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Discussion > Children's Science books


If you re-read what i said I did not reject CO2 as a causative factor. I think it is an important factor but how important is difficult to assess. Maybe 40%, 50% or 60% but not 100%. The importance of feedbacks are also difficult to assess since GCM's suggest feedback such as water vapour should be occurring but the available data don't support this. There is evidence, for example, during the modern period that there are other subtle effects. For example if one uses the ocean as a calorimeter during the modern period (post 1950) one observes for ocean surface temperature, net heat flux and sea level a variation over the solar cycle of 11 years. The variation is much greater than could be explained by variations in TSI, is independent of the radiative forcing due to CO2 and implies some form of amplification mechanism. It's not possible to deduce from this observation what that mechanism is. It is however an indication that the system is more complex than a description due to CO2 driven radiative forcing alone.

I'm glad you found the Kirby lecture interesting. You shoudl also be able to find some new experimental data on the growth of small ionisation induced nucleii towards sizes commensurate with CCN's. If you're interested I'll look up some of the literature.

My personal thoughts are that we will not gain a complete understanding if we neglect key observational evidence and stay rooted with the paradigm of greenhouse gases. I think the situation is probably a lot more complicated.

Apr 5, 2016 at 6:58 PM | Unregistered CommenterPaul Dennis

Paul Dennis, on the link between solar cycles and sea level rates, this has been studied for years without success. Steve McIntyre knew about this in 2007, search for "Update:" at and the reference from there

Maybe there has been progress since then - your colleagues in CRU can doubtless tell you. I also doubt that anyone would argue against your observation that "...the system is more complex than a description due to CO2 driven radiative forcing alone."

Maybe 40%, 50% or 60% but not 100%.

Does anyone claim it to be 100%? CO2 is just one of the known forcings, others obviously being CH4, land use change, solar variation, etc, so I'd be surprised if people claim 100% for CO2.

I have looked for discussion of the "growth of small ionisation induced nucleii towards sizes commensurate with CCN's" without success, so I'd be interested in any links you have (as, I'm sure would others).

My personal thoughts are that we will not gain a complete understanding if we neglect key observational evidence and stay rooted with the paradigm of greenhouse gases. I think the situation is probably a lot more complicated.

I'm certain that would be true - that we would not gain full understanding if we were to "neglect key observational evidence and stay rooted with the paradigm of greenhouse gases". But do you think that is happening? In the two areas you discuss, sea-level change rates vs solar cycles and GCRs and clouds, there is or has clearly been active research. As I understand it, there have been no results from this research that significantly challenge the basic anthropogenic hypothesis. Or are there? What is being neglected?

Apr 6, 2016 at 12:53 AM | Unregistered CommenterRaff

As usual, Raff playing the role of the pimp. What is his motivation?

Apr 6, 2016 at 1:09 AM | Unregistered Commenterdiogenes

And then I wonder how many young women are beaten up because of raff

Apr 6, 2016 at 1:13 AM | Unregistered Commenterdiogenes

diogenes, Raff has again taken a while to obtain further lines of attack from his sponsors, seeking to drive wedges into any discernible hair line crack. Note the mention of Climate Audit, CRU etc, and pushing for someone else's views rather than expressing his own.

Lewandowsky's contribution to climate science can be very subtle, but interesting to observe.

Apr 6, 2016 at 2:19 AM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

Gentlemen: while Raff does invoke a certain amount of ridicule in its statements, please try not to be too personal in your responses to it. Remember, play the ball, not the player.

Apr 6, 2016 at 11:00 AM | Registered CommenterRadical Rodent

The threads was about Children's Science Books

An introductory section on daft scare stories like 'Peak Oil', would be a good way of getting children involved. They would be able to understand how concerns were hijacked by those with a secret agenda, whilst pretending to be concerned about something else. A valuable lesson, as they would realise the evil hijackers were everywhere, perhaps their own parents, teachers, the Government, BBC and some newspapers.

With a healthy cynical attitude, it might prepare them for other 'science education', and prevent them turning into gullible adults.

