is at least three weeks late...
Burgundy isn't doing much better, Sherlock.
Maxima have been persistently at the low end of the range since the end of February with minima about average.
I'm only talking about six years figures, I admit, so I'm not about to start drawing conclusions but compared with two years ago when we had temperatures in the low 20s by the beginning of April followed by a fruit crop to die for, today's 11° is "disappointing" to put it politely.

Apr 26, 2016 at 4:16 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

Phil C,
If you seriously believe those desal plants were a good investment I've got a great bridge you can buy from me…

Bit premature, there. These things have lifespans in the decades.

Apr 26, 2016 at 4:40 PM | Unregistered CommenterPhil Clarke

Obviously snow and freezing conditions at the end of April is exactly what one would be expecting in the hottest year ever TM....

Apr 26, 2016 at 5:40 PM | Unregistered CommenterJustAnotherPoster

Phil C,
If you seriously believe those desal plants were a good investment I've got a great bridge you can buy from me…

Bit premature, there. These things have lifespans in the decades.

Apr 26, 2016 at 4:40 PM | Phil Clarke

Hopfully Australian taxpayers will earn sufficient to pay for them within their lifespan.

How much are these things costing per annum in interest costs, plus annual maintenance?

Apr 26, 2016 at 5:56 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

So when Phil Clarke tells us that desal plants have lifespans in numbers of decades, he is surely getting into the argument that short-term weather events are not climate, which he invokes when bad things happen, such as mild winters, but not when good things happen, such as hot summers.

Apr 26, 2016 at 6:56 PM | Unregistered Commenterdiogenes

Golf charlie

An indication of costs is given in this 2014 newspaper article

Apr 26, 2016 at 9:27 PM | Unregistered CommenterDaveS

DaveS, you could import a lot of bottled Perrier for that, using chartered aircraft.

The Perrier Awards are given for Best Comedy, annually, in Edinburgh. Could Tim Flannery get a Special Lifetime Achievement Award? Or could Australians just die laughing at the insanity?

Apr 26, 2016 at 10:04 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

Diogenes: that does sort of sum it all up. When good meteorological events happen, that is just weather, when bad meteorological events happen, that is Climate Change!™ Not only is it Climate Change!™, but it is just a presage of what is to come – it will get just so much worse! (Except when it doesn’t of course, but that is just weather.)

Apr 26, 2016 at 11:22 PM | Registered CommenterRadical Rodent

Radical Rodent, global warming is so bad that climate change cuckoos can now be heard all year. Their tone has changed, to a shrieking and intrusive wailing, and this IS getting worse, the more the climate fails to comply with the modelled predictions.

If only computer models could be supplied with some form of sedative, everything would be so much more calm. I don't think the climate would take the slightest bit of notice, but the world would be a happier place.

Apr 26, 2016 at 11:52 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

Phil Clarke I am not sure where you live but you don't appear to know much about Perth WA.
Yes there has been a decrease (about 10%) in rainfall in the general area since the mid 70s due to many natural factors and possibly land clearance. On top of the decrease in rainfall there has been a change in the dam catchment land practices. Prior to the mid 70s the water catchments were extensively cleared but since then this does not occur and surprise, surprise run-off has declined by a significant amount, something like 30%.
So we have a decline in water entering the storage dams and no new ones have been constructed.
On top of that Perth's metro population has nearly trebled in the same time from around 750k in 1970 to over 2 million at the moment.

Apr 27, 2016 at 6:05 AM | Unregistered CommenterAlan (in Perth)

Alan Kendall @ Apr 26, 2016 at 7:15 AM

Alan, Goyer surveyed much of South Australia and working on the type of vegetation deliniated what has become the 10" rainfall line. Obviously this moves annually (or not) but it has proven to be a very good guide to avoiding bankruptcy while farming.
Yes, there are people wheat farming north of the line with different strains of wheat, but no-one has dared go as far as those early pioneers. The Weather Reports still differentiate between Agricultural and Pastoral districts.

If one picture is worth ....try
SkyscraperCity > Continental Forums > OZScrapers > Urban Spaces > City Images, Architecture & Historic themes
Ruins of Outback Australia

Apr 27, 2016 at 6:54 AM | Unregistered CommenterGraeme No.3

"How much are these things costing per annum in interest costs, plus annual maintenance?" (golf charlie)
According to columnist Kenneth Davidson, not normally an ALP foe, the ongoing cost of the Wonthaggi plant, i.e. just to keep it operational ( not actually supplying any water), is $640 million a year or about 30% of the entire Victorian Health budget (for hospitals, ambulances and health funding) for 2015 - 16:
It’s amazing how supine the Melbourne Water ratepayers are considering they have been largely responsible for returning the ALP to government.

