Assessing the UNIPCC fifth assessment report

The first part of the UNIPCC AR5 is due to be published in the coming days. At the Conversation, Research Fellows Roger Jones and Celeste Young at Victoria University have posted Explainer: how to read an IPCC report. It contains some useful stuff on penetrating the coded language of the IPCC report. You will be better able to decode what the IPCC mean by various levels of confidence. However, the authors are very careful not to give people a free rein in thinking for themselves. Therefore they stress that the language is complex, and any questions need to be answered by an expert. After all, it would not do to have people misinterpreting the science.

I suggest an alternative method of understanding the science. That is comparing what is said now with what the consensus said back in 2007 in AR4. The AR4 is available at the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change website at the following location.

Figure 2.4 Radiative forcing components of SYR.

It would be nice to see the comparative estimates, particularly on whether aerosols have a comparatively large negative role and whether natural factors are still less than 10% of the net total.


Figure 2.4. Global average radiative forcing (RF) in 2005 (best estimates and 5 to 95% uncertainty ranges) with respect to 1750 for CO2, CH4, N2O and other important agents and mechanisms, together with the typical geographical extent (spatial scale) of the forcing and the assessed level of scientific understanding (LOSU). Aerosols from explosive volcanic eruptions contribute an additional episodic cooling term for a few years following an eruption. The range for linear contrails does not include other possible effects of aviation on cloudiness. {WGI Figure SPM.2}

Figure SPM.6. Projected surface temperature changes for the late 21st century (2090-2099).

An updated map on a comparable basis would be useful, especially for the most concerning area of the Arctic.

Figure SPM.6. Projected surface temperature changes for the late 21st century (2090-2099). The map shows the multi-AOGCM average projection for the A1B SRES scenario. Temperatures are relative to the period 1980-1999. {Figure 3.2}

Table SPM.2. Examples of some projected regional impacts.

It would be nice to have an update on how the short term impacts are doing. These all had high confidence or very high confidence

In Africa

By 2020, between 75 and 250 million of people are projected to be exposed to increased water stress due to climate change.

By 2020, in some countries, yields from rain-fed agriculture could be reduced by up to 50%. Agricultural production, including access to food, in many African countries is projected to be severely compromised. This would further adversely affect food security and exacerbate malnutrition.

In Australia and New Zealand

By 2020, significant loss of biodiversity is projected to occur in some ecologically rich sites, including the Great Barrier Reef and Queensland Wet Tropics.

Small Islands

Sea level rise is expected to exacerbate inundation, storm surge, erosion and other coastal hazards, thus threatening vital infrastructure, settlements and facilities that support the livelihood of island communities.

Please note the graphs used are available at this website and are IPCC Copyright.

Watermelon Energy Policy – Green Renewables backed by Red Diesel

My last past was on the Fulcrum Power application to build a 20MW diesel power station. I predict that this will be part of the next big scandal to hit so-called renewables sector.

Fulcrum Power are planning to become part of the National Grid’s STOR (Short Term Operating Reserve) scheme. The STOR End of Year Report 2011/12 summary is

In 2011/12 National Grid procured on average 3230 megawatts (MW) for the six seasons, at a cost of £70.4m in availability payments. This was made up on average of 2160 MW for the Committed service and 1071 MW for the Flexible service. The actual MW availability provided through STOR during the peak demand of each day between 1st April 2011 and 31st March 2012, averaged out at 2172 MW. This represents an increase of 6.2% over the average MW availability for peak of each day during the 2010/11 term.

There were 421 successful STOR tenders in 2011/12, of which 191 units were Committed service providers and 230 units were Flexible service providers.

The average availability price for both Committed and Flexible STOR was £9.13/MW/h and the average utilisation price was £232.37/MWh. This represents an increase of 0.6% on 2010/11 average availability prices and a decrease of 7.7% on 2010/11 average utilisation prices.

National Grid utilised a total of 173.3 gigawatt hours (GWh) of STOR, yielding utilisation payments of £32.3m; and thus marks increases of 73% and 66%, respectively, when compared with the total STOR utilisation for 2010/11 and its cost.

The total expenditure for STOR during the 2011/12 term was £102.7m.

This 20MW scheme would add less than 1% to the total STOR capacity, which is currently costing just over £100m per year. Neither is this the

The STOR scheme is used at the moment in case of the emergency shut-down of a major power station. In the future I predict it is likely to be to cover two sources.

