From the Catskills to the Cotswolds

Guest posting by Robert Stone

Not too long ago, most environmentalists assumed that the world was rapidly running out of fossil fuels. This certain fact, we believed, would lead to a steady and steep rise in energy prices that in turn would encourage and facilitate the inevitable transition towards a renewable energy future. We were wrong.

Human ingenuity in the field of fossil fuel extraction has turned this assumption on its head. Fracking has enabled us to find and extract unfathomable amounts of cheap natural gas from right beneath our feet.

This technology, and its potential to alter our rural environment and way of life, has caused my home in the Catskill region of upstate New York to become a hub of anti-fracking activism. Fracktivists we call them. And they have come to my former home, Britain.

From the Catskills to the Cotswolds, people are up in arms about their pristine countryside being turned into an industrial landscape: meadows littered with drilling rigs; country lanes clogged with belching lorries carrying gas and waste water; and fresh water aquifers possibly threatened with contamination.

Moreover, we see the beginnings of the next great fossil fuel addiction as we replace the dreaded coal plants of yore with the gas turbines of today. Gas produces 50% less CO2 and no particulate pollution, to be sure, but is still a fossil fuel that will continue to alter the chemistry of the Earth’s atmosphere in ways that are increasingly incompatible with human civilization. The recent report from the UN’s expert panel, the IPCC, warns that humanity is heading for climate disaster and is 95-100% certain that burning fossil fuels is the cause.

Most environmentalists have convinced themselves that climate disaster can be avoided by calling for a transition to an all-renewable energy future. While wind and solar will undoubtedly play an increasing role in our energy mix, what’s largely ignored is just how mind-bogglingly gargantuan our appetite for energy actually is, and just how fast it is growing. Right now we’re adding the energy equivalent of another Brazil to the planet every year!

Even under the most optimistic scenarios, this is orders of magnitude beyond the ability of wind and solar to meet. Renewables are perfectly good sources of energy, but they remain limited by intermittency, scalability, meager options for high capacity energy storage and the pesky requirement of a backup, carbon-based energy infrastructure to stabilize the power grid. Environmentalists cannot wish away the problems associated with renewable energy: energy denialism can be just as irresponsible as climate denialism.

Many people are also up in arms against seeing vast areas of beloved farmland covered with wind turbines, power lines and access roads. This too is a pernicious form of rural industrialization, resulting in protests even in Germany where new transmission lines are being blocked.

Many environmentalists therefore find themselves in the uncomfortable position of being against the production of energy itself, unless it miraculously appears from some benign source far, far away or comes entirely from the solar panel we might put on our roof, if we can afford one. Everything else is abhorred. But to remain credible, we can’t just say “no” to everything: coal, gas, wind and nuclear.

Did I just say nuclear? Yes, I did. Over the last decade, I’ve become increasingly persuaded that advanced nuclear power is the best option to achieving many of the key goals of environmentalism. The drawbacks of nuclear power with respect to safety, cost, waste and proliferation have been wildly exaggerated by activist opponents of this technology who’ve transposed their legitimate opposition to nuclear weapons to an equally impassioned opposition to nuclear energy in any form, now and forever.

There are still issues to be worked out in terms of making nuclear power cost competitive, but I believe that passively safe, advanced modular reactor designs with a standardized, mass production of components, can address this problem. Indeed, it already is in places like China and India where advanced reactors are currently being developed and brought on line.

Britain, too, is witnessing something of a nuclear renaissance, with the announcement of a new reactor at Hinkley Point in Somerset. I would prefer to see Britain leap ahead with the developing world and build an advanced PRISM reactor. Nevetheless, Hinkley Point still means Britain can enjoy cleaner air, fewer CO2 emissions and hopefully less fracking.

The world is crying out for a safe, sustainable, affordable, clean source of energy that’s capable of meeting the needs of an energy hungry world. No energy source is perfect at meeting all of these requirements. But given the alternatives, nuclear power represents the best option with respect to safety, environmental impact and implementation.

Unless we want to revert to a pre-industrial way of life, these are the real choices we face. Nuclear, in my view, is no longer a choice; it’s a necessity.

Robert Stone is an Academy Award-nominated documentary film director. His latest film, PANDORA’S PROMISE, explores the environmental case for nuclear energy.

85 comments

  1. Leo Smith says:

    Well yes, except that actually fracking is a very unintrusive thing really and less people are up in arms than the MSM portrays.

    We will run out of fossil of course – cheap fossil – within the next 100-200 years, and that will be a bit of an impact.

    Further reading:

    Why renewables can’t work…

    http://www.templar.co.uk/downloads/Renewable%20Energy%20Limitations.pdf

    What government probably needs to do about it…

    http://www.templar.co.uk/downloads/Beyond_Fossil_Fuels.pdf

    Why the public doesn’t understand nuclear power…

    http://www.templar.co.uk/downloads/Public_Trust_in_Nuclear_Energy.pdf

    And the impact that this fear and lack of trust has had on the nuclear power industry.

    http://www.phyast.pitt.edu/~blc/book/

  2. Bas says:

    Renewable do work as shown by several countries and islands, that have 99-100% renewable, already!
    Nuclear could not achieve, while being around 60years, not even near!