Apr 27, 2016 at 7:31 AM | Unregistered CommenterChris Hanley

Thanks for the info, Alan in Perth. You seem to be implying that I have said something factually wrong, could you help me by pointing it out explicitly?

Bishop Hill hero Andrew Bolt claimed that '"Perth now has the lowest water restrictions of any state capital, thanks to its desalination plant ...." and the Perth Water Authority states that 1 in every 6 litres of water consumed in the city is desalinated.

Would that be right?

Apr 27, 2016 at 8:36 AM | Unregistered CommenterPhil Clarke

According to columnist Kenneth Davidson, not normally an ALP foe, the ongoing cost of the Wonthaggi plant, i.e. just to keep it operational ( not actually supplying any water),

Out of date - due to falling reserves in the dams the Government has placed a 50Gl water order from Wonthaggi for the supply period ending June 2017.

Apr 27, 2016 at 9:03 AM | Unregistered CommenterPhil Clarke


Don't worry! I am not selling out but I have hit a short term problem. Someone has put flowers in my vase so I will have to wait until the petals start to fall off before I can do any more work on my model.

It makes me sympathise with the Met Office. I heard a rumour that the infamous "Barbecue Summer" forecast a few years ago was caused by a young trainee who had picked some daffodils in the garden outside the Met Office and stuck them in an air vent in Dame Sligo's shiny new super computer and then watered them. The rest is history!

Apr 27, 2016 at 9:19 AM | Unregistered CommenterRoy

“Out of date - due to falling reserves in the dams the Government has placed a 50Gl water order from Wonthaggi for the supply period ending June 2017”.
Water that is not needed by consumers, the current storage levels stand at 60%, the level in 2007 when construction of the desalination plant was decided was 30%.
No significant new storage has been built for over thirty years despite healthy population growth.
As Davidson says much cheaper water could be available by building more storage in the east of the state which normally has a higher annual rainfall, up to 2000mm.

Apr 27, 2016 at 9:41 AM | Unregistered CommenterChris Hanley

Out of date - due to falling reserves in the dams the Government has placed a 50Gl water order from Wonthaggi for the supply period ending June 2017.

Due to falling reserves of electoral support maybe.

My understanding is that if the plant is not producing water soon for an extended period, it will cost more to fix and maintain than to scrap. So politically, they don't have much choice but to keep it going. It was their project for their cronies' benefit.

Even so, it will take six months to get up to speed.

The Greens and their policy supporters in other parties are going every which way over this. They were against the desal plant originally, but they accepted a huge donation from the unions involved, somewhat muting their stance.

They're against dams, such that all Melbourne's dams bar one early one were built in a 57-year period 1927-1982. Melbourne's population has almost doubled since then. Not one new dam.

Apr 27, 2016 at 9:43 AM | Unregistered Commenterkellydown

I’m baffled why Phil Clarke would be vigorously defending desalination plants which, when operating, consume prodigious quantities of fossil-fuelled electricity.

Apr 27, 2016 at 9:51 AM | Unregistered CommenterChris Hanley

Again - outdated, the more recent plants e.g. Adelaide and Kwinana (Perth) are powered by renewables, sometimes producing more than 100% of the energy requirements.

Just as we require a mix of energy sources to ensure energy security, a country with a history of decade-and-more long droughts, and a growing population, its about a mix of sources to ensure water security. Or will all those new people bring their own water?

Apr 27, 2016 at 10:17 AM | Unregistered CommenterPhil Clarke

Adelaide and Kwinana (Perth) are powered by renewables, sometimes producing more than 100% of the energy requirements
WTF! For someone who usually insists on the most detailed and accurate of citations from others this has to be the sloppiest and most pathetic comment ever seen. A desal plant getting (more than??) 100% of it's energy from renewables? In which ms of the day did that happen?.

Apr 27, 2016 at 10:41 AM | Unregistered CommenterHarry Passfield

are powered by renewables, sometimes producing more than 100% of the energy requirements.

They're powered from the grid same as everything else. What happened was that the state government gave yet more taxpayers' money to a windfarm company to provide a nominal but seldom if ever ("sometimes") actual equivalent power source.

