Monday, October 20, 2014

Eclipse of the solar farms: British Environment Secretary tells farmers 'no more handouts for ugly fields of glass...grow veg!'

Taxpayers’ handouts to massive ‘ugly’ solar farms which scar the countryside are to be axed by Environment Secretary Liz Truss. She will tell farmers tomorrow to stop pocketing public funds by carpeting large parts of the landscape with the black panels – and go back to growing fruit, vegetables and crops instead.

The move, to take effect from January, is the latest part of David Cameron’s attempt to move away from green politics.

Ms Truss said: ‘I want Britain to lead the world in food and farming and to do that we need enough productive agricultural land. ‘I’m very concerned that a lot of our land is being taken up with solar farms. We’ve already got 250 of them and we’ve got 10,000 football pitches worth of new solar farms in the pipeline.

‘They are ugly, a blight on the countryside, and villages are pushing production of meat and other traditional British produce overseas.  ‘Food and farming is our number one manufacturing industry, the whole food chain represents £100 billion in our economy, and it is a real problem if we are using productive agricultural land for solar farms.

‘I’m not against them per se – they’re fine on commercial roofs and school roofs – but it’s a big problem if we are using land that can be used to grow crops, fruit and vegetables. We import two-thirds of our apples, and using more land for solar panels makes it harder to improve that.’

The boom in solar farms in recent years has been fuelled by big grants from Whitehall and Brussels that have seen landowners pocket up to £50,000 a year. It has led to claims that they are becoming ‘the new onshore wind’ after growing criticism of giant wind turbines.

Ms Truss’s initiative comes amid claims by Tory officials that the party is to dump the colour green from its official leaflets. A green doodled oak tree logo replaced the Conservatives’ traditional torch in 2006, a year after Cameron became leader, in an attempt to give them an eco-friendly image.

However, the Prime Minister’s enthusiasm for ‘green power’ has dimmed with growing scepticism about the speed of climate change and a growing backlash against the appearance and energy efficiency of wind turbines and solar farms.

Mr Cameron, who once vowed to lead the ‘greenest government ever’, publicly promised to ‘roll back’ green taxes, which add more than £100 a year to average fuel bills.  And, to the horror of environmental campaigners, his message in private is said to have been more blunt. He reportedly told a colleague: ‘We’ve got to get rid of all this green c**p.’

The Tory mantra of the early days of Cameron’s leadership – ‘Vote blue, go green’ – has rarely been uttered by Ministers in recent months.

The solar power industry costs the taxpayer an estimated £600 million a year. Some of the subsidies are funded by channelling money from household fuel bills, prompting claims that ordinary families are bankrolling wealthy landowners.

Ms Truss is to end grants of £2 million a year available via her department from the European Union’s Common Agriculture Policy. The grants are worth up to £100 an acre.

Ministers at the Department of Energy and Climate Change announced earlier this year that solar- farm grants from their budget will also be slashed. There has been huge growth in large solar projects since 2012. Two years ago there were just 46, but the total has soared to about 200 this year, with another 200 awaiting planning permission.

The Tories have already promised not to subsidise any new onshore wind farms if they win next year’s Election with an outright majority.


Plastic Bag Ban Hurts California's Economy

Research demonstrates enormous direct and indirect costs to consumers

California just became the first state to ban plastic shopping bags at grocery stores, convenience stores and many other businesses when Gov. Jerry Brown signed the law this week. More than 100 cities and counties in the state had already passed their own bag bans.

Even if you don’t use the common, convenient, lightweight plastic grocery bag, you should be concerned about the state ban.

Proponents of the ban claim it will benefit the environment. But a comprehensive analysis recently undertaken by Reason Foundation, which looked at the impact of plastic bag bans on the environment, found these claims don’t stand up to scrutiny. Indeed, the ban is likely to do more harm than good both to the environment and to people’s pocketbooks.

