Monday, September 30, 2013

The IPCC's mountainous molehill

The article excerpted below was headed "Climatic Change: How Long Will Earth Remain?".  Except to Warmists, the obvious answer would be:  Another few billion years.  The notable  thing to a sceptic, however, is how the factual statements -- such as the one italicized below -- are perfectly true.  But science is tightly tied to quantification and if we look at the quantities involved, the statements become laughably true.  The quantities involved are so small that the only reasonable comment is "who cares?".  In some cases Warmists are talking about temperature variations in terms of hundredths of one degree Celsius. And talk of tenths is routine. It's as irrelevant to everyday life as medieval debates about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin

The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has raised anew the question: how long will Earth remain before we ruin it completely?

According to Thomas Stocker, a co-chair of the IPCC assessment and climate scientist at the University of Bern, Switzerland, climatic change “challenges the two primary resources of humans and ecosystems, land and water.”  He warned that, “In short, it threatens our planet, our only home.”

Qin Dahe, co-chair of those who produced the report from IPCC, said:

“Our assessment of the science finds that the atmosphere and ocean have warmed, the amount of snow and ice has diminished, the global mean sea level has risen and that concentrations of greenhouse gases have increased.”

In their report, the group made it clear that the urgency of tackling the issue of climatic change is still present, more than ever. Without concrete and urgent drastic plans on emission reductions or controversial technical climate fixes, global warming will most likely continue to increase and this will affect the lives of billions of people inhabiting this earth, and our planet too, they warned.


Climate change: this is not science – it’s mumbo jumbo

Nigel Lawson

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which published on Friday the first instalment of its latest report, is a deeply discredited organisation. Presenting itself as the voice of science on this important issue, it is a politically motivated pressure group that brings the good name of science into disrepute.

Its previous report, in 2007, was so grotesquely flawed that the leading scientific body in the United States, the InterAcademy Council, decided that an investigation was warranted. The IAC duly reported in 2010, and concluded that there were “significant shortcomings in each major step of [the] IPCC’s assessment process”, and that “significant improvements” were needed. It also chastised the IPCC for claiming to have “high confidence in some statements for which there is little evidence”.

Since then, little seems to have changed, and the latest report is flawed like its predecessor.

Perhaps this is not so surprising. A detailed examination of the 2007 report found that two thirds of its chapters included among its authors people with links to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and there were many others with links to other 'green’ activist groups, such as Greenpeace.

In passing, it is worth observing that what these so-called green groups, and far too many of the commentators who follow them, wrongly describe as 'pollution’ is, in fact, the ultimate in green: namely, carbon dioxide – a colourless and odourless gas, which promotes plant life and vegetation of all kinds; indeed, they could not survive without it. It is an established scientific fact that, over the past 20 years, the earth has become greener, largely thanks to increased atmospheric carbon dioxide.

Be that as it may, as long ago as 2009, the IPCC chairman, Dr Rajendra Pachauri – who is a railway engineer and economist by training, not a scientist, let alone a climate scientist – predicted that “when the IPCC’s fifth assessment comes out in 2013 or 2014, there will be a major revival of interest in action that has to be taken. People are going to say: 'My God, we are going to have to take action much faster than we had planned.’”

This was well before the scientific investigation on which the latest report is allegedly based had even begun. So much for the scientific method.

There is, however, one uncomfortable fact that the new report has been – very reluctantly – obliged to come to terms with. That is that global warming appears to have ceased: there has been no increase in officially recorded global mean temperature for the past 15 years. This is brushed aside as a temporary blip, and they suggest that the warming may still have happened, but instead of happening on the Earth’s surface it may have occurred for the time being in the (very cold) ocean depths – of which, incidentally, there is no serious empirical evidence.

A growing number of climate scientists are coming to the conclusion that at least part of the answer is that the so-called climate sensitivity of carbon – the amount of warming that might be expected from a given increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide (caused by the use of fossil fuels: coal, oil, and gas) – is significantly less than was previously assumed to be the case.

It is no doubt a grudging acceptance of this that has led the new report to suggest that the global warming we can expect by the end of this century is probably rather less than the IPCC had previously predicted: perhaps some 35F (1.5C)

What they have not done, however, is to accept that the computer models on which they base all their prognostications have been found to be misleading. These models all predicted an acceleration in the warming trend throughout the 21st century, as global carbon dioxide emissions rose apace. In fact, there has been a standstill.

The true scientific method is founded on empirical observation. When a theory – whether embedded in a computer program or not – produces predictions that are falsified by subsequent observation, then the theory, and the computer models which enshrine it, have to be rethought.