As for Adelaide - South Australia , due to its foolish political commitment to unreliable renewables frequently buys electricity from Victoria's coal and gas-fired grid just to keep the lights on.

Apr 27, 2016 at 11:04 AM | Unregistered Commenterkellydown

Roy. I am shocked to the core. I have heard stories of drunken louts using daffs in a very anal retentive way but to deliberately sabotage Dame Sligo's computer. Toutes Allors!.

I read you post a little too quickly I think. My mind registered in succession 1) YOUNG TRAINEE (= student, and you know what they get up to), 2) DAFFODILS, 3) STUCK, 4) somehow missed air, but did see VENT, 5) DAME SLIGO, and just for a split second my mind went evil.....

Sorry to hear about the down time being experienced by your main climate change asset. Might be able to scrounge up a Ming replacement.

Apr 27, 2016 at 11:04 AM | Unregistered CommenterAlan Kendall

That could have been clearer - the renewable energy source provides more than 100% of the plant's needs ...

The Kwinana Desalination Plant, located south of Perth, Western Australia, turns seawater from Cockburn Sound into nearly 140 megalitres of drinking water per day, supplying the Perth metropolitan area.[1]
The salt water reverse-osmosis (SWRO) plant was the first of its kind in Australia and covers several acres in an industrial park near the suburb of Kwinana.[2] Electricity for the plant is generated by the 80 MW Emu Downs Wind Farm located in the state's Midwest region near Cervantes. The wind farm contributes 270 GWh/year into the general power grid, more than offsetting the 180 GWh/year requirement from the desalination plant.[3]

Fairly ambivalent actually, in the scheme of things, as the local Greens seem to be.

What amuses me is the apparent indifference to the briefing's dishonest representation of Flannery's position, based on a shall we say dubious secondary source.

Apr 27, 2016 at 11:07 AM | Unregistered CommenterPhil Clarke

The Kwinana desal plant produces ~140 Ml/day from seawater. That means ~70 Bar pressure drop across the RO membranes, a layer of plymer film inside ~2 inch diameter stainless steel tubes.

Such a process is INCREDIBLY power hungry (the East Anglian plant in the UK uses brackish water feed at 5 Bar).

Energy use is 180 GWhr/year or about 20 MW continuous power usage. Using 25 Aus c/kWhr, the water production cost is about 0.28 GB£/litre. This is why Perth residents are installing their own wells. Talk about yet more green lunacy!

Apr 27, 2016 at 11:19 AM | Unregistered CommenterNCC 1701E

My rough calculation of 270GWh/yr gives that wind farm a pf of 38% - twice the average for many other wind follies. Hmmmm.

Apr 27, 2016 at 11:19 AM | Unregistered CommenterHarry Passfield

@Harry Passfield: the Emu Downs wind farm is about the best in the World because it uses the steady trade wind up the WA coast. The only problem is that its very limited output fluctuation compared with say the UK, still causes havoc in the residual fossil fuelled turbines. This efficiency reduction is why WA power costs are stratospheric too.

(When UK wind energy exceeds 10% penetration, our Power Grid uses more fossil fuel/kWhr than it would use with no windmills. In WA. it's probably a bit higher, say 15%.)

Apr 27, 2016 at 11:29 AM | Unregistered CommenterNCC 1701E

NCC 1701E seawater desalinators used on sailing yachts need to be at 55-58 bar pressure. Trying to generate that amount of pressure continuously requires more electricity than most small windturbines can produce, so you need the engine on.

Solar panels and wind turbines on yachts can be used to charge batteries, but can only just be relied on for life saving drinking water, without an engine.

For those unaware, reverse osmosis simply means forcing water through a very fine filter at pressure, to filter out salt, bacteria etc. It requires very strong pumps and pipework, and the filters are also expensive! Other than that, it is not complicated technology. The technology can be used to make potable water from biologically contaminated fresh water and seawater. Prefiltering mud and sediment to prevent blockage of the reverse osmosis filters is where some of the biggest maintenance liabilities occur, for portable units used for disaster relief support around the world.

Suitcase sized wind and solar electricity generation, with 12/24volt battery storage, combined with suitcase size desalinators, is the way to go to save lives.

Ships desalinate seawater by evaporating the hot seawater used to cool the engines, under low pressure. A coal fired power station, next to the sea, could produce as much fresh water as Greenpeace could wave a stick at. I wonder why Australia chose the wrong solution?

