Wednesday, August 28, 2013

As real temperatures subside, the IPCC heats up the fight

By Larry Bell

The New York Times feverishly reported on August 10 that the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is about to issue another scary climate report. Dismissing the recent 17 years or so of flat global temperatures, the IPCC will assert that: “It is extremely likely that human influence on climate caused more than half of the observed increase in global average surface temperature from 1951 to 2010.”

The draft report also says, “There is high confidence that this has warmed the ocean, melted snow and ice, raised global mean sea level, and changed some climate extremes in the second half of the 20th century.” And whereas the IPCC’s previous report modestly claimed a 90 percent chance that human activities were the cause, they’re now ratcheting up their confidence level to 95 percent.

Obviously then, they must have some very strong evidence to back this amplified bluster. Right? Well, then again, maybe not so much after all.

What Evidence Exists of Unnatural Recent Global Warming?

Cyclical, abrupt, and dramatic global and regional temperature fluctuations have occurred over millions of years. Many natural factors are known to contribute to these changes, although even the most sophisticated climate models and theories they are based on cannot predict the timing, scale (either up or down), or future impacts — much less the marginal contributions of various human influences.

While global warming has been trumpeted as an epic climate change crisis with human-produced CO2, a trace atmospheric “greenhouse gas” branded as a primary culprit and endangering “pollutant,” remember that throughout earlier periods of Earth’s history CO2 levels have been between 4 and 18 times higher than now, with temperature changes preceding, not following atmospheric CO2 changes.

Has there been “recent” warming? Yes, the global climate has definitely warmed since the Little Ice Age (about 1400-1700 AD), and it will likely continue to warm for another 200-300 years, in fits and starts, towards a maximum temperature roughly matching that of the Medieval Warm Period. That time followed a colder period before the founding of Rome between about 750 BC to 200 BC. By 150 BC the climate had warmed enough for the first grapes and olives to be cultivated in northern Italy. As recently as 1,000 years ago, Icelandic Vikings were raising cattle, sheep and goats in grasslands on Greenland’s southwestern coast.

Then, around 1200, temperatures began to drop, and Norse settlements were abandoned by about 1350. Atlantic pack ice began to grow around 1250, and shortened growing seasons and unreliable weather patterns, including torrential rains in Northern Europe, led to the “Great Famine” of 1315-1317.

Temperatures dropped dramatically again in the middle of the 16th century, and although there were notable year year-to-year fluctuations, the coldest regime since the last Ice Age (that so-called “Little Ice Age”) dominated the next150 years or more. Food shortages killed millions in Europe between 1690 and 1700, followed by more famines in 1725 and 1816. The end of this time witnessed brutal winter temperatures suffered by Washington’s troops at Valley Forge in 1777 and Napoleon’s bitterly cold retreat from Russia in 1812.

Although temperatures have been generally mild over the past 500 years, we should remember that significant fluctuations are normal. The past century alone witnessed two distinct periods of warming. The first occurred between 1900 and 1945, and the second, following a slight cool-down began quite abruptly in 1975. That second period rose at very modest rate, if at all, until 1998, and then stopped and began falling again after reaching a high of 1.16ºF above the average global mean temperature. There hasn’t been any warming for at least a decade and a half, and possibly, considerably longer.

It’s also worth remembering that about half of all estimated warming since 1900 occurred prior to the mid-1940s despite continuously rising CO2 levels. Also consider that, even today, about 97 percent of all current atmospheric CO2 derives from natural sources.

What Evidence Exists of Human CO2 Influences on Climate?

All IPCC climate models incorporate theory which predicts that “anthropogenic” (human-caused) global warming will be evident in an “amplification” of a surface warming trend that is revealed as an atmospheric “hot spot” in the tropical troposphere. Instead, both satellite data and independent balloon data show a near-zero trend from 1979 to 1997, followed by a well-known 1998 temperature “spike” which is universally attributed to a Super-El- Niño. This absence of an observed hot spot suggests that the land-surface temperature warming trend (1979-1997) is greatly overestimated, and should be close to zero in the Tropics.

So where does the evidence needed to support the IPCC’s 95 percent certainty claim come from? The true answer is that there simply isn’t any. None at all. There never was…only totally unproven theoretical climate models.