Not for the IPCC, however, which has sought to obscure this fundamental issue by claiming that, whereas in 2007 it was 90 per cent sure that most of the (very slight) global warming recorded since the Fifties was due to man-made carbon emissions, it is now 95 per cent sure.

This is not science: it is mumbo-jumbo. Neither the 90 per cent nor the 95 per cent have any objective scientific basis: they are simply numbers plucked from the air for the benefit of credulous politicians and journalists.

They have thrown dust in the eyes of the media in other ways, too. Among them is the shift from talking about global warming, as a result of the generally accepted greenhouse effect, to 'climate change’ or 'climate disruption’. Gullible journalists (who are particularly prevalent within the BBC) have been impressed, for example, by being told now that much of Europe, and in particular the UK, is likely to become not warmer but colder, as a result of increasing carbon dioxide emissions interfering with the Gulf Stream.

There is nothing new about this canard, which has been touted for the past 10 years or so. Indeed, I refer to it explicitly in my book on global warming, An Appeal to Reason, which first came out five years ago. In fact, there has been no disruption whatever of the Gulf Stream, nor is it at all likely that there could be. As the eminent oceanographer Prof Karl Wunsch has observed, the Gulf Stream is largely a wind-driven phenomenon, and thus “as long as the sun heats the Earth and the Earth spins, so that we have winds, there will be a Gulf Stream”.

So what is the truth of the matter, and what do we need to do about it?

The truth is that the amount of carbon dioxide in the world’s atmosphere is indeed steadily increasing, as a result of the burning of fossil fuels, particularly in the faster-growing countries of the developing world, notably China. And it is also a scientific fact that, other things being equal, this will make the world a warmer place.

But there are two major unresolved scientific issues: first, are other things equal?, and second, even if they are, how much warmer will our planet become? There is no scientific basis whatever for talking about 'catastrophic climate change’ – and it is generally agreed that if the global temperature standstill soon comes to an end and the world is, as the IPCC is now suggesting might well be the case, 1.5ºC warmer by the end of the century, that would be a thoroughly good thing: beneficial to global food production and global health alike.

So what we should do about it – if indeed, there is anything at all we need to do – is to adapt to any changes that may, in the far future, occur. That means using all the technological resources open to mankind – which will ineluctably be far greater by the end of this century than those we possess today – to reduce any harms that might arise from warming, while taking advantage of all the great benefits that warming will bring.

What we should emphatically not do is what Dr Pachauri, Lord Stern and that gang are calling for and decarbonise the global economy by phasing out fossil fuels.

Before the industrial revolution mankind relied for its energy on beasts of burden and wind power. The industrial revolution, and the enormous increase in prosperity it brought with it, was possible only because the West abandoned wind power and embraced fossil fuels. We are now – unbelievably – being told that we must abandon relatively cheap and highly reliable fossil fuels, and move back to wind power, which is both unreliable and hugely costly.

This is clearly an economic nonsense, which would condemn us to a wholly unnecessary fall in living standards.

But what moves me most is what this would mean for the developing world. For them, abandoning the cheapest available form of energy and thus seriously abandoning the path of economic growth and rising prosperity on which, at long last, most of the developing world is now embarked, would mean condemning hundreds of millions of their people to unnecessary poverty, destitution, preventable disease, and premature death.

All in the name of seeking to ensure that distant generations, in future centuries, might be (there is no certainty) slightly better off than would otherwise be the case.

Not to beat about the bush, it is morally outrageous. It is just as well that the world is unlikely to take the slightest notice of the new IPCC report.


British energy giants close in on green taxes delay

Britain's biggest energy companies are in late-stage negotiations with the Government to delay the implementation of a multi-billion pound green scheme to help take the pressure off the price of bills.

The Coalition is considering agreeing to the demands to reform the controversial home insulation scheme, the Energy Companies Obligation, in a deal that could avert steep price rises in the run-up to the next general election.

Centrica, owner of British Gas, and SSE are pushing for an 18-month reprieve to meet targets under the ECO scheme, arguing that more time to implement the costly programme would ease the financial burden on customers.

Ministers are under added pressure to try to halt bill increases in the wake of Labour leader Ed Miliband's pledge to cap prices. They are believed to be "receptive" to the companies' suggestions.

The option of an extension is expected to be included in a consultation document on the future of the ECO, likely to be published early next year.

