Tuesday, September 24, 2013
Met Office global warming figures 'are fatally flawed and could result in millions being squandered'
The Met Office’s global warming predictions are flawed and could result in millions of pounds being squandered, it is claimed.
A report for a think tank led by former Tory chancellor Lord Lawson says a computer programme behind figures that shape climate change policy is biased in favour of higher temperatures.
Large sums of public and private sector money could be ‘malinvested’ in everything from wind farms to heat-proof road surfaces as a result, it claims.
Lord Lawson, chairman of the Global Warming Policy Foundation, said: ‘The Government’s policy of abandoning cheap conventional energy and moving to expensive (and unreliable) renewable energy has always been of dubious merit.
'The fact that it now emerges this policy has been based on projections by a computer model which has been found to be fatally flawed means that an independent expert review of the model and its projections is both essential and urgent.’
The claim, hotly disputed by the Met Office, comes as scientists and officials meet in Stockholm to finalise a major report by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Experts claim the think tank timed its report to undermine the IPCC, which is expected to say the case for man-made global warming is stronger than ever.
The report attacks HadCM3, a programme used to predict the effect of carbon dioxide levels.
It says there is a glitch in the way it factors in the impact of low-lying cloud, with estimates of small temperature rises adjusted upwards. Report author Andrew Montford said: ‘The UK’s official climate predictions are therefore unreliable and excessively alarmist.
‘The problem is highly technical but its implications are that the model, as currently used, will always provide high estimates of future warming.’
However, the Met Office said it is confident in HadCM3. It said it uses data from many models, and the figures are independently reviewed.
Bob Ward, a climate change expert at the London School of Economics, said: ‘This is a political stunt by Lord Lawson’s Global Warming Policy Foundation to try to distract attention from the IPCC report. ‘The Met Office climate model is based on the best available scientific evidence and expert judgment.’
Drafts of the IPCC report – the first in six years – say it is at least 95 per cent certain human activity is the main cause of temperature rises since the 1950s. That is up from 90 per cent in 2007, and 66 per cent in 2001.
The assessment will be used by governments worldwide to set policy.
Ukip conference: anti-fracking 'eco-freaks' will kill Britain's great economic opportunity
UKIP is Britain's third largest and most conservative political party
Ukip's energy spokesman Roger Helmer has accused anti-fracking campaigners of being "eco-freaks" and of trying to kill off "the greatest new economic opportunity for our country in our lifetimes".
Tax revenues from shale gas exploration should be invested in a sovereign wealth fund to ensure long-term benefits for the UK, the UK Independence Party will propose.
Mr Helmer will use his party conference speech to tell local residents campaigning against the controversial extraction technique that they are being conned by "black propaganda" about non-existent dangers.
And he will warn against a repeat of the Treasury "blowing" the proceeds of North Sea oil and call for lessons to be learned from Norway's investment of theirs.
In a staunch defence of shale gas, Mr Helmer will say that it is "at least as great an opportunity for Britain" as the offshore oil boom of the 1970s and 1980s.
"We in Britain took the proceeds to North Sea oil, and used them for current expenditure," he will tell activists at the eurosceptic party's annual gathering in central London.
"They're smart people, those Norwegians. Remember they're the ones who decided not to join the EU - and I wish we'd made the same decision.
"They also decided not to blow all that North Sea wealth straight away. They chose to remain a sovereign nation - and to create a sovereign wealth fund.
"Currently that is worth around 750 billion dollars (£466bn), which is something like 150 per cent of Norway's GDP. That's a dramatic economic benefit for Norway today, and in decades to come."
Doing the same in the UK for shale gas "will ensure that the benefits of this economic windfall will serve the interests of all the people of this country, not only today but for generations to come".
"This is probably the greatest new economic opportunity for our country in our lifetimes. We owe it to ourselves, and to future generations, to make the most of it."
Mr Helmer will say that he has "great respect" for local people in Balcombe who campaigned vocally against a proposed test drilling site in the West Sussex village.
