Two Contrasting Protests on Climate Change

Yesterday marked two protests related to climate change. One in central London by a group of climate extremists baying for more stringent climate policies. The other right across France demanding the removal of a small additional tax on fuel.

The Climate Extremists

Yesterday a group calling themselves !EXTINCTION REBELLION! had a series of protests around London, including blocking off five major bridges. They have a long history, having been founded almost three weeks ago on Halloween. Their aims are quite clear from a mercifully short video.

It is based on “science“.

The Crux

Even without the other ecological drivers of mass species extinction, natural resource exhaustion and growing human population pressure, human-caused (anthropogenic) climate breakdown alone is enough to wipe out the human species by the end of this century, if governments do not immediately begin to reverse their extractivismand ‘growth’ -based economic policies.

This is why the Extinction Rebellion campaign has at its core a group of activists who are prepared to go to prison for peaceful civil disobedience, to get the necessary media coverage for long enough to leverage the government and the public into war-level mobilisation mode.

When you repeatedly come across the figure of 2 degrees i.e. limiting global warming to 2 degrees, think of what happens to a human body when it experiences a temperature increase of more than 2 degrees.

The recent IPCC SR1.5 was the product of two and a half years trying to come up with scary stories to frighten governments into action. Two examples of the scary headlines from the SPM.

Temperature extremes on land are projected to warm more than GMST (high confidence): extreme hot days in mid-latitudes warm by up to about 3°C at global warming of 1.5°C and about 4°C at 2°C, and extreme cold nights in high latitudes warm by up to about 4.5°C at 1.5°C and about 6°C at 2°C (high confidence). The number of hot days is projected to increase in
most land regions, with highest increases in the tropics (high confidence).

By 2100, global mean sea level rise is projected to be around 0.1 metre lower with global warming of 1.5°C compared to 2°C (medium confidence).

In Britain we will be wiped out by a few 20°C+ hot nights and extra sea level rise of four inches. Maybe we could listen to the 40% of the global population that lives in the tropics.

The “science” section includes this quote from Bill McKibben.

What those numbers mean is quite simple. This industry has announced…in promises to shareholders, that they are determined to burn five times more fossil fuel than the planet’s atmosphere can begin to absorb.

This is not science, but blinkered ideology. Why blinkered? Try going to the CDP Carbon Majors Report 2017 Appendix 1 – Cumulative emissions 1988-2015 %. Below are the top 10.

If the !XR! really believe in the climate apocalypse, shouldn’t they be protesting outside the Chinese, Russian, Iranian and Indian Embassies, and inciting rebellion in those countries? Or are they just climate totalitarians trying to wreck the well-being of the British people?

The Carbon Tax Revolt

On the same day in France there were massive nationwide protests after the Macron government raised its hydrocarbon tax this year by 7.6 cents per litre on diesel and 3.9 cents on petrol. This lead to the formation of the gilets jaunes (yellow vests) movement that have organised at least 630 protests nationwide. From the website blocage17novembre.com. I grabbed the a screenshot map of the protest locations.

These protests became far from peaceful, as frustrated drivers tried to push their way through the protesters. The BBC reports one person killed and 227 killed. The BBC also reports that the 200,000+ protesters are backed by about 75% of the French public.

Yet !EXTINCTION REBELLION! should be supporting the Macron

Lessons for the Climate Extremists

Protests in a single country will not work. Protests in many countries will not work either, as people have other priorities. Further, it is too late to convince countries to sign up to massive cuts in emissions. That opportunity was missed in 1992, when “developing” countries were exempted from any obligation to constrain there emissions. Those countries, with at least 80% of the global population and up to two-thirds of global emissions have shown no inclination to change course. The protests in France show how even very small changes can lead to massive protests. In the UK fuel prices are not raised due to political unpopularity.

If such extremists still believe they are correct in their prophesies, and I am in denial, there are a number of strategies that they can legitimately use to evangelize.

