Monday, September 20, 2010

Pick your proxy

What do we conclude when temperature proxies contradict both one another and real-world data?

We see here that a new proxy temperature measurement from South America shows the Medieval warm period and little ice age that Warmists like Michael Mann tried to "iron out" of their "hockey stick" graphs.

It also however shows a temperature upturn in the 20th century that exceeds the temperature observed in their proxy data for the Medieval warm period -- which contradicts what we certainly know about the Medieval warm period -- when the historical data that we have (Vikings farming in Greenland etc.) shows that period to be warmer than the present.

Additionally, we know that Briffa's Russian pine tree proxies showed a now famous DECLINE in 20th century temperatures -- a decline that Phil Jones & Co. famously used a "trick" to "hide". There is certainly no grounds from the thermometer readings to conclude that temperatures declined overall in the 20th century, though an argument could be made that there was no significant increase.

So where do we go from there? One could quite reasonably conclude that all temperatures are local and that we should not generalize from one place to another -- and that is a highly satisfactory conclusion for skeptics and a nasty one for the Greenies.

But my conclusion is even harsher than that. I don't see how we can trust ANY proxy unless we have ACTUAL temperatures to validate it against. And we just don't have such temperature data beyond about 150 years ago.

I am acutely aware of the validity issue because it lay at the heart of my own research into psychometrics. I was attempting in my work something just as daunting as what paleoclimatologists try to do. I was trying to put numbers to human attitudes and personalities.

One normally does that via a questionnaire. One uses questionnaires as proxies for what people are thinking. But how do you know that the answers to your questionnaire reflect anything real? You don't -- unless you seek some sort of validation for the measure you have constructed. You need some objective or independent data to compare your questionnaire answers with. And in my career I was a demon about insisting on such external validation.

Many of my colleagues were more insouciant however and took the questionnaire answers they had at face value. As a result I often was able to point out that they had got it wrong and that their research could not support the conclusions that the author concerned had drawn from it. I got a lot of papers published in the academic journals by pointing out such follies.

So if I had been in Briffa's shoes and found that the actual temperature record for the 20th century contradicted what my proxy data seemed to be showing, I would have concluded that the proxy was invalid and could not be used to support any conclusions. That is what any honest scientist would have done. Briffa, however, ignored the glaring invalidity of his proxy data and pretended to draw conclusions about temperatures for the last 1,000 years or so from it.

So from my perspective as a specialist in measurement, I can see no way of drawing sound conclusions about temperature from ANY proxy data so far available. The whole Warmist enterprise is an edifice built on sand.

Being a good scientist, however, I am going to specify what a valid temperature proxy would show. It would show the Roman warm period as warmest of all for the last 2500 years (when Hannibal took elephants over the Alps in WINTER and grapes grew in Northern England). It would show the Medieval Warm period as warmer than today (when Vikings farmed in Greenland). And it would show temperatures over the last 200 years as essentially flat (as even the Warmists claim a temperature rise of less than one degree Celsius over that period). I know of no such proxy in existence so far.

Given the inherently coarse resolution of proxies, it is in fact doubtful that any proxy COULD do what Warmists ask of it. Few people seem to realize that the graphs of leaping temperature that Warmists produce are calibrated in tenths of one degree. It may be possible to extract that degree of precision from thermometers but asking it of proxies is drawing a very long bow indeed.

I will stick with the well-established facts of history and conclude that present-day temperatures are in no way exceptionally warm. Publius Cornelius Scipio could well have made that sort of complaint but we cannot -- JR

Note that the article further down today by Dr. Harrison "Jack" Schmitt also points out problems with proxies -- in his case ice core contents

Psychologizing climate skepticism

This is a standard tactic of the Left: Anybody who disagrees with them is either mad or stupid. In this case however the attempt has its amusing side: An alleged psychology paper published in a meteorology journal!

Many people don't believe in global warming because everyday life may have trained them to doubt it, according to a new University of NSW study that brings together climate science and cognitive psychology.

As the physical science underpinning human-induced climate change has grown more and more solid, more people have been growing sceptical of it, according to the paper The Psychology of Global Warming, published in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. "Simply presenting the facts and figures about global warming has failed to convince large portions of the general public, journalists and policy makers about the scale of the problem and the urgency of required action," the paper says.

"From a psychologist's perspective, this is not surprising."

