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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Deadliest droughts in India were before 1924

Next time someone tells you how extreme the climate is today remind them that five million people died in a drought in 1896 in India. That was the same year a brutally hot summer in Australia caused 400 deaths and people fled the inland heat on emergency trains. Somewhere between 1 and 5 million people died a few years later in the next drought — the same time as Australia’s “Federation drought”.

Spot the effect of CO2 in 150 years of rainfall of India:

Average rainfall anomalies in India from 1850 – 2016 from IMD (black) and GISS (red). | Click to read the official caption.

Famine deaths have largely been eliminated in India, mostly thanks to better transport and organisation, higher yields (thanks to fertilizer and CO2) and irrigation. Droughts still happen but in a population that has grown from 250 million in 1880 to a billion in 2000 the extraordinary thing is that more people starved of famine when the population was only a quarter of the size and CO2 levels were “perfecto”.

Weakened people died of cholera and malaria, and bubonic plague too. Death rates to these diseases often doubled or tripled.

Famine, India, 1896.


India, China: Clean dust, pollution off solar panels every two months, and still lose up to 35% of production?

How often do you clean your solar panels? Spare a thought for the poor sods in the Middle East, India and China, where migratory dust coats solar panels and hangs around in the air, blocking incoming sunlight. Researchers in India who cleaned their panels every few weeks and discovered that they got a 50% jump in efficiency each time. If the cleanings happened every two months, the total losses were 25 to 35 percent.

The article very much blames human pollution for half the capacity loss, but in the detail, the press release admits that 92% of the dust on each panel was natural. Apparently human made particles are smaller and stickier which makes the 8% human-emitted-dust equivalent to the 92% of other dust.

Either way, real pollution and natural dust will slow the clean-green-energy future in India and China until we get auto-cleaning panels or roof slaves. Unfortunately, cleaning panels also risks damaging them, so the price of solar power really needs to include the cost of windscreen-wipers/slaves, electricity losses, damage to panels, and damage to the panel cleaners too.

But solar panels will definitely power all the other parts of the world that are near enough to the [...]

India meets climate goals early by doubling coal, and keeping it as main energy source for next 30 years

In the last day in the media, India is going to use coal as its backbone energy for the next thirty years, is buying coal mines all around the world, and will double production by 2020 to a massive 1,500 million tons per annum. At the same time India is meetings its climate goals early, and is likely to reduce emissions by 2 – 3 billion tons by 2030.

They can’t all be true:

Coal to be India’s energy mainstay for next 30 years: policy paper

–Economic Times, May 16th

China, India dominate coal ownership as some shun climate risks: report

– Reuters, May 15th

Coal Decline In China & India Likely To Reduce Emissions Growth By 2-3 Billion Tonnes By 2030

– Cleantechnica, May 16th

China, India to Reach Climate Goals Years Early, as U.S. Likely to Fall Far Short -InsideClimateNews, May 16th The top two headlines are backed by big numbers: India is the worlds third largest coal producer, and coal powers 60% of India’s energy needs. But the poor investors or readers of industry rags might think India’s coal use is falling. Read the fine print. Lessons in spin: It’s all in how [...]

India to more than double coal mining by 2020

Good news. India plans to add more fertilizer to the global air which will help feed the world. There is no charge.

India will become the world’s number 2 miner of coal by 2020, overtaking the US. There are plans to ramp up from mining 634 million tons to 1.5 billion metric tons by 2020. That’s only 3 years away. China’s total coal use doesn’t even fit on this graph. As best as anyone can guess, China uses 3.7 billion ton each year.

How’s that ground breaking, world leading Paris agreement going?


Australia is the worlds largest coal exporter but our total exports of coal in 2014/15 were a tiny 393Mt (of both thermal and metallurgical coal). I’ve marked that in blue on the graph. We are only a large exporter because everyone else keeps the coal for their own use.

More mining of India’s coal, Fills another significant role, That of plant-food increase, By CO2 release, Which should really be all mankind’s goal.

– Ruairi

h/t to GWPF

India signs on to do-nothing deal for Paris Climate “Theatre”

Look who “signed up” to the Cabaret called the Paris Agreement?

India is doubling its coal use by 2020 and tripling its emissions by 2030. That’s what “going green” means.

India has ratified the weakest kind of non-reduction, just a promise it will try to “cut emissions intensity“. That big goal is to increase its carbon emissions by slightly less than the rate its population is growing at. An achievement most countries do just by being there. It’s the default condition as economies develop. Instead of reducing emissions, India is set to increase its total emissions threefold by 2030. Ratify that, eh?

Though even that pitifully weak anti-goal is not enforceable. Nearly everything in the Paris deal is optional, voluntary, and written as a should, not a shall. After ten months of delays and frivolous ambit claims like trying to get entry to the nuclear club (and access to more uranium), India has finally signed up for Paris anyway. Which is signing nothing much — all India has agreed to is to submit a new goal for itself every five years, and do a stocktake. It’s that banal.

As I’ve said before, there are so many reasons [...]

India to delay signing Paris agreement (Thank China)

India wants to be in the Nuclear Club — that’s the bargaining chip for signing the Paris agreement.

India won’t ratify the Paris agreement unless it gets membership to the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) a club that was, as it happens, set up in 1974 when a naughty India set off a nuclear test. But China is completely against India earning its NSG badge. So the big two population elephants on Earth and the monster carbon emitters are not so concerned about the future of Earth that they are going to put other rivalries aside. Priorities, indeed.

Pretty much every nation on Earth has signed up for the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) – except for India, Israel, Pakistan and North Korea. In the NPT club there are five countries rated in the Platinum Frequent Flyer Bomb Class and the rest agree not to develop nuclear bombs but are (maybe) allowed to use nuclear power. Most of the few non-signers, like India, probably have bombs, but not the “license” for global bomb club membership. Now, China helps proliferate weapons in North Korea and Pakistan so it’s a tad rich that it claims to be afraid the NPT will fall apart if [...]