A Weblog monitoring coverage of environmental issues and science in the UK media. By Professor Emeritus Philip Stott. The aim is to assess whether a subject is being fairly covered by press, radio, and television. Above all, the Weblog will focus on science, but not just on poor science. It will also bring to public notice good science that is being ignored because it may be politically inconvenient.

Friday, November 25, 2005

No energy for climate change.....

Today, there is a must read - Roger Harrabin of the BBC rhetorically deconstructs Tony Blair on climate change: 'Q&A: Blair's climate strategy' (BBC Science/Nature News Online, November 24). I would simply highlight two key comments:

(a) First, this telling revelation:
"[Government officials] privately complain that he [Blair] is increasingly beset by domestic political problems and has too little energy and concentration left for climate change."

Frankly, on television, Blair looks exhausted, grey around the gills. The constant battles over new terrorism laws, education, pensions, the NHS, his Party's self-indulgent rebel MPs, and now energy policy would sap the drive of even the most driven. Climate will fade, frozen out by sheer exhaustion and by the dire winter projected by the Met Office;

(b) Then there is Harrabin's concluding rhetorical question and answer:
"Q: Will the politicians be able to devise politically saleable policies fast enough to make sure we don't suffer catastrophic climate change?

There are so many unknowns in climate science, policy, technology and politics that it is impossible to answer this question."

Absolutely. A realistic Beeb at last. But do read the whole piece - it helps one to understand UK climate-change politics.

Meanwhile, in the UK, we are heading for energy gaps all round. If you have access to the magazine, you might like to read my own excoriating article on the Government's energy policy just published in Country Illustrated (Christmas Edition, 2005, pp. 63-65): 'Why we should not farm the wind'.

Philip, a tad sorry for Blair. He has tilted at far too many windmills. And, as I have long predicted, the policy focus is inevitably blowing cold on 'global warming' and drifting to practical (much needed) energy. "I'll drink a hot toddy to that!" Wind chill and snow flurries all round. Brrrrr. Now where is my lovely Barbour?

Thursday, November 24, 2005

The sky is indeed falling in on the Chicken Littles.....

Poor Malcolm Wicks! First he was Minister of State at the Department for Work and Pensions, and now he is Minister for Energy, the two deepest black holes in Labour's galaxy of policy-making. Wicks spent yesterday rushing around the studios looking a tad like a bemused Gimli the Dwarf at the great Council of Elrond. I wouldn't have been surprised to see him with an axe in his hand.

Chickens and their evolution.The trouble is simple. The Chicken Littles of 'Green' utopianism [see them worrying about GM chickens opposite: image in the public domain from Wikipedia] are coming home to roost all at the same time, a theme brilliantly explored today by Richard D. North: 'A big chill will heat up energy debate' (The Daily Telegraph, November 24):
"The gas price is rocketing, and suddenly we've all heard of the 'Interconnector', the gas pipeline distributing gas between the continent and Britain. Our EU neighbours are preserving their supplies - and their competitive advantage - by state mandate, while letting our much freer market suffer steep gas prices.

It's a re-run of problems we saw last March, and it is fuelling calls for British ministers to take an old-fashioned protective interest in the nation's energy supplies. And all this before the Met Office's two-in-three bet that there will be a proper old-fashioned winter this year.

There is one large comfort to be had. We have had far too much discussion of energy policy framed in terms of self-sacrifice: as though virtuous consumers must forgo naughty habits in order to save the world from climate change..."

As North rightly points out, the sky really is now falling in on the Chicken Littles of this world: "Tony Blair has abandoned his messianic devotion to climate alarmism. Some time in the countdown to the Gleneagles G8 summit in July, he seems to have noticed that the Kyoto Protocol would make at best only a minute difference to mankind's emissions of greenhouse gases."

Moreover, North notes that the energy debate is at last becoming vigorous, open, and no longer utopian: "The more idealist greens hate being reminded that voters want more of everything and may well tolerate nuclear power as part of the mix. But nuclear also offends libertarians of another sort: it is a technology that requires very large state support. It requires big subsidies, and a significant security presence. Indeed, hardly anything in this field doesn't offend someone. Global warming 'deniers' insist that climate change will be small or benign. And there will be those who say the market will respond to energy demand, and sooner rather than later."

And, in conclusion, North argues, absolutely correctly, that politicians of all persuasions have for far too long failed to face up to the realities of the looming UK energy gap, cowering instead behind ridiculous windy 'Green' mantras: "We've had an intolerable amount of humbug from politicians about their ambitions for a less energy-hungry future. Now, ministers more clearly see that we want energy and plenty of it..."

Indeed, as Britain plunges into what is predicted to be a cold and snowy weekend, and possibly into a long, freezing winter of discontent, the nonsense of wind energy, the fragility of gas supplies, the ludicrousness of closing down coal-powered and nuclear-powered plants without replacements, and the foolishness of predicating energy policy on long-term climatic uncertainties are all becoming glaringly obvious to ministers, to politicians, and to voters alike.

