Archive for category Climate change

Delingpole gets whaled on

(Massive hat-tip to @rbhinkley)

“Wind farms kill whales: blubber on the green movement’s hands

That’s the typically subtle and balanced headline of today’s piece by James Delingpole, which is based on an article in yesterday’s Telegraph, “Wind farms blamed for stranding of whales“, which is itself based on the research article “Beaked Whales Respond to Simulated and Actual Navy Sonar” published on Monday. “Simulated and Actual Navy Sonar”? That doesn’t sound like it’s about wind farms at all! Luckily, the paper was published in the open access journal PLoS ONE, so we can read the whole thing (PDF).

There is not one mention of the phrases “wind turbine” or “wind farm”, or indeed even the word “wind” at all. Nor is there any mention of beaching beyond hypothetical suggestions that sonar may cause it – although they found whales were tending to stay away from military sonar, they didn’t find direct evidence that this was causing whales to get stranded.

Two hours ago, Ian Boyd of the Sea Mammal Research Unit at the University of St. Andrews – the scientist quoted in the articles – left the following comment on The Telegraph‘s website (Edit: The article has now been deleted. I’ve preserved the comment below):

This article is an abomination. Its quotes me extensively. At no point in all the interactions I have had with The Press on this issue have I ever mentioned wind farms. I disagree with the way the article was written and especially with the implications of its headline. Several of the apparent quotations from me are not ones that I recognise. I never spoke to a journalist from the Daily Telegraph so I wonder how this article was compiled. At very least it was second-hand reporting.

There are no wind turbines in the report. The scientist quoted denies ever mentioning wind turbines. In fact, from the looks of it, the only people who did mention wind turbines are the journalists at The Telegraph.

Now might be a good time to bring out that classic Delingpole quote (Youtube link).

“It is not my job to sit down and read peer-reviewed papers, because I simply don’t have the time, I don’t have the scientific expertise. [...] I am an interpreter of interpretations.”

An interpreter of entirely false interpretations, in this case.

Update: The Telegraph has withdrawn the article, and printed a correction. Delingpole’s blog post remains up.

Double update: Delingpole has belatedly updated the blog post. It now ends:

It has been drawn to my attention that the man who led the St Andrews research team has violently, passionately and emphatically dissociated himself from the original Telegraph news item suggesting that his research showed wind farms to be deleterious to the health of whales. I am delighted to put this straight.

What this means is that, though at this stage we know for absolute certain that wind farms despoil countryside, frighten horses, [here follows a list of fifty-bazillion unsourced claims about wind turbines], the possibility that they also lure whales to their doom remains at this stage an unproven hypothesis. (Just like Anthropogenic Global Warming theory, then.)

The phrase “I am delighted to put this straight” has never sounded less sincere.

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The Delingpole Escape Plan

(Why yes, I did write this post entirely for the pun.)

The Eco-fascists have taken over! So says James Delingpole, anyway. His proof?

Well, in October, Brussels Airport won an award for reducing its carbon emissions. A month later, it snowed.

This isn’t a new thing. It has been going on for years, since at least the 1992 Rio Earth Summit when Maurice Strong laid down the ground rules for the eco-fascist takeover of the world. It’s bit like that classic 2000AD “Future Shocks” story where the aliens that have invaded our planet unbeknownst to us turn out to be those innocuous-looking wire coat hangers we have in our cupboards. The battle for our freedom is already all but lost – and the stupid thing is, most of us didn’t even know we were fighting one.

So now – not in some imagined, paranoid fantasist’s future, but NOW – we live in a world where an airport is encouraged to place a higher priority on reducing its notional production of a harmless trace gas than it does in making provision for aeroplanes to be able to take off and land in inclement weather.

You may have noticed it was not snowing in October, and that it’s perfectly possible for an airport to offset its carbon emissions and clear away snow, and that the two events were completely unrelated. Shush!

Delingpole then moves onto the Met Office. The Met Office’s seasonal forecasts are always vague – as winter approaches, they generally make them more accurate. True enough, in the last few years, they’ve generally predicted that a warm winter was more likely than a cold one, and had to revise that as winter approached. Whether or not the Met Office was right has nothing to do with climate change however. A year is much too short to see global warming happen.