Apr 27, 2016 at 12:28 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

@GC: Australia was Flanneried into enriching its lefty-oriented insiders, using fake IPCC fizzicks to panic dumb politicians.

We have been subject to the same influences. In our case it was a bit different; the W. Midlands' asset strippers owned Brown and got in return PFI and high renewables' subsidies. They invested in country estates, wind farms and solar parks. I know some of these crooks. In Scotland it's worse - their Mafia used Salmond as a front.

In 1926, H G Wells wrote an essay warning of exactly this issue: the elite farming wind and driving the poor into inner cities to die of power starvation. In my view, members of the Climate Change Committee which controls DECC should be subject to future charges of Corporate Manslaughter as the death toll rises in the new Little Ice Age, already underway.

Apr 27, 2016 at 12:57 PM | Unregistered CommenterNCC 1701E

That raises an interesting question NCC1701E, who will get in first with an unqualified attribution ? the watermelons proving that a storm was caused by humanity, or humanity proving that poor unfortunate froze to death in the UK due to the watermelons

Apr 27, 2016 at 2:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterEternalOptimist

The bellwether here is DECC ministers desperately trying to keep the lights on by paying Danegeld AND follow the EU-mantra of reducing the efficiency and raising the cost of electricity and other utilities. My bet is on a severe winter, either this year or next, with major plant breakdowns (no preventative maintenance) and 100,000 excess deaths. Then the people will rise. As for who they blame, it doesn't really matter because the watermelons will go into hiding!

Apr 27, 2016 at 2:44 PM | Unregistered CommenterNCC 1701E

NCC 1701E & EternalOptimist,

the Green Blob's Cultural Revolution has not been entirely successful, apart from the ruling elite who have made a lot of money out of it. They should be lined up, tied to a wall, and left.

Apr 27, 2016 at 2:50 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

Don't really understand the use of watermelon here.

Apr 27, 2016 at 4:22 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlan Kendall

Dammit, hit wrong button before I had finished.

Was going to rather feebly quip that the fresh of the watermelon pepo contains 91% water, but perhaps new climate change cultivars are being bred to increase this to 97%. Shouldn't have bothered should I?

However would wish gC to explain how watermelons (or anything really) can be TIED to a wall. Pedantry thrives!

Apr 27, 2016 at 4:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlan Kendall

Alan, they should be tied by the pips. ideally

Apr 27, 2016 at 4:36 PM | Unregistered CommenterEternalOptimist

Bit premature, there. These things have lifespans in the decades.

Oh wonderful, decades of money being wasted servicing unused desal plants.
Sorry Phil, you'll never convince anyone with more than half a brain.

Apr 27, 2016 at 6:18 PM | Unregistered Commenterdavid smith

Just like Gladys Knight?

Apr 27, 2016 at 6:18 PM | Unregistered CommenterNCC 1701E

Gladys Knight ? heh heh.

Q. How can you tell when a plane is returning from a Paris junket, full of greenies ?
A. The plane lands. Switches off the engines.
But the whining continues

Apr 27, 2016 at 10:50 PM | Unregistered CommenterEternalOptimist

Alan Kendall, Q: What is Green on the outside, but red on the inside?

Google 'Delingpole watermelons' if you need a clue.

Apr 27, 2016 at 11:45 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

NCC 1701E & EternalOptimist

Should old fruity pips be squeezed first, before being hung out to dry, or after?

Apr 27, 2016 at 11:50 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

Alan Kendall, anything may be 'Tied' to a wall. A cavity wall consists of two separate walls, linked by wall ties spannjng the cavity. Wall ties were originally thin strips of iron, but costs drove these down into metal wire, like a coat hanger bent into a butterfly shape.

Trying to build a new wall onto an existing one, used to involve selective removal of bricks, so the new wall could be 'toothed in'. Nowadays, half a wall tie can be screwed/bolted to existing brickwork, and new brickwork bonded to that. For speed, a half wall tie can be secured with a shot fired fixing.

A watermelon could therefore be tied to a half wall tie device, but it would be worth trying shot firing the watermelon direct to the wall as a means of tieing. It would depend whether the increased mess was considered acceptable collateral damage to the watermelon, as to whether this technique was the preferred option.

The film 'Day of the Jackal' did show a watermelon being used for practice shots, to dramatic effect. The links between watermelons and over dramatised events being filmed, are therefore precedented, and worth repeating.

Apr 28, 2016 at 1:00 AM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

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