  • Let contrary ideas to their own be evaluated on same unemotive level playing field as their own. In the past on hearing reports of court cases of heinous crimes, I have been convinced more by the daft excuses of the defendant than the prosecution’s evidence.  Alternatively, the overturned terrorist convictions in the 1970s of the Guildford Four and the Birmingham Six undermined belief in the Rule of Law.  So too with the false climate alarmism undermines my belief in scientific evidence.
  • Rather than accept whatever “science” that the supports alarmism is put out, seek to clarify the likelihood, type, extent, location and timing of coming catastrophes. That way, people can better adapt to changing conditions. The problem here is that predictions of doom are most likely false prophesies.
  • Supporting and encouraging Governments where they are encountering popular opposition. Why were !XR! not in France supporting President Macron? He not only supports the ban on fracking (with maybe 80% of Europe’s frackable gas reserves), but also have banned any fossil fuel extraction on French soil. After all !XR! believe this is a WW2 type emergency. Winston Churchill swallowed his loathing of the Bolsheviks to extinguish the Nazi Empire. Is climate not important enough to seek allies and give them some encouragement in time of need?

Climate alarmists will not accept what I say, as this would threaten their world views. They have plenty of others to fall back on for reassurance, but in reality they are just supporting policies that are net harmful.

Kevin Marshall

Friends of the Earth distorting the evidence for Fracking in the UK

Summary

Friends of the Earth have a webpage claiming to be “fracking facts”. The key points I make are.

  • The claims of dangers of fracking raise questions, that need to be answered before they can be considered credible.
  • The claim that fracking could affect house prices is totally unsupported.
  • The claim that shale gas will not significantly affect energy prices is based on out of date data. The British Geological Survey has shown that the potential of shale gas is huge. Friends of the Earth has played a major role in preventing that potential being realized.
  • FoE has consequently helped prevent shale gas from relieving the energy crisis brought upon by the Climate Change Act 2008.
  • Claims that pursuing shale gas in Britain will affect global emissions are pure fantasy. Also is a fantasy the belief that Britain is leading the way on emissions reductions. We ain’t leading if collectively the world is not following. The evidence shows clearly shows this.  

In the previous post I looked at how FoE blatantly mislead about an agreement they reached with the Advertising Standards Authority, which caused the unusual step of ASA Chief Executive Guy Parker issuing a strongly worded statement to defend the ASA’s integrity.

In this post I will look at FoE’s position on fracking, from Fracking definition? What does fracking mean? Read our fracking facts

I will look at various statements made (with FoE quotes in purple), showing how well they are supported by the evidence and/or providing alternative perspectives.

From the section What are the dangers of fracking?

Industry statistics from North America show that around 6% of fracking wells leak immediately.

Leaking wells lead to a risk of water contamination. Lord Smith, former chair of the Environment Agency, has said this is the biggest risk posed by fracking.

So it’s particularly concerning that the Government has now said it will allow fracking companies to drill through aquifers which provide household drinking water.

This raises some questions.

  • If leaks are a problem, with respect to fracking in the UK has this been risk assessed, with appropriate measures taken to prevent leaks?
  • Does that statistic of 6% allow for when there is natural leakage in the area of fracking leaking in the water supplies are venting into the atmosphere in the area where fracking is occurring? This was the case in the images of the flaming water faucet in the movie Gasland.
  • Have there been steps taken in the USA to reduce genuine leaks?
  • Has the proportion of wells leaking gas in the USA been increasing or decreasing?
  • Has the average amount of gas leaked been increasing or decreasing?
  • How when extracting gas from well below water aquifers, through a lined tube, that is both water-tight and gas-tight, is that gas (and fracking fluids) meant to leech into the water supply?

Then there is the statement without evidence.

Fracking could also affect house prices.

This was one of the issues FoE in its agreement with the ASA have the assurance not to repeat claims that fracking affects property prices, unless the evidence changes. Legally there might be cop-out where that assurance does not apply to claims made on its website. Literally, the statement is not untrue, just as the claim that a butterfly flapping its wings on the North Downs could lead to a typhoon in the South China Sea.

Would fracking bring down energy bills?

It’s very unlikely. Fracking company Cuadrilla has admitted that any impact on bills would be “basically insignificant”.

