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Friday
Feb132015

The Utopia Experiment

From the review in the FT, this new book looks like great fun for those wanting an insight into just the mindset of the environmentalist.

Here's the blurb.

Imagine you have survived an apocalypse. Civilization as you knew it is no more. What will life be like and how will you cope?

In 2006, Dylan Evans set out to answer these questions. He left his job in a high-tech robotics lab, moved to the Scottish Highlands and founded a community called The Utopia Experiment. There, together with an eclectic assortment of volunteers, he tried to live out a scenario of global collapse, free from modern technology and comforts.

Within a year, Evans found himself detained in a psychiatric hospital, shattered and depressed, trying to figure out what had gone wrong. In The Utopia Experiment he tells his own extraordinary story: his frenzied early enthusiasm for this unusual project, the many challenges of post-apocalyptic living, his descent into madness and his gradual recovery. In the process, he learns some hard lessons about himself and about life, and comes to see the modern world he abandoned in a new light.

You can buy it here.

Friday
Feb132015

A weapons-grade fruitcake

A couple of days ago, there was one of those science communication thingies where a bunch of greens and their fellow travellers in the media get together to chew the fat on how better to keep the climate gravy train on the rails. The panel was chaired by Jon Snow and featured Tom Clarke, the Channel Four science chap, Zoe Williams from the Guardian, someone from Greenpeace and Tom Chivers, now of Buzzfeed. As far as anyone could tell the audience was made up entirely of fellow travellers, including Bob Ward.

I can't say it was terribly interesting, and it was marred by technical glitches,

Click to read more ...

Friday
Feb132015

Official report of the Scotland fracking conference

The Scotsman has published its official version of events at the shale gas conference earlier this week. It can be downloaded here. All the slides can be seen here, for a few days at least.

Thursday
Feb122015

Diary dates, intellectual conformity edition

The Energy and Climate Change Committee are holding an end of session public event to chew the fat over the policy quagmire into which Westminster has driven energy policy. Although that's not exactly how they put it themselves.

To launch its final report of this Parliament, Fuelling the debate: ECC Committee successes and future challenges, the Energy and Climate Change Committee is to host a morning conference in the City of London on 12 March for energy investors, specialists and campaigners to discuss future challenges and opportunities in energy and climate change policy.

Energy and Climate Change Committee Chair, Tim Yeo MP, said: 

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Feb122015

Competitive insanity

If you think that the government's deal for Hinckley point was the ultimate in state insanity, think again. A week or so ago, the FT reported on a bid by a Gloucester company to create a massive tidal power station in Swansea bay. A similar report appeared in the Telegraph on Monday.

The interesting detail that the FT got, but which the Telegraph overlooked, was this:

The company wants a “strike price” of £168 per megawatt hour, compared with the £92.50 offered to EDF for Hinkley Point.

Words simply fail me.

Thursday
Feb122015

The Royal Society's latest green campaign

As I think I've mentioned before, when I wrote my Nullius in Verba report on the Royal Society's curiously unscientific approach to the climate change question, there was apparently outrage in the upper echelon's of the organisation at my suggestion that they had now been reduced to the lowly status of a left-wing campaigning organisation.

What then to make of this post on the Royal Society's "In Verba" blog on the "sustainable development" agenda:

One of the things that makes 2015 so important is the Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs, a new set of globally-applicable goals that will be agreed at a UN summit in September. Their aim? To be sustainable development’s zeitgeist, addressing the most pressing global challenges of our time – from climate change to healthcare to food security.

Sustainable development is of course an overtly political idea, if one that is so lacking in definition that it manages to take in the whole range of state-planned idiocy from morally repugnant to completely illogical. Doesn't this make my point for me?

Thursday
Feb122015

A puppet show?

Richard Dixon of Friends of the Earth is heavily referenced in this article from Sputnik News, poo-poohing the idea that INEOS are serious about closing Grangemouth if shale gas development in the UK doesn't go ahead.

The arguments are typically Dixonian, and I don't intend to spend any time on them, but I was interested in Sputnik itself, an organisation I'd never come across. Its Wikipedia page says it "replaces the RIA Novosti news agency and the Voice of Russia international radio broadcaster". It also quotes a Russian human rights activist as saying it is "a tool of Russian state propaganda distribution abroad".

Which is interesting when one recalls the words of Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the former secretary general of NATO, who said that Russia was working with environmental groups to maintain Western Europe's energy dependence.

Wednesday
Feb112015

Paul Matthews on sceptics

Paul Matthews has had a paper published in the journal Environmental Communication looking at global warming sceptics and their backgrounds:

Surveys of public opinion show that a significant minority of the population are skeptical about climate change, and many suggest that doubt is increasing. The Internet, in particular the blogosphere, provides a vast and relatively untapped resource of data on the thinking of climate skeptics. This paper focuses on one particular example where over 150 climate skeptics provide information on their background, opinion on climate change, and reasons for their skepticism. Although these data cannot be regarded as representative of the general public, it provides a useful insight into the reasoning of those who publicly question climate science on the Web. Points of note include the high level of educational background, the significant numbers who appear to have been converted from a position of climate concern to one of skepticism, and the influence of blogs on both sides of the climate debate.

There is a preprint here and Paul's blogpost on the subject is here.

Wednesday
Feb112015

Matt Ridley on bloggingheads

Here's a long interview with Matt Ridley, which is notable because it is all so civilised.