Apr 7, 2016 at 2:25 AM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

golf Charlie. I am interested in your statement that those who were concerned with "daft scare stories like peak oil" had a"secret agenda" and were concerned with something else. As one who researched the subject carefully I do not recognize the substance of those statements.

I would not choose peak oil as it very well might come back and bite those who dismiss it so summarily. If you want to introduce science by demonstrating its self correcting nature I would choose Lysencoism, or the phlogiston and/or ether explanations of everyday occurrences. Personally whilst accepting this might be a good thing, I would cover this subject much later in a syllabus.

Apr 7, 2016 at 8:16 AM | Unregistered CommenterAlan Kendall

Alan Kendall, I agree you that the error is not a knowing agenda - rather folly.
But I agree with Golf Charlie that "Peak Oil" is a very good place to start.

Lysenkoism caused many deaths and increased poverty. But it may have had a fragment of truth. And before the discovery of DNA it wasn't obviously wrong.

Malthusianism (of which Peak Oil is an example) has caused many deaths and increased poverty. But it has been proven to be wrong for centuries. And, since the discovery of trade, it has been obviously wrong.

The fact that some people still think that we will run out of necessities like mindless rabbits in a caged enclosure... it's a very good place to start. Even young children know they aren't that stupid.

And it's good to get back to the subject of Children's Science Books.

Apr 7, 2016 at 10:19 AM | Registered CommenterM Courtney

Alan Kendall & M Courtney

aged about 10, so 1973/4 (I can remember which classroom I was in) I was told oil would run out by 2000. In hindsight, it was the era of OPEC supremacy, Sheik Yamani, the price of oil doubling twice etc etc, and it was logical and reasonable.

Of course it made it economic to investigate the possibility of oil in more remote and expensive location. So, (open to correction) it was always thought possible there was oil under the North Sea, but too difficult to investigate let alone extract.

OPEC artificially raised the value of extracted oil, and changed the economics of oil exploration. In the UK, the political value of energy was recognised by coal miners for example, and the UK's vulnerability as an energy importer was exposed. Whether the UK used North Sea oil and coal reserves well, is a different, and larger subject! Plus I was at University during the Miner's strike, when Scargill tried to bring down a government, and Thatcher decided to bring down Unions.

Shale gas changed it all again. The Guardian had been banging on about Peak Oil, and switched to 'Keep it in the Ground'

Therefore fossil fuels in my lifetime have been involved in supply and demand economics, that has been artificially manipulated, for reasons of greed, politics, national pride, legacy building etc etc. The world is addicted to fossil fuels, and there is no viable substitute.

'Politics' is still the biggest factor in controlling energy supply and demand, whether personal, or national. The technical issues, whether it can be done, and if so how much, are far simpler!

Apr 7, 2016 at 11:16 AM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

M. Courtney, I totally disagree with you about Malthusianism being a good place to start. My view is that a starting point is everyday observations and developing ways to explain them. If, for example we began with observations on falling objects and rolling cylinders down ramps we quickly can move into the scientific method and how simple, obvious explanations can be wrong.

Regarding Lysenkoism, this was not opposed by virtually every western biologist because of anything to do with DNA but because of genetics, beginning with Mendel's work. Also science knew that there had to be something like DNA to carry genes. In fact an examination of the competing theories of Lamarkism-Lysenkoism and Mendelism would make an interesting topic in any senior science textbook.

Both you and golf Charlie seem to have a special scorn for peak oil, yet in its original format it must be true. Conventional oil must be finite in that the rate of its formation is so slow relative to our use of it. Like Malthusianism it made predictions based upon future scarciities of a critical commodity: in Malthius' case food, in peak oil theory conventional oil. Malthius was wrong in that humanity developed technologies (some based on fossil fuels) to greatly improve food production, food storage and its distribution. Human development has provided lesser alternatives to conventional oil, but nothing superior and we are using up our original oil stock. Peak oil theory developed from its original format into predictions about the availability of CHEAP, conventional oil (on which our modern industrialized world is based), and those predictions are continuing to be met. What has thrown aside the accompanying dire predictions of collapse and doom, is the development of non-conventional and expensive oil supplies and a large reduction in projected world economic growth. If the world economy does pick up, mark my words, peak oil will resurface. The only way peak oil theory will be proven wrong is if humanity develops a superior energy source to petroleum. Gas doesn't do it, neither does conventional nuclear. Today there seems only two possibilities - thorium reactors or fusion. Deluded people tout renewables, enough said.