Claims that fracking would create a lot of jobs have also been overstated. According to Cuadrilla, each of its proposed 6-year projects in Lancashire that were recently rejected by the council would only have created 11 jobs.

The claim about Cuadrilla is sourced from an Independent article in June 2013.

“We’ve done an analysis and it’s a very small…at the most it’s a very small percentage…basically insignificant,” said Mark Linder, a public relations executive at Bell Pottinger who is also responsible for Cuadrilla’s corporate development.

The article later says

“According to Poyry, Lancashire shale gas production could also reduce the country’s wholesale gas and electricity prices by as much as 4 per cent between 2014 and 2035, which corresponds to an average saving of £810m/year,”

It is not surprising that shale gas developments in Lancashire alone will not have a significant impact on UK energy prices, especially if that is restricted to a few sites by one company. But over three years later the landscape has changed. The British Geological Survey has been publishing estimates of the quantities of shale gas (and oil) that exists beneath the ground.

The figures are at first hard to comprehend. They are large numbers in units of measure that ordinary people (even people with some knowledge of the field) find hard to comprehend, let alone put into some perspective. In my view, the figures need to be related to annual British consumption. Page 8 of the DECC UK Energy Statistics, 2015 & Q4 2015 estimates gas demand at 794 TWh in 2015.

The BGS uses tcf (tera cubic feet) for its’ estimates, which (like a domestic gas bill) can be converted from TWh. The 794 TWh is about 2.7 tcf. Not all shale gas is recoverable. In fact possibly only 10% of reserves is recoverable on existing technology, and depending on the quality of the deposits.

There are also shale oil deposits, measured by the BGS in both barrels and millions of tonnes. Refinery production (a rough estimate of consumption) was 63 million tonnes in 2015. I will again assume 10% recovery, which may be overly prudent.

The biggest shock was published just a few weeks after the Independent article on 27th July 2013. The size of the Bowland shale was truly staggering. The central estimate is 1329 tcf, meaning enough to satisfy 49 years of current UK gas demand. Potentially it is more, due to the depth of deposits in many areas. No significant deposits of oil are thought to be present

On 23rd May 2014 BGS published the results for the Weald Basin, a large area in the South East of England. Whilst there were no significant deposits of gas, the central estimate of 591 million tonnes is enough to supply the UK for one year.

On 25 June 2014 the Welsh Government published the estimates for Wales. The main gas deposits are thought to be in Wrexham/Cheshire and in South Wales and estimated about 65 tcf, or just over two years of UK demand. (Strictly the Welsh estimate is somewhat below this, as Wrexham is on the Welsh border and Cheshire is an English county. )

On 23rd May 2014 BGS published the results for the Midland Valley of Scotland. The central estimate for shale gas was 80.3 tcf (3 years of UK demand) and for shale oil 800 million tonnes (15 months of refinery production).

Most recently on 13th October 2016, BGS published the results for the Jurassic shale of the Wessex area. Central estimate for shale oil was 149 million tonnes, equivalent to three months of UK refinery production.

In all, conservatively there is estimated to be sufficient gas to supply the UK for over 54 years and oil for two and half years. The impact on supply, and therefore the impact on jobs and (in the case of gas) on energy prices, demands on the ability of businesses to profitability develop these resources. As has happened in the USA, the impact on jobs is mostly dependent on the impact on prices, as low prices affect other industries. In the USA, industries that are sensitive to energy prices (or use gas as a raw material) have returned from overseas, boosting jobs. FoE has played no small part in delaying planning applications with spurious arguments, along with generating false fears that could have made regulations more onerous than if an objective assessment of the risks had been made.

Fracking can’t help any short term or medium term energy crisis.

Even if the industry was able to move ahead as fast as it wants, we wouldn’t see significant production until about 2025.

This is actually true and up to date. If it were not for the Climate Change Act along with eco-activists blocking every move to meet the real energy demands in the most affordable and efficient way possible, there would be no prospective energy crisis. In terms of shale gas meeting energy demands (and gas-fired power stations being built) FoE should claim some of the credit for preventing the rapid develop of cheap and reliable energy sources, and thus exacerbating fuel poverty.