Bring on the snow, say I! Bury the Chicken Littles. Where energy policy is concerned, we have been drifting for far too long.

Philip, wrapping up for a chilly weekend. Time to get the boots on and the beers in. "Coffee with a touch a brandy or rum?"

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Some sea-level sanity.....

As we know, there is an awful lot of spume sprayed about over sea-level rise. If you would like to get some salty common sense on sea-levels, then you should read the following balanced review, just published:

Hokusai: The Great WaveRobin Edwards: 'Sea levels: abrupt events and mechanisms of change.' 'Progress Report' in Progress in Physical Geography 29(4), December 2005, pp. 599-608.

[Right: Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849): 'The Great Wave Off Kanagawa' (Fugaku sanjurokkei: Kanagawaoki namiura) (1831). 25.4 x 37.1 cm colour woodcut; the original is in the Hakone Museum in Japan. This image appears to be in the public domain.]

This is a cautious and careful commentary which deals with tsunami, seismic events, palaeoenvironmental reconstructions, model simulation and marine data, meltwater pulses, and recent sea-level changes.

Throughout the author stresses the problems of obtaining accurate and meaningful data, concluding:
"...correlations are compromised by the failure of many studies to account adequately for the vertical uncertainties associated with the sea-level indicators used."

An important observation examined is that "separating mass-related eustatic sea-level changes from those due to steric effects or the redistribution of water around the globe becomes increasingly difficult after the early-Holocene addition of meltwater diminishes." Interestingly, a recent fall in eustatic sea-level in the central Indian Ocean based on observations from the Maldives may well tie in with the mass redistribution theory.

I trust the IPCC will take note of this thorough and balanced review. It demonstrates tellingly the immense difficulties of collecting and interpreting data and theories relating to sea-level change. The only real conclusions are the immense complexity both of the subject and of the sea-level changes themselves.

Philip, how pleasant to read balanced science rather than hype. Time for a nice, gentle latte, I deem, to calm the ups and downs of life.

Monday, November 21, 2005

'Global warming' = civil nuclear power.....

I do feel a tad sorry for the naiver 'Green' bunnies - they just didn't see it coming from their narrow burrows. They thought that their nice ecohype about 'global warming' would mean that we would all have to go back to living in thatched cottages built of straw bales with little wind farms on the roof and an organic patch by the side. Instead, they are witnessing the death of Kyoto and the rise of nuclear power.

They had forgotten, of course, that the historic roots of the 'Great Global Warming Myth' do not lie in the concerns of the soppy 'Green' Left, but rather in the hard-minded political Right, with its desire to present nuclear power as a clean, effective alternative source of energy, especially to coal. We are back in the days of Billy Elliot. In the 1980s, when the Right was fighting the miners and 'dirty' coal, they, and Mrs T. (for it is She), were pleased to be able to employ 'global warming' to promote nuclear power and to offset the earlier climate fears of plunging into an Ice Age, exacerbated by a nuclear winter. Yet, by 1992 and the Rio Conference, the Right had largely dropped the myth like a hot brick, grasping quickly that it held hidden dangers when adopted by the Left, who eagerly embraced the myth as a legitimising 'science' for their agenda of 'limits to growth', 'small is beautiful', anti-car, anti-development, and, above all, anti-Americanism.

But, as is so often the case, we have come full circle, and Tony Blair has cleverly used the threat of 'global warming' to support the inevitable - a return to civil nuclear power to plug the threatening UK energy gap. The stations will be built on existing sites to circumvent planning issues and final decisions will be taken as early as 2006. Mr. Blair has, at last, turned his mighty 'Eye of Sauron' on to The Ring of nuclear power, so expect the chief orcs, like Margaret Beckett, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, and Malcolm Wicks, Minister of State for Energy, to start scurrying about spouting the nuclear mantra.

Moreover, the softening-up process has been loud and clear; witness, for example, The Daily Telegraph, the BBC, and even The Daily Mail, among many others.

A stark reality now confronts the poor 'Green' bunnies - in the UK, 'global warming' = nuclear power. It's like the proverbial 'horse-and-carriage' - you can't have one without the other.

And watch out for snow you 'Green' bunnies - you had better dig deep in your burrows this winter: 'Snow by Thursday as the big chill hits early' (The Daily Mail, November 21):
"Much of Britain could be buried under a blanket of snow before we even reach December.

The freezing conditions are expected to sweep across the country this week, bringing icy winds and snowstorms.

With temperatures already below zero in many areas, the cold snap signals the start of what is predicted to be the coldest winter for a decade.

It comes as concern intensifies over the soaring cost of power bills and the threat of a gas shortage which could cripple industry and cause thousands of workers to be laid off..."

So much for warming. Brrr! Let's get those nuclear plants built, asap, lads!

Philip, enjoying watching the 'Green' bunnies starting to scratch and squabble. It will be warren against warren on Watership Down. And I bet a Fiver that nuclear will win. Coffee in the chilly sun? Off to see Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire... Just wizard.

[New counter, June 19, 2006, with loss of some data]

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