Saturday, October 22, 2011

The BBC's Richard Black can't see the wood for the trees

He has been doing his best to score points out of the preliminary findings of the Berkeley climate project but is having trouble. The Berkeley people have noted that changes in the Gulf Stream could be responsible for many of the temperature changes observed so he checks with an expert on the Gulf Stream and finds that he too says that changes in the Gulf Stream account for huge tracts of the temperature record. Pesky!

His expert tells him, rather predictably, that human induced CO2 steps in and does the warming when the Gulf stream is not doing much but how plausible is that? What is the switch that suddenly turns on human influences when the Gulf Stream takes a nap?

Black then attacks Anthony Watts and his well-known project of investigating the integrity of U.S. temperature measurements. Black has a bit of a crow -- as the Berkeley temperature graph is similar to the existing big three. The Berkeley people however come to their conclusions by relying on "good" temperature measuring stations. But that is an intrinsically difficult enterprise -- since Watts has found fault with about two thirds of all U.S. stations -- and the U.S. measurements are "good" compared to most of the rest of the world. So it seems possible that the Berkeley people come to the same conclusion only because they use the same crappy data.

Black then asserts quite wrongly that most skeptics have always denied that warming is going on. To the contrary, Warmists have repeatedly pointed out that the recorded warming over the last century or so is trivial and of a piece with previous natural fluctuations. Why do skeptics make such a big thing about the Medieval Warm Period if they deny that there is any warming? Black is just trying to revise history.

As Lubos Motl pointed out in his article that I excerpted yesterday, the issue is the CAUSE of the slight warming we have seen. Is it natural or man-made? And "THE SCIENCE" is very much on the side of the warming being natural. Al Gore always speaks of "THE SCIENCE" as something that supports his extravagant predictions but science does no such thing. Science is all about prediction. Making accurate predictions is the test of any theory. But THE WAY scientists make predictions is by saying that things in the future will work just as things have worked in the past. So a continuation of a tiny warming trend is what "THE SCIENCE" predicts. It is the Warmists who are departing from science by saying that nature will suddenly do something quite different from what it has so far been doing and start generating big temperature changes. Warmism in highly speculative prophecy, not science. An excerpt from the Green Mr Black:
The Berkeley project poses a scientific challenge with its contention that water temperature changes in the north Atlantic - perhaps related to the Gulf Stream, as it's commonly known - are driving year-to-year changes in global temperature.

Even more so, when the authors suggest that a greater part of the warming-cooling-warming history of the 20th Century could be down to the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO) than is recognised.

(Clarification for putative cherry-pickers; the scientific work behind the papers doesn't examine this idea or even back it, but the authors suggest it as an avenue for further research.)

I had a chat with Michael Schlesinger, the University of Illinois professor who discovered the AMO along with Navin Ramankutty in 1994.

Research he and others have done since shows clearly, he said, that "while the AMO was the dominant influence on global mean temperature during 1904-1944 and 1944-1976, it is not the dominant influence over the entire observational record, 1850 to 2010.

"Over this time period, it is the increase in the concentrations of greenhouse gases caused by humanity's burning of fossil fuels that is the dominant cause of the observed warming."

That, I think, is the conclusion that the majority of climate scientists is likely to make, although the whole issue is made more complex by the fact that greenhouse warming can perturb natural cycles such as the AMO.

Claims that US weather station quality affected diagnosis of global warming was rejected. So it's interesting to see what those who would shape opinion are making of the Berkeley results.

The sceptical blogosphere has been unusually quiet - disappointingly quiet, you might say. James Delingpole, Jo Nova, ClimateAudit... nothing.

One who has waded into the fray, inevitably, is Anthony Watts of Watts Up With That. I say "inevitably", because his criticisms of weather station quality were among the factors that persuaded Prof Muller to get his project off the ground.

The Berkeley group concluded that although a high proportion of weather stations in the US might not be high quality - for example, if they're situated in the middle of an expanding city - it doesn't matter.

High-quality stations show the same warming trend as low-quality ones; so this issue can be taken off the table.

Mr Watts, in his recent postings, isn't impressed. He argues that the Berkeley team used too long a time period for its analysis. He says it made a few other basic errors.