On Saturday, George Osborne opened the door to reducing the impact of green policies on bills. He said that the Government had to keep a "very close eye on affordability" and that Britain should not be "in front of the rest of the world" in tackling climate change.

The ECO scheme, which began this year, requires major suppliers to cut targeted volumes of carbon emissions by installing energy-efficiency measures for poor customers and insulating homes.

Companies face fines of up to 10pc of turnover if they do not hit the targets by March 2015. Ministers say the ECO should cost £1.3bn per year or the equivalent of £50 on a household bill.

But the industry says it could cost as much as £3.1bn per year or £125 per household. Companies complain it is hard to identify the right customers and homes and that the scheme is being hampered by the slow take-up of the Green Deal, a parallel, voluntary insulation scheme.

A spokesman for SSE said: "The most important consideration, as always, is affordability for customers. With the potential for costs to escalate as the scheme goes on and with the Green Deal still in its early days, it makes sense to extend the first phase for 18 months in order to protect customers."

Companies suggest costs are likely to rise toward the end of the programme as the "low-hanging fruit" of people interested in the scheme runs out. "An ECO extension may be attractive as it moves the deadline beyond election day," one industry source said. Many in the energy industry think the costs should be paid through the tax system.

Critics say that SSE, Centrica and ScottishPower, which has also criticised the scheme, are the three major suppliers that are already facing multi-million pound fines for failing to meet their targets under previous schemes. Ministers have also remained publicly adamant that they have seen nothing to make them question their cost assumptions.

Fears are also growing that Mr Miliband's price cap pledge will make it harder for energy companies to sign contracts for gas imports. Counter-parties to any deals could be concerned that the price cap could hamper payments on any of the contracts


The British Left can’t freeze those energy bills they themselves sent through the roof

It is thanks to the Labour leader that we are paying dearly for the Climate Change Act - easily the most expensive law ever put through Parliament

Arriving in London on Tuesday to see blazoned across a newspaper front page Ed Miliband’s promise of a 20‑month freeze on energy bills, I clapped my hand to my head in disbelief. There is no one else in the country, I and many others must have thought, who has done more to drive Britain’s energy bills through the roof than Mr Miliband: the man who, in 2008, shortly after becoming our first secretary of state for energy and climate change, passed his Climate Change Act, easily the most expensive law ever put through Parliament, committing us to cut our “carbon emissions” by four fifths in 40 years.

In 2009 it was this column that revealed, thanks to the assiduous Peter Lilley MP, that Miliband’s own department had estimated that this Act would cost us all up to £18 billion every year until 2050. When, in 2010, he became Labour leader, I called him “the costliest politician in British history”. And the reason is that it is under this Act that successive governments have committed us not only to spending well over £100 billion on building tens of thousands of useless wind turbines, producing electricity at twice and three times the going rate, but also to introducing other measures, such as the “carbon tax”, which will also soon double the cost of the electricity from coal, gas and nuclear power stations that still supply more than 90 per cent of our needs. All this in the name of giving Britain a “low carbon economy”. Yet the man who sent us down this disastrous path now wants, by law, to stop electricity prices rising, just when our energy companies must spend billions of pounds to bring his mad dream to fruition.

One thing that marked out Miliband during his brief spell as energy and climate change secretary was that he was so naively obsessed with the “climate change” bit of his job description that he seemed completely to overlook the “energy” bit. Not once did he show any understanding of how electricity is made or how we are to keep our lights on. He could never have begun to explain in practical terms how we could hope to cut carbon emissions to their lowest level since the early 19th century without closing down virtually our entire economy – let alone how, in the short term, we can comply with his Climate Change Act without doubling and trebling Britain’s energy bills.

All Miliband demonstrated last week, as he made that mindless little bid for electoral popularity, which promptly knocked £3 billion off the energy companies’ shares, was that he is as little fitted to become prime minister as any other politician can have been in history.


British Tories May Lose Elections Over Rising Green Energy Costs

The cost of living is the key renewable of British politics. It will be the central battleground of the next election

Most of us remember when Lehman Brothers fell on September 15 2008. It was the moment when the hubris of the global banking system, of central banks and of governments was exposed. Five years on, we are still struggling with that inheritance.

We probably do not remember another date from that year, June 8. On that day, the House of Commons passed the Second Reading of the Climate Change Bill. We are still struggling with that inheritance, too. It is part of a comparable hubris.