For a bit of political science history on this matter, it’s important to remember that such IPCC statements typically follow a series of drafts that are edited to become increasingly media-worthy. For example, the original text of an April 2000 Third Assessment Report (TAR) draft stated: “There has been a discernible human influence on global climate.” That was followed by an October version that concluded: “It is likely that increasing concentrations of anthropogenic greenhouse gases have contributed significantly to observed warming over the past 50 years.” Then in the final official summary, the language was toughened up even more: “Most of the observed warming over the past 50 years is likely to have been due to the increase in greenhouse gas concentrations.”

When the UN Environment Programme’s spokesman, Tim Higham, was asked by New Scientist about the scientific background for this change, his answer was honest: “There was no new science, but the scientists wanted to present a clear and strong message to policymakers.”

Sometimes IPCC report statements directly contradict conclusions published by the same authors during the same time period. Regarding any “discernible human influence on global climate,” a 1996 IPCC report summary written by B.D. Santer, T.M.L Wigley, T.P. Barnett, and E. Anyamba states: “…there is evidence of an emerging pattern of climate response to forcings by greenhouse gases and sulphate aerosols…from geographical, seasonal and vertical patterns of temperature change…These results point towards human influence on climate.”

However, another 1996 publication, “The Holocene,” by T.P. Barnett, B.D. Santer, P.D. Jones, R.S. Bradley and K.R. Briffa, says: “Estimates of…natural variability are critical to the problem of detecting an anthropogenic [human] signal…We have estimated the spectrum…from paleo-temperature proxies and compared it with…general [climate] circulation models…none of the three estimates of the natural variability spectrum agree with each other…Until…resolved, it will be hard to say, with confidence, that an anthropogenic climate signal has or has not been detected.”

Although IPCC is broadly represented to the public as the top authority on climate matters, the organization doesn’t actually carry out any original climate research at all. Instead, it simply issues assessments based upon supposedly independent surveys of published research. However, some of the most influential conclusions summarized in its reports have neither been based upon truly independent research, nor properly vetted through accepted peer- review processes.

The IPCC asserted in its 2007 report that the Himalayan glaciers would likely melt by 2035 due to global warming, prompting great alarm across southern and eastern Asia, where glaciers feed major rivers. As it turned out, that prediction was traced to a speculative magazine article authored by an Indian glaciologist, Syed Hasnain, which had absolutely no supporting science behind it. Hasnain worked for a research company headed by the IPCC’s chairman, Rajendra Pachauri. IPCC’s report author, Marari Lai, later admitted to London’s Daily Mail, “We thought that if we can highlight it, it will impact policymakers and politicians and encourage them to take action.”

While it should be recognized that most of the many scientific reviewers are indeed dedicated and competent people who take their work very seriously, few of them have much if any influence over final conclusions that the public hears about. Instead, the huge compilations they prepare go through international bureaucratic reviews, where political appointees dissect them, line by line, to glean the best stuff that typically supports what IPCC wanted to say in the first place. These cherry-picked items are then assembled, condensed and highlighted in the Summaries for Policymakers which are calibrated to get prime-time and front page attention.

IPCC’s 1996 report used selective data, a doctored graph, and featured changes in text that were made after the reviewing scientists approved it and before it was printed. The many irregularities provoked Dr. Frederick Seitz, a world-famous physicist and former president of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the American Physical Society, and Rockefeller University, to write ( in August 1996) in the Wall Street Journal: “I have never witnessed a more disturbing corruption of the peer review process than events that led to this IPCC report.”

Several tens of thousands of scientists have lodged formal protests regarding unscientific IPCC practices. Some critics include former supporters. One of them is Prof. Fritz Vahrenholt, a socialist founder of Germany’s environmental movement, who headed the renewable energy division of the country’s second largest utility company. His recent coauthored book titled, The Cold Sun: Why the Climate Disaster Won’t Happen, charges the IPCC with gross incompetence and dishonesty, most particularly regarding fear-mongering exaggeration of known climate influence of human CO2 emissions.

As IPCC official Ottmar Edenhofer admitted in November 2010, “…one has to free oneself from the illusion that international climate policy is environmental policy. Instead, climate change policy is about how we redistribute de facto the world’s wealth…”

What Evidence Exists of a Climate Problem At All?

Speaking at his State of the Union address, President Obama said: “We must do more to combat climate change…It’s true that no single event makes a trend. But the fact is, the 12 hottest years on record have all come in the last 15. Heat waves, droughts, wildfires, and floods – all are now more frequent and intense.”