Lightweight plastic bags constitute less than 1 percent of all visible litter, represent only 0.4 percent of all municipal solid waste and are not a major cause of blocked storm drains. Banning them has practically no impact on the amount of litter generated, the amount Californians pay for waste disposal, or the risk of flooding. In fact, when plastic bags were banned in San Francisco, the county’s own studies showed that litter actually increased.

Lightweight plastic bags have not caused a giant “garbage patch” in the North Pacific, nor are they a significant threat to marine animals or birds. Rather, the real culprit of untimely marine animal death is cast-off fishing gear. A bag ban might catch a school of red herrings but it won’t save any real marine life.

For our study, we calculated that an average consumer using only lightweight plastic bags would be responsible for consuming less energy and water and generate fewer greenhouse gas emissions than someone using alternative bags. The main proposed alternative is five times heavier than the current bag and is responsible for the consumption of far more resources, energy and water. Paper bags also consume more resources, including five times more water over their lifecycle than lightweight plastic bags.

Further, the Department of Public Health has warned, “During the warmer months, the increased temperatures can promote the growth of bacteria that may be present on [reusable] bags.”

They encourage users to wash their reusable bags “frequently.” This of course consumes water – and if the advice were followed rigorously, “reusable” bags would consume as much as 40 times more water than lightweight plastic bags.

Some dismiss this advice, bragging that they never wash their bags. In those cases, they are putting themselves and other consumers at risk as bacteria spreads easily in shopping carts and at checkout counters.

Additionally, our research demonstrated enormous direct and indirect costs on California’s consumers. If California’s 12.4 million households spend five minutes each week cleaning their shopping bags to get rid of germs and bacteria, the annual opportunity cost would be more than $1.5 billion.

The bag ban is likely to disproportionately burden the working poor and those households on a tight budget. A dollar spent on 10 paper bags is a dollar not available for other purchases. And while it’s easy to place all the blame on the Legislature, grocery chains sponsored the plastic bag bill and may reap hundreds of millions of dollars charging the consumer more for a paper bag than it cost them to procure them wholesale.

Opponents of the bag ban say they’ll try to gather enough signatures to give voters the chance to repeal the plastic bag law.

In the meantime, it’s clear leaders in Sacramento passed another feel-good measure that hurts working people and the state economy.


Hey, Defense Department: Focus on ISIS, not Climate Change

As world leaders remain locked in on the threat of ISIS, the U.S. Department of Defense laid out its plan to fight a different battle: ice caps.

In a new report, DOD argues that climate change poses “immediate risks to U.S. national security” because of warmer temperatures, rising sea levels, changing precipitation patterns and more frequent and intense storms. There are just two small problems with such an assertion. One, none of these climate challenges are actually occurring in amounts that would present an immediate risk. Two, the administration’s economy-crushing carbon regulations that would choke off affordable energy sources wouldn’t make a difference even if climate change did pose a threat.

Let’s go through them one by one. Accelerated warming? Not so much. October 2014 marks the 18th year that there’s been no trend in global warming during a time when global carbon emissions have increased and climate models predicted accelerated rates of warming. No immediate risk there.

Rising sea levels? That’s happening, but it comes nowhere near posing an immediate risk and in fact, has slowed in recent years. A recent paper published in Nature Climate Change found that “since the early 1990s, sea level rose at a mean rate of 3.1 millimeters per year. Over the last decade, this rate slowed by about 30 percent.

Indeed, the 3.1-millimeter-per-year increase is actually on par with the past century’s level of rising sea levels and it has since slowed down. Furthermore, climatologist Judith Curry says “It is clear that natural variability has dominated sea level rise during the 20th century, with changes in ocean heat content and changes in precipitation patterns.”

DOD warns us that “in places like the Hampton Roads region in Virginia, which houses the largest concentration of U.S. military sites in the world, we see recurrent flooding today, and we are beginning work to address a projected sea-level rise of 1.5 feet over the next 20 to 50 years.”