  • With increasing reliance on wind turbines, for in the sub-zero winter temperatures, caused by windless high pressure systems.
  • With the shutting down of the older generations of coal and nuclear capacity without new base-load power coming along, to provide peak time capacity on windless days.

The BBC report on the Fulcrum Power planning application stated

Two diesel power stations planned in Plymouth will compensate for fluctuations in supplies from green energy, say developers.

Green Frog Power got planning permission last year and Fulcrum Power has made an application for a similar power station.

Green Frog Power recently received financing of £75m to build 200MW of standby power. They must have these mini stations all over the place. They are not alone. The “STOR Market Information for TR19″ report notes that in Year 7 showed that whilst the accepted STOR was around 3000MW, the rejected applications were about 6300MW. There is a huge amount of generating capacity out there of 3MW or more. However, much of this will be old diesel engines, with efficiencies far less than the coal-fired or nuclear power stations than are being shut down. The cost per kwh would also be about two or three times those of the coal-fired power stations, if used as base-load. But used as peak demand carrying load on windless days, they could be five to ten times the cost. The gas-fired power stations currently used for peak times could be switched to base load. All the extra diesel being used could hit car drivers in the wallets as well in the winter.

So the good point here is that the lights are unlikely to go out. We have plenty of temporary capacity. The bad news is that the dithering over shale gas and the banning of new coal-fired power stations could push energy costs through the roof and might even increase CO2 emissions.

James Delingpole likes to call the green movement “watermelons“. That is, they are politically green on the outside, but socialist red on the inside. In Britain, diesel not used for transport does not carry excise duties. It carries a red dye, to easily identify its illicit use in road vehicles. British energy policy is likely to become a watermelon policy – green renewables on the surface, but red diesel at the safety core.

Green Frog Power

STOR scheme description

STOR scheme documents

STOR End of Year Report 2011/12

STOR Market Information for TR19

BBC on the Fulcrum Power planning application

Tung and Zhou claim of constant decadal anthropogenic warming rates in last 100 years

Bishop Hill reports on

A new paper in PNAS entitled ‘Using data to attribute episodes of warming and cooling in instrumental records’ looks important. Ka-Kit Tung and Jiansong Zhou of the University of Washington report that anthropogenic global warming has been overcooked. A lot.

My comment was:-

My prediction is that this paper will turn out to have exaggerated the anthropogenic influence, rather than have under-estimated it.

The relevant quote:-

The underlying net anthropogenic warming rate in the industrial era is found to have been steady since 1910 at 0.07–0.08 °C/decade

Greenhouse gas emissions have not been increasing at a steady rate. The most important is CO2. A couple of years ago I tried to estimate from country data (filling in important gaps) how global CO2 emissions had increased. The increases per quarter century were

1900-1925 85%

1925-1950 60%

1950-1975 185%

1975-2000 45%

That meant global CO2 emissions increased more than 12 times (1100%) in 100 years. The conversion rate to retained CO2 seems to be roughly constant – 4Gt of carbon equivalent to increase CO2 levels by 1ppm. Furthermore, the C20th warming was nearly all in two phases. 1910-1945 and 1975-1998. Rather than temperature rise being related to CO2 emissions, it seems out of step. That would imply a combination of two things for the anthropogenic warming rate to be constant at 0.07–0.08 °C/decade. First is that CO2 has massively diminishing returns. Second is that CO2 emissions alone have a much smaller impact on the global average temperature changes (as reported in HADCRUT4), than this paper concludes.

Supplementary Information

This source of the emissions data is

Boden, T.A., G. Marland, and R.J. Andres. 2010. Global, Regional, and National Fossil-Fuel CO2 Emissions. Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, U.S. Department of Energy, Oak Ridge, Tenn., U.S.A. doi 10.3334/CDIAC/00001_V2010

The CO2 levels are for Mauna Loa back to 1959, and estimated backwards from there to 1780.

The above chart shows by estimated CO2 emissions (expressed in units of 10Gt of carbon equivalents) shown as against the HADCRUT3 data set. This shows a slow rate of increase in CO2 emissions in the first half of the twentieth century, with falls in emissions during the Great Depression (1929-1933) and at the end of the Second World War (1945). From 1950 to 1973 there was a huge upsurge in emissions with the post-war economic boom, then stalls in 1973 (The OPEC oil embargo) and 1980-83 (global recession). After 2000 there was another surge in emissions, mostly due to rapid growth in China.