But there’s a big disconnect from facts here. In reality, there has been no increase in the strength or frequency of landfall hurricanes in the world’s five main hurricane basins during the past 50-70 years; there has been no increase in the strength or frequency in tropical Atlantic hurricane development during the past 370 years; the U.S. is currently enjoying the longest period ever recorded without intense Category 3-5 hurricane landfall; there has been no trend since 1950 evidencing any increased frequency of strong (F3-F-5) U.S. tornadoes; there has been no increase in U.S. flood magnitudes over the past 85 years; and long-term sea level rise is not accelerating.

So let’s maybe take a look at the importance of that “alarming” 400 parts-per-million atmospheric CO2 concentration we keep hearing about. As Steven Goddard summarized some results in an August 10 article he posted on Real Science, we are currently witnessing:

* Coldest summer on record at the North Pole

* Highest August Arctic ice extent since 2006

* Record high August Antarctic ice extent

* No major hurricane strikes for eight years

* Slowest tornado season on record

* No global warming for 17 years

* Second slowest fire season on record

* Four of the five snowiest northern hemisphere winters have occurred since 2000

Regarding those pending IPCC predictions that sea levels will accelerate, don’t plan to sell your beach front property any time soon, at least not for that reason. William Happer, a Princeton physics professor who has researched ocean physics for the U.S. Air Force, notes that, “The sea level has been rising since 1800, at the end of the Little Ice Age.” Isn’t that to be expected? In fact even the IPCC admitted in its most recent report that “no long-term acceleration of sea level has been identified using 20th-century data alone.”

Dr. Nils-Axel Morner, the former chair of the Paleogeophysics and Geodynamics department at Stockholm University in Sweden, has been studying sea level and its effects on coastal areas for more than 35 years. He observes that “…sea level was indeed rising from, let us say, 1850 to 1930-40. And that rise had a rate in the order of 1 millimeter per year.”

Morner is very critical of the IPCC and its headline-grabbing doomsday predictions. He scorns the IPCC’s claim to “know” the facts about sea level rise, noting that real scientists “are searching for the answer” by continuing to collect data “because we are field geologists; they are computer scientists. So all this talk that sea level is rising, this stems from the computer modeling, not from observations. The observations don’t find it!”

What Evidence Exists that Continued U.S. Funding for IPCC Propaganda Is Sane?

Following President Obama’s State of the Union pledge to double down on his frenetic “Green” war to prevent climate change, U.S. Representative Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-MO) has introduced legislation to discontinue any more taxpayer green from being used to advance the  UN’s economy-ravaging agendas. The proposed bill would prohibit future U.S. funding for the alarmist Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and also for the Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), a scam devoted to redistributing American wealth in penance for our unfair capitalist free market prosperity.

Congressman Luetkemeyer strongly objects to the UNFCC’s use of IPCC’s suggestions and faulty data to implement a job-killing agenda here in America. He argues: “The American people should not have to foot the bill for an international organization that is fraught with waste, engaged in dubious science, and is promoting an agenda that will destroy jobs and drive up the cost of energy in the United States. Unfortunately, the President appears to be ready to fund these groups, revive harmful policies like cap and trade, and further empower out of control federal regulators at a time when we should be doing everything possible to cut wasteful spending, reduce regulatory red tape, and promote economic growth.”

Under the Obama Administration, UNFCC and IPCC together have received a total average of $10.25 million annually, which will be upped to $13 million under a FY 13 budget request. The George W. Bush administration previously provided about $5.7 million each year. While those amounts may seem like a pittance in the realm of government spending largesse, it’s important to realize that the true costs of that folly amount to countless billions in disastrous policy and regulatory impacts. And that, dear readers, is exactly the UN’s intent.


Increasingly, green groups claim global warming risks are occuring *now*. This is wrong and weakens the argument

Bjorn Lomborg

The graph here shows that over the past eight years green groups in the US have moved from describing global warming as a future problem to one of *now*.

This makes psychological sense -- they try to increase the attention to a topic which has little traction in a world of austerity. Yet, it is mostly wrong, leads to bad policies and weakens the argument for global warming.

By focusing on the urgent *now*, they increase a sense of panic, but panic rarely leads to good policies. Moreover, the *now* is typically not justified. Most climate impacts will only be detectable many decades or even only in the second half of the century, and for very long they won't be the dominant driver of climate impacts. (See e.g. hurricanes, where even very concerned scientists tell us that increases "may not be detectable until the latter half of the century".  See  here)

As Andy Revkin (a nuanced New York Times environmental journalists) points out:

"According to the latest science, in most cases (outside of extreme heat waves) the connections between today’s extreme weather events and human-driven climate change range from weak (hurricanes) to nil (tornadoes) — and the dominant driver of losses in such events is fast-paced development or settlement in places with fundamental climatic or coastal vulnerability."