That’s 457.2 millimeters of sea level rise over the next 20 to 50 years. That’s an increase of either 22.86 millimeters per year for 20 years or 9.1 millimeters per year for 50. Neither projection is anywhere close to climate reality, which tends to be the theme of the DOD report.

How about more frequent and intense storms? DOD argues that with more hurricanes, floods and droughts, the Department of Defense will have to spend money and deploy resources differently. More frequent and intense storms could cause problems such as “increased dust generation during training activities” or “increased inundation, erosion and flooding damage. And there could be threats to food and water supplies and the need for more resources for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.

That may sound reasonable if any trends actually existed for increased natural disasters. But even the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, which the Obama administration hails as the magnum opus, concludes these threats do not exist or are not immediate.

IPCC says, “Current data sets indicate no significant observed trends in global tropical cyclone frequency over the past century, and it remains uncertain whether any reported long-term increases in tropical cyclone frequency are robust, after accounting for past changes in observing capabilities.”

Droughts aren’t a problem, either, according to the IPCC: “In summary, the current assessment concludes that there is not enough evidence at present to suggest more than low confidence in a global-scale observed trend in drought or dryness (lack of rainfall) since the middle of the 20th century.” IPCC drew similar conclusions on floods: “In summary, there continues to be a lack of evidence and thus low confidence regarding the sign of trend in the magnitude and/or frequency of floods on a global scale.”

The climate is changing, and the extent to how much manmade emissions are contributing is highly debated. But what is clear is that climate change is not imposing the immediate risk that the DOD purports. Even more troubling, the regulations restricting America’s energy use to combat climate change will do nothing but reduce economic growth and resources available for either humanitarian efforts or to grow international economies.

Moreover, the DOD using resources to address non-problems reduces the department’s ability to address real national security threats such as ISIS or ebola. Additionally, the gradual occurrence of climate change will provide DOD plenty of time to adjust any changing conditions and humanitarian efforts.

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel remarked that “Climate extremes in Australia are worrying leaders there.” Well, they apparently aren’t too worried because the Australian government, recognizing the economic hardship its carbon tax imposed on its families and businesses, decided to repeal it.

Military preparedness for changing climates and different circumstances that our armed forces must face is one thing. But to pose climate change as an immediate risk when evidence suggests otherwise is nothing short of fear-mongering, woeful ignorance and politicization.


Despite Administration’s Efforts, Voters Give Climate Change Low Priority in New Poll

 Despite the administration’s high-priority focus on climate change, the issue is at the bottom of a list of 13 concerns that are most pressing for registered U.S. voters in next month’s midterm election, according to a new Gallup poll.
Only 40 percent of respondents identified climate change as either “very important” or “extremely important” to their votes.

By contrast the list was topped by the economy (88 percent), followed by the availability of good jobs (86 percent), the way the federal government is working (81 percent), and Islamic militants in Iraq and Syria (78 percent).

Registered voters next viewed as very or extremely important to their vote the issues of equal pay for women (75 percent), the federal budget deficit (73 percent), foreign affairs (69 percent) and taxes (69 percent).

Further down in order of importance were immigration (65 percent), Obamacare (64 percent), income and wealth distribution in the U.S. (64 percent), abortion and access to contraception (50 percent) – and then climate change (40 percent).

Spearheaded by longtime global warming campaigner Secretary of State John Kerry, the administration has given significant attention to climate change, an issue Kerry said recently may be “the most serious challenge we face on the planet.”
President Obama unveiled his Climate Action Plan in June 2013, introducing limits on carbon emissions from new and existing power plants and measures to raise energy efficiency standards.

Kerry says he unfailingly brings up the topic with foreign counterparts in meetings at home and around the world, and on the sidelines of high-level U.N. meetings in New York last month he hosted the first ever meeting on the subject at a foreign minister-level.

High on the administration’s agenda is a U.N. megaconference planned in Paris, France late next year, where leaders are meant to adopt a new global agreement on cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

The Gallup poll suggests that the administration faces an uphill battle in getting Americans to ascribe the level of urgency to the issue that it does.