But he will insist there is no truth behind media "scare stories" promoted by green groups and Russian and Middle East oil and gas exporters about potential environmental effects.
Claims of serious earthquakes, water shortages and pollution by harmful chemicals had all been debunked, he will say, citing an essay by ex-Northern Rock boss and science author Viscount Ridley.
"I have absolutely no sympathy for the rent-a-mob protesters, the Swampies and the Occupy Movement and the anti-capitalists and eco-freaks who have sought to hijack the Balcombe protest," he will add.
"I have no time for Vivienne Westwood and Bianca Jagger and (Green Party MP) Caroline Lucas, who subvert residents' proper concerns for their own political ends."
In a comment that will add fuel to claims of sexism among senior Ukip figures, he will add that he has "no time even for the beautiful Ewa Jasiewicz" of the No Dash for Gas campaign.
His speech will include a number of jibes aimed at Ms Lucas - who was arrested while protesting at Balcombe - as Ukip seeks to cement its position as the dominant minor party player.
"I sometimes think that Caroline Lucas won't be happy until every household in the UK has to subsist on an acre and a cow. But then again, the Greens don't like cows, because they burp methane," he will joke.
The Government is strongly supporting shale gas exploration in the hope that it will create jobs, secure domestic supplies and bring down energy bills.
But Energy Secretary Ed Davey wants tax revenues to pay for moves to promote clean energy - part of what Mr Helmer will dismiss as an "obsessive reliance on renewables" driving up domestic bills.
While Ukip "don't agonise over lower CO2 emissions", shale gas "is actually achieving large-scale emissions reductions" in the US, he will suggest.
He will dismiss concerns within the party over its stance in favour of fracking and against wind farms - insisting turbines are "a non-solution to a non-problem".
"They produce an intermittent trickle of very expensive electricity. They are a sheer waste of money, pure gesture politics. Gas, on the other hand, is a vital part of our energy mix."
And he will mock the RSPB for supporting wind energy that kills birds "on an industrial scale" while appearing "wholly unaware" a fracking site is operating near one of its reserves without a problem.
Mr Helmer will concede that shale gas may not result in lower bills but the British people would still benefit as a whole from tax revenues and reduced spending on imported energy.
Wider economic benefits would include jobs and investment in the gas industry, enhanced competitiveness for British industry and jobs relocated back to the UK from abroad.
"We in Ukip have a vision for energy in our country. We want to keep the lights on. We want energy to be affordable, and in an uncertain world we want energy supplies to be secure. We want fuel poverty to be a thing of the past.
"We want British industry to be competitive, bringing employment and investment and growth and prosperity. We want economic regeneration. We want our children and our grandchildren to have jobs.
"Gas is essential if we're going to deliver that vision. We need to back it."
Greenie nonsense impoverishing Germans
It is an audacious undertaking with wide and deep support in Germany: shut down the nation’s nuclear power plants, wean the country from coal and promote a wholesale shift to renewable energy sources.
But the plan, backed by Chancellor Angela Merkel and opposition parties alike, is running into problems in execution that are forcing Germans to come face to face with the costs and complexities of sticking to their principles.
German families are being hit by rapidly increasing electricity rates, to the point where growing numbers of them can no longer afford to pay the bill. Businesses are more and more worried that their energy costs will put them at a disadvantage to competitors in nations with lower energy costs, and some energy-intensive industries have begun to shun the country because they fear steeper costs ahead.
Newly constructed offshore wind farms churn unconnected to an energy grid still in need of expansion. And despite all the costs, carbon emissions actually rose last year as reserve coal-burning plants were fired up to close gaps in energy supplies.
A new phrase, “energy poverty,” has entered the lexicon.
“Often, I don’t go into my living room in order to save electricity,” said Olaf Taeuber, 55, who manages a fleet of vehicles for a social services provider in Berlin. “You feel the pain in your pocketbook.”
