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Falling prices, falling windfarms

The FT notes an interesting side effect of falling wholesale electricity prices in the UK: as prices come down the subsidy paid to windfarms increases. Now at first sight this would appear to represent something of a dark cloud for the consumer, but in fact there is a substantial silver lining. Because the total amount of subsidy has been capped, there is effectively a limited pot of money and if the analysis of prices coming down faster than predicted is correct then that pot is going to be eaten up faster than expected:

This could have worrying implications for many big offshore wind projects in development, which are heavily reliant on state incentives.

The UK needs such projects to go ahead if it is to meet its legally binding target of generating 15 per cent of energy from renewable sources by 2020.

Signs have emerged that concerns about the size of the subsidy are already having a chilling effect.

So if they carry on in their current vein, the Westminster geniuses may achieve the remarkable feat of fixing the market in such a way that nobody is willing to build any new power plant of any kind.

Astonishing, when you think about it.


Potash rot

The Geological Society is having a conference today on "Communicating Contested Geoscience", featuring sessions on carbon capture and storage and shale gas, and hearing from people like Iain Stewart and David Mackay.

I was interested by some tweets about Professor David Manning, the Geolsoc President, who was giving a keynote address at the start of the conference:

David Manning : supermarkets one of the biggest consumers of mining materials - alarmingly high potash usage for fertiliser

A question is asked about supply - are we running out? David Manning says with that is a big risk. CCG14

Click to read more ...


It's a plot!

The news that is rocking the world this morning is that the head of NATO has said that the Russians are funding a sophisticated plot to undermine shale gas development in the west.

Russian agents are secretly working with environmental campaigners to halt fracking operations in the UK and the rest of Europe, the head of Nato warned yesterday.

Vladimir Putin’s government has ‘engaged actively’ with green groups and protesters in a sophisticated operation aimed at maintaining Europe’s reliance on energy exports from Moscow, said Nato Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen.

He said the Russians had mounted a highly developed disinformation campaign to undermine attempts to exploit alternative energy sources such as shale gas.

When you think about it, it's pretty unlikely that Putin wouldn't be doing everything he could to undermine shale gas development in the West, given the centrality of oil and gas to the Russian economy. Nevertheless it's surprising that NATO have come right out and said so.

I wonder what Vangel has to say about it?


Catastrophe avoided

Matt Ridley has an excellent article in the Financial Post, looking at the IPCC's greenhouse gas concentration pathways. He finds that some of them are a trifle odd and that it's rather hard to produce predictions of catastrophe from them:

...even if you pile crazy assumption upon crazy assumption till you have an edifice of vanishingly small probability, you cannot even manage to make climate change cause minor damage in the time of our grandchildren, let alone catastrophe. That’s not me saying this – it’s the IPCC itself.

This video, of Matt speaking in Canada is also well worth a look.



Rossiter rocks

Caleb Rossiter, the scientist blacklisted by a Washington thinktank for his temerity in asking awkward questions over global warming is interviewed by a website entitled The College Fix. This is amazing stuff.

“So there is really two big statistical questions: what caused the little warming, and what effect did the warming have on these other climate variables?” he said. “I am a pretty decent statistician, I have taught for many, many years. The data that support the headlines are very, very weak, very, very notional, and simply not logical.”

Or what about this?

"I have had students who are very strongly pro-the global warming movement in my classes, of course, because most young people have heard this already,” he said. “And when I have them actually do the study, and take apart an IPCC [International Panel on Climate Change] claim, sometimes they break into tears, and they say ‘I can’t believe this is the only class I’ve ever been in in which anyone has ever told me there is even an issue.’”

Read the whole thing.


All change for Lords SciTech

The House of Lords Science and Technology Committee has had some personnel changes. The reliably AGW-consensus figure of Lord Krebs has stepped down, along with Lord Perry. Viscount Ridley and Lord Hennessy have been appointed. Matt Ridley needs no introduction of course. Hennessy - the constitutional historian Peter Hennessy - seems to have said nothing on in the past on climate change (or very much on science for that matter, so I'm not sure why he has had the nod).

The committee is now to be chaired by the Earl of Selborne, whose other interests include his chairmanship of the Living With Environmental Change programme.


Wind and solar are worst

The venerable (and somewhat woolly liberal) Brookings Institution in Washington DC has published a working paper on the most cost-effective way to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Commendably, the paper eschews the dishonest levelised-cost (LCOE) approach used by DECC and its colleagues in the green movement. 

The author, Charles Frank, concludes that solar and wind power are the worst possible approach to the problem:

...nuclear, hydro, and natural gas combined cycle have far more net benefits than either wind or solar. This is the case because solar and wind facilities suffer from a very high capacity cost per megawatt, very low capacity factors and low reliability, which result in low avoided emissions and low avoided energy cost per dollar invested.

Click to read more ...


Fracking guidance

Prof Iain Stewart points us to the official geosciences guidance for the Scottish Baccalaureate. The document considers a range of projects that might be undertaken by the able students working towards this new qualification, and shows how they might present their findings.

One of the example projects is on fracking and I was amused at the range of materials this hypothetical student had considered in order to inform themselves of the shale gas extraction process. I have categorised them for you into Green, and Other.

Click to read more ...


Greenpeace crackdown

Having been declared an obstacle to economic development in India as a result of its campaigns against coal-fired power stations, Greenpeace now finds itself on the end of something of a crackdown by the Indian government.