Two Sydney researchers, psychology lecturer Ben Newell and climate scientist Professor Andy Pitman, identified different classes of perfectly normal psychological phenomena that can tend to turn people into so-called climate "deniers". The first concerns "sampling issues" - the idea that people normally try to refer to real-life examples to draw conclusions and may be heavily influenced by recent media coverage.

"For example, if you read or hear opinions from climate change sceptics about 50 per cent of the time then this could lead to a bias in the perception of the balance of evidence in your mind - that is, that the science is only about 50 per cent certain," Dr Newell said.

People are also heavily influenced by "framing issues" - dealing with how information is presented to them. The figure 0.2 means the same as 20 out of 100, but the latter proportion makes the information seem much more concrete.

People construct mental models which they use to judge new information, and these models are usually built only on a few fragments of information, the study said.

It used the analogy of most people's understanding of the link between cancer and smoking, which is not completely understood by most researchers yet widely accepted by the general public. "By contrast, understanding how and why an increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide leads to warming and how and what we do as individuals and communities affects the composition of the atmosphere is much harder," Dr Newell said. [It sure is!]

The authors drew on dozens of studies into people's reactions to news about climate change, some of which suggest that certain types of people [i.e. skeptics -- something that all scientists should be] are more likely to find the evidence for human-induced climate change less convincing than others.


Below is the journal abstract. It is clearly political campaigning, not science

The evidence in support of global warming and the lack of significant published evidence to the contrary provides an extraordinarily strong foundation for the scientific community's call for action on greenhouse gas emissions. However, public conviction about the threat posed by global warming appears to be on the decline. What can the scientific community do to communicate the message that global warming requires urgent action now, most likely via deep cuts in emissions? A clear impediment to this goal is that the issues are complex and the outcomes uncertain. As a step towards achieving this goal, the authors review some psychological phenomena that illuminate how humans make judgments and decisions when faced with complex uncertain problems. The authors suggest that an awareness of this research, combined with an indication of how lessons from it can be applied to the particular communication issues faced by climate scientists, could help in ensuring that the message of global warming is heard and heeded.

The Week That Was: (To September 18, 2010)


By Ken Haapala, Executive Vice President Science and Environmental Policy Project (SEPP)

As illustrated by the works of George Orwell, slogans are important to political movements. Effective slogans can persuade people to a cause and eliminate further thought on the subject. In his book Climate: The Counter Consensus, Bob Carter discusses how slogans become type of code. Do you believe in global warming is actually do you believe that mankind is causing unprecedented and dangerous global warming? Similarly, saying that someone is a "climate denier" is a pejorative way to describe a person who believes that climate change is normal and natural.

The slogans "global warming" and "climate change" appear to be losing their effectiveness with the public. President Obama's science advisor John Holdren has invented a replacement - "disruptive climate change." Of course, what the term means is not precisely defined. So it is appropriate to define it. For the past two million years the dominant climate is one of ice ages interrupted by brief warm periods. Thus, warm periods must be "disruptive climate changes" including the current one that has permitted humanity to thrive and gave rise to civilization. Please see the first article under "Defending the Orthodoxy."


Last week's TWTW referenced a criticism of a study by the Columbia Climate Center at the Earth Institute, Columbia University, produced for Deutsche Bank (DB) entitled: "Climate Change: Addressing the Major Skeptic Arguments." According to reports, the Bank has a US $5 Billion portfolio for green investments, including carbon trading, so it is natural for the Bank to defend its portfolio. DB announcement of the report concludes that human caused dangerous warming is upon us and it will last for thousands of years.

Now the study is now being used to attack those skeptical about the IPCC. Thus, it is instructive to look at a few main points of the study which claims to summarize the arguments of the skeptics and effectively respond to them.

* The DB response to the claim that climate models cannot provide reliable projections is that the models have been improved and unanimously predict warming with increasing greenhouse gases.

SEPP response: A deficient model that has been improved but makes unverified predictions is still deficient.

* The DB response to the claim that the Medieval Warm Period (MWP) existed is that the existence of the MWP does not challenge the case of anthropogenic warming.

SEPP response: it is the obligation of those claiming the 20th Century warming is different than past warm periods to scientifically explain the difference and demonstrate why 20th Century warming must be anthropogenic.

* In responding to the fact that ice cores reveal that temperatures changed first then carbon dioxide concentrations the study claims that carbon dioxide changes amplify the temperature changes.

SEPP response: The CO2 amplification claim avoids the issue of cause. For example, what causes temperatures to drop when carbon dioxide concentrations are rising? This is inconsistent with the IPCC models that project temperatures will only increase with rising carbon dioxide.