So “here and now” arguments take the policy fight on global warming into the terrain favored by those who recoil at environmental regulation or profit from fossil fuels — an arena where there’s lots of real scientific uncertainty. All they have to do is sprinkle just a little of that uncertainty dust and the public disengages. Job done."

SOURCE (Post of Aug. 25)

Warmists no longer bothered by fossil fuels (when it suits them)

Al Jazeera’s Climate Activist Fans Don’t Care About The Network’s Ties To Oil-Rich Qatar.  The new network, financed by a country with the world’s highest per capita carbon emissions, is making climate change a priority — and activists are thrilled. “I think it’s wonderful,” says Mann.

When climatologist Heidi Cullen got a call from Al Jazeera America more than a month ago about a debut segment on climate change already in the works, she figured the fledgling cable news network was out to make a point.

“I got the sense that, as a brand new network, they wanted to distinguish themselves,” said Cullen, who appeared alongside two other climate scientists on the first episode of Inside Story, Al Jazeera America’s 5 p.m. newscast. The 30-minute program, which focused entirely on climate change Tuesday, equaled nearly half of the coverage devoted to climate change in all of last year on the three network nightly news broadcasts, according to a review by the liberal site Media Matters.

“When they reached out, it was early August,” Cullen said. “So this was on the books for a long time. The fact that they decided to do it on the first day was just drawing a line in the sand.”

But the new network, which launched Tuesday with a staff of 900 and 12 bureaus across the United States, is privately funded by the royal family of oil-rich Qatar, posing a potential sticking point for climate activists lauding the network’s coverage, and for the man who made the cable launch possible: one of the country’s leading voices on global warming, Al Gore, who sold Current TV, and its airwaves, to the Al Jazeera Media Network eight months ago.

Although Qatar has set a plan to shift to renewable sources of energy in the next decade — it aims to generate 20% of its energy from renewables, particularly solar power, by the year 2024 — the country is still emits the world’s most carbon dioxide per capita, and petroleum accounts for 70% of government revenues, according to OPEC.

Climate activists, though, don’t see a problem: Reporting on, or even talking about, climate change over Al Jazeera airwaves, they say, is an improvement from what viewers see on the networks or the three leading cable news channels — no matter the source of funding.

“I think it’s wonderful,” said Michael Mann, a climatologist at Pennsylvania State University who was also a guest on the Inside Story climate panel. “What it says is that it shouldn’t be a matter of your politics or your monetary bottom line as to whether or not you believe in the science of climate change.”

“It shouldn’t matter whether or not you stand to profit from the continued sale of fossil fuels,” Mann said, when asked about issue of Qatari funding. “This is a network built on oil money from an oil-driven economy, but they don’t see the need to deny the reality of climate change.”

Mann noted that Alwaleed bin Talal, the owner of Kingdom Holding Company and a Saudi prince, is the second-largest shareholder of News Corp., the parent company of Fox News, which regularly features guests and analysts who question whether climate change is a man-made phenomenon.

“Sadly, they have taken a very different tack,” he said. “Other networks could take a lesson from [Al Jazeera America].”

Brad Johnson, campaign manager for Forecast the Facts, a climate accountability organization, acknowledged that Al Jazeera’s funding is “certainly an issue,” but argued that the United States “is also kind of a petro-state.”

“Qatar is an oil-rich state that’s trying to transition to a modern post-oil economy,” said Johnson, “and in theory we describe ourselves in those terms as well.”

When asked about the network’s funding in an interview on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, Gore said, “I understand the criticism, of course, but Al Jazeera has long since established itself as a really high-quality news gathering network,” he said. “And by the way, their climate coverage is far more extensive and high-quality compared to any other network in the U.S.”


An idyll blighted by 18,000 solar panels: Seen from the sky, the reality of alternative energy

Row after row, this astonishing array of solar panels has completely engulfed an enormous 30-acre field in the heart of the countryside.

As this aerial photograph reveals, acres of beautiful Hampshire countryside have been blighted as a result, by 18,000 solar panels.  The solar farm covers a staggering 30 acres of land creating a massive eyesore in the centre of an otherwise picturesque view.