Both were boom-time follies. In each case, powerful people in the Western world formed an arrogant consensus that they were right, and that there was therefore no need to pay attention to the queries of the sceptic or the needs of the citizen. Costs, prices, risk did not matter, because truth was on their side. Banking and environmentalism both became priesthoods, the first often subsidising the second, both persecuting heretics. The first collapsed five years ago. The second is crumbling only now.

The banking crisis and the Climate Change Act happened at the time of a Labour government, but they both make life extremely difficult for a Conservative-led government today. This week in Brighton, Ed Miliband, who served in that Labour administration (and was actually the energy and climate change secretary who completed the parliamentary progress of the Climate Change Act) nevertheless felt free to attack the Tories as the pal of rich bankers and prisoners of the energy companies. How could he, who was one of those who got everything wrong, dare to mount such an attack? Partly, no doubt, because he does not recognise his own role in the double catastrophe, but also because he knows how deeply implicated the Tories are.

On June 8 2008, only five Members of Parliament – Christopher Chope, Philip Davies, Peter Lilley, Andrew Tyrie and Ann Widdecombe (all Conservatives) – voted against the Climate Change Bill. They are worth naming, I think, because “the Five Members” who defied executive fiat in the 1640s have an honoured place in our history. The modern Five Members, four of whom are still MPs, should be honoured too. But all the other Tories – nearly 200 of them – voted for the Bill, led by an enthusiastically green David Cameron.

The key error of the Climate Change Act was not, of course, to worry about the pollution of the world and to seek to encourage sources of energy other than fossil fuels. Any sensible government would consider such things. It was to enforce alarmist timetables and to load the consequent cost on consumers. Mr Miliband is right that energy prices are shockingly high. One of the biggest reasons for this is that, thanks in good part to him, the price of renewables, instead of being a tax, is stuck on each bill. The wholesale price of the cheapest form of power (from coal-fired power stations) is a third of the “strike price” for offshore wind. The consumer pays the difference, by law.

What this means is that energy prices will go on rising for at least a generation. What that means is that the most unavoidable element in any household’s cost of living will make that household poorer each year for the foreseeable future. And what that means is that any incumbent government will find it extremely hard to get re-elected.

So, although Mr Miliband’s new promise that a Labour government would forcibly hold energy prices down is insane, it is – as insane ideas go – more immediately pleasing to the voter than the current, also insane, alternative, which is that government forcibly puts them up.

This weekend, then, Mr Cameron finds it hard to know how to respond. Obviously, he should not steal the mad Miliband policy. Obviously, he should spell out why it is mad. But he cannot easily do so, since he is complicit in the madness which has brought it about. They are all in it together. Even as he tries to work out his party conference speech for next Wednesday, his Government is pushing hard in the House of Lords for its own Energy Bill which, among other things, establishes a “merit order” for power-users. This insists on the use of renewables first, thus putting cheaper sources of power into compulsory second-place and discouraging new investment in them.

If Mr Cameron wants support for a change of policy, though, he can find it in yesterday’s report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). You would not know it from the way it has been covered – the BBC’s Today programme was of a green bias so comical that I wondered whether parodists had taken over the studio – but it has actually altered its dire expectations, and quietly made them rather un-dire. Climate-change theory is all “rock solid”, says the government chief scientist, Sir Mark Walport, but in fact the rock has been fracked, and is trembling a little.

The IPCC has now decided that what it calls the “transient climate response” to all the dreadful things that are supposedly going on will be a warming of 0.5 to 2 degrees centigrade from today’s level by about 2080, which is below its own calculation of probable net damage. So even when young Prince George is 70 years old, the end of the world won’t really be much nigher than it is now. Which, interpreted politically, is a way of saying that current governments can slow down. If Mr Cameron now announces that renewables targets will be suspended, or greatly postponed, “the science” (I put the phrase in inverted commas, because I don’t like its coercive tone) will not condemn him, although many of these moralising scientists will.

He probably won’t dare. He will probably go on about his policy of the customer being offered the lowest possible tariff, an arrangement which no one understands because the energy companies can always throw up enough chaff to confuse us. But what he could and should say is that shale gas is likely to be the greatest ever source of indigenous energy for Britain and invite Ed Miliband to join him in supporting the search for it.

Above all, he needs to see that the Miliband energy prices promise is part of a much wider Labour effort to “stand up for the consumer”. In a less-noticed part of his speech this week, Mr Miliband said that while he was growing up in the Eighties (ie under Margaret Thatcher), there was a strong sense that prosperity was available for everyone who sought it. Now “that vital link between the growing wealth of the country and your family finances” is, says the Labour leader, “broken”. He pointed out that in the 39 months in which Mr Cameron has held office, wages have risen more slowly than prices have in 38 of them. Again, this grim statistic is mainly Gordon Brown’s fault, but in the rough old game of politics it sounds convincingly like 38 reasons not to vote Conservative.