The poll also examined which party stands to benefit from the respective levels of importance voters give to the 13 issues, asking respondents whether they think Republicans or Democrats in Congress would do a better job of dealing with each.

On five of the six issues viewed as most important, Gallup found that Republicans hold leads over Democrats ranging in size from significant to small – the federal budget deficit (a 20-point GOP advantage), Islamic militants in Iraq and Syria (19 points), the economy (11 points), how the federal government is working (8 points), and the availability of good jobs (1 point).

Further down the list of issues of importance, Republicans held the advantage over Democrats in foreign affairs (13 points), taxes (10 points) and immigration (5 points).

The area of greatest strength for Democrats in Congress, the pollsters found, was that of equal pay for women (a 38-point advantage). Democrats also scored well on the two issues which respondents indicated were least important to their vote in November – abortion and access to contraception (13 points), and climate change (20 points).

On the remaining two issues, income and wealth distribution and Obamacare, Democrats held advantages of 2 and 10 points respectively.


2 German Scientists Calling For Climate Modelling Moratorium: So Far Only “Failures, Flops And Fumbles”!

Two German scientists describe the history of what many western governments have been basing their energy and environmental policies on. It’s not pretty. What follows is *an excellent review* of climate modeling so far

What’s great about science is that one can think up really neat models and see creativity come alive. And because there are many scientists, and not only just one, there are lots of alternative models. And things only get bad when the day of reckoning arrives, i.e. when the work gets graded. This is when the prognoses are compared to the real, observed measurements. So who was on the right path, and who needs go back to the drawing board?

When models turn out to be completely off, then they are said to have been falsified and thus are considered to have no value. The validation of models is one of the fundamental principles of science, Richard Feynman once said in a legendary lecture

Failed hypotheses have been seen very often in science. A nice collection of the largest scientific flops is presented at WUWT. Unfortunately the climate sciences also belong to this category. Roy Spencer once compared an entire assortment of 73 climate models to the real observed temperature development, and they all ended up overshooting the target by far:

And already yet another model failure has appeared: In August 2009 Judith Lean and David Rind made a daring mid-term climate prognosis in the Geophysical Research Letters. They predicted a warming of 0.15° for the five-year period of 2009 to 2014. In truth it did not warm at all during the period. A bitter setback.

Over the last years it has started to dawn on scientists that perhaps something was missing in their models. The false prognoses stand out like a sore thumb. Not a single one of the once highly praised models saw the current 16-year stop in warming as possible.

In September 2011 in an article in the Journal of Geophysical Research Crook & Forster admitted that the superficial reproduction of the real temperature development in a climate model hardly meant the mechanisms were completely understood. The freely adjustable parameters are just too multifaceted, and as a rule they are selected in a way to fabricate agreement. And just because there is an agreement, it does not mean predictive power can be automatically derived. What follows is an excerpt from the abstract by Crook & Foster (2011):

"In this paper, we breakdown the temperature response of coupled ocean-atmosphere climate models into components due to radiative forcing, climate feedback, and heat storage and transport to understand how well climate models reproduce the observed 20th century temperature record. Despite large differences between models’ feedback strength, they generally reproduce the temperature response well but for different reasons in each model.”

In a member journal of the American Geophysical Union (AGU), Eos, Colin Schultz took a look at the article and did not mince any words:

"Climate model’s historical accuracy no guarantee of future success

To validate and rank the abilities of complex general circulation models (GCMs), emphasis has been placed on ensuring that they accurately reproduce the global climate of the past century. But because multiple paths can be taken to produce a given result, a model may get the right result but for the wrong reasons.”

Sobriety in the meantime has also spread over to IPCC-friendly blogs. On April 15, 2013, in a guest post at Real Climate Geert Jan van Oldenborgh, Francisco Doblas-Reyes, Sybren Drijfhout and Ed Hawkins made it clear that the models used in the 5th IPCC report were completely inadequate for regional climate prognoses:

"To conclude, climate models can and have been verified against observations in a property that is most important for many users: the regional trends. This verification shows that many large-scale features of climate change are being simulated correctly, but smaller-scale observed trends are in the tails of the ensemble more often than predicted by chance fluctuations. The CMIP5 multi-model ensemble can therefore not be used as a probability forecast for future climate. We have to present the useful climate information in climate model ensembles in other ways until these problems have been resolved.”

