JoNova

A science presenter, writer, speaker & former TV host; author of The Skeptic's Handbook (over 200,000 copies distributed & available in 15 languages).


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New paper shows solar activity is linked to the Greenland climate even 20,000 years ago

This new paper by Adophi et al uses beryllium, oxygen and carbon isotopes from Greenland ice cores right back as far as the depth of the last ice age, 22,500 years ago, and finds there is a link between solar activity and the climate. It follows these proxies of temperature and solar activity as the planet warmed to the start of the Holocene 10,000 years ago.

It is gaining attention in The Daily Mail, with the headline:

Is the SUN driving climate change? Solar activity – ‘and not just humans’ – could be increasing global warming, study claims

During the last glacial maximum, Sweden was covered in a thick ice sheet that stretched all the way down to northern Germany and sea levels were more than 330ft (100m) lower than they are today, because the water was frozen in the extensive ice caps.

‘The study shows an unexpected link between solar activity and climate change,’ Dr Muscheler said in a press release.

‘It shows both that changes in solar activity are nothing new and that solar activity influences the climate, especially on a regional level. 

Dr Joanna Haigh, Professor of Atmospheric Physics at Imperial College London, tells MailOnline that the research is interesting but people should not jump to any conclusions.

‘This is a very nice careful piece of work which provides evidence from Greenland, over a period 10,000-25,000 years ago, consistent with a picture that has emerged from other studies looking at changes over more recent times,’ she says.

‘This shows that when the sun is less active winters are likely to be warmer in Greenland and colder in Northwest Europe.

‘It is not easy to draw any conclusions from this work with regard to the sun’s role in global warming or the recent slowdown in warming of global air temperature.’ – The Daily Mail,

The grudging acknowledgement comes couched in odd terms. The sun might be a little bit more important, but it’s not the most important factor, it just does something to this odd incidental thing called atmospheric circulation.

There is still a lot of uncertainty as to how the sun affects the climate, but the study suggests that direct solar energy is not the most important factor, but rather it indirectly affects atmospheric circulation.

‘Reduced solar activity could lead to colder winters in Northern Europe,’ said Dr Muscheler.

‘This is because the sun’s UV radiation affects the atmospheric circulation. 

We can’t draw any conclusions except this small last note:

‘The study also shows that the various solar processes need to be included in climate models in order to better predict future global and regional climate change.’

What about that 95% certainty then?

Getting down to the nuts and bolts, Adolphi et al find that the climate in Greenland appears to be influenced by solar cycles. They theorize the mechanism involves those very wiggly “meridional” wind patterns (which swing in loops far to the south or north, and drag hot weather up from the tropics or send cold blasts down from the arctic.) During solar minima there appear to be more of those “blocking” type wave patterns, and they remark that this is similar to what we see today during solar minima, even though the climate regime would be quite different in an ice age.

Greenland is not global of course. But in terms of national billion-dollar policies, it’s yet another paper suggesting that the reason modern climate models don’t work is that they don’t understand the sun’s role in the climate. Which scientist says they are 95% sure CO2 caused the modern warming? Of course, it’s a trick question.

Here we present the first reconstruction of solar activity variations for the end of the last glaciation from 22.5 to 10 kyr BP (thousand years before present, AD 1950) based on new and published 10Be data from the GRIP and GISP2 ice cores 4,6 supported by independent estimates of atmospheric 14C  concentrations 7,8. In addition, we provide the first evidence for a solar forcing of Greenland climate during Greenland Stadial 2 (GS-2, 22.9-14.7 kyr BP; ref. 14) that seems coherent with increased frequencies of high-pressure blocking patterns south of Greenland during low-solar-activity winters a relationship that has been reported previously from modern observations and climate model experiments. 9,15

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Coal Miner Clive Palmer to host a climate conference for global leaders

Australian politics is pure side-show cabaret.

For Clive Palmer, it’s a smashing winner all the way ’round.  It’s more photo opportunities,  more Palmer-Party headlines, and a chance for him to hobnob with any international names who feel like turning up for a few days of taxpayer funded R&R to his Coolum Resort.

Thus Clive disarms his opponents, networks with the odd VIP, and unnerves the government all at the same time. He can wave the Green flag in future negotiations with Abbott and co, to try to haggle extra bits and pieces in his favour. Plus he distracts people from a messy legal matter with a Chinese firm, and he could certainly use some guests at his 95% empty resort. Which, by the way, is also a legal headache and in the news for all the wrong reasons.

It is a bet that a few politicians wouldn’t mind a Sunshine Coast junket after the G20 on November 17. They get to relax for a few tax-deductible or tax-funded days while they pretend to talk about the insolvable climate problem. Plus it’s a fun way to look compassionate and caring for the third rock from the sun. Everyone earns greenie points, while they get essentially nothing done. New class winners in new-class style.

For Clive, putting up the bizarre facade of being a climate activist off-balances the left-leaning protestors and journalists who would normally treat a coal mining magnate like a cross between Ebola and the village idiot. They just don’t know quite what to do with him. He is shamelessly playing games, and has no apparent principles, but a lot of the fans of climate action turn a blind eye to the hypocrisy. This is a man who talks of emissions trading schemes to reduce carbon dioxide while theoretically making his riches from digging stored carbon out of the ground. He voted to remove the Carbon Tax but he’s giving Tony Abbott a hard time, so he must be alright, then? The enemy of my enemy is sort of, kind of, my friend.

