Thursday, 1 August 2013

A Climate in Denial and an Energy Policy in Tatters

Recently Ed Davey, Energy & Climate Change Secretary, went onto the BBC to defend his energy policy under questioning by Andrew Neil, principally concerning the ongoing 15 year pause in global surface temperatures and the recent peer-reviewed paper downgrading both the Transient Climate Response and the Equilibrium Climate Sensitivity, two measures of short term and longer term CO2 sensitivity respectively.

Rather than acknowledge the possible importance of these events in determining a change in policy, i.e. conceding the need for less urgency in pursuing a decarbonisation agenda, Davey predictably chose to summarily dismiss Neil's questioning by (a) reference to a recent highly suspect 97% consensus (supposedly those in favour of attributing significant climate change to CO2 emissions) and (b), by reference to supposed other major indicators of climate change which have not paused for 15 years (sea-level rise, polar ice melts, weather extremes, rising ocean heat content). So, we are left in no doubt that, even though the playing field has altered considerably in the debate about climate change, the UK government intends to keep pushing the renewables agenda with very little change in momentum, hence more costly and inefficient wind turbines, no change in punitive carbon taxes on power stations burning coal and gas and a disincentive to build new nuclear plants because of demands from energy companies for price-matching subsidies.

In case we are moved to consider Davey's argument that Earth hasn't stopped 'warming', only the surface has and we should look to other indicators as evidence for this, let us briefly examine the two most important of those other pointers towards ongoing rapid climate change:

1. Rising ocean heat content - the 'missing heat' issue. It's not in the top 700m and most definitely not at the ocean surface (Hadcrut and Argo float measurements confirm this). So, it's 'hiding' below 700m in the deep oceans. The network of Argo floats register a slight increase in temperature at these depths during the last decade. But what we are being asked to believe is that, basically 3000 odd floats, measuring temperature increases of less than 0.1 degrees, with a supposed accuracy of 1/100th of a degree, can accurately register an increase in total global ocean heat content (OHC) below 700m. That's a pretty astounding claim in itself, but furthermore, we are asked to believe that, all over the globe, warming surface waters, which ordinarily, during non-hiatus periods, would register as increasing in temperature, are now being rapidly subducted below by ocean currents and mixed with colder water, thereby transferring the surplus heat to the ocean depths. Even if we accept this unlikely proposal, what is happening on land? Why are land temperatures not increasing when there is no obvious mechanism for rapidly removing surplus heat from solid rocks and soil? Finally, in a last twist, we are then requested to assume that this deep ocean heat will come back to haunt us in the not too distant future as a resumption of accelerated surface warming (the only type of warming which can justifiably have any direct influence on policy). I would suggest a very large pinch of (sea) salt is required in order to digest this explanation.

2. Polar ice reduction.

The Arctic regions have seen fairly rapid ice loss since satellite monitoring began in 1978/79. Before that, the evidence is imperfect, based on anecdote and charts. 2012 saw a record minimum September ice extent and reports of an 'ice free' Arctic in 2013 were being widely circulated. But here we are at the beginning of August, just one month to go, and Arctic ice extent is not looking at all like it will dip to anything like the 2012 minimum, much less completely disappear. I could be wrong, there's still time, but the balance of probabilities is swinging firmly away from the Arctic alarmists.
In the Southern hemisphere, Antarctic ice is reported to be at a record extent, so no joy there for Mr Davey et al. It would seem that Gaia is just not willing to play ball with the climate alarmists, much to their increasing chagrin in many instances.

Enter fracking into the fray, the all-singing, all-dancing, 'new' way to exploit billions of tons of shale gas lying beneath our feet. Britain has been eyeing the US now for some time and has seen how the shale gas revolution across the Atlantic has driven down the cost of energy. Obama, global warming advocate extraordinaire, sees no conflict in developing this fossil fuel resource because it is so much 'cleaner' than dirty, polluting coal. Now our government has decided it wants in on the act and is busily granting licences willy-nilly for shale gas extraction and offering generous tax-breaks to the companies involved. Seemingly, even though gas is still a fossil fuel, the department of Energy & Climate Change perceives there to be no incongruity in the dash for shale gas with its efforts elsewhere to be a world leader in the development of green technology.

The US is not Britain. Even there, with vastly more land area and a much lower population density, protests have been vigorous and well organised. If recent events are anything to go by, protests against fracking in the UK are going to be even more widespread and vociferous than those against windfarms. So trouble lies ahead. Meanwhile, 'dirty' cheap coal lies in the ground, the huge power plant which formerly burnt it now reliant upon 'sustainable' woodchips and nuclear power station plans remain on the drawing board. If Davey is not unhinged, his energy policy most certainly is; to coin a phrase from a well known climate alarmist, I would say it was in fact "bat sh*t crazy".