Delingpole quotes a Department for Transport report (pdf) which, he claims, shows the Met Office predicted there was only a 1 in 20 chance that this winter would be severe (which, of course, does not mean the same thing as simply “cold”). In fact, this is taken out of context – the report simply points out (p. 88-9) that in general, one winter in twenty is severe, and the fact that the last two years were severe does not necessarily mean they are clustering. The report after all was issued in July, long before the Met Office could say with any certainty what the weather would do.

Incidentally, the Met Office didn’t predict this winter would be mild. One of their computers predicted the winter would be mild, based on a limited set of data, but as the Met Office said at the time:

“This is not an official forecast, it’s data that would form part of a longer term prediction.

“If you look at the whole picture across north west Europe, there’s a higher chance of a cold winter than a warm one.”

Anyway, Delingpole gets someone to do the numbers for him, and finds that the odds of three severe winters is 1 in 8000 (presumably because that’s 1 in 20, to the power of three – not really the right way to do the sum in this case anyway), therefore the Met Office must be wrong. The old joke comes to mind of a guy who fires blindly into a wall, looks for a spot where several bullets have clustered together, draws a bullseye around them and declares himself a crackshot. Most winters of course are not severe, and two or three severe ones clustered together among mild ones, while a bit unlikely, isn’t as impossible as Delingpole claims, and itself shows nothing. If lots of winters were severe over decades, then that would prove the 1 in 20 winters is severe claim was inaccurate. On their own, three winters prove nothing. If you throw a coin and score three heads in a row, that doesn’t prove the coin is loaded, especially if the last few tosses had a good mixture of heads and tails. If you score a hundred heads in a row, then you should be suspicious.

Okay, that was a diversion, since the Met Office’s predictions had little to do with global warming. Anyway, remember those eco-fascists Delingpole was complaining about?

Heads are going to roll for this, they’ll have to. But however many heads do roll it won’t be enough. Always remember this: the Warmist faith so fervently held and promulgated by the Met Office is exactly the same faith so passionately, unswervingly followed by David Cameron, Chris Huhne, Greg Barker, the Coalition’s energy spokesman in the Lords Lord Marland, and all but five members of the last parliament. And also by the BBC, the Prince of Wales, almost every national newspaper, the European Union, the Royal Society, the New York Times, CNBC, the Obama administration, the Australian and New Zealand governments, your children’s schools, our major universities, our minor universities, the University of East Anglia, your local council….

Truly there just aren’t enough bullets!

Giving an airport a certificate? Fascist.

Shooting politicians, journalists, teachers and scientists because you disagree with them? Not fascist.

Good to know.

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The Mail says is the IPCC is wrong. In fact…

Today’s misleading climate change story, courtesy of the Mail: Alarmist Doomsday warning of rising seas ‘was wrong’, says Met Office study.

Alarming predictions that global warming could cause sea levels to rise 6ft in the next century are wrong, it has emerged.

The forecast made by the influential 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which would have seen cities around the world submerged by water, now looks ‘unlikely’.

A Met Office study also rules out the shutdown of the Atlantic Ocean’s conveyor belt, which would trigger Arctic winters in Britain like those seen in the film The Day After Tomorrow.

Okay, before I point out everything else that’s wrong with this: The Day After Tomorrow is about as accurate a depiction of climate change as The Matrix is of computer programming. Regardless of what the climate does, we won’t actually have entire cities buried under frozen tsunamis, roamed by packs of wolves.

So, was the IPCC wrong? In their AR4 report (the one in question here) they said that over the 21st century, sea levels will rise by between 18 cm and 58 cm. In Daily Mail terms, that’s between 7 inches and about 2 feet (p. 45, which is p. 23 of the pdf, annoyingly). A 2 foot rise this century is rather a lot less than a 6 foot rise this century. Where did this error come from?

According to the report, beyond 2100, sea levels could rise higher – the theoretical maximum looks to be something between 7 and 10 metres – but that’s not what the Met Office study, “Summary of Post-IPCC AR4 work“, is about.

The Met Office says:

  • The relationship between temperature and sea-level rise is non-linear and the range for 21st century sea-level rise remains uncertain.
  • Some evidence that sea-level rise by 2100 may exceed the 95th percentile AR4 model-based projection of 59 cm.
  • Evidence that a rise significantly above 2 m by 2100 is very unlikely.

Median projections for 2100 under ‘business as usual’ scenario: AR4 model range of sea-level rise for this scenario was 0.21–0.59 cm. However, some of the newer evidence suggests that a sea-level rise of 2 m cannot be ruled out, but an increase of more than 1 m is currently viewed as unlikely.

