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Entries by Bishop Hill (6698)


Toby's eyes have been opened

The journalist Toby Young has been looking at yesterday’s rather lurid story about biodiversity, and the claim that a million species are going to be lost if we don’t become communists. Or something like that.

Young appears to have done some brief research and has shown that the underlying estimates, sponsored by the UN, are bunk. The authors of the report have taken some data from official “Red List” of threatened species and extrapolated it in precisely the way that the Red List authors say should not be done. They have then published a somewhat hysterical press release, but not the underlying report.

This is a familiar story for anyone who is interested in environmentalism, but Young has been rather taken aback, both at the shoddiness of the research and the way the press have dealt with it. After all, if some brief research has revealed to Young (with a degree in PPE) that some scientific research is nonsense, surely the massed ranks of science journalists would have been expected to find the problems too? But of course, as eco-nerds know, science journalists see themselves as part of the green movement and asking questions is therefore frowned upon. The science-page news articles are declarations of faith, not inquiries, or debates. So with the extinctions story, just as with everything else, science journalists have reprinted the press release or, more daringly, rewritten it in their own words. Nobody, but nobody, asks any questions.

To some extent, the problem can be blamed on a lack of scientific literacy among the press corps. Most people on the science-environment beat are humanities graduates, and would struggle to question the press releases that cross their desks, although Young of course has shown that an inquiring mind can take you a long way. But inquiring minds are not common among science journalists, most of whom are comfortable in their faith.

Sensible people should discount all science headlines, particularly the lurid ones about “new research” (today’s one is about future increases in floods in the UK). Your best bet is to find some contrarians on social media and see what they have to say. The wild headlines are usually shot down on the same day by some awkward customer, but not before the mainstream media have done their damage.

With that in mind, let us return briefly to today’s impending crisis and note that climate models are really, really bad at simulating current rainfall patterns (the IPCC says their ability in this area is “modest”), and thus are no more useful for predicting future floods than tea-leaf gazing. No journalist will mention this awkward fact, but at least Toby Young will not be surprised this time.


The practical issues of installing EV charging points

A reader posted this in the comments to the previous post. It's by an electrician in Melbourne, and describes some work he had done on the feasibility of installing EV charging points in a local apartment building. I was amused.

I recently did some work for the body corporate at Dock 5 Apartment Building in Docklands to see if we could install a number of electric charging points for owners to charge their electric vehicles. We discovered:

  • Our building had no non-allocated parking spaces (i.e. public ones). This is typical of most apartment buildings so we cannot provide shared outlets. The power supply in the building was designed for the loads in the building with no spare capacity.
  • Only 5 or 6 chargers could be installed in total in a building with 188 apartments!
  • How do you allocate them as they would add value to any apartment owning one?
  • The car park sub-boards cannot carry the extra loads of even one charger and would have to be upgraded on any floors with a charger, as would the supply mains to each sub-board. The main switch board would then have to be upgraded to add the heavier circuit breakers for the sub-mains upgrade. 
  • When Docklands was designed, a limit was put on the number of apartments in each precinct and the mains and transformers in the streets were designed accordingly. This means there is no capacity in the Docklands street grid for any significant quantity of car chargers in any building in the area.

It gets better.

The whole CBD (Hoddle Grid, Docklands) and Southbank is fed by two sub-stations. One in Port Melbourne and one in West Melbourne. This was done to have two alternate feeds in case one failed or was down for maintenance. Because of the growth in the city/Docklands and Southbank, neither one is now capable of supplying the full requirement of Melbourne zone at peak usage in mid- summer if the other is out of action. The Port Melbourne 66,000 volt feeder runs on 50 or 60 year old wooden power poles above ground along Dorcas Street South Melbourne. One pole is located 40 cm from the corner Kerb at the incredibly busy Ferrars St/ Dorcas St intersection and is very vulnerable to being wiped out by a wayward vehicle.

The infrastructure expenditure required would dwarf the NBN cost excluding the new power stations required. These advocates of all electric vehicles by the year 2040 are completely bonkers. It takes 5-8 years to design and build a large coal fired power station like LoyYang and even longer for a Nuclear one (that’s after you get the political will, permits and legislative changes needed ). Wind and solar just can’t produce enough. It’s just a green silly dream in the foreseeable future other than in small wealthy countries. It will no doubt ultimately come, but not in the next 20 years. So don’t waste your upcoming vote in the federal election on the Greens or Labor because electric cars won’t be happening for a long time yet!

In related news, Lord Deben and his colleagues at the CCC foresee few problems in converting the whole country to electric vehicles in the near future.


