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Entries by Bishop Hill (6700)


Tabloid academics

Don't you just love it when a bunch of academics goes the full Sunday Sport? You know, putting together an article that makes up in headlines what it lacks in intellectual rigour.

There was a case in point yesterday, when the ReFine group of researchers at Newcastle University published a paper on the traffic impacts of shale gas developments. They did lots of fancy-dan computer modelling and concluded that it was all going to be awful.

As ever the devil is in the detail. One of the main contributory factors to the impact is said to be the lorries that are going to deliver water to the drilling sites. The authors note darkly that as the number of wells that can be drilled from a pad increases, the number of deliveries is only going to increase.

There is just one slight problem with this argument. In the USA, water does indeed tend to be delivered by lorry -the country is large and sparsely populated and there is often no alternative to road transport. The UK on the other hand is densely populated. Water mains are everywhere. 

When you think about it for more than a second then, it's hard to credit the idea that rapacious capitalists would anything other than choose cheap and convenient mains water over expensive road deliveries. Cuadrilla's Preese Hall frack was done with mains water and that is the plan for their two new Lancashire sites too. 

Even more remarkably, the authors of the paper knew all this:

It cannot be ruled out that water transportation to the well pad during exploration, development or after production has commenced could be via pipeline, as was the case for the UK's first fracked shale exploration well at Preese Hall, Lancashire (Mair, 2012).

But they decided that they would go ahead and do a paper based on the assumption that road transport would be used.

Go figure. 

I'm sure they could have got more press coverage if they assumed that bottled water was delivered in transit vans towed by articulated lorries. You can't rule that out either.


Stochastic Stern

You know all that money we have been spending on developing economic models of the effects of climate change? Well apparently it has mostly been wasted. At least that's the case according to Lord Stern, whose article in the sociology journal Nature says that we should be moving onto something more reliable.

Because the IAMs omit so many of the big risks, SCC estimates are often way too low. As a first step, the consequences being assessed should include the damages to human well-being and loss of life beyond simply reduced economic output. And the very large uncertainty, usually involving downward bias, in SCC estimates should always be made explicit...

A comprehensive review of the problems of using IAMs in climate economics called for the research community to develop a “third wave” of models. The authors identify various types of model that might offer advances. Two are: dynamic stochastic computable general equilibrium (DSGE) models, and agent-based models (ABMs).

It's also interesting to see stochastic modelling being touted in a week when climatologists have been outraged by a suggestion that such an approach might be useful in their own field. 


Going down?

The highlight of the day looks as though it's going to be the sentencing of the Heathrow 13 - the gang from Plane Stupid who thought it would be amusing to shut down Heathrow airport for several hours. Expectations are that a jail sentence beckons.

The usual suspects are protesting outside the Magistrates Court and there will no doubt be lots of spurious claims that these were "peaceful protestors", as if preventing people from going about their daily business were anything other than thuggery.




It's about time these people were dealt with.


The unbearable dawn chorus

Much fun is being had at the Lancashire shale gas inquiry, which has been considering noise pollution. Cuadrilla have proposed that night-time noise should be limited to 42dB, which is described on this website as being akin to 

  • a library
  • birdsong.

As one might expect, this is not accepted by the council, although interestingly they seem to be playing fast and loose with the numbers. The council claims to be using WHO guidance on nighttime noise, and says that these specify a level of 30dB. However, the introduction of the WHO Night Noise Guidelines for Europe says this:

Considering the scientific evidence on the thresholds of night noise exposure indicated by Lnight,outside as defined in the Environmental Noise Directive (2002/49/EC), an Lnight,outside of 40 dB should be the target of the night noise guideline (NNG) to protect the public, including the most vulnerable groups such as children, the chronically ill and the elderly. Lnight,outside value of 55 dB is recommended as an interim target for the countries where the NNG cannot be achieved in the short term for various reasons, and where policy-makers choose to adopt a stepwise approach.

No doubt, if 30dB is the required noise level, people in rural Lancashire will be campaigning to slaughter the local songbird population.


Bob's funding feedback

The government's plans to stop grant recipients from using the taxpayer's largesse to lobby government has got the usual suspects all worked up: Bob Ward is his normal dismal form in the Guardian (Unknown funding blah! Check! Ideological blah! Check! Free-market blah! Check!).

Of course this is a prime example of a public-funded lobbyist lobbying using public funds to ensure that public funding of lobbyists continues.

It can't go on.


Two worlds collide

GWPF have release a very interesting report about stochastic modelling by Terence Mills, professor of applied statistics and econometrics at Loughborough University. This is a bit of a new venture for Benny and the team because it's written with a technical audience in mind and there is lots of maths to wade through. But even from the introduction, you can see that Mills is making a very interesting point:


The analysis and interpretation of temperature data is clearly of central importance to debates about anthropogenic globalwarming (AGW). Climatologists currently rely on large-scale general circulation models to project temperature trends over the coming years and decades. Economists used to rely on large-scale macroeconomic models for forecasting, but in the 1970s an increasing divergence between models and reality led practitioners to move away from such macro modelling in favour of relatively simple statistical time-series forecasting tools, which were proving to be more accurate.
In a possible parallel, recent years have seen growing interest in the application of statistical and econometric methods to climatology. This report provides an explanation of the fundamental building blocks of so-called ‘ARIMA’ models, which are widely used for forecasting economic and financial time series. It then shows how they, and various extensions, can be applied to climatological data. An emphasis throughout is that many different forms of a model might be fitted to the same data set, with each one implying different forecasts or uncertainty levels, so readers should understand the intuition behind the modelling methods. Model selection by the researcher needs to be based on objective grounds.