The solar farm, Cadland Estate at Fawley in Hampshire, covers a staggering 30 acres of land creating a massive eyesore in the centre of an otherwise picturesque view

Photographer Tim Woodcock, 54, captured the image from a helicopter while flying more than 1,000ft above the solar array near Fawley.

The energy saving farm on the Cadland Estate uses photo-voltaic panels to produce five megawatts of power.  It creates enough natural energy to supply 1,000 homes each day.

Solar farms like this one have sprung up in recent years as farmers collect up to £50,000 a year in green subsidies - this site is made up of 18,000 solar PV panels, mounted on nine kilometres of frames using 5,000 ground screws

‘Many of these alternative energy sources are manufactured abroad, in China, for example.  ‘It is very easy to say that a system is ‘green’ when all the energy and environmental damage and cost is made elsewhere.’

He added: ‘Obviously there is a lot of interest in alternative forms of energy. But the question remains how many of these will actually provide a real alternative to fossil fuels - so far, very few.  ‘No one seems to have the courage to tell the truth about energy alternatives.’

The solar panel farm, which is the size of 18 football pitches, is one of the largest of its kind in Britain and took just four weeks to construct. It is made of 18,000 solar PV panels, mounted on nine kilometres of frames using 5,000 ground screws.

Locals claim it is less of a blot on the landscape than wind farms, because the panels are completely surrounded by trees and greenery.

Energy efficiency solutions company Anesco designed and manages the farm on the land rented from the Cadland Estate.

The Estate is also used for farming wheat, maize and livestock. It is best known for supplying potato to leading food manufacturers such as Walkers crisps.

Energy generated by the solar PV system is fed back into the national grid under the Government’s Feed in Tariff (FiT) scheme which makes payments for energy produced through renewable sources.

Dozens of large-scale solar farms like this have sprung up in recent years as farmers put up acres of them to rake in up to £50,000 a year in the green subsidies.

More than 100 new planning applications are currently in the system and work on a large-scale installation in Wiltshire began last month.

Another energy firm Kronos Solar has set out plans to build Britain’s largest solar farm, on agricultural land in Houghton, Hampshire.

Under the proposals, 225,456 panels would be laid out across an area the size of 100 football pitches. The scheme is intended to produce enough electricity for 31,500 people.

However, it will soon be far more difficult to set up a solar farm on greenfield land or areas of outstanding natural beauty it was revealed last month.

New planning guidance to be issued to local councils will state that ‘care should be taken to preserve heritage assets, including the impact of planning proposals on views important to their setting’.

This will not affect small scale solar installations which families can install on their roofs or farmhouses, or can be put up on industrial land.

Energy minister Greg Barker has insisted that although solar has a bright future in the UK it should not be in any place or at any price.  He said last month: ‘I want UK solar targeted on industrial roofs, homes and on brownfield sites not on our beautiful countryside.’

Campaigners near solar farms in rural beauty spots say they have become a sea of silicon slabs, which are allowed by councils to meet their renewable energy targets.

People who set up their own solar panels benefit from the feed-in tariff.  This has been slashed by around two-thirds over the past year after the Government set the level far too high.

However people who signed up in the early days in 2010-11 have their fee fixed for 25 years and continue to benefit.


New EPA Videos Suggest Only You Can Prevent Climate Change

 In an attempt to instill a "climate change" mentality in Americans, the Environmental Protection Agency has just released a new series of short public service videos explaining how we can all do something to reduce our carbon footprint.

Most of those videos begin with a narration saying: "Our climate is changing. The choices we make affect the amount of greenhouse gases we put into the atmosphere. Making a few changes around the (office/home/commute) can cut carbon emissions."

On the road, the EPA suggests biking, public transit, and carpooling as an alternative to driving. Go easy on the gas pedal, one of the videos suggests. Inflate your tires, remove unnecessary items from your vehicle to reduce its weight; get tuneups; and make fewer errand runs.

At the office, the EPA is telling Americans to shut off computers and electronics when they are not in use; turn off the lights; recycle; print on both sides of the paper; buy Energy Star copiers and appliances and products that use recycled materials.

At home, we should swap out light bulbs for energy-efficient alternatives; change air filters; lower the thermostat in winter and raise it in summer; recycle -- and "reduce your carbon impact to the environment."

The EPA says its latest video series "supports President Obama’s Climate Action Plan and highlights benefits of reducing energy consumption."


Smart meters: good idea or a lot of hot air?