The temperature increases followed a different pattern. There were two periods of increasing temperatures in the twentieth century – From 1910-1945 and 1975-1998. The decadal changes graph below shows clearly the change in emissions. The temperature changes by decade exaggerate the falls in temperature in the Edwardian decade and the 1940s.

What is clearly illustrated is why I believe the anthropogenic influence on temperature was not similar in every decade from 1910, as Ka-Kit Tung and Jiansong Zhou claim.

Electric Cars – toys of the rich, subsidised by the masses

Joanna Nova reports on a new study showing that electric cars produce more CO2 that either petrol or diesel cars if that electricity is produced principally from coal-fired power stations.

The most practical electric car

In Britain there is more a market for electric vehicles, but still puny sales. The European Car of the Year is the Chevrolet Volt, which has a 1.4 petrol engine to accompany the electric motor. At £29,995 it costs 50% more than a similarly-sized Ford Focus diesel, even with the £5,000 government subsidy. In fact, it is more than a similarly-sized Audi, BMW or Mercedes and will not last nearly as long. If you look at the detail, the Volt has a claimed CO2 emission 27 g/km, as against 99 g/km for the best diesels. This takes no account of the CO2 emissions from the power stations. In Britain electricity is mostly from gas, with much of the rest from coal and nuclear.

There is also a question of equity. Domestic electricity has a 5% tax added on. Diesel has over 120% added. So the cost for 100 km (using official figures and 15p per kwh + 5% vat) is £2.66 for the Volt and £6.00 for the equivalent diesel car (combined 67.3mpg and £1.43 per litre). But tax is £0.13 and £3.30, so most of the cost saving is in tax. In the UK the average is 12,000 miles or 19,300km per year. So the tax saving from driving the Volt is up to £610 per annum. Although if you travel that distance per annum there will be a number of long distance journeys. Let us assume half the 12,000 miles is on the petrol engine at 50mpg, with petrol at £1.38. Then the annual tax saving drops to just £70.

The biggest saving for electric car owners is in London, with the congestion charge. Drive 5 days a week for 11 months of the year into London, and the conventional car owner will pay £2,750 a year. Drive an electric car or hybrid and the charge is zero.

So what sort of people would be persuaded to buy such a device? It is the small minority who have money for at least two cars, but want to appear concerned about the environment. They have the open-top sports car for summer days, the luxury car for long journeys, and the Volt for trips to the supermarket or to friend’s houses. It is the new form of conspicuous consumption for the intelligentsia, making the Toyota Prius so last year.

The least practical electric car

Launched this year the Renault Twizy is claimed to be about the cheapest “car” available today. As a car it is also by far the smallest available as well, being more a quadricycle, with no proper doors. The cost is kept low by not including the battery which is rented for at least £48 a month. As the Telegraph concludes, it is an expensive toy. My 12 year old son said he would love one when he saw it in a car showroom recently. But he would soon regret it if he was transported to school in it every day, instead of riding on the top-deck of a bus. At least if his dad forgot to plug it in, it would be small enough for him to push.

Is recycling rotting food hygenic?

My local council now says that I can put waste food in the green recycle bin. Oh lovely! Imagine the green bin after having the remains of a chicken carcass and all the juices after putrifying in the hot summer. Especially with some solidified milk on top. Remember the swill bin at school. Now imagine if were only emptied once a fortnight and you get the idea.

My own view is to continue with what I currently do. Double-bag the solid food and swill the liquid or jellified material down the sink with a good dose of detergent.

I will change if some will volunteer to clean out the green bin occasionally. It needs doing as the grass cuttings in the bottom are well composted. But the flies and stench from the rotting fruit put me off at present.

MCC Waste Food

Ann Widdecombe on Climate Change

Total Politics Magazine has interviewed Ann Widdecombe. Of note was the views expressed on climate change.


It so happens that I know that an awful lot of people in our party – and by that I mean a lot – are deeply unhappy with the way that we’ve signed up apparently quite blindly to the climate change agenda. It isn’t that they don’t want sensible things like recycling, it isn’t a silly rebellion. But there is a deep unease that we’re rushing in virtually to a theology: those who asked questions are ‘deniers’. The language is theological. We’re rushing in to what has become a theology imposed by the equivalent of what has become the mediaeval church and that nobody’s allowed to question it. And that even by questioning it, you’re doing the world a massive disservice and bringing it under perdition.