    And bigger countries, such as Denmark, are on the road to 100% renewable incl. all energy (transport, heating, etc!) no CO2 by 2050.
    Denmark now generate near 40% of its consumed electricity via wind turbines (50% by 2050). Similar but going at a slower path: Germany.

    And renewable is also at least 2 times cheaper in countries such as UK.
    By the time Hinckley Point operates in 2023, cost prices of almost all renewable are far below the strike price of Hinckley Point (with 2% inflation that will then be €130/MWh!). PV-panels will then produce for ~€60/MWh, going down further! Wind similar. Electricity-to-fuel/gas conversion will then operate in Germany, etc.

    And that despite the massive subsidies for Hinckley:
    – no insurance premium for disasters. Government, citizens take the burden if disaster occurs.
    – no insurance premium for long term (~1mln years) safe waste storage. Government and grand-/grand-children have to take the burden (parasite).
    – loan guarantees for 10billion, which imply >€300milion/a subsidy.
    All together a subsidy of more than a billion per year!

    • Bas says:

      First German priority; replace all nuclear with renewable. That will be realized in 2023. Until that time little change in CO2 production.
      Same as in UK as the new Hinckley point nuclear will start 2023 earliest.

      Then German CO2 will go down a lot as renewable share will be 40% in 2030, 55% in 2040 and 80% in 2050. No such scenario in UK!

      Against that time price of renewable will be x times lower than Hinckley strike price, so German consumers will then have much cheaper electricity than UK consumers (if UK continue to install nuclear).

      The first German priority is a.o. based on the consideration that it is unacceptable to have a risk that important part of the country becomes uninhabitable, just because of another method of electricity generation.
      That risk is substantial.

      In 12K reactor years four exploded (3 in Fukushima, 1 in Chernobyl).
      That is once in 3000years!
      UK would need ~60 reactors which implies roughly one such disaster per 50years. Assume improved safety in UK, so then it will be 1 in 100years!

    • Leo Smith says:

      You can’ replace nuclear with renewables, first priority or not.

      That’s why they are in fact replacing it with coal.

      http://www.platts.com/latest-news/electric-power/london/german-coal-fired-power-rises-above-50-in-first-26089429

    • Bas says:

      They are replacing gas power plants with coal/lignite as:
      – gas cannot compete;
      – those coal/lignite plants can also burn waste and biomass. Which imply that they are better suited for the future.

      Further they export far more electricity than in 2012/11 before.

      If you take these factors off, then you see that the increasing share of solar+wind does indeed sinks CO2. Especially if you also consider the extreme cold spring this year.

      Or do you think that the installed ~10GW in 2015 and ~5GW solar+wind in 2013 produce nothing? That those investments were fake?

    • Leo Smith says:

      Or do you think that the installed ~10GW in 2015 and ~5GW solar+wind in 2013 produce nothing? That those investments were fake?

      More or less, yes.

    • Bas says:

      Now Germany has ~23% of its electricity generated by renewable.
      Thanks to installing ~5GW solar+wind per year, that will be ~35% in 2020.

      Do you also think that 12% more of all electricity generated via renewable make no difference regarding CO2?

    • Leo Smith says:

      Actually Germany has 18% renewable – lots of biomass. and 18% nuclear. And 50% coal.

      http://www.platts.com/latest-news/electric-power/london/german-coal-fired-power-rises-above-50-in-first-26089429

      I assume you work for Renewable UK?

    • Bas says:

      Germany’s renewable scenario targets – 35% renewable in 2020; 50% in 2030; 655 in 2040; 80% in 2080 – will bring greatly lower CO2 too.

      None of this can be said about atomic powers such as UK or US. This biggest polluter per person even did not sign Kyoto!

    • Leo Smith says:

      Bas asserting that it will be so, doesn’t make it happen.

      All the indications so far are that Germany’s’ energiewiende will either make no difference at all to emissions, or increase them.

      Please take this =GeenSpam somewhere else.

    • Bas says:

      The German elections in September showed that ~90% of the population is behind the Energiewende. The FDP, which proposed to slow the Energiewende, got an historic defeat. From 15,7% down to 4.8%.

      Now the new coalition from Merkel (with the socialists) agreed to speed the Energiewende up. New goal: for 2020 more than 35%, for 2030 is 55-60% renewable (was 50%), for 2050 now 90% renewable (was 80%) and after that 100%.

      No nuclear country has any such climate friendly targets!
      Not strange since new NPP’s are impossible to pay. The cost price of electricity from the new Hinckley in 2030 will ~GBP170/MWh (incl the many subsidies, 2% inflation for the strike price). That is more than any renewable cost at that time. Even Offshore wind will be far cheaper then!

  3. Harry van Trotsenburg says:

    It’s quite simple, although it is not simple to come “there”..
    When we accept that a simple way of living in which it is enough to food and cloth our selves, and make sure there is a roof under which we can live in comfort we don’t need a lot of energy?