Mr. Taeuber relies on just a single five-watt bulb that gives off what he calls a “cozy” glow to light his kitchen when he comes home at night. If in real need, he switches on a neon tube, which uses all of 25 watts.
Even so, with his bill growing rapidly, he found himself seeking help last week to fend off a threat from Berlin’s main power company to cut off his electricity. He is one of a growing number of Germans confronting the realities of trying to carry out Ms. Merkel’s most ambitious domestic project and one of the most sweeping energy transformation efforts undertaken by an industrialized country.
Because the program has the support of German political parties across the spectrum, there has been no highly visible backlash during the current election campaign. But continuing to put the program in place and maintaining public support for it will be among Ms. Merkel’s biggest challenges should she win a third term as chancellor in Sunday’s election.
Ms. Merkel, of the traditionally conservative and pro-business Christian Democrats, came up with her plan in 2011, in the emotional aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan. It envisions shutting down all of Germany’s nuclear plants by 2022 and shifting almost entirely to wind and solar power by 2050.
The chancellor’s about-face not only seized the energy initiative from her center-left opponents, it also amounted to a gamble that could prove to be her most lasting domestic legacy — or a debacle whose consequences will be felt for generations.
The cost of the plan is expected to be about $735 billion, according to government estimates, and may eventually surpass even that of the euro zone bailouts that have received far more attention during Ms. Merkel’s tenure. Yet as the transition’s unknowns have grown, so have costs for the state, major companies and consumers.
Mr. Taeuber showed up last Friday, one of three “walk-ins” that day at one of two agencies in Berlin offering aid to people struggling to pay their energy bills. He arrived just as employees from the power company Vattenfall were on the way to his apartment.
Sven Gärtner, an agency employee, called Vattenfall with the promise of a payment plan, sparing Mr. Taeuber from being disconnected. “The boys were already in the basement, but they agreed to pull them back,” Mr. Gärtner said triumphantly.
Since January, Mr. Gärtner said, his group has intervened in more than 350 cases to prevent Vattenfall from leaving one family or another in the dark. In the first six months of this year, about 1,800 sought help, 200 more than in all of 2012
British school closed after pupils bitten by mites in eco-roof
A school was forced to close due to an infestation of harvest mites in the classroom block's recently installed £6m grass eco-roof.
Pupils were sent home last Friday after the mites began biting them after crawling through rood vents at Walney School, Cumbria.
Fumigation teams were called to deal with the pests, which the secondary school described as "still an ongoing problem".
Dennis Laird, chair of governors at Walney School, told the North West Evening Mail: “As a result of an insect infestation, the school’s management team took the decision to close the school today at lunchtime.
“We are now working closely with the county council to resolve this issue and it is anticipated that the school will re-open on Monday as normal.
“Clearly it is not acceptable and pupils and parents will rightly expect the problem to be solved quickly.”
Walney School said the pest control company fumigated the venting systems throughout the weekend and used smoke bombs to keep the mites at bay. Acting headteacher Helen Collis admitted the problem lies "with the type of roof that has been installed", and said a council representative would be meeting with the Department for Environment to resolve the issue.
The grass eco-roof has been in place for around 12 months.
A Cumbria County Council public health spokesperson said: "Although a bite can be itchy and uncomfortable, harvest mites in the UK do not carry any diseases that present a risk to humans.
“The best way to get rid of mites on the body is a hot bath or shower, and to make sure clothes are washed at a normal temperature."
British Energy minister rejects demands for higher offshore wind farm subsidies
Energy minister Greg Barker has rejected industry pleas for higher subsidies for offshore wind farms - despite warnings from the government’s official adviser that financial support is being cut too severely.
Greg Barker, the energy minister, told the Telegraph he was confident that proposed subsidy levels - which would be see support cut by 13pc over the next five years - were high enough.