* The study states that skeptics claim "Earth's climate is driven only by the sun."

SEPP response: The authors of the study ignored the works of many skeptics, for example Joe D'Aleo and Roy Spencer.

* The DB response to water vapor being the most prevalent greenhouse gas is to assert that water vapor provides a positive feedback.

SEPP response: The water vapor feedback is precisely the assumption that must be - and has not been - tested.

Many similar issues in the paper can be refuted in a similar fashion.


Number of the Week: $237 per ton

One of the justifications for the Federal government's cash for clunkers program was that it would reduce carbon dioxide emissions. According to the referenced article "'Clunkers,' a classic government folly," researchers at the University of California, Davis estimate that it cost the Federal Government (i.e. taxpayers) $237 per ton of emissions reduced. The current posted price for a metric ton (1.1 US tons) on the Chicago Climate Exchange is $0.10. However, no one is buying.

It is interesting to speculate what the costs of reductions of emissions are from subsidizing and mandating wind and solar power.


In a rather long four part series posted in Master Resource, Jon Boone challenges the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) to produce the empirical evidence supporting its claim that reduction in carbon dioxide emissions is "one of the universally recognized and uncontestable benefits of wind energy..." Independent researchers have great difficulty in obtaining the necessary data to evaluate the effectiveness of wind. The wind industry routinely denies access to the data claiming it is proprietary. It is unconscionable that legislators and other government officials subsidize and mandate the use of wind energy without full and transparent knowledge of the costs and the benefits to the citizen.


SEPP CORRECTIONS AND AMPLIFICATIONS: Reader Tom Sheahen pointed out that last week's discussion of hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling did not sufficiently differentiate between the new techniques of drilling for natural gas and the old techniques of drilling for oil and natural gas in the East. In the past, the wells in the east were relatively shallow and vertical. Compared to wells in the West, they produced poorly. Solvents and even explosives were used to fracture rock and open pores to obtain the gas or oil. As a result, before solid regulations were established, solvents could appear in the ground water or drinking water.

The new techniques involved drilling deep wells thousands of feet below the surface through layers of impervious rock far below ground water and aquifers. The walls of the vertical and initial horizontal wells are sealed to prevent any seepage into porous layers. It is then that additional horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing of the gas bearing shale commences. The amount of chemicals used is typically below 1% of the total fluids, the balance being water. When claims of pollution of drinking water, etc, are made, it is necessary to differentiate between the old techniques and the new.



Guest Editorial by Dr. Harrison "Jack" Schmitt (Harrison H. Schmitt is a former United States Senator from New Mexico as well as a geologist and former Apollo Astronaut.)

Analysis of ice cores from Antarctica [1] and Greenland [2] play an important role in understanding the history of global temperatures and atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, methane, and other gases and aerosols. Through analysis of dust, they also provide up to 800,000-year chronologies of global scale volcanic eruptions and major trends toward desertification. Clearly, data from ice cores play a critical underlying role in the science of climate change.

Unfortunately, ice cores do not always appear to be a reliable record of past carbon dioxide or methane concentrations in the atmosphere. Their information needs to be confirmed by consistency with data from other sources. Particular care must be taken in the interpretation of the carbon dioxide "record" in ice cores due to uncertainties in the mechanics of gas preservation over time.[4]

In some cases, the trapped "atmosphere" in the ice sheets may not be part of a closed system. To be a closed system for carbon dioxide or methane, no gas components can escape or be added during the burial process; liquid water cannot have interacted with the gases; none of the trapped gas components can combine, separate, diffuse, or solidify; and all components must stay in the same proportions as pressure increases with time due to added ice above. The observational science of ice has demonstrated that for some cores all these conditions do not hold. Further, the process of core extraction from great depth to surface pressure may open and disturb the gas systems.

For example, the Siple Antarctic ice core indicates that carbon dioxide reached a level of about 330ppm in about 1900. Comparison with the 1960 initial Mauna Loa measurement of 260ppm suggests that either (1) the Siple data is just wrong, or (2) there was a drop of about 60ppm in carbon dioxide level between 1900 and 1960, or (3) it takes 80-some years for the carbon dioxide gas system to close.[4] This discrepancy does not appear to have been resolved;[5] but the smooth shape of the Siple core carbon dioxide curve as a function of core depth (approaching a constant level with increasing core depth/age) suggests it might not ever have been a closed system. Over time, carbon dioxide in the sampled Siple ice may have gradually equilibrated to a constant carbon dioxide value of about 280ppm now indicated for the 1720-year old and older layers. Also, this core suffered some melting during transport and prior to analysis.[6]