“The cost of living.” The phrase has an old-fashioned ring to it, an echo of the age of inflation. But hard times remind people of old-fashioned facts. The cost of living is the key renewable of British politics. It will be the central battleground of the next election, not least because inflation is creeping back. Being a market Conservative, Mr Cameron knows that governments cannot sensibly cut prices. They can sensibly cut taxes, and soon they really must. If capitalism is benefiting only the few and not the many, which is the point that Ed Miliband keeps making, almost any alternative starts to feel better. Socialism can come back from the dead


Australia's Greens 'marching to slow death'

On her way out of the party-room meeting that returned Christine Milne as Greens leader on Monday morning, Senator Sarah Hanson-Young walked past a table of journalists at Aussies Cafe at Parliament House.

To their bewilderment, Senator Hanson-Young matter-of-factly announced that her party had just returned a leader that would see the party "marching to a slow death".

After the election, at which the Greens bled a third of their vote, recriminations within the party have been swift. There is clear disquiet in the party's senior ranks about Senator Milne's leadership, but for the first time, it is out in the open. It was revealed last week six of the party's 18 most senior staffers, including Senator Milne's chief-of-staff Ben Oquist, had left.

One Greens senator told Fairfax Media: "I believe all this [leadership speculation] is because there are concerns about where [Senator Milne] takes us in the next three years. If we have the same result we had this election, we will be gone; we can't afford to do it again."

But who is driving the destabilisation in this post-Bob Brown era of the Greens?

Senator Hanson-Young, an outspoken and ambitious party room member, is often mentioned by her colleagues as one of the key destabilising forces. Four separate sources claim that she made a bid for the party's leadership team at Monday's party meeting, a charge she denies.

The story goes that Senator Hanson-Young tried to gauge support for her to run for deputy leader, a position now held by the member for Melbourne, Adam Bandt, who would then be propelled into the leadership. (Senator Hanson-Young would not comment on Saturday, other than to say "that's just not true").

But others suspect the rumours are being put about to deflect attention from 41-year-old Mr Bandt, coming as they do on the back of reports that he had tried to gauge numbers for a challenge last Monday. Mr Bandt issued a statement saying he and his leader were "a strong, united leadership team", and that he had never sought the position of leader. But his office would not respond to questions about whether others had urged him to run for leader.

This sort of publicly fought internecine warfare is nothing new to Labor but it is a shock to many in the Greens, who have never experienced the sort of leadership challenges normal to most political parties. There is a sense within the party that even to publicly discuss a possible challenge is impolite. Behind the scenes, the Greens have been a consistently unified presence in Federal Parliament.

But in the aftermath of the Greens' election performance, in which the party's lower house vote dropped from 11.76 per cent in 2010 to 8.6 per cent, some within the party's senior ranks are concerned about Senator Milne's leadership, particularly her attempts to put a positive spin on a poor result.

Mr Oquist, an experienced political operator who had spent years fighting for the Green side of politics, quit early last week citing "fundamental differences of opinion in strategy".

A former staffer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, says Senator Milne is "in denial" about the election result. "She said this week she wanted to move to a 'campaigning phase'. Well, here's a tip, love. We've just had a federal election. What the f--k have you been doing all year?"

Senator Milne told Fairfax she took "some" responsibility for the party's election result - and losing about a third of its vote - and vowed to listen to supporters who abandoned the party.

"Of course, as the leader of any political party you take some responsibility for the outcome of that election, and certainly I have to take a share of that responsibility in terms of the outcome for the election both good and bad," she said. This included returning at least 10 senators to Parliament after the election, with new Victorian senator Janet Rice elected. (WA senator Scott Ludlam's position is still in doubt.) But Senator Milne dismissed reports there had been a foiled attempt by party insiders to install Mr Bandt as leader, saying there was no threat to her leadership. "It's wrong."

NSW senator Lee Rhiannon leapt to Senator Milne's defence, saying: "I figure if someone is going to mount a challenge, they're going to lobby for numbers. I wasn't lobbied. I just do not believe there was a challenge."

While she acknowledged the Greens had "a challenging election and a challenging election result", Senator Rhiannon said the party room shared responsibility for the low vote. "I think what we need to be looking at is how we project our message to voters."

The party's campaign committee will review the election result and report to the Greens' national conference in November.




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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