Also Christensen and Boberg (2012) were critical about the AR5 models in a paper appearing in the Geophysical Research Letters. The scientists presented their main results:

– GCMs suffer from temperature-dependent biases

– This leads to an overestimation of projections of regional temperatures

– We estimate that 10-20% of projected warming is due to model deficiencies”

In January 2013 in the Journal of Climate Matthew Newman reported in an article “An Empirical Benchmark for Decadal Forecasts of Global Surface Temperature Anomalies” on the notable limitations of the models:

"These results suggest that current coupled model decadal forecasts may not yet have much skill beyond that captured by multivariate red noise.”

In the prognosis time-frame of multiple decades, they do not perform better than noise. An embarrassment.

Also Frankignoul et al. 2013 expressed serious concerns in the Journal of Climate because of the unimpressive performance of the climate models. They graded the models plainly as “unrealistic” because they did not implement the role of ocean cycles correctly.

In July 2013 Ault et al. looked at a paper in the Geophysical Research Letters and at the models for the tropical Pacific region. They made an awful discovery: Not one of the current models is able to reproduce the climate history of the region during the past 850 years. Excerpts from the abstract:

"[…] time series of the model and the reconstruction do not agree with each other. […] These findings imply that the response of the tropical Pacific to future forcings may be even more uncertain than portrayed by state-of-the-art models because there are potentially important sources of century-scale variability that these models do not simulate.”

Also Lienert et al. (2011) found problems with the North Pacific. And in July 2014 in an article in Environmetrics, McKitrick & Vogelsang documented a significant overestimation of the warming in the climate models for the tropical region over the past 60 years.

In March 2014 Steinhaeuser & Tsonis reported in Climate Dynamics on a comparison of 23 different climate models and the extent to which they were able to reproduce temperature, air pressure and precipitation over the 19th and 20th centuries. The surprise was great when the scientists found that the model results deviated widely from each other and were unable to give a correct account of reality. A more detailed discussion is available at The Hockey Schtick.

In a press release from September 17, 2012, scientists of the University of Arizona complained that as a rule climate models failed when looking at periods of three decades and less. Also attempts at prognoses for regional levels were unsuccessful:

UA Climate Scientists put predictions to the test

"A new study has found that climate-prediction models are good at predicting long-term climate patterns on a global scale but lose their edge when applied to time frames shorter than three decades and on sub-continental scales.”

In October 2012 Klaus-Eckart Puls at EIKE warned that up to now the temperature prognoses of the climate models have been false for every atmospheric layer:

"For some decades now climate models have been projecting trends (“scenarios”) for temperature for different layers of the atmosphere: near surface layer, troposphere, and stratosphere. From the near surface layer all the way to the upper troposphere it was supposed to get warmer according to the AGW hypothesis, and colder in the stratosphere. However meteorological measurements taken from all atmospheric layers show the exact opposite!”

So what is wrong with the models?

For one they still have not found a way to implement the empricially confirmed systematic impact of the ocean cycles into the models. Another problem of course is that the sun is missing in the models as its important impact on climate development continues to be denied. It’s still going to take some time before the sun finally gets a role in the models. But there are growing calls for the taking the sun into account and recognition that something is awry. In August 2014 in the Journal of Atmospheric Sciences a paper by Timothy Cronin appeared. It criticized the treatment of solar irradiance in the models. See more on this at The Hockey Schtick.

The poor prognosis-capability of climate models is giving more and more political leaders cause for concern. Maybe they should not have relied on the model results and developed far-reaching plans to change society. To some extent they have already began to implement these plans. Suddenly the very credibility of the climate protection measures finds itself at stake.