Note that when discussing peak oil above, I was only referring to its use as an energy source and not as a feedstock for multitudes of essential products. Ignorance of the latter seems to be responsible for attacks on oil companies and the like. If persons responsible were aware of their total dependence on these petroleum by-products, perhaps they would be less strident. Knowledge of the significance of petroleum to modern society and their own lives should be essential components of any science text at all levels.

Apr 7, 2016 at 11:37 AM | Unregistered CommenterAlan Kendall

golf Charlie, I take your point that your experience indicates that predictions of future oil scarcity do not come to pass (my history is the same as yours after all) but 1) King Hubbard's predictions about peak conventional oil in the lower 48 states proved correct, 2) predictions about future oil production in individual fields and the North Sea in general have displayed predictable declines (hence all the predictions about Scotland's future economy), and 3) other areas in the world display similar declines. There would seem to be no reason to expect world production is not similarly amenable to prediction.

Add to this our exploration of world reserves is now significantly more complete and the technologies we use significantly better and predictions of world supplies are thus much improved. There will be pleasant surprises (except for climate alarmists) but a new North Sea basin is just not there. Yes liquid oil supplies are available from oil sands, oil shale shale oil and biooils (as well as from difficult locations like deep offshore and the Arctic) but these are expensive oil and our fully functioning, technological societies are (were) based on CHEAP oil. To date we have no alternatives.

Like the climate, past experience of failed predictions is no predictor of the future.

Apr 7, 2016 at 12:15 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlan Kendall

Alan Kendall, ultimately fossil fuels will run out. No doubt about it. It is just that supply and demand economics keep extending supply.

The Guardian triumphed Peak Oil, and have now gone quiet. Peak Stupid?

Nuclear was going to save everything. Then it was hated. Now it is back on the table again. It is 'politics' or 'political manipulation' that is the controlling factor. Germany and Japan are reconsidering decisions made in haste.

I suggested 'Peak Oil' because it is a good/bad example of politics from left and right, making a mess. If it wasn't for the fear factor, created by humanity/environmental concerns, nuclear ticks all the Green boxes. The wider green movement highlighted the fear factor (rightly or wrongly)

Personally, I would like to see more smaller nuclear power stations, it is proven technology.

Apr 7, 2016 at 12:21 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

golf Charlie. Sorry cannot agree with you. You write that "demand and supply economics keep extending supply". The is the micro economic mantra and is patently untrue. When oil prices reached $148 a barrel, no new supplies came forward to knock the price down. Since then it is true the high prices impelled further exploration and production, and development of alternatives (of which you mentioned shale oil) leading to new supplies. However, the supplies were of significantly more expensive oil, and this overall price increase has impacted the global economy. I wouldn't be so stupid as to argue that this price increase caused a global economic downturn (with attendant destruction of demand, leading to the present oil glut and low oil prices) but I would not be surprised if future historians consider it to have been a contributing factor.

I don't remember the Guardian touting peak oil, a piece by Monbiot yes (until he belatedly realized that this conflicted with his overwhelming passion of climate porn).

I'll leave my concerns about small nuclear for another day/place.

Apr 7, 2016 at 1:40 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlan Kendall

Alan Kendall, 'Peak Oil' but not referred to as such was explained/taught to me as a child at school, in geography.

What I was told then, made sense then, and still makes sense now, it is just that technology has moved on, as the cost of finding oil has been matched by increased income, from finding oil.

Peak oil was given huge publicity as part of the doom and gloom message about CO2. Shale gas has blown the argument in the USA, hence the switch to 'Keep it in the Ground', being used to hype fear, in the absence of any other logical argument.

The fact that most people can compare their understanding/education/experience and come up with a different view, is why it should be in text books for children. What I was taught was right, based on the best information available at the time. History has proved it to be incorrect. The battery car was going to take over from the internal combustion engine because battery technology would have improved by now.