Will fracking help us to tackle climate change?

Shale gas and shale oil are fossil fuels. They emit greenhouse gases. Avoiding the worst impacts of climate change means getting off fossil fuels as soon as possible.

Scientists agree that to stop dangerous climate change, 80% of fossil fuels that we know about need to stay in the ground.

Setting up a whole new fossil fuel industry is going in completely the wrong direction, if the UK is to do its fair share to stop climate change.

The hypothesis is that global emissions lead to higher levels of greenhouse gases. In respect of CO2 this is clear. But the evidence that accelerating rate of rise in CO2 levels has led to accelerating average global temperatures is strongly contradicted by real world data. There is no scientific consensus that contracts this conclusion. Further there is no proper scientific evidence to suggest that climate is changing for the worse, if you look at the actual data, like leading climate scientist Dr John Christy does in this lecture. But even if the catastrophic global warming hypothesis were true (despite the weight of real world data against it) global warming is global. Britain is currently emitting about 1.1% of global emissions. Even with all the recently discovered shale gas and oil deposits, under the UK is probably less than 1% of all estimated fossil fuel deposits. Keeping the fossil fuels under British soil in the ground will do nothing to change the global emissions situation.  Britain tried to lead the way with the Climate Change Act of 2008, in committing to reduce its emissions by 80% by 2050. The INDC submissions leading up to COP21 Paris in December 2015 clearly showed that the rest of the countries were collectively not following that lead. The UNFCCC produced a graph showing the difference of the vague policy proposals might make.  I have stuck on the approximate emissions pathway to which the UK is committed.

The FoE is basically objecting to fracking to keep up the appearance that the UK is “doing its bit” to save the world from catastrophic global warming. But in the real world, global warming ain’t happening, neither are the predicted catastrophes. Even if it were, whatever Britain does will make no difference. FoE attempting to deny future jobs growth and stop the alleviation of fuel poverty to maintain the fantasy that Britain is leading the way on climate change.

 Isn’t it better to have our own gas rather than importing it?

…….

If we went all out for shale, our gas imports would stay at current levels as the North Sea supply declines – and imports could increase by 11%.

This claim, without any reference, is based likely based on the same out of date sources as below. If FoE and fellow-travellers kept out of the way with their erroneous legal challenges and distortions then shale gas has a huge potential to cause imports to decline.

Kevin Marshall

Proximity to Natural Gas Wells and Reported Health Status Study

A new study has been publisheda tentatively suggesting that there are significant health effects for those living in close proximity to gas fracking sites. The study may make headlines despite the authors expressly stating that the results should be viewed as ‘hypothesis generating’. There are a number of problems with the survey which could indicate small sample size and biases in adjusting for other factors account for the difference. Alternatively there is also the possibility that reported health effects of living near the fracking sites is due to stress from the false perceptions of the risks of living near to a fracking site. Anti-fracking environmentalists may be damaging people’s health and happiness through misinformation.

The study is

Proximity to Natural Gas Wells and Reported Health Status: Results of a Household Survey in Washington County, Pennsylvania (Environ Health Perspect; DOI:10.1289/ehp.1307732)

Peter M. Rabinowitz, Ilya B. Slizovskiy, Vanessa Lamers, Sally J. Trufan, Theodore R. Holford, James D. Dziura, Peter N. Peduzzi, Michael J. Kane, John S. Reif, Theresa R. Weiss, and Meredith H. Stowe

 

The households were split into three groups based on distance from a gas well. <1km (62 households), 1-2km (57) & >2km (61). The major result was

The number of reported health symptoms per person was higher among residents living <1 km (mean 3.27 ± 3.72) compared with >2 km from the nearest gas well (mean 1.60 ± 2.14, p=0.02).

The study also found significantly higher incidences in two out of five health symptoms in the <1km group than in >2km group.

There are multiple reasons for expecting these tentative results will not be replicated.

  • The small sample size for a very complex set of data.
  • Perceived water quality is not related to fracking.
  • Failure to control properly for obesity and smoking
  • Failure to repeat the sampling process with the same model.
  • Failure to corroborate the results by checks for actual contamination.
  • Biases in answering the questions.