If anyone needed convincing about the insecurity of Britain’s energy policy, then the news that some of our biggest wind farms were last week producing just enough power to boil a few hundred kettles should help.

It is the obvious flaw in the system: when the wind does not blow, the turbines either produce no electricity, or even become net consumers to keep themselves going. Supporters of the rush for renewables say that August is typically a month when winds are light – but no more so than June, July or September. They argue that most of the time, wind turbines produce clean energy – but the question for an advanced economy like ours is whether they produce anything like enough, especially in view of the subsidies they receive.

However, help is at hand. We are all going to be equipped with smart meters, so we will know how much energy we are using and can adjust accordingly. Advertisements to this effect from the big power suppliers are appearing everywhere. So, this must be a good idea, mustn’t it? Instead of trying to decipher the numbers on an ancient electricity or gas meter buried deep in the Stygian gloom of a broom cupboard, we will all have state-of-the-art digital display units telling us that someone has left the TV on, or that the daughter of the house is drying her hair upstairs.

The smart meter project will be one of the most extensive infrastructure programmes ever seen in the UK, with the aim (set by the EU) of installing them in 80 per cent of homes and small businesses – some 52 million buildings – by 2020. At one point, it was going to be compulsory to have one, but the Government thought this would be an intrusion too far. Still, with the suppliers pushing them like mad, most of us are going to get a smart meter whether we like it or not.

Earlier this month, the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) announced the preferred bidders for this monumental task, which will involve the removal of millions of existing meters and their replacement with electronic devices able to communicate remotely with suppliers who can take readings at regular intervals. In theory, this should mean no more estimated readings that leave you £300 in credit with your gas company, or alternatively facing a higher-than-expected bill.

I can see the advantages of metering. Yet I have a sneaking suspicion that it is going to cost me more, not less.

True, at the moment, trying to work out the best-value energy suppliers is almost impossible. Our home is supplied by Marks & Spencer, for goodness sake – the result of an encounter in one of their food stores between my wife and a salesman promising all sorts of goodies, including discount vouchers that we only received after chasing them up. Looking at our bill now, it is no cheaper than when we were with British Gas.

So a smart meter seems like a good idea: customers can automatically receive favourable tariffs that reward them for using energy during off-peak periods, though I can’t see many doing the laundry at 3am.

Yet this programme is going to cost some £12 billion – and the bill is to be passed on to the consumer. So if we really are to be up on the deal, we must be about to get some pretty good bargains as a result. Indeed, DECC estimates it will deliver overall benefits of £18.8 billion, giving a net gain of almost £7 billion.

Still, a number of energy experts aren’t convinced. Alex Henney, who worked in the electricity industry for many years, tells me that when a group of consultants carried out a cost-benefit analysis in 2007, they calculated a net cost of more than £4 billion. He also insists that the system being introduced here will be twice as expensive as in Italy and Spain.

“We have devised the most complex roll-out in the world, relying on suppliers to provide the meters rather than the network company,” says Henney. “This increases the cost of capital and requires an additional large database, which will lead to errors and confusion as we switch suppliers.” He adds that people could be given live information on their energy use via the internet or smartphone apps much more cheaply.

Henney told a Commons energy committee inquiry that “the project is likely to be a shambles which will have negligible consumer benefit”. The MPs, however, concluded that we should indeed gain overall, although they conceded there may be resistance. Some people, for instance, object to the idea of having what amounts to a spy in the home, believing it could be used to find out about other activities. This seems excessively paranoid – but after the data-mining scandals of recent months, who knows?

Ostensibly, smart meters’ main purpose is to make us use less energy and contribute towards a low-carbon future, along with wind turbines and other renewables. Perhaps they will – but at a cost. Germany recently decided not to follow the EU’s 80 per cent target for smart meters because it would be too costly for consumers. That is something to bear in mind when you next hear a minister promising to help people who find it hard to pay their fuel bills.

There is one thing to remember, however: when the energy supplier comes knocking on the door to install your new smart meter, you can always say no thanks, and stick with the dumb one under the stairs. Whether anyone will ever come and read it for you is another matter.




Preserving the graphics:  Most graphics on this site are hotlinked from elsewhere.  But hotlinked graphics sometimes have only a short life -- as little as a week in some cases.  After that they no longer come up.  From January 2011 on, therefore, I have posted a monthly copy of everything on this blog to a separate site where I can host text and graphics together -- which should make the graphics available even if they are no longer coming up on this site.  See  here or here


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