So in fact, the Met Office says that the IPCC may have underestimated sea level rises, not overestimated them.

The Met Office never called the IPCC “alarmist”, they never said the IPCC “was wrong”, and even if the upper limit of an IPCC estimate had been rounded down, that wouldn’t make it wrong. It would just mean that we were to able to put more accurate upper bounds on sea level rise. This is all quite clear in the Met Office study; surely “Daily Mail Reporter” has to have read this report – and the IPCC report – to write this story. There’s no way such a massive error could have crept into this story.

The Mail accuses the IPCC of being alarmist and wrong. Perhaps they should look in the mirror first.

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If global warming is real then why is it cold, part 379

As you may have heard, there’s currently a climate conference taking place in Cancún, Mexico. As you may also have heard, it’s snowing.

Uh-oh!

If, last week, frozen behind a snowdrift, you heard a faint hysterical squeaking, it might well have been the sound of those 20,000 delegates holed up behind a wall of armed security guards in the sun-drenched Mexican holiday resort of Cancun, telling each other that the world is more threatened by runaway global warming than ever.

Yes, it’s the classic “If global warming is real why is it cold?” argument from Christopher Booker, blithely ignoring the fact that 2010 is set to be one of the hottest years on record (and 2000-2009 was the hottest decade on record) regardless of what the weather is like for one week on a small northerly island. To be fair, this isn’t his only argument (even if he does return to the subject three more times in the space of the column). After all, he also has “If the oceans are getting more acidic, why are they still alkaline?”

Far from the oceans acidifying, their pH currently ranges between 7.9 and 8.3, putting them very firmly on the alkaline side of the threshold, at 7.0.

Of course, the fact that the seas are alkaline doesn’t mean they can’t be less alkaline than they were years ago. And sure enough, according to the Australian Antarctic Division:

CO2 from human activities has caused the pH of ocean surface waters to drop by 0.11 pH units. This might not sound like much, but it is equivalent to a 30% increase in acidity.*

Ocean acidification is never going to turn the oceans completely acidic – that would require a 1580% rise in ocean acidity, which is a bit unlikely. What acidification will do – and what it has already done, in fact – is bring acidity up just enough to interfere with creatures like coral, which rely on the precise chemistry of the ocean to produce their skeletons.

His other argument?

It is only those same old computer models that predict that Tuvalu and the Maldives are about to drown, when real measurements show the sea around them not to be rising at all.

It’s true that one dataset from Tuvalu did appear to show no sea level rise. Unfortunately (for both Booker and the Tuvaluans) that data was taken from a single station over a relatively short period and presented without uncertainties, making it effectively meaningless. Analysis of more data from Tuvalu (PDF, p.11) finds a sea level rise of 1.2 ± 0.8 mm/year. The uncertainty in the data is still quite large (not least because the island of Tuvalu itself is moving by a small but unknown amount), but there certainly appears to be a sea level rise. At any rate, regardless of whether or not the sea level is rising at Tuvalu right now, it’s certainly rising worldwide at a rate which threatens people living in low-lying land.

The global warming scare may have been fun for the children while it lasted. But the time has come for the joke to be declared well and truly over.

Some joke.

Incidentally, Booker finishes off his column with a link to some people singing Handel’s Hallelujah in a food court which, he claims, is “the very opposite of all that is stood for by global warming, social workers, the European Union, the Coalition Government and the rest of this column’s usual fare“. Because if there’s one thing environmentalists really hate, it’s people singing.

* pH is a logarithmic measure of acidity, which means that numbers appear to work slightly oddly. A drop of about 0.3 on the pH scale corresponds roughly to a doubling of the activity of H+ ions (the ions that cause acidity), and a drop of 1 (from 8 to 7, for instance) represents a tenfold increase in H+ activity.

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Isn’t the TPA railing against “pointless non-jobs” rather hypocritical?

The papers aren’t even trying any more. Once upon a time, they might at least pretend they weren’t simply churning out TaxPayers’ Alliance press releases; today’s articles “Council EU jobs cost £41m” (Express) and “Councils spend £41million a year on non-jobs” (Telegraph) however are utterly shameless about it.

First things first: the TaxPayers’ Alliance report (eurgh, I guess I should link to it) found the cost of all “unnecessary” jobs – in other words, any job Richard Littlejohn might disapprove of – was £41 million. That’s not just European Officers, but Diversity Officers, Political Advisers and Climate Change Officers* too.