 

  1. Small sample size

There is an obvious problem with the health status study. The sample size was reported as the sample size of 180 households with 472 people, too small to generate meaningful results when there are a number of inter-related factors involved.

Consider how this sample was selected. To select these households the researchers randomly selected 20 points on a map in each of 38 townships. On a map they located the nearest house to the spot. The researchers were concerned with the possible impact of fracking on ground fed water supplies, which only applied to a minority of households. This was the main reason for reducing the sample From 760 data points to 227 households. 47 refusals reduced this to down to the 180 households for which questionnaires were received. They then put the data through a model “that adjusted for age, gender, household education, smoking, awareness of environmental risk, work type, and animals in house.”

The results were based on comparing two sample groups – one with 62 households and 150 people, the other with 61 households with 192 people. The >2km households were 30% larger than the <1km group, and the average age was 7 years lower. Not only were the numbers small, but there were material differences in the sample groups. It was necessary to adjust for

  1. Perceived water quality is not related to fracking.

Sixty-six percent reported using their ground-fed water (well or natural spring) for drinking water and 84% reported using it for other activities such as bathing.

If there were health effects from contaminated water due to fracking, then there should be a difference in distance between those who drank the water and those who did not. But although there were more households who said the water has an unnatural appearance near the in the <1km group, (13/62 for <1km v 6/61 for >2km), the position was reversed when for those who said taste/odour prevented water use (14/62 for <1km v 19/61 for >2km). If people believed there was a problem with the water due to fracking, then those living near the wells might be more likely to avoid drinking the water than those further away. It was not the case. The proportions drinking the water were the same. It would appear that water quality is generally considered poor in the area. This point can be demonstrated by water sampling.

  1. Failure to control properly for obesity and smoking

Obesity and smoking have long-been accepted as having consequences for health. The questionnaire is in the Supplemental Material. For obesity it asks the respondent their height and weight, but not the height and weight of the other members of the household. For smoking the question is

Does anyone in this household smoke regularly inside the house?

Smoking causes health problems independent of whether someone smokes inside their home or not. Also the numbers of people smoking in a household matters, along with the number of years smoked and the quantity of cigarettes smoked.

  1. Failure to repeat the sampling process with the same model.

The model that filtered out other elements could have had some very large biases within it. For instance, the model could have over-adjusted for smoking. Conducting a completely fresh survey with the same sampling method would have eliminated this possibility.

  1. Failure to corroborate the results by checks for actual contamination.

If there were actual health issues water contamination or air contamination, then there should be some evidence in water and air samples. The authors did not consult any actual monitoring results to show contamination. In the case of water quality In the case of air quality they threw everything at the issue, including ‘operation of diesel equipment and vehicles‘. If there was something in the air and/or in the water that is causing real health problems, then it will be something that cannot be perceived.

  1. Biases in answering the questions.

In the introduction the authors say

A convenience sample survey of 53 community members living near Marcellus Shale development found that respondents attributed a number of health impacts and stressors to the development. Stress was the symptom reported most frequently (Ferrar et al. 2013).

The study said

We found instead that the refusal rate, while less than 25% overall, was higher among households farther from gas wells, suggesting that such households may have been less interested in participating due to lesser awareness of hazards.

If participation was higher in people nearer to wells because of perceived hazards, and the people get stressed by this. It could be that this stress exacerbates the symptoms and/or people on hearing stories of possible health effects notice their own conditions more. That is, the results of reported health effects of living near fracking sites may be to some extent real, but caused by the stress of believing the scare stories. This could be coupled with the fears of resulting in people remembering minor health symptoms, as there might be a cause. This alone could explain why the number of reported symptoms was twice the level for people living near to the gas wells. Conducting a similar, but larger survey with both dwellings where water is mains supplied and from ground-fed wells. If there is “something in the water”, then those who are mains supplied would not suffer from health effects to the same degree.

  1. Thanks to commentator “Entropic Man” at a Bishop-Hill discussion thread for alerting me to this study.

Kevin Marshall