What will net zero cost?

Yesterday's CCC report was a masterpiece of bureaucratic obfuscation, with acres of verbiage and a generous sprinkling of buzzwords that was never entirely successful in obscuring a marked shallowness of thought. One of the things that struck me about it was the almost complete lack of any cost information. We were told that all the CCC's whizzbang scheme would cost just 1-2% of GDP in 2050 (pull the other one!) but there was nothing to substantiate this figure (or indeed most other figures in the report).

It all struck me as extremely unlikely. Just a couple of days before I'd come across a study that put the cost of deep retrofitting insulation measures to the UK housing stock at £2 trillion, which over 30 years is £67 billion per year. That's 2% of current GDP on its own. The report puts the cost of converting to low-carbon heat (heat pumps etc) at £15 billion per year.

With this in mind, I wondered whether BH readers could come up with some more capital costs of the Great Leap Forward that our lords and masters are intending to unleash. 

As a start, I reckon that current UK energy demand is around 1600 TWh per year. How many offshore windfarms will we need to deliver that? And what will they cost to build (every 15-20 years)?




Making the poor cold, and miserable

I have an article up at Think Scotland, on the subject of induced energy poverty

WE HAVE JUST learned something of the human cost of the government’s increasingly absurd energy policies. It’s not a pretty story. Buried in depths of a rather obscure statistical report, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has given details of how much energy households use for heating and lighting compared to the amount that they actually need.

Astonishingly, 69 per cent of households consume less energy than they need, with an average underspend of 10 per cent. This may overstate the case somewhat, but it’s clear that there is a real problem for those in fuel poverty, who underspend by 20 per cent. It’s particularly acute for households with children.

Click to read more ...


Another Attenborough tragedy porn exposé

This was posted up at Reaction magazine earlier today.

"Tragedy porn” is now a standard green propaganda technique. You’ve probably been on the receiving end of it, and will recognise it once I describe it. First of all you need a victim. Animals – preferably fluffy ones, and preferably with large eyes – are ideal, but people will do at a pinch. Then you have to film them in the process of dying or otherwise suffering. A presenter or scientist needs to be on hand to describe the events, preferably choking away their tears. Then you blame global warming.

It is often an effective technique, but care is required. Last week, tragedy porn proved to be the undoing of Sir David Attenborough, when on Netflix a carefully contrived story that global warming was driving walruses over cliff tops unravelled over the course of a week, as a series of flaws were discovered in the narrative and in the tales spun by the production team as they attempted to cover up what they had done. Once it emerged that the production team may well have played a role in causing the tragedy, it all started to look a bit problematic.

Click to read more ...


Attenborough does climate

This is an open thread for discussion of tonight's David Attenborough does climate thingy.


More walrus articles

Over the last week, the walrus story has developed a lot.

I wrote an update at the GWPF blog, and then looked at some potentially explosive details of the geography of Cape Kozhenikova.

Then I summarised the whole story for Reaction magazine.

I'd say the Netflix team coming out of this looking very bad indeed.


On walruses

My article on walruses appeared behind the paywall at the Spectator Coffee House blog earlier this week. 

Over the weekend, social media and the newspapers were full of stories of Pacific walruses plunging over sea cliffs to their deaths. Heart-wrenching film of the corpses of these magnificent beasts piled up on the shore have been driving many to tears.

This all came about as the result of the latest episode of Our Planet, the new wildlife extravaganza from Netflix. As is normal for such programmes, the story that accompanies the animal eye-candy is told by Sir David Attenborough and, as is positively compulsory, it is spiced with multiple references to the horrors of global warming. In fact, we are told, it is us who should shoulder the blame for the slaughter of the walruses, because shrinking sea ice caused by climate change forces them to haulout – leaving the water to take refuge on the shore instead.

The programme ends with Attenborough directing viewers to a website run by WWF, the co-producers of the series. It is therefore, in essence, an eight-part, multi-million pound fundraiser.

Which is a pity, because there is now considerable evidence emerging that the story is not quite what it seems.

For a start, as the zoologist Susan Crockford has documented for the GWPF, walrus haul out behaviour may not be related to global warming. In her 2014 paper On the Beach, she cites examples as far back as the 1930s, long before global warming. She also explains that there doesn’t appear to be a strong correlation between sea-ice levels and haulout behaviour.

Nor is the phenomenon of walruses falling to their deaths from sea cliffs new. American TV recorded the same phenomenon in 1994 and the New York Times reported 60 deaths in a single incident in 1996. Attempts were made to install a fence at one site, while another employs rangers whose sole job is to keep the walruses away from the cliffs. At the time, scientists explained that the most likely explanation  was overcrowding at the water’s edge.