For those conservatives who share that unease, here are some basic points that may help get the issue in perspective.


  1. The rise in  temperatures over the past century of 0.70C is nothing unusual in the climate since the last ice-age. For much of the Roman Period 250 BC to 450 AD and the Medieval Period (900 to 1300) there is considerable evidence that temperatures were warmer than today. The view that recent temperatures are the highest in many thousands of years (held by the UN IPCC and Al Gore) is based on a single, now-discredited paper. (Shorter, but older, statement here) If there is nothing unusual historically in the recent rise in temperatures, then it is unlikely mostly or entirely by anthropogenic factors. If this is the case, then reducing carbon emissions is a waste of time.
  2. The UN IPCC forecasts that the warming will accelerate is based on positive feedback. That is the small rise in temperatures already experienced (0.70C) will cause a much larger rise in temperatures in the future (predicted to be 2 to 4.50C this century). This view is not supported by actual evidence. See here. If there is no sign runaway warming, then there is no need to panic about drastic action now. Rather we should revise our long-term forecasts downwards.
  3. There is a certain bias in

i)                    The collection of temperature data, meaning recent warming has been overstated (most recent discussion see here)

ii)                   Reporting the news when it supports the consensus, but not when it does not (e.g. Antarctic warming, hurricanes and Himalayan glacier melt.)

iii)                 Political spin in the presentation of the data. For instance ehe IPCC’s 4th assessment report of 2007, instead of saying that warming had paused (or ceased) this century said “Eleven of the last twelve years (1995-2006) rank among the twelve warmest years in the instrumental record of global surface temperature (since 1850).” (page 30 Col 1)


 In other words, far from “the science being settled” there are huge questions that must be answered. Before a new drug is launched we ask that tests should be independently verified. If a doctor gives us a diagnosis that we do not think is right we get a second opinion. If someone calls at the door saying “Your roof is about to cave in, but I can replace it for you bargain price of £20,000 if you let me start tomorrow” we would normally see through it and get an alternative opinion from an independent surveyor.


Ann Widdecombe may be overstating her case, but we need the alternative voices to be heard, so that between the extremes of Global Warming Alarmists and Climate Change Deniers, we get an honest assessment and realistic policy.

Child Poverty Bill – Another Labour Poison Pill?

Yesterday the government put forward the Child Poverty Bill, with mandatory targets for reducing poverty.  It is utter folly.

For those that really care about helping the poorest, meeting a particular target is not the way to go about it. It is fairly easy (and relatively cheap) to get a large number just below the poverty line to move just above it.  


However, people should consider the following.


1. The Measure is in relation to Median Income.

 It is not about actual living standards (how much you can buy with the income), but a relative measure compared with the median income. But at the same time the government’s environmental policies are lowering living standards – by pushing up fuel bills in the future and food bills (through the competition from bio-fuels). The poor (who spend larger proportions of their incomes on these items) are seeing their living standards fall, even though their “real” incomes might be rising and income inequality decreasing.

Further, if indirect taxes are increased (VAT, excise duties on alcohol and tobacco), then this will again fall disproportionately on the poor. Taxes will need to increase to reduce the deficit, and VAT is a good candidate.


2. Standard of life is more important than standard of living.

However, there is something much worse. The more government determines the income of people, the less control people have for influencing their own lives. In trying to eliminate material poverty, government will foster hopelessness. During the Euro-elections, Channel 4 did a survey of how people voted, concentrating on BNP voters. A distinguishing feature was that

 “Just 19 per cent of BNP voters are “confident that my family will have the opportunities to prosper in the years ahead”. This compares with 59 per cent of Labour voters, 47 per cent of Lib Dem and Green voters, and 42 per cent of Conservative voters.”


So a poison-pill policy directed at a future Tory government may help enlarge the disaffected underclass. Another example of Labour preparing for opposition.