There's a fair bit of revisionism going on too, some of it visible in the comments on my news story. "Sceptics don't say the world isn't warming," this narrative goes - "we just debate how much of it is caused by greenhouse gases."

There are some "sceptics" who do take this line, it's true. But if the Earth's temperature record wasn't an issue, why has so much energy been expended in attempting to discredit it and the scientists behind it?


Global warming is real

By James Delingpole

"The planet has been warming," says a new study of temperature records, conducted by Berkeley professor Richard Muller. I wonder what he'll be telling us next: that night follows day? That water is wet? That great white sharks have nasty pointy teeth? That sheep go "baaaa"?

No, the only surprising part of the results of the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature Project is the good professor's chutzpah in trying to present them as new or surprising – let alone any kind of blow to the people he calls "skeptics" (or, when speaking to his friends at the Guardian, "deniers").

Here's the money quote from a ramblingly disingenuous piece he wrote in The Wall Street Journal, (which frankly should have known better than to fall for this guff): "Without good answers to all these complaints, global-warming skepticism seems sensible. But now let me explain why you should not be a skeptic, at least not any longer."

Let me explain what is going on here. And you can trust me: I'm not a climate scientist. What I am is someone eminently more qualified to deconstruct the semantic skullduggery going on here: a student of language, rhetoric and grade one bullsh*t.

In the first half of his piece, Professor Muller sets up his straw man. He does so by ascribing to "skeptics" views that they don't actually hold. Their case, he pretends for the sake of his wafer-thin argument, rests on the idea that the last century's land-based temperature data sets are so hopelessly corrupt that they have created the illusion of global warming where none actually exists.

No it doesn't. It has been a truth long acknowledged by climate sceptics, deniers and realists of every conceivable hue that since the mid-19th century, the planet has been on a warming trend – emerging, as it has been, from a widely known phenomenon known as the Little Ice Age. A period which in turn was preceded by the even better known Medieval Warming Period.

This is why the standard rebuttal to the term "climate change denier" is: "But I don't deny that climate changes. I recognise that it has done so since the dawn of time. What I question is not the process of climate change, but what causes is it, whether it represents a problem and whether there's anything we can do about it other than sensible mitigation."

But obviously, "Berkeley professor tells us nothing new under the sun" doesn't make such a good story. What's required in cases like this is a bit of judicious spin. So that's just what Professor Muller does: having first set up his straw man he then sets out to knock it down by revealing – ta da! – that whatever those pesky sceptics say the world definitely did get warmer in the Twentieth Century.

Except, duh! We know that. That's why sceptics are forever saying stuff like: "Yes, the planet did warm in the Twentieth Century. But only by about 0.7 degrees C, which is hardly a major threat". And: "Yes, the planet did warm in the Twentieth Century but what's your point? That there's some ideal, earlier colder average temperature that we should all strive to recreate by bombing our economy back to the dark ages?"

So why are notionally respectable journals like The Economist and New Scientist trying to make out that is a story is a seismic event which shatters forever the case of global warming sceptics?

Well, I suppose the polite possibility – perhaps my colleague Tom Chivers can help out here – is that they've simply never bothered to find out what climate change sceptics actually think. My personal suspicion, though, is that springs from desperation.

The case for AGW theory has been getting weaker by the minute, as Marc Morano notes in this characteristically feisty summary of the current state of play:
"The Antarctic sea ice extent has been at or near record extent in the past few summers, the Arctic has rebounded in recent years since the low point in 2007, polarbearsare thriving, sea level is not showing acceleration and is actuallydropping, Cholera and Malaria are failing to follow global warming predictions, Mount Kilimanjaro melt fears are being made a mockery by gains in snow cover, global temperatures have been holding steady for a decade or more, deaths due to extreme weather are radically declining, global tropical cyclone activity is near historic lows, the frequency of major U.S. hurricanes has declined, the oceans are missing their predicted heat content, big tornados have dramatically declined since the 1970s, droughts are not historically unusual nor caused by mankind, there is no evidence we are currently having unusual weather, scandals continue to rock the climate fear movement, the UN IPCC has been exposed as being a hotbed of environmental activists and scientists continue to dissent at a rapid pace."