There is an article (£) in the Times about the paper.

I think it's fair to say that the climatological community is not going to take kindly to these ideas. Even the normally mild-mannered Richard Betts seems to have got a bit hot under the collar.





Climate physician, heal thyself!

A reader sent me this breakdown of a climate scientist's carbon footprint. We should not even consider listening to them until they have dealt with their own excesses.


Would Brexit allow us to escape the clutches of the green blob?

So it's all very exciting. We're finally going to get a referendum on the EU. 

Now the EU hasn't been a regular topic of this blog since the distant time before I started to specialise in climate and energy matters, but we can at least wonder about what Brexit might mean for the green blob.

It seems reasonable to assume that it would be a bitter blow for those fake charities like Friends of the Earth who campaign to order on behalf of the Brussels bureaucracy - witness the wads of cash that are sent FoE's way, and their sudden interest in air quality at around the time that Brussels issued its new standards.

It's also interesting to wonder whether an independent UK would stick with absurd Brussels recycling targets and renewables targets and directives on flood management and so on. I'm sure readers can suggest further examples. 

I don't think Brexit would be a panacea - EU membership has given us the green blob and there is now a huge vested interest that will fight tooth and nail to keep their rents. 

But at least, with Brexit, we might be in with a chance.


Modular nukes: coming soonish.

I'm a bit distracted today, so blogging is going to be light. However, I notice with interest that NuScale Power, a US firm that specialises in modular nuclear reactors, has been given permission to develop its first plant on land owned by the Department of Energy in Utah.

Commercial generation is scheduled for...2024.



Investigative journalism isn't dead

Public domain

Left-wing investigative journalism site Political Scrapbook has been doing some, erm, investigation. This is the kind of stuff that only the sharpest minds can get their heads round. You will be amazed.

Snuffling round records of government expenditure they have come up with an extraordinary finding.

Despite floods, the government is paying 100 times more to chop a tree than plant one

The British government is willing to pay people £144 per tree to chop it down and dispose of it.

Meanwhile, how much do you get paid if you plant one? £1.28 per tree.

So big, dangerous jobs cost much more than small safe ones. Who would have guessed?


Ditching precaution in favour of innovation

A couple of days ago, I explained my surprise at the level of animosity displayed towards renewables by callers to Radio Scotland. Today I'm starting to wonder if this might be the first signs of a trend. Could we even have passed the high tide of greenery? I mean, when the politicians start coming round, it's hard not to think so.

OK it's French politicians rather than UK ones, but this does look like a big, big U-turn:

The once-ruling, right-wing party Les Republicains introduced the anti-fracking bill on the floor of the French parliament back in 2011, citing the “extremely harmful impact” of the hydraulic fracturing technique on the environment. But times and politics change and the party, which is now in opposition, has made a complete reversal on the issue. So much so that these days, it publicly and vocally embraces shale gas opportunities.

On February 14, Luc Chatel, stated that “Les Republicains must be the party that chooses the innovation principle over the precautionary principle – the party of shale gas, GMOs, biotechnologies. It’s my firm conviction." It's a strong statement from the leader of a party that could win the next presidential election in 2017.


The greens and their psychosomatics

A time-honoured tactic of those who oppose an industrial development is to claim that it causing ill health. Certainly the opponents of the Horse Hill oil well have wasted no time in setting out the chronic ailments that yesterday's successful flow test have caused.

Most prominently, local resident Lisa Scott has described the horrors of her early morning jog:

It was not a fast or longer run than normal but at three points near the site I felt short of energy. I normally run 10-12k and never stop. But this was only 4-4.5k. It was like running through an invisible plume three times. I felt something strange. I needed to walk in case I fell. I could feel it in my lungs.

That will be the same Lisa Scott who was pictured a few days ago with Natalie Bennett. Lisa's the one in the middle, leading the protest group.

I'm not entirely convinced that Ms Scott's ailment isn't psychosomatic.


Captions please

I wonder what was said when Steve Sanderson, the Chairman of UK Oil and Gas Investments, met Natalie Bennet at the Horse Hill exploration site this morning?



Flogging the phosphorus horse

Over at the Conversation, a couple of academics are trying on the whole "we're going to run out of phosphorus" malarkey again. 

How the great phosphorus shortage could leave us short of food

This has been so thoroughly debunked so often that you'd think that nobody would want to risk it again, but it seems there is no limit to the foolishness of the eco-academic.

I think what they are actually trying to say is that they have invented a process to recycle a mineral. Unfortunately that mineral is cheap and abundant and nobody is interested in their work. But they'd quite like someone to invest in it anyway.

What a way to spend your life.



The UK just struck oil

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