The best would be a moratorium on models. Something needs to be done. It is becoming increasingly clear that the present wild modeling simply cannot continue. It’s time to re-evaluate. The climate models so far are hardly distinguishable from computer games on climate change where one sits comfortably on the couch and shoots as many CO2 molecules out of the atmosphere as he can and then reaps the reward of a free private jet flight with climate activist Leonardo di Caprio.


Crop devastation update: Ideal weather brings bumper English apple harvest

On the 250-acre Broadwater farm, near West Malling in Kent, dense clusters of red Braeburn apples cling to the trees, like bunches of oversized grapes. Amid the fruit is farm manager Peter Checkley, who has been growing apples for decades and is reflecting on the end of the harvest. “I don’t ever remember having a better growing year,” he says. “We could have the best we ever had. But it’s been the same all over Europe, which is why they are worth next to nothing.”

The weather has been kind to apple growers this last year. A cold winter gave the trees a good rest, then plenty of rain – especially in August – helped plump up the fruit, and then a dry September allowed the picking to get started early. But the resulting apple bonanza has made the financial climate decidedly gloomy, along with the impact of supermarket price wars and the more exotic fruit that tempts British shoppers these days.

“I am prepared for a loss this year. It is inevitable with prices the way they are,” says Checkley. But producing a highest-ever crop only to be faced with rock-bottom prices does not frustrate him, he says: “You learn to live with it. All businesses go up and down and we are no different.”

The apple business has certainly been in flux. As recently as a decade ago, families could picnic between 45ft-tall trees, whilst pickers scaled ladders. “It has changed to almost factory-like production,” says Checkley, whose father was also a life-long apple grower in Kent. Now the trees are staked and wired to just over head-height and run in long straight rows. A crab apple is sited every 10 trees, to ensure good cross-pollination when the bee hives were brought in back in April and May.

But Checkley is not mourning a past age. “I don’t miss the old days – it was bloody hard work,” he says. “The mechanisation now makes it a damn sight easier. I am a great believer of moving with the times.” Moving times also means almost all the pickers are foreign – there are 18 different nationalities on Broadwater farm. Checkley says it is near-impossible to get locals for the minimum-wage job.

Over at nearby Hononton farm, James Simpson, is delighted with this year’s apple yield: “Walking into an orchard like this, I get quite a buzz, seeing a fantastic crop.” Simpson is managing director of Adrian Scripps Ltd, which owns Hononton and other farms and is one of the UK’s largest apple growers. “The Braeburn crop is the largest we’ve ever grown,” he says, as is the Gala crop.

“It’s not like it looks in the television cider ads, is it?” he says, surveying the long rows of staked-and-wired apple trees that are up to a kilometre long at Hononton and look pristine amid the short grass and irrigation hoses. “Orchard hygiene is a big thing for us,” says Simpson. “A lot of growers have had a lot of scab and canker [due to damp weather], but as you can see we have not had a problem.” The orchards are swept out four times a year, he says, so the fungal infections can’t bloom on fallen apples and leaves and then infect the fruit.

Hononton still uses seven to 10 pesticide sprays during the growing season. But is reducing use by deploying other substances, such as the pheromone of the female coddling moth, the pest that puts maggots on apples. “The males all end up trying to mate with other males,” he says.

Despite the bounty of his orchards, Simpson says prices for Gala, now the UK’s top variety, and Bramley cooking apples, are significantly down: “We are getting very close to only covering our costs.”

Simpson says a major pressure on English apple growers is the strength of the pound against the Euro, making imports cheaper. But he also says the UK is slowly losing its appetite for apples, as more exotic fruit crowds supermarket shelves. “Grapes have been phenomenal in the last few years,” says Simpson. “Producing both red and green seedless grapes was a huge step forward for them.”


For more postings from me, see  DISSECTING LEFTISM, TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC and AUSTRALIAN POLITICS. Home Pages are   here or   here or   here.  Email me (John Ray) here.  

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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