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The Royal Air Farce - Josh 352

Prince Charles famously talks to his plants - nothing wrong with that, of course. Our host suggested a cartoon where we listen in to what he might be saying (H/t Climate Expert James Delingpole). Let's hope His Highness reads Roger Andrews too.

Cartoons by Josh

P.S. Is there any interest in a calendar this year? I am a bit late in getting round to it but do let me know if you would like one - I should be able to get some delivered before Christmas.


Closing minds

The quality of reading out there on the web today is very high indeed. Take a look at Jonathan Haidt's post about his experiences when he spoke at a high school in the the Pacific North West.

But then the discussion began, and it was the most unremittingly hostile questioning I’ve ever had. I don’t mind when people ask hard or critical questions, but I was surprised that I had misread the audience so thoroughly. My talk had little to do with gender, but the second question was “So you think rape is OK?” Like most of the questions, it was backed up by a sea of finger snaps — the sort you can hear in the infamous Yale video, where a student screams at Prof. Christakis to “be quiet” and tells him that he is “disgusting.”

You can't help but think that children would be better off outside the American education system. I'd be interested to know how far down this rather scary path we in the UK are.


Nurse's last hurrah

In a few days time Paul Nurse will be leaving his position at the helm of the Royal Society. I think it's fair to say that his time as President has not exactly been a success.

Evidence of the rot, and Nurse's determination to leave the society as a campaigning left-wing environmentalist organisation continues to emerge. It seems that he has committed it to a ten-year involvement in Future Earth, "a ten year international research platform providing the interdisciplinary knowledge needed to support the transition towards a sustainable and equitable world". It remains unclear to me how such political objectives are connected to the Society's purported role of "improving natural knowledge". Perhaps they should rename themselves the "Royal Society for Promotion of Equality".



Syria drought claims are demonstrably false

Roger Andrews, writing at Euan Mearns' site, has just demolished the claim that the Syrian uprising was something to do with climate change. Firstly with an analysis of rainfall changes in the country:

The average [change in rainfall] for all seven stations was 7% below the pre-2006 average, decreasing to 4% when only the five “cropland” stations (Lattakia, Aleppo, Kamishi, Hama and Damascus) are considered...

When the Palmer Drought Severity Index is analysed, it's the same story. These:

lend no support to the claims that Syria suffered severe and widespread drought after 2006.

There is also some very interesting analysis of what may have been behind the Syrian uprising (our old friend the government).

This is devastating. Read the whole thing.


Security oversight

The Commons Energy and Climate Change Committee is going to be considering security of supply this morning from 10am (they are doing the Green Deal at time of writing). The are going to hear from:

  • Cordi O'Hara, Director, UK System Operator
  • Duncan Burt, Head, Operate the System
  • Ro Quinn, Head, Energy Strategy and Policy, National Grid.

With this latest incarnation of the committee, it's probably best not to hold any great expectations of penetrating questions being delivered.


More 403s

Readers are still complaining of 403 errors, which seems to be caused by posting of multiple comments in a short space of time. I have chased Squarespace and they have asked for more screenshots of the error messages - they think there may be a different one now. If readers could oblige by sending pics to me or to Squarespace (via the email address given previously) that would be good.


Quote of the day, science with Guardian characteristics edition

Without a Paris agreement, global warming is set to reach as much as 5C (41F) above pre-industrial levels. Scientists estimate that warming above 2C (35.6F) will result in catastrophic and irreversible changes to the weather, including droughts, floods, heatwaves, fiercer storms and sea level rises.

Fiona Harvey, award winning environment writer for the Guardian, struggles with mathematics


Exxon knew what the IPCC didn't

Bernie Lewin has posted another of his must-read climate history pieces, this time looking at the history of claims about detection and attribution of temperature changes to mankind. His point is that claims that "Exxon knew" back in the 1970s are absurd when set in the context of what climate science was saying on the subject of an anthropogenic influence ten, or even twenty years later.

It's beautifully written and confirms Bernie's place as an important historian of global warming science. You must be able to get a very comical juxtaposition by reading Bernie's erudite thoughts after perusing the effusions of a "proper" historian like Naomi Oreskes.



A change to the playing field

Doug Keenan has posted a note at the bottom of the notice about his £100,000 challenge, indicating that he has reissued the 1000 data series. This was apparently because it was pointed out to him that the challenge could be "gamed" by hacking the (pseudo)random number generator he had used.

Brandon Shollenberger emails to say that this is a terrible thing, but I can't get terribly excited about it. Presumably it doesn't make any difference to those who think they can detect the difference between trending and non-trending series.


Settled science

Much amusement is to be had from a posting at a blog called Sudden Oak Life. The author has recorded images of the Radcliffe surface temperature station in Oxford, part of the Central England Temperature Record and one of the longest temperature records there is.

It's fair to say the quality of the record has declined since the 18th century.

Read the whole thing.


Backing fracking

In a bit of a turnup for the books, a pro-fracking demonstration took place in Lancashire yesterday ahead of the appeal against the county council's decision to block Cuadrilla's planning application.

Video here from 9 minutes (expires tonight).

Ironically the following item is about the "Northern Powerhouse" strategy, with one talking head saying that it is a mirage and that there is no new investment coming to the North of England.

Funny that.


Eco journalists just can't help themselves

Made up of 33 low-lying coral atolls, Kiribati is shrinking as sea levels rise.

Claim made by Paul Gregoire, without citation, in Vice magazine

4.84, 4.66, 3.57, 0.48

Percentage increase in area per decade of islands in Tarawa, the main atoll in Kiribati, as reported by Kench et al.


Gas crackers

A team from the Karlsruhe Institute for Technology claims to have made a breakthrough on the energy front. They have developed a process to "crack" methane, removing the hydrogen, which can be used as a fuel, and leaving behind black carbon rather than carbon dioxide.

My initial reaction to this was to wonder what we would do with all that black carbon, but the press release has this to say:

It is already widely employed in the production of steel, carbon fibres and many carbon-based structural materials. The black carbon derived from the novel cracking process is of high quality and particularly pure powder. Its value as a marketable product therefore enhances the economic viability of methane cracking. Alternatively, black carbon can be stored away, using procedures that are much simpler, safer and cheaper than the storing of carbon dioxide.

It would be interesting to do the maths here - just how much black carbon might be produced, how much energy would be required to turn it into structural materials and so on. At the moment I remain somewhat unconvinced that this is the breakthrough claimed.


Guardian goes full ecobonkers

Yesterday, the IUCN, the body set up to worry about endangered species, issued the latest estimates on polar bear numbers. As Susan Crockford reports, the polar bear population seems to be at a record high, although the IUCN will not be drawn on the current trend and they seem to have been persuaded to leave the bears' status as "vulnerable".

Meanwhile, over in cloud cuckoo land, the Guardian is going the full ecobonkers on the report, with a gory headline about climate change being polar bears' 'single biggest threat'. Three subpopulations, they tell us, are in decline already. Strangely they seem to have neglected to mention the overall increase, and also the fact that two of these allegedly declining subpopulations were determined to be so more than ten years ago.


What's in a tax?

One of the most interesting parts of Amber Rudd's speech yesterday was the suggestion that renewables operators must pay for all the extra costs they bring to the system. Most people seem to be concluding that this means some kind of a tax on renewables.

This is all well and good, but the devil is in the details. So when the minister says:

In the same way generators should pay the cost of pollution, we also want intermittent generators to be responsible for the pressures they add to the system when the wind does not blow or the sun does not shine.

Does she mean that the rest of the grid is going to have to pick up the tab for connecting all those hundreds of wind turbines to the grid?

Watch this space.