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The first five years of the RCPs

Further to yesterday's post on butterflies and RCPs, I wondered just how things were panning out for the RCPs since they were issued five years ago. I wasn't really expecting very much from this analysis since five years is not very long, but it turned out that there is more of a difference than might be expected.

The RCP data is for the mid-year carbon dioxide concentration and it turns out that the June figure from Mauna Loa has just tipped the 400ppm mark. RCP8.5 predicted that 2015 would be the first year in which the 400ppm mark was breached at the mid-year point, so at first glance we are indeed on the RCP8.5 pathway.

Click to read more ...


In which Nature Climate validates my predictive models

In order for a predictive model to be useful it needs to be validated in some way. Here are two predictive models that I suggest might be useful in interpreting scientific papers.

  • If the paper is published in a Nature journal it's probably nonsense. Particularly if it's in (a) Nature itself or (b) Nature Climate Change
  • If it calls RCP8.5 "business as usual" it is political drivel.

With these predictions in mind, readers may be interested in this new paper from Nature Climate Change:

Climate change is expected to increase the frequency of some climatic extremes1, 2. These may have drastic impacts on biodiversity3, 4, particularly if meteorological thresholds are crossed, leading to population collapses. Should this occur repeatedly, populations may be unable to recover, resulting in local extinctions. Comprehensive time series data on butterflies in Great Britain provide a rare opportunity to quantify population responses to both past severe drought and the interaction with habitat area and fragmentation. Here, we combine this knowledge with future projections from multiple climate models, for different Representative Concentration Pathways (RCPs), and for simultaneous modelled responses to different landscape characteristics. Under RCP8.5, which is associated with ‘business as usual emissions, widespread drought-sensitive butterfly population extinctions could occur as early as 2050. However, by managing landscapes and particularly reducing habitat fragmentation, the probability of persistence until mid-century improves from around zero to between 6 and 42% (95% confidence interval). Achieving persistence with a greater than 50% chance and right through to 2100 is possible only under both low climate change (RCP2.6) and semi-natural habitat restoration. Our data show that, for these drought-sensitive butterflies, persistence is achieved more effectively by restoring semi-natural landscapes to reduce fragmentation, rather than simply focusing on increasing habitat area, but this will only be successful in combination with substantial emission reductions.

My predictive models appears to be working splendidly.


Environmental regulators trashing the environment

My concern over a massive discharge of polluted water into a river in Colorado is lightened at least slightly by the discovery that the culprit was the Environmental Protection Agency.

The city of Durango and La Plata County, Colorado, have declared a state of emergency after a federal cleanup crew accidentally released mine waste into the water.

An estimated 1 million gallons of waste water spilled out of an abandoned mine area in the southern part of the state last week, turning the Animas River orange and prompting the Environmental Protection Agency to tell locals to avoid it.

A deserving case, I would say.


Social licences

A few weeks ago I chanced across an oil company executive who was expounding earnestly on his company's "social licence to operate". I raised an eyebrow at the time because it struck me as a case of big oil adopting the language of the environmentalists.

Interestingly though, it turns out that the whole concept of a social licence was introduced by a mining company executive:

[Jim] Cooney was racking his brain for a concept to describe why projects from Peru to Angola were getting delayed and shut down by protests. The companies lacked “social license,” he told the audience.

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Thoughts on aerosols

I've been reading a bit about aerosols in recent days. As many BH readers will know, these are one of the great uncertainties in the Earth's climate and so they crop up all the time.

This interest was provoked in part by a conversation I was having with Ed Hawkins about his new paper. I had invoked Bjorn Stevens' study from which it is possible to infer a value of -0.5 Wm-2 for the overall effect of aerosols, around half of the IPCC's best estimate of -0.9 Wm-2. This of course would imply that climate sensitivity would have to be much lower than the IPCC suggests it is.

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Letts accuse

For such a trifling programme, Quentin Letts' What's the Point of the Met Office is really making waves. Booker reviews it over at the Mail and there's some interesting coverage by Damian Thompson at the Spectator.

Yesterday [Harrabin] went into overdrive. ‘Accusation’, he declared, as he linked to Black’s attack on Letts. The sceptics got ‘their’ programme when the BBC allowed Quentin Letts to raise an eyebrow at the Met Office’s alarmist and utterly false claim that thermometers would shoot up between 2004 and 2014.

Don’t get me wrong: Roger Harrabin is a highly respected science writer. He doesn’t set out to deceive his readers. But, as Letts might put it, What’s the Point of a supposedly impartial ‘environment analyst’ who – apparently – takes offence at his bosses allowing another journalist to offer views different to his own?

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What DECC knew

Updated on Aug 6, 2015 by Registered CommenterBishop Hill

Greenpeace have been doing some rather odd FOI work in recent months. It seems they have decided to investigate the series of parliamentary questions that Lord Donoughue put to to DECC ministers about the Met Office's statistical reasoning. Readers will recall that these questions were formulated with Doug Keenan's advice, were aimed at determining how the Met Office justified its claim that recent temperature rises were statistically significant, and that the eventual result, after months of non-answers from the Met Office, was that they effectively withdrew the claim.