Clive Palmer to host climate summit after G20

Clive Palmer will host a self-styled climate change conference at his Queensland resort the day after the G20 summit wraps up in Brisbane.

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The crazy world of Renewable Energy Targets

Nothing makes sense about Renewable Energy Targets, except at a “Bumper-Sticker” level. Today the AFR front page suggests* the federal government is shifting to remove the scheme (by closing it to new entrants) rather than just scaling it back. It can’t come a day too soon. Right now, the Greens who care about CO2 emissions should be cheering too. The scheme was designed to promote an  industry, not to cut CO2.

UPDATE: Mathias Cormann later says “that the government’s position was to “keep the renewable energy target in place” SMH.  Mixed messages indeed.

We’ve been sold the idea that if we subsidize “renewable” energy (which produces less CO2) we’d get a world with lower CO2 emissions. But it ain’t so. The fake “free” market in renewables does not remotely achieve what it was advertised to do — the perverse incentives make the RET good for increasing “renewables” but bad for reducing CO2, and, worse, the more wind power you have, the less CO2 you save. Coal fired electricity is so cheap that doing anything other than making it more efficient is a wildly expensive and inefficient way to reduce CO2. But the Greens hate coal more than they want to reduce carbon dioxide. The dilemma!

The RET scheme in Australian pays a subsidy to wind farms and solar installations. Below, Tom Quirk shows that this is effectively a carbon tax (but a lousy one), and it shifts supply — perversely taxing brown coal at $27/ton, black coal at $40/ton and gas at up to $100/ton. Because it’s applied to renewables rather than CO2 directly, it’s effectively a higher tax rate for the non-renewable but lower CO2 emitters.

Calculating the true cost of electricity is fiendishly difficult. “Levelized costs” is the simple idea that we can add up the entire lifecycle cost of each energy type, but it’s almost impossible to calculate meaningful numbers. Because wind power is fickle, yet electricity demand is most definitely not, the real cost of wind power is not just the construction, maintenance and final disposal, but also the cost of having a gas back-up or expensive battery (give-us-your-gold) storage. It’s just inefficient every which way. Coal and nuclear stations are cheaper when run constantly rather than in a stop-start fashion (just like your car is). So the cost of renewables also includes the cost of shifting these “base load” suppliers from efficient to inefficient use — and in the case of coal it means producing more CO2 for the same megawatts. South Australia is the most renewable-dependent state in mainland Australia, and it’s a basketcase (look at the cost stack below). Real costs only come with modeling, and we all know how difficult that is.

If the aim is really the research and development of renewables (and not “low CO2″) then I’ve long said that we should pay for the research and development directly, not pay companies to put up inefficient and fairly useless versions in the hope that companies might earn enough to pay for the research out of the profits. Tom Quirk points out that it’s all frightfully perverse again, because most innovations come from industry, not government funded research, but in Australia we hardly have any industry making parts used in power generation — we don’t have the teams of electrical engineers working on the problem anymore. I suppose the theory is that Chinese companies will profit from solar panels and do the R&D for us (keeping “our” patents too)? It would be cheaper just to gift them the money direct wouldn’t it — rather than pay an industry to produce and install a product that no one would buy, which doesn’t work, and hope that the “profits” translate into discoveries that will produce royalties and jobs for people overseas. I’m sure Chinese workers and entrepreneurs will be grateful. Yay.

Meanwhile, Green fans have suddenly discovered the idea of sovereign risk (where were they while the Rudd-Gillard team blitzed Australia’s reputation for stable, predictable policy?). According to the AFR, the government is scornful (and rightly so):

The government source said the market was oversupplied with energy and there was no longer any cause for a mandated use of any specific type of power. The source said while there would be investment losses if the RET was abolished, or even scaled back, investors “would have to have been blind to know this wasn’t coming’’.

On Catalaxy files, Judith Sloan mocks the Fin for pushing a press release from a rent-seeking firm, and guesses the Abbott government will be too “gutless” to ditch this economic and environmental dog of a policy.

—   Jo

 

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Renewable energy sources – Complications!

Guest post by Tom Quirk

Early in 2014 the Committee for the Economic Development of Australia (CEDA) issued a report entitled The Economics of Climate Change[i]. This report proposed a way forward in assessing and ordering the development of technologies to combat the uncertain source of climate change, fossil fuel emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2).  The report casually mentions that the science is “settled” for understanding climate change despite the obvious failures of climate models to predict the almost constant global temperature of the last 12 years while atmospheric concentrations and fossil fuel emissions of CO2 have continued to rise.

In passing it is worth noting that many countries offer subsidies to renewables similar to our Renewable Energy Target (RET) scheme. CEDA does not consider the scheme very helpful for emission reduction. The table below shows just how extraordinary the scheme is. Generators of renewable energy in Australia, in fact mainly wind farms with some small solar contribution, are paid a subsidy of $40 per megawatt hour (MWh) for electricity produced. This source of electricity displaces that generated from conventional power plants. The equivalent carbon tax is the $40 subsidy paid for one MWh of wind generated electricity with no CO2 emissions displacing one MWh of electricity from black coal that would give rise to one tonne of CO2 but for brown coal electricity with 1.5 tonnes of CO2 the equivalent tax is $27. The tax equivalents for these and other energy sources are shown in Table 1.

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Help bring Patrick Moore — a Greenpeace founder turned skeptic — to Australia

Case Smit and John Smeed are working to get Patrick Moore to visit Australia soon. Details on how you can help below.