“Investors will always want more,” he said. “We believe that what we have set will be sufficient to drive the necessary scale of investment and strikes the right balance between the interests of the consumer and the necessary return for investors to ensure we deliver the capacity.”
Earlier this month the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), the government’s official adviser, wrote to energy secretary Ed Davey to warn that “required investment is at risk under current proposals”.
Offshore wind farms are expensive to build and are reliant on subsidies, which are paid for by levies charged to consumer energy bills.
Despite political infighting over onshore wind farms, ministers have insisted they want to see many more offshore wind farms built. However, they say the costs of the projects must fall dramatically this decade to ease the burden on consumers, and are consulting on proposed reductions in subsidies.
Under the plans, wind farms that start running in 2014-15 would be offered £155 for every megawatt-hour (MWh) of electricity generated over a 15-year contract - about three times the market price.
This would fall to £135/MWh for projects starting up in 2018-19, which the CCC said was a steeper cut “than the evidence suggests is achievable”. It recommended a lesser reduction to a price nearer £145/MWh.
David Kennedy, chief executive of the CCC, said: “I have spoken to every major investor and they are all concerned.”
But Mr Barker dismissed Mr Kennedy’s claim, insisting: “That’s not my experience at all.” He said: “We are not in the business of overpaying.”
The CCC also warned that investors were spooked by government documents appearing to show ministers had significantly scaled back their ambitions for how much offshore wind was wanted in the long-term.
Ministers have previously suggested Britain could have between 11GW and 18GW of offshore wind capacity installed by 2020, up from 3.3GW now. Yet scenarios published recently by the government appear to suggest it now envisages only between 8GW and 10GW by 2020.
The CCC said wind farm developers were nervous about making the investments in research and the supply chain necessary to reduce costs. “Without a commitment to ongoing investment in the 2020s, incentives for supply chain investment and project development are weak, and commercialisation of offshore wind is at risk,” it said.
But Mr Barker also dismissed this argument, insisting: “We have greater visibility in terms of our renewables order-book and policy than any other country in Europe. Of course companies would like absolute certainty rolling into the never-ending future, but to be able to give that through to 2020 is unprecedented anywhere else in Europe.”
Mr Barker will today co-host a clean energy finance roundtable in New York, with Dr Sultan Al Jaber, chief executive of Masdar, Abu Dhabi’s renewable energy investment company.
Masdar, which has a stake in the London Array, Britain’s largest offshore wind farm, has signed a memorandum of understanding to invest up to £1bn in more UK power plants.
Woodland birds at greater risk from cold springs
"Increasingly cold and wet springs". Who knew Britain had those?
Increasingly cold and wet springs may be taking a greater toll on Britain's woodland birds than those living in towns and cities, according to an environmental survey.
Researchers from Anglia Ruskin University studied the breeding patterns of blue tits and great tits at three locations in Cambridgeshire over a ten-year period to 2012.
They found that those living in urban areas were better able to cope during spells of exceptionally cold and wet weather because they were less dependant on a single food source to feed their chicks.
Birds nesting at all three sites suffered during the harsh spring of 2012, which was particularly cold and the wettest year on record, raising fewer chicks than usual with a lighter body weight than average.
But those studied at the Brampton Wood nature reserve, a woodland site, were worse affected than those at the Cambridge University Botanical Gardens in Cambridge city centre and Cow Lane nature reserve, a riverside area of willows and reed beds.
Blue tits and great tits usually lay one egg per day until their clutch is complete and then start to incubate them, but the birds at Brampton Wood delayed their incubation in the cold weather, meaning their chicks hatched later.
Dr Nancy Harrison, one of the researchers, said the weather had made caterpillars more scarce but birds in urban areas were able to compensate by finding other sources of food.
Over the whole of the ten-year study woodland birds produced larger and healthier broods, but this may not always be the case, she added.
"If these extreme weather events become more commonplace due to the effects of climate change, then birds living in urban environments may have the advantage," she said.
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Posted by JR at 5:29 PM