The documents Greenpeace have made public are very interesting but I'm not sure that our environmentalist friends have considered exactly what it is they have got.

It does rather come across as if the DECC team wanted to "move on". In Document 4, the briefing ahead of the meeting between Keenan, Donoughue and the DECC team of Baroness Verma, David Mackay and David Warrilow, officials list their objectives for the meeting as being:

  • to demonstrate a willingness to listen
  • to demonstrate to Lord Donoughue that DECC's scientists are reasonable and, erm, scientific
  • to steer Lord Donoughue away from Keenan.

Click to read more ...


The point of the Met Office

The BBC has a programme on at the moment entitled "What's the point of the Met Office", a light-hearted, but critical look at this august institution. Apparently Peter Lilley and Piers Corbyn are featured at one point.



That voice

I get called up quite often by Radio Scotland to talk about energy. It's a hot topic north of the border and they struggle for people who are willing to do anything other than parrot the received wisdom (if you can call it that) on renewables.

So it wasn't altogether a surprise when they called this morning to see if I might be willing to talk about Obama's energy plan and what impact a change in the US situation might mean for further developments here in Scotland. The researcher sounded quite interested in what I had to say - you can guess the content - and went away to talk to her producer.

Unfortunately, when she got back to me half an hour later she said they already had "that voice" in the show, and explained that they wouldn't be needing me. Fair enough.

But now take a listen to what "that voice" had to say. It made me laugh, anyway.

Radio Scotland Renewables


Big oil and the ECIU

Our environmentalist friends are fond of pointing to Peter Lilley's involvement with Tethys Petroleum and claiming that it means he can't be trusted on questions of energy and climate change.

How amusing then that Lord Howard, a board member of Richard Black's ECIU, turns out to be the director of an oil company himself and, moreover, an oil company that is the subject of an investigation by the Serious Fraud Office.




A dampish squib

So President Obama has a new climate plan out and his fans in the BBC are getting very excited about it. The main thing seems to be a requirement for states to formulate climate plans, but not for a while. There is an even longer delay before they have to implement them.

Here are my impressions:

  • The main objective is to make climate change an wedge issue in the next round of elections.
  • The delays will make them more acceptable to the states.
  • The plan will make only a tiny fraction of a degree of a difference to global temperatures at the end of the century.
  • The US is halfway to the new target already on the back of the shale gas revolution.
  • The new rules are put in place by executive order and can therefore be removed just as easily.

I'm not sure this amounts to a particularly large hill of beans.


Wind turbines: worse than we thought

Readers may recall the little ding-dong between Gordon Hughes and David Mackay over the rate of decline in performance of wind turbines as they age. Hughes thought that this happened much faster than Mackay.

Mackay has been looking at the subject again today, analysing how newer windfarms have performed against older ones. His intention was to look at how technological improvements have shown up in the load factors of the turbines, but it's possible that he has inadvertently shown that Hughes was right.

The reason for this is that the rate of improvement in load factor is no greater than would be expected from the fact that the turbines are newer. So you can draw one of two conclusions:

  • load factors have not been enhanced by technological improvements
  • the rate of performance decline is greater than Mackay had thought.

Either way, wind turbines look just a bit more like a dead end than they did yesterday.


Media balance

Talking of crazy, the new SNP newspaper The National has an article about the proposed coal gasification project mooted for the Firth of Forth.

It features quotes from two green anti-capitalist groups who are opposed to the project, a local councillor who is very much against it and an MSP who hates it with a vengeance.

And they wonder why nobody reads newspapers any more.


The madness of the greens

The ability of green issues to make otherwise kind and decent people lose their grip on reality is always something to behold and there was an extraordinary example in the Guardian at the end of last week.

Take a look.

In a speech in Washington DC Rachel Kyte, the head of climate change at the World Bank, argued that the destitute of the developing world, who currently cook on wood and dung fires, would suffer increased levels of respiratory diseases if they got access to coal-fired grid electricity:

Do I think coal is the solution to poverty? There are more than 1 billion people today who have no access to energy,” Kyte said. Hooking them up to a coal-fired grid would not on its own wreck the planet, she went on. But Kyte added: “If they all had access to coal-fired power tomorrow their respiratory illness rates would go up, etc, etc …

In her defence she does seem to insinuate that this would be a price worth paying, but it's hard not to be left open-jawed at her believing something quite so preposterous.


Are greens now the bad guys?

I was intrigued by this trailer for a forthcoming anime film. From Wiki, we learn that it is set in a future in which humankind has spread across the universe but then gone into decline, and that Earth has subsequently been taken over by an "authoritarian universal government by the name of the Gaia Sanction" which "declares Earth a sacred planet, and thus forbidden for humanity to repopulate".

Anyone would think that the greens were starting to be seen as the bad guys.

Here's the trailer, which looks like a lot of fun even without the message.