In the video below Patrick Moore talks about his extensive work with Greenpeace during its first 15 years and the useful contributions they made before he split from them because of their increasingly irrational policies.  He’s a powerful, sensible advocate for compassionate reason. This is his journey from eco-warrior to defender of science, logic and the environment. He is a rare man and obviously sceptical of “catastrophic” global warming.


At the Heartland conference July 2014

From Case Smit:

Australia is hosting a “climate information” visit by Dr. Patrick Moore (co-founder of Greenpeace) in October – November this year.  Rather than lecturing to the “converted”, the principal purpose of this visit is for him to meet with opinion leaders in the media, politics and business to convey a rational environmentalist’s views on why policies instituted because of the “catastrophic climate change” scare need to be realistically addressed.

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Could early antibiotic use lead to lifelong weight gain?

For a weekend curiosity: this study caught my eye.

What if part of the modern obesity epidemic was due to antibiotic use? It may be that if we feed babies antibiotics during a certain window of development, their metabolism changes in ways that last for life (say hello to Syndrome X — sigh). For years, evidence has been gathering that the bacteria in our gut have major contracts and complicated deals going with our immune system. Now this study in lab mice suggests serious negotiations might be going on between bacteria and our developing metabolism too.

The quote of the day: “When we put mice on a high-calorie diet, they got fat. When we put mice on antibiotics, they got fat,” explains Dr. Blaser. “But when we put them on both antibiotics and a high-fat diet, they got very, very fat.”

The study showed that it was not the antibiotics per se that caused the change, but the microflora. Perhaps immediately restocking with the right bacteria might negate the side-effects of the antibiotics.

Our intestines have one to two kilograms of little critter inhabitants, so it is quite the ecosystem inside there. This study tantalizingly suggests we may yet find ways to prevent and treat obesity and insulin resistance. For humans, it’s a proof of concept type study, as mousy intestines and diet are quite different from ours (cardboard for dinner anyone?). Though there is some odd circumstantial support, and antibiotic use changes gut flora for longer than expected. Presumably probiotic trials will start soon.

Pay special attention if you are a pregnant or breast-feeding mouse. — Jo

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Early antibiotic exposure leads to lifelong metabolic disturbances in mice

[Science Daily] August 14, 2014 — A new study published today in Cell suggests that antibiotic exposure during a critical window of early development disrupts the bacterial landscape of the gut, home to trillions of diverse microbes, and permanently reprograms the body’s metabolism, setting up a predisposition to obesity. Moreover, the study shows that it is altered gut bacteria, rather than the antibiotics, driving the metabolic effects.

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The mental illness of alarmism – climate depression, climate change delusion

Who would have guessed? A relentless propaganda campaign to generate fear about the climate has generated fear about the climate. It takes billions of dollars to generate delusion on this scale.

After hopes for government-run-climates were dashed in Copenhagen, the price of setting up a fantasy came back to haunt the team.  The fallout was psychological pain. The failure of Copenhagen was a savage set-back for the scare campaign in so many ways. Only now, years later, do we hear just how bad the repercussions were.

The answer to “climate fear” is, of course, to look at data skeptically, and to stay logical. But instead, the big-government-NGO machine diverts more money down the deep well of unreason. Now there are research papers analyzing “The Debilitating Disease of Climate Alarmism”, and counselors are (presumably) paid to counsel people on how to be afraid, but not overly so.

What’s the difference between this and a cult? A 17 year old was hospitalized with dehydration because he believed if he didn’t drink water it would help prevent a water shortage. A PhD grad says ““Every time I talked about environmental issues, I would start crying”.

Meanwhile the sensible types quietly leave, and the maddies press on. Shame about the collateral damage.

A climate of despair

August 13, 2014, The Age

Nicole Thornton remembers the exact moment her curious case of depression became too real to ignore. It was five years ago and the environmental scientist – a trained biologist and ecologist – was writing a rather dry PhD on responsible household water use.

The United Nations was about to hold its 2009 climate change conference in Copenhagen, and Thornton felt she had a personal investment in it. She, like many thousands of activists and scientists and green campaigners, had high hopes that a new and robust version of the Kyoto agreement would be created in Denmark.“But the reality was a massive, epic failure of political will. It broke me,” she says. “The trigger point was actually watching grown men cry. They were senior diplomats from small islands, begging larger countries to take action so that their nations would not drown with the rising seas.”

Thornton pauses,  takes a breath. “It still gets me, five years later. That’s when I lost hope that we were able to save ourselves from self-destruction. That’s when I lost hope that we would survive as a species. It made me more susceptible to what I call ‘climate depression’.”

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How the media distort the news: Lesson 1 — Lies by omission

The Sydney Morning Herald carefully removed the scientific arguments from an article today. Are they afraid their readers are not smart enough to reach the “right” conclusions if exposed to the wrong information? Hey, but its only national policy and billions of dollars at stake.

Today Maurice Newman warned that we are not prepared for climate change (he’s talking about the cold kind). The Australian published his thoughts citing Archibald, Usoskin, Svensmark, Brekke, Lockwood and Curry. Their readers are apparently clever enough to handle discussions of cosmic rays and large hadron colliders.

In Sydney Morning Herald, Latika Bourke and Lisa Cox write an article about Newman’s views, but carefully omit all of the scientific arguments, as well as the potential problems with one sided science funding and the names and credentials of the scientists he talks about. The pair do, however, find space to repeat the litany of the IPCC’s estimate of 95% “probability” (it’s hard to believe Sydney Morning Herald readers have not heard this before).  They don’t mention that the IPCC estimate is a speculative and unscientific number which gets paradoxically higher as the IPCC’s predictions are proven wrong. Nor did they interview Newman and ask him his opinion of this.

Rather than talking about possibilities that scientists are discussing, it was more important to remind SMH readers that Prime Minister Abbott once said climate change was “absolute crap”. How that helps the nation decide on national climate policy is not made clear, though the implication is: skeptics only have dumb arguments. No doubt SMH readers will understand which opinion they are supposed to hold, and “lucky” for them, journalists Bourke and Cox are experts on atmospheric physics, particle collisions, and climate modeling. If only they’d explained the flaws in Maurice Newman’s arguments instead of concealing them, the whole nation would have been better off.

One day, the poor SMH readers, like ABC viewers, might be shocked when they discover how they were fed propaganda lines by dutiful journalists who, no doubt, thought they were doing a good job. Still, one great thing about the SMH is that the citizens of Australia don’t have to pay for it if they don’t want to.

The Australian‘s readers already know the IPCC position. The editors there, dare to give us the other side as well:

We’re ill-prepared if the iceman cometh

WHAT if David Archibald’s book The Twilight of Abundance: Why Life in the 21st Century Will Be Nasty, Brutish, and Short turns out to be right? What if the past 50 years of peace, cheap energy, abundant food, global economic growth and population explosion have been due to a temporary climate phenomenon?

What if the warmth the world has enjoyed for the past 50 years is the result of solar activity, not man-made CO2?

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Be afraid! Trapped atmospheric waves on the rise. Extreme heatwaves to come.

There are waves piling on waves in the weather.

A new press release tells us that there have been an “exceptional” number of weather extremes in summer.

Weather extremes in the summer — such as the record heat wave in the United States that hit corn farmers and worsened wildfires in 2012 — have reached an exceptional number in the last ten years. Human-made global warming can explain a gradual increase in periods of severe heat, but the observed change in the magnitude and duration of some events is not so easily explained.

Heatwaves lend themselves to headlines. Not only are they scary, but for climate researchers at a loose end, there are 1,000 flavors of wave to comb through. Is that a 3 day, 4 day or 7 day wave you are interested in? Is the cut-off 40C, 38C, 35C or a flexible percentile anomaly above the monthly average? Is it a statewide average, a national record, or a hot week in Houston? Shall we analyze that in seasons, by months, years, or part thereof? The combinations and permutations can keep a supercomputer up late at night. There’s a whole field of cherry trees ripe for the plucking.

It used to be that only long term trends mattered. Now, if something is “linked” to a “cluster” of noisy events over the last 13 years, go tell the world — why not?

Significance (the PNAS term for an abstract of the abstract)

The recent decade has seen an exceptional number of boreal summer weather extremes, some causing massive damage to society. There is a strong scientific debate about the underlying causes of these events. We show that high-amplitude quasi-stationary Rossby waves, associated with resonance circulation regimes, lead to persistent surface weather conditions and therefore to midlatitude synchronization of extreme heat and rainfall events. Since the onset of rapid Arctic amplification around 2000, a cluster of resonance circulation regimes is observed involving wave numbers 7 and 8. This has resulted in a statistically significant increase in the frequency of high-amplitude quasi-stationary waves with these wave numbers. Our findings provide important insights regarding the link between Arctic changes and midlatitude extremes.

Things are getting desperate for the long term climate forecasters when they start listing individual weather events one by one. This is tea-leaf reading from the dregs of the last 3 decades.

Are we adding “winter-like” temperature spells during summer to heat-wave events anywhere in the Northern Hemisphere? That can’t be right…

Fig 2 (See caption below. I split the wide figure)

It didn’t seem to me that heatwaves got worse in the last decade. But if history starts in 1980 I guess it’s quite possible. The graph below is next to the list above, of  “resonance months”.

Fig. 2. Number of July and August resonance months identified by Petoukhov et al. (16) for  eight 4-y periods from 1980 to 2011. Text in the gray bars indicates the actual months with, in brackets, the wave number involved in resonance, and the table on the left lists the associated extreme weather events (adapted from ref. 16). The red line plots the difference of surface warming in the Arctic (north of 65°N) and in the rest of the Northern Hemisphere (south of 65°N), illustrating the much more rapid surface warming in the Arctic since 2000.

Resonance months refers to a particular effect in Rossby waves:

An important part of the global air motion in the mid-latitudes normally takes the form of waves wandering around the globe, called Rossby Waves. When they swing north, they suck warm air from the tropics to Europe, Russia, or the US; and when they swing south, they do the same thing with cold air from the Arctic. However, the study shows that in periods with extreme weather, some of these waves become virtually stalled and greatly amplified.

“Behind this, there is a subtle resonance mechanism that traps waves in the mid-latitudes and amplifies them strongly,” says Stefan Rahmstorf, co-author of the study to be published in the Proceedings of the US National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

How significant would the latest resonant months trend be in a graph that includes life before 1979?  Hard to say.

If resonance months and heatwaves are connected…

Looks like it’s time to panic.

This figure shows the annual values of the U.S. Heat Wave Index from 1895 to 2013. These data cover the contiguous 48 states. Interpretation: An index value of 0.2 (for example) could mean that 20 percent of the country experienced one heat wave, 10 percent of the country experienced two heat waves, or some other combination of frequency and area resulted in this value.Data source: Kunkel, 2014 5

Source: EPA

 

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It’s an Unsettling Climate for skeptical scientists like Murry Salby

UPDATED: The full text is now available at City Journal.
Rupert Darwall is the author of Age of Global Warming (and earning excellent reviews). Darwall has a gift for converting tricky scientific concepts into a story. This month in the City Journal, he beautifully summarizes and updates the story of Murry Salby. He’s interviewed Richard Lindzen and others, and discusses Salby’s work in the context of the way heretics are marginalized.

I helped Rupert with some of the background. It’s controversial science, a complex situation, with irrelevant baggage to boot. But that’s exactly the place where science communicators — or in the case of Rupert, excellent historians — are most keenly needed. The scientists, who are more the numbers-men are the ones who need their stories told, because they are the ones not so inclined to play the PR and networking games. Bureaucratized science attracts and rewards the network players instead, and so it has become that even academia favors the social-climber scientists and grant-players over the people who are more interested in data. (Like modern bureaucratized art, where the grants go to those who are good at getting grants, and the art looks more and more like fingerpainting.)

The real science comes with numbers not press releases — and the data-crunchers have so much more to offer. Where do they belong, and who looks after them? They, who really need a whole PR department, increasingly seem to end up without one, wandering in the  independent online science movement, where at least their ideas get a hearing.

I’ve copied some extracts of Darwall’s article below. I recommend reading it all if you can. At the moment that is only available through the print copy of the City Journal.

An Unsettling Climate

Setting the scene:

In April 2013, concluding a European tour to present his research, Salby arrived at Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris for a flight back to Australia, where he was a professor of climate science at Macquarie University. He discovered, to his dismay, that the university had canceled the return leg of his nonrefundable ticket. With Salby stranded, Macquarie then undertook misconduct proceedings against him that swiftly culminated in his dismissal.

I wrote about this extraordinary incident in July last year and asked Did Macquarie University sabotage, exile, blackban, strand and abandon Murry Salby?

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It’s buttons for global warming! Hello — Climate Change has a new logo

After 4.5 billion years, finally climate change has a new logo.

But even some fans of the the Big Scare Campaign don’t like it. I can’t think why…

(It is dying – the fear of a carbon crisis.)

 

It looks to me like an inverse-SEO campaign designed by someone deeply afflicted with ASE (Artistic Status Envy — see also its Literary equivalent). Is the aim here just the banal trickery of ambushing the new skeptics who type “It’s not warming” into their search engines? Will gullible teens type in the phrase and find nothing but links to soft-green propaganda? (This could so easily backfire).

Or is this a new form of mental programming for the inductees into the climate faith? Now, when they hear “it’s not warming”, they’ll be getting confirmation — warming means “bad stuff”, now not warming means “bad stuff too!” It’s a form of deep psychology — so deep it’s done right through the magma and come out the other side.

If it looks upside down, that’s because it is.

on Grist is not impressed:

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ABC bias against coal hurts the poor and the workers: Sell the ABC

A new report shows ABC journalists are fond of renewables and overlook their dismal economic value, while putting out bad news on coal, and ignoring the benefits of vast cheap profitable energy. Who could have seen that coming: a large public funded institution attracts employees who like large public funding?

The IPA arranged for a media analysis firm to compare the ABC reporting on coal and renewables.

ABC gives the green light to renewables, and the red light to Australia’s largest export industry and provider of 75% of our electricity.

ABC accused of bias against coalmining

Andrew Fraser, The Australian

The analysis of 2359 reports broadcast on the ABC over six months before March 15 this year found 15.9 per cent of stories on coalmining and 12.1 per cent of those about coal-seam gas mining were favourable, while 53 per cent of those on renewable energy were favourable.

It also found 31.6 per cent of stories on coal mining and 43.6 per cent of stories on coal-seam gas were unfavourable, while only 10.8 per cent of stories on renewable energy were ­unfavourable.

The ABC has become its own best case for privatizing the ABC. How much could we get? The funds from its sale, and the savings of the $1.25 billion it costs annually, would help to pay down the massive debt left by the Rudd-Gillard government.  The real benefits could be much much higher. The ABC has become an advertising agency for any group dependent on public funding. Without the constant one-sided promotion of wasteful spending, Australian policy might shift towards self sufficient entrepreneurs instead of rent-seekers. How many countless billions is that worth?

The economic situation of renewables and coal is blindingly obvious:

Brown and Black coal provide electricity in Australia at less than 4c /KWhr, while Solar costs nearly 20c.  Figures thanks to Alan Moran: Submission to the Renewable Energy Target Review Panel, IPA, 2014

 

Australian energy generation, coal, oil, gas, renewables, hydro, biomass.To put a perspective on it, coal is Australia’s largest exporter industry, producing 33% of our energy and a whopping 75% of our electricity. (Wind and solar produce all of 1%.) The coal industry provides the ABC with funds, via tax, while the wind and solar industries are a net drain on the public purse. The cheapest way to reduce CO2 (and by a whopping 15%) looks like being an upgrade for our coal fired plants so they are like the hot new Chinese plants. But how important is reducing CO2 to the ABC? Apparently it’s not quite as important as cheering on other big-government babies.

We can debate the environmental pluses and minuses of coal, but the economic case is a lay down misere. Renewables are anywhere from 200% to 500% more expensive.

Here’s the ABC view of the economic contribution of coal to Australia.

Chart 4: How the ABC depicts the economic impact of the coal industry

The renewables industry on the other hand makes expensive electricity, which punishes the lower income earners and makes everything from health, to education to organic hemp hairshirts more expensive. Higher energy costs makes it harder for employers to employ people.

Because renewables are awful for the poor and reduce jobs for workers, we can expect the ABC will leave no stone unturned in accurately reporting the economic effect of renewables. Or not…

Chart 9: How the ABC depicts the economic impact of the renewable
energy industry

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Weekend Unthreaded

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Emma Thompson (actress) recites Greenpeace hymn specially for Australian PM

Congrats to Emma Thompson, she knows the litany perfectly.

It takes an Oscar winning actress to keep a smug face while saying something this inane.

“Tony Abbott Climate Change is REAL I’m standing on it!”

 

I hope she sends another message when she reaches the place called “climate sameness”.

Something tells me this is a high-carbon-footprint way to send a message. Perhaps an email to Tony Abbott might have saved some fish from becoming reckless in 2050?

Waxing Gibberish sends an alternative sign:

 

There are more gems of wisdom from economist scientist-actress Thompson. She must have  a Nanny McPhee trick or Sybill Trelawney divination up her sleeve: she thinks millions of letters can change the Arctic weather.

SBS

 ”Bear in mind that politicians often lose sight of issues that aren’t in front of them all the time.

“So we all need to be bold.

“If tens of millions of us wrote to our leaders demanding action on the Arctic and climate change, well – that could change everything.”

Royal Mail, a new climate forcing then?

In Thompson’s world, it’s all the governments fault. If only they would get out of the way, I mean, give us everything.

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Peak China

Australia might be the largest coal exporter in the world, but only because all the larger producers of coal keep their own and use it themselves. China is the silent giant coal monster — in 2009 Australia exported 260Mt of coal (our largest export industry). That same year China produced (and used) 3 billion tons. In this era, to predict anything globally, we need to understand China. David Archibald is author of the  Twilight of Abundance: Why Life in the 21st Century Will Be Nasty, Brutish, and Short. He slices the energy data. (Energy, of course, drives everything). China is eating through its coal — it may be able to sustain this peak rate for a decade or so. Chinese oil appears close to reaching its peak. Growth in Chinese steel production has been slowing since 2006. The implications are provocative. — Jo

Guest Post by David Archibald

China has become wealthier in the last couple of decades but unfortunately is using some of that new wealth for military adventures against its neighbours.  The neighbours aren’t happy.  Over 60 percent of the people in countries bordering the South China Sea fear Chinese aggression and expect imminent war.  If China keeps growing their economy that will only make them more capable militarily and more aggressive.   Increases in Chinese debt have been fuelling growth in GDP but as that debt balloons out further growth becomes unsustainable.  But beyond economic considerations are there any physical limits to how big the Chinese economy might get?

It has been suggested that water availability is China’s hard limit.  But if the Israelis can grow crops commercially using desalinated seawater, then water may not be a problem if the solution is simply to build desalination plants.  All economic activity derives from energy sources so let’s start with them.  This is a graph of China’s coal production from 1981 with a projection to 2050.

China’s coal production compared to the rest of the world from 1981 with a projection to 2050.

China is the big orange blob in the middle.  If this graph is anywhere near correct, China is building coal-consuming steelworks and power stations that are going to run out of coal to burn before the plants themselves wear out.  China started out with coal reserves very similar to the US at 220 billion tonnes.  Of that endowment, 60 billion tonnes have been dug up and burnt so far.  The Chinese coal reserves are counted as those seams down to 1,000 metres.  Beyond that depth mining is much more difficult due to rock stresses, gas outbursts and temperature.  In the north of China where their coal is, the mines in the eastern provinces now have an average depth of 600 metres and the average depth in the main coal-producing province, Shanxi, is near to 500 metres.  At the current production rate of four billion tonnes per annum with 90% of that from underground mines, China’s coal mines are getting deeper by 16 metres every year.  In another ten years China will have burnt through half of its coal reserves with costs rising and production falling after that.  So from about the middle of next decade China will start losing its energy cost advantage.

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Lewandowsky — Do we hate our participants?

José Duarte is a psychology PhD candidate. He is able to make sense of  issues in the “Moon Landing Paper” by Stephan Lewandowsky, with some new angles in a way I haven’t seen before. He makes a convincing case for the paper to be retracted, about six times over. My initial analysis of this paper still stands: This could be the worst paper  I have seen — an ad hom argument taken to its absurd extreme, rebadged as “science”.

I recommend Duarte’s whole long analysis, though there is language there that for legal reasons I won’t repeat or endorse. What we see is sloppy science and grand “incompetence“.

Duarte focuses on the deception of a title based on only 10 responses, some of which were fakes, none of which was disclosed to the reader:

Lewandowsky, Oberauer, Gignac titled their paper “NASA faked the moon landing—therefore, (climate) science is a hoax: an anatomy of the motivated rejection of science.”

Why is their title based on the variable for which they have the least data, essentially no data?

Why in the abstract are they linking free market views to incredibly damaging positions that again, they have no data for?

Could this be an error? That seems very unlikely. The researchers have had two years to come clean, to admit that there was no significant data regarding belief in the moon hoax or rejection of the HIV-AIDS or smoking-lung cancer links. They’ve had two years to remove the very-likely-to-be-scam participants identitifed by people who have looked at the data, which will further reduce those trivial numbers at the bottom, and they’ve not done so. I’m not sure they even talk about it. Lewandowsky still won’t tell the public that fewer than 10 participants rejected the moon hoax or HIV and smoking claims – after all this time Lewandowsky is still evading those basic facts and distracting his readers with nonsense statistics. Pearson correlations on essentially dichotomous data skewed 1135 to 10? The paper should have been retracted by the authors long ago.

Duarte reminds us that the title contains a form of reasoning, a causal directional claim for which there is no data. As if readers start from deciding the Moon landing was faked then use that “therefore” to reject “climate science”. In the end there were four (count them, 4)* anonymous online respondents who said the Moon landing was faked AND that climate science was a hoax. Why won’t Psychological Science retract this paper?

The data was so bad, Duarte calls it “go home” data.

I don’t know what’s going on at Psych Science – the stats here were amateurish and deceptive. First, the data here was go home data. If you want to link moon hoax nonsense to your political foes, and in 1145 participants there are only 10 people who endorse that hoax (fewer after you delete the fakes), only 3 of whom endorse the climate hoax idea (fewer after you delete the fakes), you go home. It’s over. If you see similar trivial numbers for the HIV and smoking items, you bail. Go to a show, discover a new restaurant, think about the design of your next study. Those are go home numbers – you definitely don’t write it up.

Duarte asks  “Do we hate our participants?”

This was an awful thing to do. It was damaging to innocent participants. It’s unethical to do this to your participants. It is wildly unethical to invite people to participate in a study, and then do this to them. They are helping us. They are volunteering to participate in scientific research. They’ve take time out of their lives to help us out. And in return, we slander them? We tell the world that they believe things that they do not believe? What Lewandowsky and colleagues did here was despicable.

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A few PR Giants won’t help “deniers of climate change” (but 70% of PR giants will)

The most dangerous thing is a skeptic that can be heard.

If only climate activists had evidence, they wouldn’t need to use social censure, instead of reasoned arguments. But it was never about the science, and always about PR. If skeptical arguments weren’t so powerful, the fans of Climate Change TM wouldn’t be going out of their way to try to silence skeptics.

This article itself is spun. They frame the message to avoid saying that only 28% of PR Firms agreed climate change was a threat or that 60% of PR firms ignored them completely. They only name five PR groups, and at least one (WPP) is a conglomerate of 150 firms which “will all make their own decisions”. So much for that.

The Guardian,of course, gullibly soaks up the meme. Suzanne Goldenberg and Nishad Karim asks no hard questions.

World’s top PR companies rule out working with climate deniers

Ten firms say they will not represent clients that deny man-made climate change or seek to block emisson-reducing regulations

Since no one actually denies the climate changes, this is a bit like refusing to work with Klingons. Though fans of Climate Change TM speak in Spin-English and in that language “climate change” means man-made-catastrophic-weather. In that sense, these firms are boycotting up to 60% of their potential clients. It may not be the best business strategy in a world shifting away from big-spending green projects.

What is most telling, is that even after being repeatedly harrassed by an activist by phone, mail and email from the Climate Investigations Centre, fully 60% of PR companies ignored them completely:

Only 10 of the 25 firms responded to multiple emails, phone calls and certified letters from the CIC, either directly or through a parent company.

And watch the pea, 40% of companies responded, but not all of them ruled out working with “deniers”. Only seven agreed “climate change” was a threat. The number that would boycott “deniers” was described as “smaller” — too small to actually put a number on?

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Green plan causes air pollution, may kill thousands in the UK, thanks to dirty diesel

A Greenpeace Bio-diesel Campaign, November 2000

Golly — who would have thought that policies based on a logical fallacy and a pseudo-religion would be a bad idea? It’s not just bad, it’s deadly. For the last ten years environmentalists and greens told Europeans to buy diesel cars, not petrol, because they produce less CO2. So British people, and a lot of Europe too, did exactly that — lured by generous tax breaks, pushed by the guilt trip if they were thinking of buying a petrol car. The car fleet of the EU was transformed. Back in the early nineties, hardly anyone owned a diesel, but now, as many as half of all new cars in the UK are diesel, and some extra 45 million diesel cars have been bought across Europe. But clean energy turned out to be dirty fuel, with diesels producing tons of small dangerous particulates, black carbon, and other real pollutants.

It’s so bad, the UK is not meeting air pollution standards, and more importantly, by at least one estimate, some 7,000 deaths a year can be attributed to diesel pollution from cars.

Diesel pollution is becoming such an issue in London that Boris Johnson is thinking of charging diesel drivers an extra £10 to drive in London – “a measure that could be copied by as many as 18 other cities. “ A debacle all the way down.

h/t to Colin who helped research the story too. As he describes it, it’s the deadly fruits of greenery.

Telegraph– “Diesel car drivers ‘betrayed’ as EU cracks down on Britain over air pollution”

“For more than a decade, motorists buying diesel cars have enjoyed tax breaks because the cars produce lower levels of carbon dioxide and are more fuel efficient.

Now, Britain is being sued by the European Commission for breaching air pollution limits, because emissions from diesel vehicles are contributing to tens of thousands of premature deaths each year.”

Diesel drivers may feel a bit betrayed, and the guilt trip gets inverted:

Edmund King, the president of the AA, said: “Some drivers will feel betrayed and misled because they were encouraged to go for the dash for diesel. “In the 1990s there was a near hysteria about carbon dioxide, and yet nobody looked at the bigger picture. “The drivers thought they were doing the right thing, but now they are being told that it has serious health implications. They are being made to feel guilty for something that they were encouraged to do.

The UK government taxed petrol driven cars more from 2001, which meant the public shifted to buying the more polluting diesel cars instead. A third of the British fleet is diesel now!