The makers of Star Trek foresaw the personal communicator, but not the pocket calculator. I would not have believed the idea of a pocket computer with internet capability (whatever the internet was) when I was at Uni 30 years ago, although manned space flights to Mars seemed inevitable!

Apr 7, 2016 at 3:12 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

golf Charlie. I am surprised that you link peak oil with the gloom and doom message around CO2 because a finite resource base and imminent decreases in the supply of oil (then gas, then coal) would limit human ability to constantly increase the flow of CO2 into the atmosphere. Climate alarmists were opposed to the peak oil message because it destroyed one of their major planks when predicting business as usual scenarios. Anyway that was the situation in North America at that time I'm not certain how it was considered/taugbt in the UK.

I'm not sure if peak oil or any other type of similar prediction should be part of a science text. Climate change and peak oil depend on so much more than science. Leave it to the wishy washy geographers with their bend of physical science and the humanities. Science can ill afford to be tarnished by association with charlatans and it is currently suffering from those links.

Apr 7, 2016 at 4:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlan Kendall

Alan Kendall, Peak Oil WAS being championed by the Guardian until a year or so ago. Then, the would-be powers that won't be powers, who want us to have no power, changed their message.

It is politics, dressed as science, only the science moved on, and the political message had to change.

Or maybe I am having an attack of cynicism!

Apr 7, 2016 at 7:10 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

golf Charlie, you and I must live in different universes (it would explain a lot). I read the Guardian Monday to Friday (although I tend to skim read its climate coverage). Given my own interest in peak oil I would think I would have noticed if the Guardian had been peddling a peak oil message beyond its due by date. After all, support for the topic essentially disappeared in the period 2012-13, and websites like The Oil Drum stopped operations. So fast was this change that those of us who were supporters were left without explanation as to why the arguments in support of the concept turned out so wrong. I cannot believe that the Guardian continued believing in PO for another two years.

Time passes so quickly with age - might I suggest you could be "confused"?

Apr 7, 2016 at 7:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlan Kendall

Alan Kendall, I am always confused, and your diagnosis in this instance may be correct. If it was 2-4 years ago, as opposed to last year that the Guardian dropped Peak Oil, I am not arguing! I have not bought/read a printed version of TheGuardian for 2-3 years (because I got a Tablet) and I was never a regular reader anyway!

George Monbiot most recently admitted his mistake Feb 2016, although he had admitted this before. I think Alan Rusbridger changed the attack to 'keep it in the ground'

Apr 7, 2016 at 10:49 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

Alan Kendall on Apr 7, 2016 at 1:40 PM
"When oil prices reached $148 a barrel, no new supplies came forward to knock the price down. Since then it is true the high prices impelled further exploration and production, and development of alternatives (of which you mentioned shale oil) leading to new supplies. However, the supplies were of significantly more expensive oil, and this overall price increase has impacted the global economy."

New supplies are usually more expensive to get into production because the cheaper supplies are, if known, exploited first. :) And it takes time to develop production from an oil field, and that is after it has been found! Similarly with new technologies, it's done to maximise profit in the long term, or 'to make the best use of the capital employed', that is frugally, and done so that improvements can be made as they are developed.

Companies are not forced to look for further supplies either, they need encouraging. If the shortage is due to a monopoly restricting supply or artificially raising the price that could be reversed easily, then no amount of encouragement would overcome the political uncertainty.

The present oil glut and low oil prices have been caused by the big traditional oil producers opening up the taps and accepting lower prices to regain the market share won by the new technology, shale oil/gas. They were hoping to drive them into bankruptcy, but the shale operators have managed to drastically lower operating costs because they have been at the beginning of the learning curve and they are more nimble; their operations are much more modular than the gigantic Middle East oil fields that take decades and £billions to develop.

Apr 8, 2016 at 3:56 PM | Registered CommenterRobert Christopher

Robert Christopher,

I'm not convinced that we should be cluttering up this thread with matters Peak Oil. I only began my contributions because I opposed golf Charlie's suggestion that it should be a component of school science texts. If there is sufficient interest perhaps someone could begin a new thread on the subject, and I would be pleased to contribute to it.

