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Shale bonanza

Matt Ridley looks at the shale gas revolution, which he says changes everything. Well, perhaps. But then again perhaps not everything. The impression you get from Andrew Orlowski's article on the same subject is that Britain's Department of Energy and Climate Change are entirely unmoved by the bonanza taking place around the world and indeed on our own back door here in the UK.

No doubt some wag will soon start to refer to the denizens of DECC as "shale gas deniers". It's just as well we are above that sort of thing here.


Universities and critical thinking

Much good fun to be had at Donald Clark's blog, which concentrates on education and in particular, e-learning. Today he's looking at a survey of what students actually get up to at universities and whether they are actually learning critical thinking.

Do universities really teach critical thinking? This huge CLA longitudinal study on 2,322 students for four years from 2005 to 2009 across broad range of 24 U.S. colleges and universities, suggests not. Richard Arum of New York University found that they were woeful at critical thinking, complex reasoning and written communication. 36% showed no significant gains in "higher order" thinking skill. 45% made no significant improvement in critical thinking.



Peterson and knife fights

James Hrynyshyn has written about Tom Peterson's "knife fight" quote, which I mentioned here the other day. According to Hrynyshyn, Peterson was quoting somebody else.

What Tom was doing when he made the reference to a "knife fight" was recalling what had been said to him after a climate science hearing in Washington. His notes for his presentation include:

"An aside from a Congressman after a hearing: -You're in a knife fight and need to fight back."

But Chris's Tweet didn't have room for the context. So when the blogosphere's most popular climate-change pseudoskeptic, Anthony Watts, came across the little snippet, his interpretation did not square with the facts. Instead, he attributed the knife comment to Tom, rather than the congressional aide.

I'm not sure I'm wholly convinced by this. If Peterson had quoted the congressman in order to refute or criticise him then that would be one thing. But there is no indication that this was the case - it looks very much as if Peterson was using the quote to illustrate a point.

European carbon market suspended

The Telegraph (among others) is reporting that the European carbon market has been suspended for a week following the theft of emissions permits from the Czech registry.

More than €2bn (£1.7bn) of trade is likely to be disrupted after the European Commission said it would prevent transactions until January 26.

The suspension follows allegations that 475,000 carbon credits worth €7m were stolen in a hacking attack on the Czech carbon register. It appears that the intangible allowances were bounced between eastern European countries before disappearing without a trace.

I'm not sure I understand why they feel it necessary to suspend the market this time. According to the same article,

[The market] has been plagued by fraud, with Europol estimating that carbon trading criminals trying to play the system may have accounted for up to 90pc of all market activity in some European countries during 2009. Fraudulent traders mainly from Britain, France, Spain, Denmark and Holland pocketed an estimated €5bn.

Industrial-scale fraud - environmentalism's legacy to the world.


Make yer mind up Issa

Remember I said that the US House of Representatives had (kind of) said they weren't going to investigate Climategate? That was yesterday. Today, they are (kind of) saying that they will. Mother Jones has this:

UPDATE: Oversight Committee spokesman Frederick Hill responded to a question about whether climate is still on Rep. Issa's agenda this year, via email: "The issue, as explained in the September report, is still a relevant concern. [Bardella's]  comment simply reflects the fact that the committee has not announced a hearing or specific investigation on the issue."

In the comments to yesterday's post, Doug Keenan said he thinks that Issa's Oversight Committee will probably pass this particular hot potato over to the science committee. That sounds about right to me.


The Royal Society and sea level

WUWT has a guest post looking at sea level rises...and possibly falls:

Based on the most current data it appears that 2010 is going to show the largest drop in global sea level ever recorded in the modern era.  Since many followers of global warming believe that the rate of sea level rise is increasing, a significant drop in the global sea level highlights serious flaws in the IPCC projections.  The oceans are truly the best indicator of climate.

Hat tip then to John Shade (of Climate Lessons fame) who notes the views on sea level rise put forward in the Royal Society's recent paper on climate change:

Because of the thermal expansion of the ocean, it is very likely that for many centuries the rate of global sea-level rise will be at least as large as the rate of 20cm per century that has been observed over the past century. Paragraph 49 discusses the additional, but more uncertain, contribution to sea-level rise from the melting of land ice.'

Oops. As John Shade notes, it woud be instructive to have an annual review of the Royal Society's paper in the light of new data.


Enviro what?

Benny Peiser points me to some more evidence that interest in the great green god Gaia is waning. In fact so uninterested are the public that it is getting quite hard to find anyone who thinks it's a priority at all.

The story comes from a report about a Fabian society conference, which heard from pollster Peter Kellner:

YouGov pollster Peter Kellner reinforced the point, noting that in 2005, 20 per cent of the public pointed to environmental issues as important to them - this year that number had fallen to 7%. Likewise, three years ago 50% of the public accepted that climate change is man-made, but as a result of the University of East Anglia controversy, amongst other things, this had fallen to below 40%.