Morano also, incidentally, has links to all those scientists – Pielke Snr, Lubos Motl, et al – pouring cold water on Muller's ludicrous claims. I don't think I've heard Morano sound quite so angry or contemptuous: "Muller's WSJ OPED is designed to confuse the public with perhaps some of the most banal and straw man arguments yet put forth by a global warming activist."

And I don't blame him. What is going on is exactly the kind of utterly reprehensible dishonesty and trickery I anatomise more thoroughly in Watermelons. The Warmists lost the battle over "the science" long ago; that's why the best they can do now is resort to the kind of risible semantic ruse like this deliberate conflation of "global warming" with "man made global warming".

The two concepts are entirely separate: all sceptics believe in "global warming" (depending on what time scale you use); what they doubt to various degrees is the "man made" element. Richard Muller has crassly fudged this distinction to make a point which has nothing to do with science and everything to do with gutter politics.


You can't be a sceptic anymore, sez Warmist

The blogosphere is abuzz with the results of the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project (BEST), the stunning conclusion of which seems to be “the planet is warming”. Even more stunning is that this is somehow supposed to be the ultimate rebuttal to filthy sceptics and deniers the world over.

Er, sorry to disappoint, but no it isn’t. We all knew the world was warming, and has been since the end of the Little Ice Age. We accept that. So, what’s your point again?

BEST’s results, which are based on surface temperature records from thousands of land-based stations across the globe, also seem to magically “disappear” the Urban Heat Island effect, despite the fact that previous studies have shown it to be a substantial component of recent temperature rises. BEST also seems to be able to take the fat, hairy sow’s ear of shonky surface temperature stations (many of which are located close to man-made heat sources like airports and air conditioning units) and turn them into a dainty silk purse of accurate global temperature. Whether this is successful or not I will leave up to you to decide. A technical post at Watts Up With That? looks at the statistical methods employed.

Richard Muller’s article in the Wall Street Journal concludes thus:
When we began our study, we felt that skeptics had raised legitimate issues, and we didn’t know what we’d find. Our results turned out to be close to those published by prior groups. We think that means that those groups had truly been very careful in their work, despite their inability to convince some skeptics of that. They managed to avoid bias in their data selection, homogenization and other corrections.

Global warming is real. Perhaps our results will help cool this portion of the climate debate. How much of the warming is due to humans and what will be the likely effects? We made no independent assessment of that.

But let’s just look at that last sentence again:
How much of the warming is due to humans and what will be the likely effects? We made no independent assessment of that.

So the key issue that sceptics raise, the attribution of present day warming to human effects, is something not addressed by BEST. For Muller to claim that this puts the final nail in the sceptics’ coffin is ridiculous. We all agree the planet is warming, it’s a question of how much of that warming is due to man, and how much is due to nature.


Wind energy is NOT free

Quite aside from the large capital cost of building windmills, they need a lot of maintenance. It's actually a step back in time, rather like steam trains, where you have to go around oiling them all the time: "Wind is clean, but it's also very labor-intensive"

From a distance, say about three nautical miles, the future looks very simple. You stick a wind turbine up into the air, and it turns. Ralf Klooster can explain this to his five-year-old at home. The more difficult question is why Daddy has to drive to the jetty at Norddeich harbor every morning at six to make sure that those simple things out there in the water keep turning.

"It's not as easy as you think," says Klooster. He is a native of the East Frisia region of northwest Germany, has the physique of an Olympic rower and looks as if E.on has cast him for its advertising photos. Klooster is actually a custodian of sorts for the Alpha Ventus offshore wind farm, 45 kilometers (28 miles) from the North Sea island of Borkum. Even at high wind speeds, he is able to finish his sentences. As Klooster says, none of this is easy.

He awoke this morning at 4:45 a.m., boiled water for his tea (he uses "NaturWatt" green electricity, at 23.6 cents per kilowatt hour) and drove to the jetty to board the "Wind Force I."

It sounds like "Air Force One," but it's merely the service boat for the Alpha Ventus wind farm, which consists of 12 five-megawatt towers and produces electricity for 50,000 households. It's the largest offshore wind farm in the country. The morning greetings: "Moin!" - "Moin!"