(Direct link to video here)

Wednesday
Feb112015

The Scotsman conference

I spent yesterday at the Scotsman conference on unconventional oil and gas. This was very much an industry affair, with nobody on hand to put the green point of view. To my mind this was a missed opportunity, since it's rare that environmentalists appear before an audience that has the knowledge to answer back. Having said that, in the audience we did have Maria Montinaro, the Falkirk Community Councillor who has been highly visible in the campaign against Dart Energy and she was given plenty of opportunity to ask questions.

The speakers were pretty high profile, including Chris Masters, who had led the Scottish Government's expert panel on unconventional oil and gas, Gary Haywood, a high heidyin at INEOS, Ken Cronin of the Onshore Operators Group and Gordon Hughes.

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Feb102015

Lewin on Lamb

Bernie Lewin's new report for GWPF is a must-read. Exhaustively researched, beautifully written, and extremely insightful about how climatology was diverted from a scientific to a political imperative, you absolutely should not miss it.

Here's the press release.

London, 10 February: A new paper by Bernie Lewin and published today by the Global Warming Policy Foundation re-examines the legacy of the father of British climatology Hubert Lamb (1913-1997).

After leading and establishing historical climatology during the 1960s, Hubert Lamb became the founding Director of the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia (CRU). What is not widely known is that, in contrast to current research directions at CRU, its founding director was an early and vocal climate sceptic.

Against the idea that greenhouse gas emissions were (or would soon be) noticeably warming the planet, Lamb raised objections on many levels. “His greatest concern was not so much the lack of science behind the theory,” Mr Lewin said, “it was how the growing preoccupation with man-made warming was distorting the science.”

Lewin said that “Lamb was already sounding this warning as early as 1972; soon after that the entire science would be transformed.”As research into man-made warming began to dominate climate studies, Lamb worried that the recent advances in our understanding of natural changes were falling into neglect.

A foreword by eminent climatologist, Professor Richard Lindzen, explains how, “in this new paradigm, the natural variability that Lamb emphasized was now relegated to ‘noise’.” Speaking from his own experience, Lindzen says that “Lamb’s intellectual trajectory is typical of what many other senior climate scientists around the world experienced.”

Bernie Lewin is an historian of science investigating the global warming scare in the context of the history and philosophy of science. Over the last 5 years he has published many essays on various sceptical blogs, including his own, Enthusiasm Scepticism and Science.

Read the whole thing.

Tuesday
Feb102015

Conferring

Today I'm off to the Scotsman conference on unconventional oil and gas, so blogging will again be light-to-nonexistent.

Normal service should be resumed tomorrow.

Monday
Feb092015

New Atlantis, same old problems

Well you can't fault the green movement's persistence. With the National Theatre's Greenland having being a spectacular flop and last year's 2071 having apparently failed to set the pulse racing too, the London luvvies are having yet another attempt to bring the public on board.

The new show is called The New Atlantis and, being green, gets lots of free publicity courtesy of the BBC.

At the futuristic venue, The Crystal, on the Thames in East London, the cast of New Atlantis is rehearsing for the new production, named after a fictitious intergovernmental organisation managing water supply in the capital.

Click to read more ...

Monday
Feb092015

Energy costs in the absence of policy

Since the government published its most recent estimates of the costs of renewable energy policy I have been trying to get to the bottom of the question of how they estimated what the costs would have been in the absence of policy.

After several months of effort I have managed to get the underlying spreadsheet and a bit of a steer (link).

In relation to your question on the price before policies, page 66-67 of the prices and bills report, sets out that the wholesale price in the baseline (no policies) is modelled using DECC’s Dynamic Dispatch Model, and requires making a number of assumptions, particularly about the no policy baseline.  To estimate the electricity wholesale cost in the baseline, we used historical trends in build rates and plant characteristics where possible to match capacity margins, and plant efficiencies as closely as possible to what is most likely to have happened in a world without policies. This is therefore a modelling output, and not a result of a simple calculation.

Click to read more ...

Sunday
Feb082015

The absence of mathematics

Marotzke and Forster have published a response to Nic Lewis's critique of their paper. It can be seen here, at Ed Hawkins' Climate Lab book site. Here's the start.

No circularity

It has been alleged that in Marotzke & Forster (2015) we applied circular logic. This allegation is incorrect. The important point is to recognise that, physically, radiative forcing is the root cause of changes in the climate system, and our approach takes that into account. Because radiative forcing over the historical period cannot be directly diagnosed from the model simulations, it had to be reconstructed from the available top-of-atmosphere radiative imbalance in Forster et al. (2013) by applying a correction term that involves the change in surface temperature. This correction removed, rather than introduced, from the top-of-atmosphere imbalance the very contribution that would cause circularity. We stand by the main conclusions of our paper: Differences between simulations and observations are dominated by internal variability for 15-year trends and by spread in radiative forcing for 62-year trends.

Unfortunately, when they continue to the section called "Specifics" I can't actually see any mathematics that purports to show that their original regression model was not circular. My impression is of handwaving. Steve McIntyre, in the comments at CA seems to have reached similar conclusions:

I’ve done a quick read of the post at Climate Lab Book. I don’t get how their article is supposed to rebut Nic’s article. They do not appear to contest Nic’s equation linking F and N – an equation that I did not notice in the original article. Their only defence seems to be that the N series needs to be “corrected” but they do not face up to the statistical consequences of having T series on both sides.

Based on my re-reading of the two articles, Nic’s equation (6) seems to me to be the only logical exit and Nic’s comments on the implications of (6) the only conclusions that have a chance of meaning anything. (But this is based on cursory reading only.)

I guess we will have to wait and see what Nic Lewis makes of it before reaching firm conclusions.