Not surprisingly, considering the known variability in ice preservation, measured carbon dioxide concentrations in the trapped gases of many cores older than about 300 years hold remarkably constant over the last 7-8000 years of ice accumulation.[7] This constancy is incompatible with other data, including that from other ice cores and from preserved Ginkgo leaf stomata, both indicating significant variation during that period. Stomata are pores through which a plant takes in carbon dioxide. They vary in size depending on the carbon dioxide concentration in the air, and preserved stomata suggest that carbon dioxide levels ranged between 270 and 326ppm over the last 7-8000 years.[8] Some Greenland ice cores do not show expected temperature-driven carbon dioxide increases during the Medieval Warm Period (~800-1300) or the expected decreases during the Little Ice Age (~1400-1900)[9], although these events show clearly in other cores[10]. This further indicates that some ice cores potentially give an unreliable history of atmospheric carbon dioxide, nitrogen, and methane concentrations. Analyses from the EPICA Dome C and Vostok cores of the Antarctic ice sheets, on the other hand, show plausible parameter variations. A strong correlation exists back to ~800,000 years ago between carbon dioxide and methane concentrations and deuterium and oxygen isotopic temperature determinations.[11] The five hundred year time resolution of these correlations, however, remains insufficient to determine if carbon dioxide and methane changes lead or lag temperature changes. Similarly, up to 123,000 years of climate temperature variations measured in three deep cores from the Greenland ice sheet (GRIP, GISP2, and NGRIP) appear to be consistent with other climate proxy data, such as North Atlantic sediment cores.[12] Although carbon dioxide measurements can be suspect in some ice cores, data from many others constitute extremely valuable records of additional parameters that exist within truly closed subsystems. For example, Greenland ice core data indicate that large climatic temperature shifts can occur over a very few years. Oxygen isotopes, deuterium, dust and calcium, sodium, and ice accumulation rates support data from cave deposits that indicate rapid cooling often follows periods of gradual natural warming.[13]

A particularly prolonged warm period between 9000 and 6000 years ago, within the current interglacial, has been documented, most recently in oxygen isotopic analyses of Greenland ice cores.[14] That prolonged warm period resulted in significant thinning of Greenland's ice sheet to thicknesses within a 100m of those of today. Several other warm periods have occurred since, the most pronounced of which has been termed the Medieval Warm Period (500-1300)[15]. Warm periods of this nature were initially highly beneficial to fledgling human cultures. During the latter centuries of the Medieval Warm Period, however, severe weather and drought, overpopulation relative to available agricultural technology, and other factors forced migrations from many centers of civilization,[16] primarily to locations with more reliable water resources and better defensive positioning.

Adverse effects of warming, however, stand in contrast to the general advancement of human civilization during the 10,000 years of warming since the last Ice Age. On the other hand, adaptation to the stresses of climate change, including cold periods, probably was a major factor in the evolution of modern humans.[17] The last Ice Age also permitted the advantageous migrations of modern humans from Asia into the Americas about 22,000 years ago. At that time, low sea levels created a land bridge between Asia and North America.[18] Adaptability has been the key for human survival and advancement.

SEPP SCIENCE EDITORIAL #27-2010 (Sep 18, 2010)

Britain's energy policy is in crisis

The Government's policy on renewable energy is wasteful and counter-productive, says Christopher Booker.

Forget the latest proposal by Caroline Spelman, our Environment Secretary, that all hospitals should in future be built on hills, to stop them being submerged beneath the rising seas brought by global warming (even that serial panic-monger Al Gore predicts that sea levels will rise by only 20 feet). A more serious problem is the chaos inflicted on our energy policy by our willing compliance with an EU obligation to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 34 per cent within 10 years.

Behind the fog of official spin, it becomes ever more obvious that the schemes devised to meet the EU target of generating nearly a third of our energy from renewable sources by 2020 - six times more than at present - are a massive self-delusion. Even though they will cost us hundreds of billions of pounds, paid largely through soaring electricity bills, the energy they produce will be derisory - certainly nowhere near enough to plug the looming 40 per cent shortfall in our supplies, as many of our older power stations are forced to close.

Take the Government's proposed Renewable Heat Incentive, the costs of which could, by 2030, outweigh its benefits by as much as £13 billion. The hope is that by 2020, Britain will have installed two million "heat pumps" to extract warmth from the air and soil. But a taxpayer-funded study by the Energy Saving Trust found that, of 83 air-sourced systems already installed at up to £20,000 each, only one was efficient enough to qualify as "renewable energy". This was so embarrassing that many of the higher figures have been given as estimates to provide a more reassuring picture.