A few men in overalls are standing by the boat, smoking. Others are hoisting boxes full of screws on board, "Big Bags" filled with tools, canisters of grease and lubricants, and duffel bags containing protective suits and provisions. The entire stern is filled with equipment and supplies.

Three Dutchmen, who are joining the crew for the first time, are told that if they have to vomit they should do it overboard ("the easy way") and not into the toilet. Then a safety film is shown, in which a woman puts on a life vest to a soundtrack of club music. The Dutchmen have already dozed off.

The Wind Force I plies between the mainland and the wind farm, as long as the weather is acceptable. It's a four-hour round trip. Helicopters are used during the winter and in bad weather. Batteries and transformers need constant maintenance, and all moveable parts on the crane and turbine have to be oiled and lubricated regularly. The switches have to be tested regularly, as do the fire protection systems, the lights, the life vests and, if there are control devices, those too. Wind is clean, but it's also very labor-intensive.

Joselito from Manila has tied his paint-spattered overalls around his hips. He is one of the four "coaters" whose job it is to constantly paint the towers to protect against rust. He works as a painter at the Blohm + Voss shipyard in Hamburg during the winter, but now he is here. "Wind energy? Good, very good," he says. "Good work."

On this morning, three mechanics with turbine maker Areva Wind were driven to the pier in a black van. With their tattoos, ponytails and black overalls, they look like roadies on a heavy metal tour. But they're just here to service the crane on tower 11.

The roughly 20 men on board the Wind Force 1 aren't necessarily Green Party voters. In fact, they look more like people who might be working on plutonium plants, if they existed offshore. Or perhaps not? "The difference," says one man who is leaning against the deck crane, wearing glasses and a Hulk Hogan goatee, "is that if a wind tower falls over, it isn't likely to cause a lot of damage out here."

Klooster says that he wouldn't describe himself as the custodian of the wind farm, but rather as an "offshore service technician."

Pages of Conditions and Regulations

On Nov. 9, 2001, wind power pioneer Ingo de Buhr received permission from the Federal Maritime and Hydrographic agency to build and operate an offshore wind farm beyond the 12-mile zone marking Germany's territorial waters.

The license included 43 pages of requirements, conditions and regulations. Item 6.1.4, for example, describes the painting requirements: "The towers are to be painted yellow up to a height of 15 meters (49 feet) above the HAT (Highest Astronomical Tide) (RAL 1023 pursuant to DIN 6171, Part 1)."

The license also requires the operator to make allowances for military flight safety, to ensure that hazard lights are on at night and to monitor the facility's impact on marine mammals and bird migration. According to item 24, when the facility is no longer in use it must be "properly disposed of on land."

Four years later, De Buhr sold the license for €5 million ($6.85 million) to the German Offshore Wind Energy Foundation, a deep-pocketed association of power producers, banks, manufacturers and operators.

The bow of the Wind Force I is now pressing up against tower AV 4, the rubber squeaking against the steel tower in the waves. One after the other, the men climb onto the tower. Wearing their survival suits, they climb the rungs of the ladder to the platform. They will spend the next six hours servicing the tower.

The massive guillotine-like rotor comes down from above every two seconds. The 61-meter rotor slicing through the air, seemingly without making any noise, is longer than the wing of an Airbus 380.

In strong winds, the tips of the rotors travel at racecar-like speeds of up to 300 kilometers per hour (186 mph). The rotors wear out the fastest, and not, as one might expect, the transmission or the foundations in the water.


Electric Car Company Gets U.S. Loan, Builds Cars In Finland

No facility to build cars in the USA????

With the approval of the Obama administration, an electric car company that received a $529 million federal government loan guarantee is assembling its first line of cars in Finland, saying it could not find a facility in the United States capable of doing the work.

Vice President Joseph Biden heralded the Energy Department's $529 million loan to the start-up electric car company called Fisker as a bright new path to thousands of American manufacturing jobs. But two years after the loan was announced, the job of assembling the flashy electric Fisker Karma sports car has been outsourced to Finland.

"There was no contract manufacturer in the U.S. that could actually produce our vehicle," the car company's founder and namesake told ABC News. "They don't exist here."