In a letter dated 13th June, the Ministry has directed the Reserve Bank of India that all foreign contributions originating from Greenpeace International and Climate Works Foundation — two principal international contributors to Greenpeace India Society — must be kept on hold until individual clearances are obtained from the Ministry for each transaction.

Of course, being against most state controls, I'm not at all comfortable with the Indian government action, but you can still make a good case that the government has a right to prevent foreign interference in India's internal politics - at the end of the day, whether coal-fired power stations get built in India should be down to the Indian people alone. But if middle-class donors in the UK want to fund campaigns to keep millions of Indians in picturesque destitution then, while I think their behaviour immoral, I shy away from use of state power to stand in the way of their doing so.

But we should be pointing out, again and again, what a shameful thing it is to give money to Greenpeace.


Walport's Walker words

Mark Walport gave the annual Walker lecture at the University of Reading a couple of weeks ago, taking as his theme climate change communication.

H/T Barry Woods


Ivo on George

Ivo Vegter has written a brilliant analysis of the phenomenon that is George Monbiot.

[Monbiot] divides the world into two stereotypes: people like him – who care about things like intimacy, kindness, self-acceptance, independent thought and action – and the rest of us – who don’t think for ourselves, fear other people, hate ourselves, are cruel and cold, and couldn’t care less about nature. We’d sell our own mothers if a toff with a demagogic streak told us he’d get an immigrant to wax our banger, because that’s how common we are. (And by “banger” I mean “old car”, of course.)

So, now Monbiot has discovered that he was wrong about that too. Without any apparent self-consciousness about his own opinion of last month, he writes: “We've tended to assume people are more selfish than they really are.”

Yes, you have tended to assume that, George. That’s why people don’t like you. That’s why people don’t listen to you. You’re wrong all the time. You insult people for saying so. And you’re condescending enough to think they can be manipulated by some shiny new spin.

If there is any justice in the world the article will put an end to George's career. However, the ability of the tofu-eating classes to stand behind and indeed celebrate any harebrained megalomaniac, no matter how often they are proved wrong, will no doubt win out as it always does.


The big news down under

I hope everyone is reading the series of posts by David Evans and Jo Nova about their new hypothesis on why variations in solar irradiance apparently have such a limited effect on the planet's temperature. It's probably fair to say that many sceptics have scratched their heads on this subject from time to time, but the team from down under have gone the extra mile, coming up with what is starting to look like a fascinating explanation, namely that there is a delay between the change in irradiance and subsequent changes in temperature. They hypothesise further that this may be something to do with changes in the Sun's magnetic field.

It's too early to say whether this all holds up of course, but I'm certainly going to be keeping a close eye on it.


On entering the climate arena

This is a guest post by "Lone Wolf", who is an academic at a UK university.

A few years ago, I was looking for something for a final year student project/dissertation where the student did some statistical modelling type work on a large dataset. I came across the CDIAC data for the Vostok Ice Core. I looked at it myself first, and decided there was enough there for the student to get their teeth into.

During the analysis, we noticed many interesting features, especially during the present interglacial, which seems to have a 'seasonality'. We estimated the seasonality and proceeded to remove it, using a technique I teach in their course, in order to find the underlying trend.

Click to read more ...


On Lord Stern and Wayne Rooney

Lord Stern is back into the climate fray, breathlessly telling us that...wait for's worse than we thought. Isn't it always?

Lord Stern, the world’s most authoritative climate economist, has issued a stark warning that the financial damage caused by global warming will be considerably greater than current models predict.

This makes it more important than ever to take urgent and drastic action to curb climate change by reducing carbon emissions, he argues.

It's hard to credit the idea that Stern, alone among people working in this area, should merit a full-page article in a broadsheet newspaper, apart from the fact that his public pronouncements are reliably hysterical. It's also amazing that when climate economists like Nordhaus and Tol have, respectively, pooh-poohed the Stern review as a political document and as being devoid of academic merit, the Independent should choose to describe its author as "the world's most authoritative climate economist". This is like describing Wayne Rooney as the world's most glamorous ballet dancer.

Details on what Stern and colleagues have done in this new paper are thin on the ground, but they have clearly been upping the ante on the climate sensitivity front:

Whereas the standard model usually assumes a single temperature for climate sensitivity of about 3C, the new model uses a range of 1.5C to 6C, which the authors say more accurately reflects the scientific consensus.

If climate sensitivity is 6°C, how much warming should we have had since the middle of last century? It does look very much as a case of garbage in, garbage out.


Greenpeace has a bad week

It has been bad week at the office for Greenpeace. Last week the government of India decided that they were not conducive to the public good or the kind of people that a poverty afflicted nation like themselves should give too much time to.

An Intelligence Bureau report on foreign-funded NGOs “negatively impacting economic development” in India has called Greenpeace “a threat to national economic security”, citing activities ranging from protests against nuclear and coal plants and funding of “sympathetic” research, to allegedly helping out an Aam Aadmi Party candidate in the recent Lok Sabha elections.

This story, which emerged last week, was bad enough but there is a scandal about to break over the organisation tonight which might prove harder to explain away (translated from the German by yours truly and Google Translate, so it's worth checking).

The environmentalist as a speculator: Greenpeace worker loses donor millions

A worker in the finance department racked up losses of millions through foreign exchange speculation, according to Spiegel sources. The money originated from donations.


(H/T Omnologos)

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