Posts Tagged Christopher Booker

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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Dodgy foundations

James Delingpole, the only mainstream journalist to blame global warming on the Bilderberg Illuminati New World Order, has an urgent message: the foundations of Britain’s wind farms are about to collapse!

Where did he get this horrifying news? Well, an anonymous source emailed him a rumour heard from an another anonymous source. Apparently, it’s all extremely serious, which is why the mainstream media, which as we all know absolutely loves wind turbines and will defend them at any cost, is covering it up.* Still, as his source says, that’s what happens “when an industry builds bigger and bigger things without having built up a history of experience on the ones built earlier” since of course the “foundation” is a radical new technology and no-one ever built a tall steel structure before wind turbines came along.

Because even Delingpole admits a single unsourced email isn’t enough to base an entire column on, he also quotes, unchecked, Christopher Brooker’s assertion that nuclear power gives you 13 times as much as power per pound as offshore wind – in fact, it’s only about 1.5 times as much, according to yesterday’s linked Telegraph article, and nuclear power is actually 11% more expensive than onshore wind (and of course, the cost of offshore wind is expected to fall). Apparently his source is a trustworthy-sounding blog called “EU Referendum” (I’m not going to link it – if you want to read it, it’s linked from Delingpole’s article), which in fact claims that for the £1.2 billion that it will cost to run the new 300 MW Thanet windfarm for the next 20 years, you could build a 1 GW nuclear power plant (in itself a dubious claim – exact figures are hard to come by, but this report (PDF, p.32) on the new Hinkley Point C reactor suggests a cost of £4 billion for a 1.6 GW reactor, or about £2.5 billion per gigawatt, twice what Brooker suggests).

Comparing the 20 year running cost of a plant with the construction cost of another is quite obviously misleading. In fact, Thanet cost £900 million to build, which works out at about £3 billion per gigawatt; slightly more than nuclear power, but not much – certainly not 13 times as much. Taking load factors – the percentage of maximum output that the power station usually produces – into account will admittedly bump this up – using the statistics from Renewable UK** it looks like this load factor adjustment brings the cost of the power roughly in line with the findings of the UK Energy Research Centre report from yesterday.

* Delingpole’s claim that “blinkered” mainstream journalists are refusing to criticise wind farms in fact puts me in mind of the Daily Mail worrying that “you can’t talk about immigration“… while devoting acres of newsprint to immigration. Yep, no-one’s talking about the cost of wind power.

** Incidentally, it’s worth reading the Renewable UK site for another reason too – it explains why it’s not really a concern when the wind stops blowing. In a nutshell, other power sources are themselves unreliable – even coal and nuclear plants can break down, after all – and so we need to keep power stations running on “spinning reserve” anyway. These reserve power stations can absorb the slack when the wind isn’t at full strength without producing significantly more pollution.

Edit: Just noticed the picture Delingpole uses of a fallen turbine, with the caption “One down…”. From that, you might think that these mythical foundations have already started to crack… except that in fact that turbine quite clearly fell because the tower bent in high winds, and its collapse had nothing to do with the foundations (and it’s the only turbine to have collapsed so far in England – “one down” indeed).

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The Coldism War

So apparently The Telegraph has a climate change denialist columnist, one Christopher Booker. The little biography given of him is “Christopher Booker of The Sunday Telegraph exposes the ever-growing power of the European Union in Brussels and the excesses of mad officialdom“. Fairly standard Telegraph fare, though the denialism is a new spin on it. Anyway, today’s column is “Desperate days for the warmists“. Is this going to be another paragraph-by-paragraph takedown? I think it is!

So he opens with a photograph of cattle herders in Chile, surrounded by snow, captioned “Herding cattle in Chile as South America suffers one of its coldest winters for years“. Now seems as good a time as any to drop a link to an awesome website: If Global Warming Is Real Then Why Is It Cold?, a collection of the most inane newspaper cartoons on the subject. Such a stupid argument from cold doesn’t really need refuting at all (average temperatures are increasing, of course there is still variation year on year, etc.), but I would like to point out that in fact South America is in fact particularly at risk from climate change – the glaciers are in retreat, the coastline of Brazil is shrinking and average temperatures are soaring. Don’t forget also that the South American climate is affected strongly by El Niño and La Niña – right now, the colder La Niña appears to be in effect, so the fact Chile is having an unusually cold winter is not surprising at all.

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