Equally questionable is our enthusiasm for solar panels. Ignoring the costly disaster of similar schemes in Spain and Germany, we have now copied them by offering absurdly inflated subsidies ("feed-in tariffs") that force us all to pay their owners between three and eight times the going rate for the tiny amount of power they produce. Last year, solar's contribution to the grid averaged 2.3 megawatts - so minuscule that it was barely a 1,000th of the output of one large coal-fired power station.

Then there is the generation of power and heat from burning biomass, such as wood and straw. Drax, the giant 3.9-gigawatt coal-fired power station in Yorkshire, has the largest facility in the world for co-firing one of its six boilers with biomass. But so rigged against biomass is the subsidy structure that Drax cannot afford to use much of it, because its cost is a third higher than that of coal, under a system not due to be reviewed until 2013. Drax's plan to spend £2 billion on three dedicated biomass plants, generating more than 800 megawatts, has now been stalled for the same reason.

Next, there is the farce of those electric cars, which make no economic or environmental sense. Only a few thousand have been sold and, even with a £5,000 public subsidy, the forthcoming Nissan Leaf will cost £23,000 and be able to travel only 100 miles before its battery needs an eight-hour recharge, with electricity derived from fossil fuels, reducing any supposed saving on CO2.

At least the Government has dropped the idea of spending £30 billion on the Severn tidal barrage, which would produce little more electricity than a CO2-free nuclear power station, at 10 times the cost. But it has ruled that permission will be given to build four of the new coal-fired power stations we desperately need only if we pay £14 billion to fit them with "carbon capture and storage", piping off their CO2 to bury it in holes under the North Sea. This would double the cost of their electricity - and recent studies show it to be no more than a fantasy anyway, because the required injection rates would soon shatter the rock structure.

The Government's flagship "renewables" policy is to spend £100 billion on 10,000 onshore and offshore wind turbines, adding to the 3,000 we already have (which are so inefficient that their combined output last year was equivalent to one modest coal-fired plant). Apart from the colossal cost (suppliers must buy electricity from wind at double or treble the price of conventional power, passed on through our energy bills), there is no way that more than a fraction of the 6,000 offshore turbines the Government dreams of could be built by 2020, since this would require erecting two such huge structures every day for 10 years, when installing just one can take weeks. Even so, the more turbines we have, the more we will need new gas-fired power plants to provide back-up for when the wind drops - emitting as much CO2 as the turbines nominally save.

If all this sounds like pure lunacy, we must recall that two years ago, our MPs voted all but unanimously for the Climate Change Act. This commits Britain, uniquely in the world, to cutting its CO2 emissions by 80 per cent by 2050, at a cost of up to £18 billion a year, or £734 billion in total. This is what our politicians have made the law of the land, although in practice it could only be achieved by closing down virtually all our economy.

Now, no doubt, we have to add in the cost of building all our hospitals on hilltops, to prevent them vanishing under those Noah-like inundations that our Environment Secretary is fixated on. But, of course, none of this will have any impact on reducing overall CO2 emissions. We contribute less than 2 per cent to the global total, while China's emissions alone increase by more than that every year.


AGW Today: Everybody Panic -- again

I guess the alarmists have to get in all their talking points before winter sets in, especially as they attempt to link cold weather and snow storms to man caused global warming, er, climate change, er global climate disruption, otherwise known as "what the Earth has been doing for billions of years." Though, that doesn't roll off the tongue as well as the others
A recent report by a national environmental organization claims that global warming will spawn more extreme weather events such as last March's rains in New England and big snowstorms like the so-called "Snowmageddon" that paralyzed the mid-Atlantic region last winter.

"This spring's flooding was just one example of how extreme weather causes big problems for the economy of Massachusetts and for our public safety," said Emily Fischer, an energy associate with Environment Massachusetts, which produced the report and is a branch of Environment America.

Because the Earth has never had flooding before. Ever. I believe they made the word "flooding" up around 1980 to account for this new phenomena.
The Environment Massachusetts report contains no ground-breaking research of its own but combines the results of recent scientific studies on the effects of climate change and storm activity. The report includes, for example, predictions of fewer but more intense high-category hurricanes. The most dangerous, Category 4 and 5 hurricanes could double in number over the next century, the report says. It also forecasts more frequent heavy downpours and snowfalls, as well as more wildfires and intense heat waves.