However, for now I'll try to address some of the points that you have raised and which I suggest might need a more nuanced approach.

1) You wrote "new supplies are...more expensive because the cheaper supplies are... exploited first". This of course is one of the main planks of Peak Oil. In the past, your statement would have been untrue because exploration always held out the possibility of finding an "elephant" field - large reserves, low production costs, easy access to markets. Over time these fields have been found - it must be several decades since a new supergiant field has been found. So today, your statement IS true and our ability to discover sufficient reserves of cheap oil to offset production has been steadily diminishing. Replacement now includes ever increasing amounts of ever more expensive conventional oil and substitutes.

2) You are probably correct in that high oil prices encouraged development of more expensive reserves and substitutes. However, with present low oil prices this has come to a juddering halt. I have former students who have lost their exploration and production jobs in the current downturn. This will create a problem for the future if the world economy recovers. Current reserves are depleting and new supplies are not being discovered or developed. It takes almost 10 years to develop a new field from its discovery. If the global economy does improve, expect really massive oil price increases.

3) The importance of the lack of new supplies becoming available immediately after the oil price peaked is twofold a) no new supplies were available - we were already using everything that could be produced (ie there was no surplus) and b) it didn't make any difference (at least in the short term) what the oil price was, all of the world's production was consumed. In other words if more oil had been made available it would have been bought and consumed. In a very real sense therefore we were experiencing a shortage. The potential demand was not being met.

4) If you accept this it throws our present situation into a new light. The present oversupply and low oil prices must be a consequence of demand destruction and has nothing to do with the fundamentals of peak oil. I just don't believe that OPEC's activities have anything to do with, or can adversely affect, the survivability of shale gas producers. They have little to no ability to control oil prices under present conditions.

5) You seem to have information about how shale gas producers have lowered their operating costs. I have been unable to get access to this information. Do share.

Apr 8, 2016 at 7:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlan Kendall

golf Charlie. I do so hope you took my comment regarding confusion in the way it was meant - as a tease. Your response seemed so serious, but I meant absolutely no offense.

Googled Peak Oil and the Guardian and looked at the first 5 pages. The most recent entry was for 2013 which would seem to indicate the time they stopped discussing PO.

I never thought to link this lack of PO coverage with the "keep it in the ground" message. I wonder if you are right about thiS, It's certainly plausible.

Apr 8, 2016 at 8:31 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlan Kendall

Alan Kendall, I find it difficult to take anything about climate science very seriously, especially as it is now clear that they deny having predicted anything at all. All those scary stories were figments of our own imaginations, and they had their fingers crossed behing their backs when they made them, so they don't count.

The temptation to suggest climate science belongs in the fairy tale section of childrens books........

The Guardian dropped Peak Oil 2013/14, coincidentally about the time Rushbridger was departing. Maybe he was given the story as a leaving present.

Apr 9, 2016 at 3:28 AM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

golf Charlie

Get with the message, they're PROJECTIONS not predictions (see the other currently running discussion thread). I am reliably informed that projections are conditional predictions, which I think means that they are indeed predictions but with provisos bolted on so that if they prove incorrect the weasels can always claim justification for being wrong (= right).

I think Charlie that you and I should give up making predictions and PROJECT everywhere. Oh! but we're doing that already! We could be climate scientists, just fancy that.

Apr 9, 2016 at 4:25 AM | Unregistered CommenterAlan Kendall

Alan Kendall, thank you for the explanation of the difference between a prediction and a projection. In the context of climate science, they never knowingly under guesstimate a scary scenario, and when nothing happens as projdicktateted blame someone else for emphasising the worst case scenario for publicity purposes.

It would seem simpler if alarmist reports were published with a disclaimer stating that no climate scientist will ever accept responsibility or liability for any loss or damage incurred, resulting from relying on the report. This might prevent politicians and policy makers destroying lives and economies for no reason at all.

It does make we wonder what useful purpose is served by climate science, but I do appreciate the improved accuracy of 5 day weather forecasts.

Apr 9, 2016 at 12:09 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie