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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Go NCSE “March for Science” — Rage for Cliches!

The whole NCSE march  on April 22nd is devoted to a strawman:

The National Center for Science Education was one of the first organizations to endorse the march, and we are encouraging our members to take part. Why? Because we believe that the marches will be a powerful and positive reminder that there is something that virtually everyone agrees on: the value and importance of science.

There is no public debate saying science is not important. It simply does not exist. So why march? According to Ann Reid, biologist, science is important for farming, water quality, and beer-making. No kidding. Load up the strawmen.

Rage On: March for the trite!

“Science is for Everyone” (except scientists who disagree with government propaganda):

And that’s where the March for Science fits in. On April 22, 2017, people all over the world will be gathering together to celebrate science, and to declare that science belongs to everyone. NCSE will be there.

Obviously the real subtext are controversial topics (why else does anyone march?) Guess which branch of establishment science is the one hardest hit by the Trump presidency:

At the National Center for Science Education, we know that science sometimes addresses controversial issues. It’s no surprise to us that scientific findings can trigger fierce disagreement. We’ve devoted over thirty years to making sure that science teachers have the expertise and support they need to teach about evolution and climate change, even when there are people in their communities who object.

So this is a climate protest in disguise, masquerading as a generic “science” protest. These people couldn’t form a sequential cause-effect argument if their lives depended on it. Indeed, their jobs almost depend on them not doing it. (If they did, they might get sacked, evicted, blackballed,   terminated, punished, vilified and bullied.) It will be touted by religious climate believers as a protest for “climate change”. Whatever: it’s another Science-for-Big-Government-PR exercise. It’s a form of Argument from Authority: “Trust us” some scientists can make good beer, therefore they can predict the climate. Wash out your brain, cleanse your thoughts, scientists speak with one mind.

The irony and projection of Ann Reid peaks in the next sentence:

But it is important to remember that many who object to the teaching of evolution or climate change haven’t encountered the science for themselves.

How much does Ann Reid know of the missing water vapor feedback recorded by 28 million weather balloons. How much has she looked at the scandal of temperature adjustments that are larger than the trends they measure?

Keep reading  →

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VW eco-scam, official corruption, is killing diesel

News is out that diesel cars which don’t comply with pollution standards will be banned from some roads in Germany on “high pollution” days. Depending on how often those  bad news for diesel industry and owners. How useless is a car that you can’t drive when you need it? Stuttgart is being called the “Beijing” of Germany for air pollution. Residents are suing the Mayor for “bodily harm”. The same thing happened in Oslo — governments told people to buy diesel to reduce carbon pollution, but they are now banning diesel cars on some roads on some days too.

This may apply to as many as 90% of diesels on German roads. Sales of diesels fell by 10% last month. The pain level in this depends on how often those high-pollution days are. See the current Stuttgart air-quality monitoring – it’s OK today, but if I read this air pollution road map from 2008 correctly, it suggests some roads are over the safe limit  60, 80, even 180 days a year. In 2014 fine particulate matter exceeded safe limits on 64 days a year.

Corruption always has a price but in this case the owners of diesels are paying for the corruption of officials, bureaucrats, car companies and politicians. It is time the real culprits paid. Way back in 2006 – 2009 the Eco-Worriers were pushing diesel as a green alternative to “save the planet”. E.g Diesel: Greener Than You Think. MotherEarth top ten Green Cars.

If the Greens actually cared about emissions and pollution they would have checked, protested and stopped this long ago. Instead, they ignored it and it is coming back to bite.

Diesel Cars Banned from Stuttgart on Days When Pollution is Heavy:

[Reuters] Stuttgart, home to Germany’s Mercedes-Benz (DAIGn.DE) and Porsche (PSHG_p.DE), said on Tuesday it will ban from next year diesel cars which do not meet the latest emissions standards from entering the city on days when pollution is heavy.

Only around 10 percent of diesel cars in use on German roads at the start of 2016 conformed with the “Euro 6” standard, which is the latest EU anti-pollution rule.

Death of Diesel, by EuroIntelligence.

When we reported on the VW scandal, we made the point that the really important implications are not the fines but the long-term industrial fallout. The long term is already happening now.

Keep reading  →

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Windy Clean Green Pollution

Looks like the halo is fading. Today-Tonight is a current affairs show in Australia. Today a few more Australians discovered that free energy is not just expensive but creates its own kind of pollution.

This hardly a surprise for anyone who can spell cost-benefit, but it’s healthy to see the prime-time media in Australia doing something other than singing the Clean-Green advertising jingle.

h/t Scott of the Pacific

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Weekend Unthreaded

Sorry I am a bit distracted with other things this week. Light postings.

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DiCaprio, Bono, and Al Gore: flying eyebrow artists for the planet

Advertising your virtues sometimes conflicts with advertising your social status.

Paul Joseph Watson never minces his words.

The surprising thing is that these guys get away with it. Not laughed out of town for their grandstanding piety at awards nights.

h/t Scott of the Pacific

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Climate Change will suck the flavour from your daily bread

 Climate Change threatens to make bread less tasty

Over at The Conversation the panic is rising. Life is not going to be the same. Get ready for the bland future — if we stop all plant breeding tomorrow, and don’t change our fertilizers at all, it possible, by 2050, in dry years, wheat may have a 6% decrease in protein.

It’s that serious.

Everyone likes the high protein kind of wheat, and it’s worth more. Glenn Fitzgerald, at The Conversation argues that Australian wheat is going to be lower in protein, and downgraded, making us less competitive and our farmers poorer. (Cynics among us note that authors at The Conversation only seem to care about farmers when climate change might hurt them, not when climate-change-action actually sends them broke, makes them homeless or puts them in jail. Y’know — whatever.)

As for Australia’s export earnings, I say, forgive me, but I thought the CO2 elevation was a global thing — so unless we are competing with aliens and intergalactic wheat, color me unconcerned. All the wheat producers on Earth will be dealing with the same issue.

How to make a good thing sound bad

The bottom line in biology is that because CO2 is plant food, and makes the molecular carbon backbone of carbon-life-forms,  if there is more of it in the air, plants grow faster and the extra carbon will dilute everything else.

The benefits of carbon dioxide are greatest in dry years because CO2 makes it easier for plants to cope with less water and droughts. It takes some effort to construe this as a bad thing, but with enough government funding, and years of academic training, it’s possible. (Thank Glenn Fitzgerald, Honorary Associate Professor of Agriculture and Food, University of Melbourne).

Carbon dioxide is such a basic part of biology — plants wake up in the morning and drink in the CO2 from the air around them. In a cornfield, the plants will even change the atmospheric concentration of CO2 in the air over the field. By lunchtime every day, CO2 will have dropped, and growth slows. Carbon dioxide is that important.

This graph from Chapman in 1954 really shows how intrinsic CO2 is:

Fig. 1. Variations in the C02 content of air in a corn field and 152 m above it on a still day. A C02 deficit of more than 100 lbs an acre was developed within 3 hrs after sunrise, to remain nearly constant until late afternoon. See this for more detail.

That’s not to say that we shouldn’t be discussing this, or preparing for it, but honestly, Climate change will make bread taste bad? Fergoodnesssake.

Our lower protein diet, solved with a chickpea

Fitzgerald tells us that people might be malnourished because of nutrient changes thanks to excess CO2. We’ve been through this line of thinking before. The problem is so easy to solve, yet so obviously missed by our experts.

Even if the projected protein deficiency occurs in wheat, it is so small and irrelevant that all we have to do is eat slightly less wheat and slightly more of nearly anything else bar other grains. I calculated that a person could make up for the deficiencies in rice-of-the-future by swapping some rice for a chickpea: specifically, one extra chickpea for every 100g of rice:

According to the USDA nutrient profiles Gelatinous White Rice, Cooked (doesn’t that sound delicious) has all of 0.14mg of iron per 100 grams and 0.41mg of zinc. Chick peas on the other hand have 2.89mg  of iron per 100g  and 1.53mg  of zinc. So chickpeas have 20 times the iron content, and 3.7 times the zinc content. In other words, to solve a shortage of a 10% reduction in iron and zinc in rice, the average person eating 100g of rice would need to eat an extra 2.6 grams of chickpeas (or is that chickpea, singular?). As a bonus they would be getting five times more iron than what they are missing out on in the rice.

Wheat is richer than rice, and contains significant protein for people without access to meat.  But a mere 5- 10% deficiency is still easily solveable with a shift in dietry composition. Indeed, even if all food types became slightly diluted (like if poorer grain-feed leads to poorer beef steak) the principle still works.

Where are the grownups when you need them?


[1^]Chapman H. W .,Gleason L. S., Loomis W. E. (1954): The carbon dioxide content of field air. Plant Physiology 29,6, pp 500-503  [PDF freely available]

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Trump takes away EPA “right” to control every puddle in USA: WOTUS executive order

Smile. One more noxious, power-grabbing bit of legislation: fixed.

Farmers and land-owners lost control of the puddles and ditches on their land under the guise of environmental protection.

Remarks by President Trump at Signing of Waters of the United States (WOTUS) Executive Order

The EPA’s so-called “Waters of the United States” rule is one of the worst examples of federal regulation, and it has truly run amok, and is one of the rules most strongly opposed by farmers, ranchers and agricultural workers all across our land. It’s prohibiting them from being allowed to do what they’re supposed to be doing. It’s been a disaster.

The Clean Water Act says that the EPA can regulate “navigable waters” — meaning waters that truly affect interstate commerce. But a few years ago, the EPA decided that “navigable waters” can mean nearly every puddle or every ditch on a farmer’s land, or anyplace else that they decide — right? It was a massive power grab. The EPA’s regulators were putting people out of jobs by the hundreds of thousands, and regulations and permits started treating our wonderful small farmers and small businesses as if they were a major industrial polluter. They treated them horribly. Horribly.

If you want to build a new home, for example, you have to worry about getting hit with a huge fine if you fill in as much as a puddle — just a puddle — on your lot. I’ve seen it. In fact, when it was first shown to me, I said, no, you’re kidding aren’t you? But they weren’t kidding.

In one case in a Wyoming, a rancher was fined $37,000 a day by the EPA for digging a small watering hole for his cattle. His land. These abuses were, and are, why such incredible opposition to this rule from the hundreds of organizations took place in all 50 states. It’s a horrible, horrible rule. Has sort of a nice name, but everything else is bad. (Laughter.) I’ve been hearing about it for years and years. I didn’t know I’d necessarily be in this position to do something about it, but we’ve been hearing about it for years.

Keep reading  →

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Does Solar PV in half of Europe make more energy than it consumes?

You might think we’d know whether a solar PV system produced energy before we installed 1,000 Megawatts of it. But it’s hard to even know after the fact. Dr John Constable points us at an interesting new paper that discusses the odd creature called EROEI. This stands for energy return on energy invested. If you get back less than “one”, it sucks.

That sounds like a fine idea except everyone seems to get different answers to the same question. Solar PV in Switzerland achieves either a tenfold return or it costs a fifth of your energy. Plan your national policy with a Ouija Board?

Constable comes to the conclusion that the whole calculation is so uncertain it’s useless. There are so many subjective estimates on the “energy invested side” that the answer is almost irrelevant. Constable points out that what we really need to know is how the whole system responds to the addition of a new generator –but the whole grid analysis is even harder than just the EROEI to calculate.

His conclusion, it that we really need something more like a neural net to calculate the costs. Luckily we have one — us — and the contractual free market. It’s just the government keeps getting in the way of it working.


 Date: 22/02/17 Dr John Constable: GWPF Energy Editor

In 2016 Ferruccio Ferroni and Robert J. Hopkirk published a striking article (“Energy Return on Energy Invested (ERoEI) for photovoltaic solar systems in regions of moderate insolation”, Energy Policy 94 (2016), 336–344) claiming that the energy return for Solar PV sites in Switzerland might be as low as 0.8, implying that the technology was not a net energy producer but a consumer. Unsurprisingly, this paper has been the subject of intense criticism, and a detailed and in many points persuasive rebuttal has recently been published by Marco Raugei et al. (“Energy Return on Energy Invested (ERoEI) for photovoltaic solar systems in regions of moderate insolation: A comprehensive response” Energy Policy 102 (2017), 377–384). Raugei and his colleagues make a number of methodological criticisms of Ferroni and Hopkirk and using alternative methods, calculate that the energy return is in the region of 7 to 10. While Raugei et al’s figure is positive it is not particularly high, as compared for example to figures in the literature for electricity from coal and gas (EROEI = 28–30), and nuclear (EROEI = 75–105) (see D. Weissbach et al. “Energy intensities, EROIs (energy returned on invested), and energy payback times of electricity generating power”, Energy 52 (2013), 210–221).



If you think the Swiss were crazy, ponder the Germans. If I read this chart correctly, they’ve installed 40,000MW.

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Weekend Unthreaded

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How progressive: ship dead trees 5,000km and burn them (use £450m for kindling)

It would make any hunter gatherer proud.

[The Times] Britain is wasting hundreds of millions of pounds subsidizing power stations to burn American wood pellets that do more harm to the climate than the coal they replaced, a study has found.

Chopping down trees and transporting wood across the Atlantic Ocean to feed power stations produces more greenhouse gases than much cheaper coal, according to the report. It blames the rush to meet EU renewable energy targets, which resulted in ministers making the false assumption that burning trees was carbon-neutral.

The UK tribes can thank chief Huhne (Energy and Climate secretary) for the 7.5 million tonnes of dead trees otherwise known as biomass — which  mostly come all the way from the US and Canada.

Naturally, doing something this improbable takes a lot of money.

Drax, Britain’s biggest power station, received more than £450 million in subsidies in 2015 for burning biomass, which was mostly American wood pellets.

Curiously, there are over 200 trillion cubic feet of dead trees stored under Lancashire. They may have been very very small trees, like algae sized, but nonetheless, 4,999 kilometers closer. Apparently when all the trees of Canada and the US are used up, and the UK moves out of the Wood Age, it will have some spare gas  to heat UK homes for the next 1,200 years.

The climate debate has now moved on to arguing whether trees are renewable. There’s a kind of death-spiral bickering between different varieties of “renewables” beasts. If it takes 200 years to grow a tree back, and you believe the models that are 97% wrong, oceans might boil before the carbon is back in the tree.This is just another carbon accounting bun-fight.

The report author, Mr Bracks, calls the subsidies ridiculous, but only because the money could have gone to “zero carbon” wind or solar instead. Shame he didn’t point that out then, when he was the special advisor to Chris Huhne.

Having poured countless millions into Biomass, by a remarkable coincidence, three months after Huhne got out of jail for lying about speeding fines, he was appointed European Director of a company called Zilkha Biomass.

Wood pellets fuel Huhne’s journey into private sector

He is not the only one to follow this gravy laden career path:

Several other former energy ministers have gone on to lucrative jobs in the sector. Sir Ed Davey, the Lib Dem who replaced Mr Huhne as energy and climate secretary but lost his seat in 2015, advises three companies on low-carbon energy projects. Lord Barker of Battle, the Tory former energy minister, took up posts advising a renewable heat business and a solar panel company. The appointments of both were approved by Acoba.

Pretending to save the world can be a lucrative career.

 They claim to reduce greenhouse gases,
From mulched trees as burnt bio masses,
By importing wood pellets,
The renewable zealots,
Are behaving like right silly asses.

 – Ruairi

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