In 2001, Gordon Brown, the then chancellor, overhauled vehicle excise duty so that cars that emitted a higher level of carbon dioxide faced a higher level of vehicle excise duty. Labour introduced the new regime despite official warnings that diesel vehicles emit “10 times the fine particles and up to twice the nitrogen dioxide”. The move prompted a “profound” shift towards diesel cars, which produce lower levels of carbon dioxide because they are about 20 per cent more efficient than petrol engines. Over the past decade, the number of diesel cars on Britain’s roads has risen from 1.6 million to more than 11 million and accounts for a third of vehicles. The latest government statistics show that in 2011, the nation’s 28.5 million cars emitted 150,000 tons of nitrogen oxides, but a further 97,000 tons were given off by just 400,000 HGVs.

Between 7,000 to 13,000 deaths each year in the UK attributed to diesel:

Prof Frank Kelly estimates diesel causes about 7,000 deaths in the UK each year:

Diesel engines in buses, vans, cars and trains may be responsible for thousands of premature deaths a year and cost the NHS billions of pounds, say air pollution health experts. With government figures for 2008 showing 29,000 people dying prematurely from air pollution each year, diesel fuel burned in vehicles could be responsible for around one in four of all air pollution deaths, said Frank Kelly, professor of environmental health at King’s College, London. -- The Guardian

But Barrett and Yim estimated  in 2012 that diesel emissions from cars, planes and power plants contributed to “an estimated 13,000 premature deaths annually in the United Kingdom.”

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Weekend Unthreaded

A home for lost thoughts.

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Biomass burning kills 250,000 people a year

The headline at Science Daily is that wildfires and other burns lead to climate change. The paper itself asks: “As such, particle burn-off of clouds may be a major underrecognized source of global warming.” For me what matters are the deaths in the here and now:

“We calculate that 5 to 10 percent of worldwide air pollution mortalities are due to biomass burning,” Jacobson said. “That means that it causes the premature deaths of about 250,000 people each year.”

 This is similar to Indur Goklany’s conclusion in 2011:

Killing people with “concern”? Biofuels led to nearly 200,000 deaths (est) in 2010.

In a study  published in  Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons, Indur Goklany calculated the additional mortality burden of biofuels policies and found that nearly 200,000 people died in 2010 alone, because of efforts to use biofuels to reduce CO2 emissions.

Goklany (2011) estimated that the increase in the poverty headcount due to higher biofuel production between 2010 and 2004 implies 192,000 additional deaths and 6.7 million additional lost DALYs in 2010 alone.

He compared this death tally to the WHO figures for deaths attributed to global warming and finds that the biofuels policies are more deadly. (And he is not including any increase in poverty due to other anti-global warming practices).

What rather matters is how much of this is “wild” fire and how much is agricultural fire. Indur Goklany’s work looked specifically at biofuels, so related to man-made air pollution. From the actual Jacobsen paper it’s clear that this is mostly thought to be man-made fires:

Seiler and Crutzen [1980] further estimated that wildfires in temporal plus boreal forests comprised ~35.7% of all dry matter burned but pointed out that 70–90% of such wildfires were due to human activity (e.g., campfires, debris burning, cigarettes, etc.). Thus, of total world fire emissions today, ~7.1% (3.6%–10.7%) may be natural and the rest, anthropogenic. Houghton [2005] indicates that, in 1850, CO2 emissions from land use change may have been ~34% those in 2005. Thus, in 1850, BB [Burning Biomass] emissions were lower than those today. Such emissions may have been mostly anthropogenic [e.g.,  Marlon et al., 2008] although partly natural as well. Today, BB emissions are much higher with only a small percent natural.

Does black carbon change clouds?

The study goes on to say that black carbon effectively causes global warming too because it heats water droplets, melts clouds and ice,  and reduces the thickness of cloud cover.

So any minute now I expect environmentalists around the world will start a “Boycott Biomass” campaign. Clearly any truly compassionate green could do nothing less since biomass is a net killer, and warms the planet too.

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Broken models predict extreme cold snaps. (CO2 causes every sort of weather.)

Remember how CO2 is supposed to cause warmer winters, and warmer nights? Well now CO2 also produces cold snaps. No matter what weather you get, there is a citation to blame CO2. Nature (the formerly great science journal) and Northeastern University have produced another permutation of outputs from models we know are broken.

The first line in the press release is false and smugly so: “most sci­en­tists — 97 per­cent of them, to be exact — agree that the tem­per­a­ture of the planet is rising and that the increase is due to human activ­i­ties….”  10 seconds on Google would have shown — 60% of geoscientists and engineers don’t agree.

If Kodra and co were trying to be accurate, they could have said “97% of annointed climate scientists agree… “. If they were trying to be scientific, of course, they wouldn’t mention a consensus at all. If they had good evidence, they’d talk about that instead.

They dug deep in The-Book-of-Cliches for the press release. Strip away the advertising spin and I think this is the nub of the work:

“While global tem­per­a­ture is indeed increasing, so too is the vari­ability in tem­per­a­ture extremes. For instance, while each year’s average hottest and coldest tem­per­a­tures will likely rise, those aver­ages will also tend to fall within a wider range of poten­tial high and low tem­perate extremes than are cur­rently being observed. This means that even as overall tem­per­a­tures rise, we may still con­tinue to expe­ri­ence extreme cold snaps…

Essentially, by using a models that didn’t predict the pause, nor the missing hot spot, and with homogenized, reanalyzed data that probably does not resemble the observations, they found something “interesting”. The modern witchdoctors are at work. Runestones, tea-leaves, broken models, what’s the difference?

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