More analysis can be found at


The Net Cost of Tackling Global Warming

Dan Hannan blogged today on the CAP & Trade Scheme just adopted by the US House of Representatives. Assuming all assumptions are correct, the impact on global temperatures will be just 0.05 degrees by 2015. The costs on the US Economy will be trillions of dollars. If adopted worldwide, we might get 0.20 to 0.25 of a degree reduction. This scheme would therefore fail the Stern Review proposals of the benefits of action exceeding the costs. Without even questioning the AGW science, we can claim to be creating net harm to humanity by these measures.

No warming in the Antarctic after all

Remember in late January an article in Nature was published concluding Antarctic warming over the past 50 years was more extensive than previously thought?


A chap called Ryan O. has got to the bottom of the numbers. The conclusion is that the statistical analysis is flawed, and the results do not stand up. Steve Mcintyre, on Climate Audit has published blogs here and here explaining and enlarging on aspects of the findings.


I wonder if Nature will publish these findings? I can say with near certainty that the press will not give the same prominence to this as the original findings. There will be no announcement on the BBC, nor will msnbc be announcing that “Flawed research undermines climate change consensus”. It is not just a media bias in the Global Warming Climate Change debate, but simply that counter-news is rarely reported. So every minor bit of medical research is shown as news, but rarely do we get updates that the results have been overturned, despite it happening 80% of the time. Yet in scientific areas that rely on statistical analysis this happens all the time. In studying economics I found in many areas, such as the Theory of Demand, The Phillips Curve and on the Monetarist / Keynesian debates on the 1960s to 1980s, papers were constantly being overturned.


For those who believe that predictive ability is the sign of good science James M. Taylor, senior fellow for environment policy at The Heartland Institute, should be commended. Quoted in OPedNews on January 24th 2009, three days after the article was published.


“I would be quite wary of assigning much value to this article. Raw temperature data and a number of studies over many years have determined that Antarctica is cooling. Now we have a single article, reliant on subjective data interpretation from well-known global warming alarmists, saying the opposite.

“For a long time now, Antarctic cooling has been a stone in the shoe of global warming alarmists. Now, conveniently, those who regularly blog on an alarmist Web site claim they have ‘statistically smoothed’ the data to show Antarctica is warming, even though surface temperature stations show a significant, long-term cooling trend.

“The article appears to argue that due to incredibly bad luck, many temperature stations scattered throughout the continent are located in random, isolated pockets of cooling that defy the overall warming trend. The odds of this being the case are quite remote, and the theory is notably short on reliable evidence. Adding to the dubious nature of the study’s conclusion is the authors’ self-interest in silencing an embarrassing mountain of raw temperature data that contradict the authors’ global warming theory.


Taylor points to the results contradicting established data. When that happens the review process should ask searching questions. Something seems to have gone amiss with the review process at Nature, despite them having taken 11 months to review the paper.

Climate Change – An opportunity for the UK to benefit humanity

In March, Phillip Salter, on the Adam Smith Institute blog, suggested that we should also open up peer reviews in climatology.  My response was


Dr Alister McFarquhar is right in that the opening up of peer reviews will not help.
There are is a way that the closed world of the Climate Change Lobby can be changed. Steve McIntyre of campaigns for the datasets behind articles to be published. In Economic Theory this already happens, which means that debate is actively encouraged. That is careers are made more through disputing established opinion than reinforcing that opinion. Such an approach should appeal to those on both sides of the debate. Those who believe in anthropogenic global warming should be in favour of optimal policies, so must want to see challanged the more eccentric views based on poor scholarship. It would also appeal to those are searching for answers, or who believe that proper debate brings greater understanding.


I would go further.

 The Government is looking for opportunities for investment to get us out of this depression. That is spending of money now that will lead to far greater returns for the economy in the future. In the area of the universities, this means promoting the UK as a world-leading centre of original research. Financing the launch of a new journal (say “Critical Perspectives on Climatology”) is one area where there is a huge gap in the market. The Government can justify it for the following reasons.

  1. The promotion of better science will give a new lease of life to the historical role of the UK as a fountainhead of great intellects.
  2. Reducing the risks to the poor. Extra measures to combat climate change will hurt the poor the most. For this reason, more objective analysis will reduce the risks that we will get policy wrong.
  3. Proper stewardship of the Earth means proper democratic debate, where all views are heard. This is another reason for Britain’s historical pre-eminence in science.
  4. When funding investment one should look for high returns. Most government-backed investment does not get back the money invested. This one could generate huge returns.

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