The report contradicts itself several times: the TPA point to the fact that different councils employ different numbers of staff as an indication of waste – “the disparities across councils are evidence that the hiring of specific staff is not necessary” – only to later state “As proponents of localism, the TaxPayers’ Alliance believes that local authorities should be granted as much freedom as possible to make decisions that benefit local taxpayers. This will inevitably mean that councils will pursue different policy objectives“. So councils should have as much freedom as they like as long as they only use that freedom to do exactly what the TPA wants?

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Yes is no, hot is cold, Telegraph is a denialist cesspool

Is climate change simply caused by the Sun getting hotter? A scientific paper (paywalled) in Nature this week has looked at this question, measuring the connection between solar activity and warming. The conclusion they came to?

Over the three-year study period, the observed variations in the solar spectrum have caused roughly as much warming of Earth’s surface as have increases in carbon dioxide emissions, says [Professor Joanna] Haigh. But because solar activity is cyclic it should have no long-term impact on climate, regardless of whether similar spectral changes have occurred during previous solar cycles.

“If the climate were affected in the long term, the Sun should have produced a notable cooling in the first half of the twentieth century, which we know it didn’t,” she says.

So in other words, the Sun goes through warmer and cooler phases, but the planet keeps warming even during the cool phases. Interestingly, it turns out to be coolest when it’s most active – apparently because an active Sun uses its energy to make ultraviolet light (the type of light that causes suntans and skin cancer) instead of infrared light (the type of light that carries heat). Yet more proof that climate change is real and man-made.

How does The Telegraph spin it?

An increase in solar activity from the Sun actually cools the Earth, suggests new research that will renew the debate over the science behind climate change.

The research overturns traditional assumptions about the relationship between the sun and global warming.

Focused on a three-year snapshot of time between 2004 and 2007, the findings will be seized upon by those who believe that man’s role in rises in the earth’s temperature has been overstated.

Eventually, when you reach the sixth paragraph the article does eventually explain that “long term analysis suggests it actually provides further evidence that the heating of the planet is more than a natural, cyclical phenomenon“, but only after hinting to people that the data in fact says the very opposite – an interpretation that even the article itself eventually admits is false.

Sure enough, it looks like the vast majority of readers who’ve left comments stopped reading before that sixth paragraph. There were 207 comments on the article at the time of writing – of those whose position I could clearly discern, 101 were denialist while just 17 were from people were from people who’d read to the bottom of the article. A good chunk of the denialist comments seem to be arguing that climate scientists are so stupid that they didn’t realise the Sun existed until just now, and some of the rest are from people who’ve been confused by the article not explaining why a stronger sun is cooler, but among them are some real treats:

Climate change treaties is the start of World Government. After all, this is how the EU started .

A classic example of girly science.

You cant possibly agree with this,its against Marxist New Labour,Green,we hate mankind,and all the rest of those highly esteemed organisations who have spent our money proving we are to blame,you know,evil mankind!

And the most popular comment, with a +99 recommendation rating?

I think Global Warming shit should be really stopped right now. It’s SO annoying to see those politician telling me what to do and what not to do

Of course that doesn’t mean that everyone who read the article came out of it disbelieving in climate change – after all, denialists are more likely to have something to say on the subject than people who believe in climate change – but it’s still depressing. I’m just waiting for the inevitable Delingpole article now; I wonder whether it’ll turn out this study was carried out by the Bilderberg group or the Illuminati.

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Uncertainty and the Daily Mail

(Note: Daily Mail links now go via the wonderful istyosty service, which means that the Mail does not get the advertising revenue from the hits)

The word “uncertainty” has a special meaning in science, quite different to its normal everyday meaning. If I say that I am uncertain about my future, or what to have for tea tonight,* then it might mean that I am “undecided” or “unsure”. If however I do an experiment and I say that there are uncertainties in my data, that does not mean I am undecided or unsure about the results, or that the whole thing was a waste of time.

Instead, all it means is that I realise that my measurements are not – and can never be – 100% precise and accurate. For example, my kitchen scales weigh things in units of grams, so they could tell me the difference between 99 grams of flour and 100 grams, but aren’t precise enough to tell me the difference between 100.1 grams and 100.2 grams. That’s an example of an uncertainty (±0.5 grams in this case), but it’s not one that means that the scales are completely useless; they might not be perfectly accurate but I can still use them to bake a cake.

I say this because apparently the Daily Mail‘s science editor apparently fails to grasp this fairly simple idea:

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