Crockford thinks that the footage on the Netflix show comes from a well-documented incident that took place in the village of Ryrkaypiy, in eastern Siberia, in October 2017. September and October are the peak period for walrus haulouts, and there are numerous examples, which date back to the 1960s, of the cliff phenomenon taking place on Wrangel Island, a few hundred kilometres to the north.

However in 2017, as the Siberian Times reported, the colony attracted polar bears that frequent – and indeed at the time terrorise – the area. The bears drove several hundred walruses over the cliffs to their deaths, before feasting on the corpses. They continued to frequent the area right through into the winter.

I’ve been able to show that Crockford’s supposition about the geographical origin of the footage is correct: analysis of the rock shapes in the film and in a photo taken by the producer/director both match archive photos of Ryrkaypiy. The photo was taken on 19 September 2017, during the events described by the Siberian Times.

But whereas the Siberian Times and Gizmodo website, which also reported on the 2017 incident, were both quite clear that the walruses were driven over the cliffs by polar bears, Netflix makes no mention of their presence. Similarly, there is no mention of the fact that walrus haulouts are entirely normal. Instead, Attenborough tells his viewers that climate change is forcing the walruses on shore, where their poor eyesight leads them to plunge over the cliffs.

This is all very troubling as it raises the possibility that Netflix and the WWF are, innocently or otherwise, party to a deception of the public. Exactly who was aware of the presence of polar bears remains unclear, but it seems doubtful that no one at the WWF and the production team was unaware. And given that one of the prime objectives of the show seems to have been to raise funds for WWF, that seems… problematic.


Media blackout

A couple of weeks back, the BBC's Nick Robinson was bemoaning the fact that the general public is increasingly shunning the corporation, favouring instead the multitude of alternative news sites that have sprung up in recent years.

I couldn't help but think of this today, when I learned of a peaceful demonstration in London yesterday, which had attracted a crowd in the tens of thousands - some have suggested as many as 70,000. It was an anti-extremism march organised by a group calling itself the Football Lads Alliance. Shamefullly, there has not been a word about the march from the corporation (or indeed from any other part of the mainstream media). In fact, the Football Lads Alliance is not mentioned on the BBC website at all.

Yet the BBC is quite happy to report a protest by 150 people demanding changes to disability benefits and a protest by "hundreds" about the Grenfell Tower fire. 

It's fair to say that this will not encourage greater use of the BBC or the mainstream media.



Biofuels in the 2050 calculator

I've been playing about with DECC's 2050 calculator and I wondered if BH readers (if any of you are still popping by) to take a look at something.

I'm interested in how it handles bioenergy. Here's how the relevant help screen describes the process.

In 2007, the UK used 4000 km2 of land to grow energy crops, which is less than 2% of the country. For comparison, 174 000 km2 of land was used for arable crops, livestock, and fallow land. The 2050 Calculator contains two options relating to agricultural biomass and land use: land use management (described here) and livestock management (described on another page).

In his book, Mackay uses a value of 244,000 km2 for the area of the UK, so "less than 2%" is correct.

Click to read more ...


A very bad boy

It seems that Lord Stern is a very bad boy.

Very bad indeed.

Take a look at this.


Spirit of inquiry

I've been taking a look at the BEIS committee's report on the effects of Brexit on climate and energy policy, and in particular the section on investor confidence, which struck me as likely to be the most interesting. The section opens thus.

The decision to leave the EU should not distract from the Government’s policies to provide secure and affordable energy supply and to seek ambitious plans to decarbonise our energy system.203

The citation is to the submission from, erm, 38 Degrees. Which does rather make it look as if they are dictating the text. 

Reading on, I find that:

Click to read more ...


Chris Essex at GWPF - cartoon notes

Chris Essex was at GWPF last night to lecture on "The Great Climate Change Fervour". Josh sends his cartoon notes.



Thanks to everyone who has sent good wishes for my new role at GWPF, or passed them on in person at Chris Essex's lecture last night. 

Who knows, maybe I'll even write something from time to time...


A sin of omission

The BBC was worried about primates this morning. Apparently loss of forest habitat means that our hairy cousins are facing the threat of extinction. Professor Jo Setchell is quoted in the piece as the woman with the answer though:

"...don't buy tropical timber, don't eat palm oil"

But burning palm oil to create energy seems to be fine with the good professor (and presumably the BBC's journalist, Victoria Gill) because it doesn't even warrant a mention.

Greens trashing the environment. Again.