Republican probe off again

The back-and-forth over the proposed global warming hearings in the US House of Representatives appear to be off again. According to The Hill, although a New Yorker profile of new House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Darrell Issa, suggested that he was keen to do an investigation, a statement yesterday by Issa's spokesman said that no such inquiry would take place.

Issa spokesman Kurt Bardella on Monday pushed back against the depiction of Issa’s climate plans in The New Yorker piece, claiming that Issa had been asked about the issue rather than raising it as a priority.

“We are not pursuing a Climategate probe,” Bardella told The Hill on Monday morning.


Virginia legislators to thwart Cuccinelli

Democratic senators in the Virginia State legislature are going to launch an attempt to thwart Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli's probe into the work of Michael Mann. Their aim is to repeal the section of the Virginia legal code that permits the AG to issue demands for information - the so-called CIDs that Cuccinelli is currently directing at the University of Virginia.

The senators, A. Donald McEachin and J. Chapman Petersen, will meet this morning with Del. David J. Toscano, D-Charlottesville, at the Capitol to discuss the legislation.

“This particular statute has been used to get at an issue that would be discussed more appropriately by scientists, not legislators or elected officials. This bill would repeal the whole statute. I’m not sure it has to go that far, but that’s what the bill seeks,” Toscano said.

Officials in Cuccinelli’s office said they have not seen the bill and cannot comment until they get a chance to read it.

The idea of repealing legislation to prevent an investigation, even a politically inspired one, from going ahead seems extraordinary to me.


Government rejects deep greens

Roger Harrabin is reporting that the Tyndall Centre have called for a moratorium on shale gas extraction in the UK "until the environmental implications are fully understood" (meaning permanently, one assumes). The report was apparently commissioned by the Cooperative (which used to be called the Co-op Bank).

The Co-operative is concerned that Decc pronounced shale gas safe last week before the end of a consultation into the technology by MPs on the Commons energy and climate change select committee.

Paul Monaghan, head of the organisation's social goals, said: "There should be no fracturing of rock for shale gas until legislation can catch up.


Mooney on Climategate

Chris Mooney gave a talk yesterday at the Science Online Conference. Apparently a large group of science communicators who are worried about global warming flew in from other countries to hear the great communicator talk about Climategate ;-).  I discovered the talk too late to pick up the live stream, but we can get a feel for what was said by some of the twittering that went on. Chris Rowan's seems the most detailed account.

1. Now in session about climategate, or 'antiscience lies and the lying liars who tell them'

2. Chris Mooney on how 'climate' of scientific ignorance in which the scandal broke provided fertile ground for it to grow in.

3. Mooney admits grudging admiration for Mark Morano (in terms of his effectiveness at communicating his agenda)

4. Interesting: '6 Americas of global warming' chart shows that doubtful/dismissive are a hardly a majority. But they *are* very loud.

5. Mooney wants 'deadly ninjas of science communication' - to abseil down the through the windows of the Fox News building, perhaps?

6. Q being posed by @: are climate denialists the new creationists? If so, we're screwed.

7. 'It's a knife fight', says Tom Peterson. I'd argue that we're considering picking up a knife while other side researching nukes.

The talk of ninjas and knife fights is interesting in the current atmosphere. (Tom Peterson is a scientist at NCDC. SOme may know him for his work on urban heat island effect).


Josh 67


Uncertainty is good

That seems to be the message from an opinion-taking exercise run by the Edge magazine. The respondents are a group of leading scientists, philosophers and others. The results are discussed in the Guardian.

Being comfortable with uncertainty, knowing the limits of what science can tell us, and understanding the worth of failure are all valuable tools that would improve people's lives, according to some of the world's leading thinkers.


More on Brisbane floods

Casting around for someone to blame for the Brisbane floods continues and there is an excellent article in the Australian considering the issue of whether the Wivenhoe damn should have been emptied earlier (H/T Aynsley Kellow, in the comments). There is a fairly damning quote from a local hydrologist:

When they finally did release [water from the dam], it was because they had received so much inflow this week that they were afraid the whole system would collapse. There is no doubt in my professional opinion that most of the flooding in Brisbane should have been avoided. It is extraordinary to me that people are not asking more questions about this. Brisbane should have been protected by Wivenhoe Dam. Instead, the dam is a large part of the reason the city has flooded.

There is also, however, this word of caution from an engineer who was involved in the dam's construction:

"These questions are all valid, but put it this way - you would have to have very large balls to [significantly reduce the dam's volumes in the months after the weather warnings] after 10 years of drought, because if you had got it wrong you would be accused of wasting the water" 


Josh 66

More cartoons by Josh here.