Henrik Fisker said the U.S. money so far has been spent on engineering and design work that stayed in the U.S., not on the 500 manufacturing jobs that went to a rural Finnish firm, Valmet Automotive.

"We're not in the business of failing; we're in the business of winning. So we make the right decision for the business," Fisker said. "That's why we went to Finland."

The loan to Fisker is part of a $1 billion bet the Energy Department has made in two politically connected California-based electric carmakers producing sporty -- and pricey -- cutting-edge autos. Fisker Automotive, backed by a powerhouse venture capital firm whose partners include former Vice President Al Gore, predicts it will eventually be churning out tens of thousands of electric sports sedans at the shuttered GM factory it bought in Delaware. And Tesla Motors, whose prime backers include PayPal mogul Elon Musk and Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, says it will do the same in a massive facility tooling up in Silicon Valley.


Your Cash for Their Clunkers

Another White House energy favorite hits financial trouble.

Here's some investment advice: When looking for tips on green technology plays, steer clear of the stock pickers located at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. They've made a habit of investing your cash in their clunkers.

Following on Solyndra's great success comes Ener1 Inc., a lithium-ion battery maker also promoted by the White House. President Obama gave the company's subsidiary, EnerDel, a shout out in August 2009, in a speech in which he announced $2.4 billion in grants "to develop the next generation of fuel-efficient cars and trucks powered by the next generation of battery technologies."
Related Video

Brent Bozell on how the media is treating the GOP candidates, President Obama and the Occupy Wall Street movement.

EnerDel snagged a $118 million grant, and Vice President Joe Biden toured one of its two Indianapolis-area factories as recently as January, citing it as proof that government isn't "just creating new jobs—but sparking whole new industries."

He didn't say profitable industries. Ener1 was founded in 2002, went public in 2008 and has never turned a profit. In August, it restated its earnings for fiscal 2010 at a $165 million loss—nearly $100 million more than previously reported. On September 27 it ousted its CEO, and its share price yesterday was 27 cents—a 95% decline from its 52-week high of $5.95 in January. Nasdaq is threatening to delist the stock, and Ener1 disclosed in a mid-August filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission that it is "in the process of determining whether the company has sufficient liquidity to fund its operations."

Ener1 attributed its financial restatement to the bankruptcy earlier this year of Norwegian electric car maker Think, in which Ener1 had invested, and with which it had signed a contract to supply batteries. Think had a long history of financial troubles and was hardly a safe investment.

Then again, Ener1 had to rely almost exclusively on Think after it lost its bid to supply batteries to Fisker Automotive, a battery-powered car maker which received a $529 million U.S. taxpayer-backed federal loan guarantee in 2010. Fisker chose to buy its batteries from a company called A123 Systems, itself the recipient of a $249 million U.S. Department of Energy grant (announced at the same time as Ener1's grant).

It's hard to sell electric car batteries when the market for electric cars is so small. Electric cars are expected to make up less than 1% of car sales by 2018, but that hasn't stopped the feds from financing a glut of battery makers. Some 48 different battery technology and electric vehicle projects received federal money as part of the Administration's August 2009 announcement, including such corporate giants as Johnson Controls and General Motors.

Current estimates are that by 2015 there will be more than double the supply of lithium-ion batteries compared to the number of electric vehicles. This government-juiced industry is headed for a shakeout, taking taxpayer dollars with it.

That may include Indiana state tax dollars. In recent years the Indiana Economic Development Corporation has offered Ener1 up to $21.1 million in performance-based tax credits and $200,000 in training grants. A spokeswoman for the state agency said Ener1 hasn't used the training money and that the tax credits were conditioned upon jobs created. She said the agency isn't at liberty to divulge Ener1's use of the tax credits. The company had promised the combination of federal and state money would allow it to create 1,700 new jobs in Indiana by 2012, and 3,000 by 2015. At last count, Ener1 employed 380 in Indiana. The company didn't return a call seeking comment.

There's no pleasure in Ener1's troubles, but there is a lesson: Better to leave commercial financing decisions to private investors and bankers who are likely to take more care with their own money. Politicians write the press releases first and worry about the taxpayer losses later.



For more postings from me, see DISSECTING LEFTISM, TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here


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