OK. Perhaps I should have named this the Prozac Diaries instead of AGW Today. Really, as an environmentalist myself, I wish these groups would spend more time dealing with real environmental issues. Because they beclown themselves and damage the movement, especially when we get

And then we have
Fairbanks faces a roughly 11-degree Fahrenheit temperature increase by 2100 if moderate climate-change models are used, Boone said during a talk Wednesday.

If that happens, the interior no longer will be characterized by permafrost and boreal forests, he said.

Chicken Little is pleased. But,
Climate change falling off public radar, speakers say

My goodness!
Climate change could benefit UK farmers

Remember how it was warmer back during the Global Climate Optiumum, and the Brits were making excellent wines, much to the dismay of the French?

Let's wrap up with some OMG, WE'RE DOOOOOOOOOOOOMED, shall we?
If we fail, I can imagine a thousand years from now a small fragment of humankind barely surviving the new planetary climate huddled round a fire in some remote northern latitude observing the night sky, subsisting perhaps as hunter-gatherers on a vastly different and biologically depleted planet listening to a tale vaguely recalled in ancestral memory by the local shaman.


War on excess packaging in Britain

I have some sympathy with the Greenies over this. I find that I need tools to get into a lot of the packaging around things that I buy

A landmark prosecution will heap pressure on Britain's supermarkets to end hugely wasteful food packaging. Sainsbury's is being taken to court for using excessive wrapping in a move that could open the door to a wave of similar charges being brought.

The store is the first supermarket to face official action over wasteful packaging. Grocery giants have dodged charges for years in an area of law riddled with loopholes.

But trading standards officers have acted decisively over Sainsbury's Taste the Difference Slow Matured Ultimate Beef. It not only comes in a plastic shrink-wrap, but is placed inside a plastic tray, topped with a transparent plastic lid and surrounded with a cardboard sleeve. The meat is a typical example of supermarkets' excess packaging and the resulting waste that campaigners say is turning the country into the `dustbin of Europe'.

Around 5 per cent of the average shopping basket is packaging and the UK produces 9.3million tons of waste packaging a year - the equivalent weight of 245 jumbo jets every week.

Sainsbury's last night said it was `surprised' by the legal action and is in the process of changing to slimmer packaging.

But it will be hard to appease campaigners who point out that more rubbish goes to landfill in Britain than in any other European country. With items such as shrink-wrapped coconuts and single bananas sold in plastic trays, shoppers are routinely charged extra for buying fruit and vegetables that are wrapped in plastic rather than sold loose.

Prepared meat cuts often come in plastic trays, while biscuit and cake manufacturers swathe their products in many layers of trays, sleeves and boxes.

The law on excess packaging was introduced in 1999 and appears to offer a simple route to outlawing waste. It says packaging should be limited to `the minimum adequate amount' to ensure safety and hygiene.

However, just four companies have been prosecuted, while the maximum fine is just £5,000. Councils argue that small print get-out clauses make it so difficult to prosecute that none has even tried to take a store or manufacturer to court since 2006. They have called for the law to be tightened up and backed by an increase in the maximum fine to £50,000.

The case against Sainsbury's was launched by Lincolnshire Trading Standards following a complaint from a resident earlier this year. Its head of trading standards, Peter Heafield, said he had `a duty to enforce regulations'.

The store expressed surprise at the legal threat. The company said it has been working on reducing packaging on products across the store. This includes a new way to wrap and present its Taste the Difference beef which, it claims, reduces the total amount of packaging by 53 per cent.

A spokesman said the store was hopeful the council would drop the case in the light of the changes. `We are surprised at the comments made by Lincolnshire County Council, which do not reflect the very positive outcome of our meeting with Lincolnshire's
packaging team,' he said. Some of the old packaging was still in stores yesterday, but the firm said this should be replaced by the slimmed down version over the next few days.

Margaret Eaton, of the Local Government Association, said: `Britain is the dustbin of Europe. Families are fed up with having to carry so much packaging home from the supermarket. Stores need to up their game so it's easier for people to do their bit to help the environment.'

Friends of the Earth welcomed the prosecution, saying: `There is far too much packaging on our food and I hope this prosecution will encourage other supermarkets to get their houses in order.

But the British Retail Consortium said stores are making great efforts to reduce packaging and waste because excess wrapping is a `pointless cost'. Sainsbury's added that packaging is essential to keep food fresh and therefore prevent food waste.



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