    • Leo Smith says:

      It’s quite simple, although it is not simple to come “there”..
      When we accept that a simple way of living in which it is enough to food and cloth our selves, and make sure there is a roof under which we can live in comfort we don’t need a lot of energy?

      I am afraid Harry, that indeed we do.

      Per capita energy consumption rises as population density. Because hunter gathering – the lowest impact humans can make on the planet, gave way to agriculture several thousand years ago, and technology. And technology needs energy. the massive rises in population that COAL made possible can of course be reversed by abandoning fossil/nuclear fuel and indeed a 95% death rate is probably something many Greens would agree with.

      After all, no problem with saving the planet for our children if they aren’t going to be there at all.

      For sure if he UK population was 2 million instead of 70 million we could survive on renewable energy in a short disease ridden life of grinding agricultural poverty and serfdom. That being the only way to actually make such an arrangement politically stable.

      Feel free to vote Green if that’s your choice.

      But don’t expect me to.

    • Bas says:

      Harry,
      No need for sobering life-style as renewable can generate more than enough electricity!
      Check e.g. http://www.abb.com/cawp/seitp202/2445a8fea944fac8c125789b00507caa.aspx

    • Clyde Davies says:

      Yeah, for a *tiny island community* it can. What about the millions of us living in cities who need power 24×7? How are renewables going to support the baseline load that is always needed? How are we going to store energy from renewables? Pumped storage? Massive batteries?

    • Leo Smith says:

      Well quite.

      It has been well estimated that a family needs access to about 10 acres of reasonable agricultural land in order to live off that land with no other source of support.

      IN the UK climate.

      Its an interesting sum to do.

      Let’s say that comes to about 2 acres – say half a hectare – per person. Uinsg figiures for all ‘agricultural’ land …that gives an absolute maximum of 35 million UK inhabitants. AS a ‘sustainable’ population level. WE have 70 million.

      If we take arable land and exclude forestry – because frankly the forests are there because the land isn’t much use for anything else, that figure reduces to 12 million inhabitants.

      This in fact tallies pretty well with the pre-industrial population level of Britain – around13 million in 1800 give or take.

      So a renewable lifestyle for Britain is possible, if you are prepared to sentence 81% of the population to death.

      Its no use saying ‘ah but we can produce more food than that now’ because we can only do so by adding in vast amounts of non-renewable energy. Mechanised farming and fertilisers all take energy. Distributing storing and keeping the food palatable for urban dwellers takes energy.

      Even the making of simple hand tools like spades and shovels and shears, takes energy.

      An organic renewable society will not come about just because people want it to, or believe it has to.

      As with all things green it all sounds so simple and so easy – like belling the cat. Its only when you actually work out how to do it and realise you can’t, that it all turns into just another futile pipe dream.

      To impose a green eco renewable dream on the world is to condemn most of the worlds population to an early death. The sort of man made catastrophe that exceeds any damage that might be done by ‘global warming’, by several orders of magnitude.

      The Green movement as it currently exists, is not merely foolish and misguided, It represents a far more potent threat to humanity than any of the dangers it purports to be trying to prevent.

      As a human being I would love it if a few solar panels and windmills to power the nation would actually work, and we could all have a simpler and more satisfying lifestyle. As an engineer I reject it as totally impossible to achieve.

      We might just do it with nuclear of course. But that means a few people will not have simple pastoral lives, but will have to be highly trained and work in positions of extreme responsibility.

      I and people like me are prepared to do that work and take that responsibility, but not if we are going to be castigated and despised and resented for the money we might make out of it, that partially compensates for the fact that is a dull boring highly stressful job, that requires huge amounts of planning, exercise of mathematical and other technical skills, and leaves us very little time to actually enjoy the pastoral lifestyle we are creating for others to reap the benefit of.

      To those who want a renewable society I have one thing to say. Beware of what you wish for: You may just get it, and find as you wander the empty streets littered with corpses, scratching at your lice infested head, in the tatters of the clothes you looted from the last store in town, that after all, perhaps it wasn’t all you thought it would be. And perhaps a few carbon emissions or the odd nuclear power station were a price worth paying for access to a water supply that doesn’t give you cholera and dysentry, and a place to live that was warm, comfortable and safe, with food in the shops and a reasonable amount of diversions on the internet or the TV.

      Rat soup and cannibalism will keep you alive, but I’d rather have modern society, with all its ills.

    • Bas says:

      Leo,
      Inform yourself about the capabilities and footprints of Wind turbines, PV panels, and storage technologies in combination with expanded grid (if wind fails in the south it will run in the north).

      Just check some of the many German studies (e.g. the Fraunhofer institute).
      The Germans spend $200million to such studies in the nineties before they adopted the present scenario towards 80-90% renewable in 2050.

      Then you will see that:
      Only covering UK’s roofs with PV-panels is enough to deliver twice the electricity UK need now;
      Big wind turbines (20MW) have a footprint of only 200m2. That power density is more than 10 times better than NPP’s can do.
      Wind turbines at sea will not need any land!

      Electricity-to-gas/fuel conversion is taking off (e.g. BMW has 2MW plant operating that produces car fuel). This in addition to pumped storage, etc.

      That the costs of these, incl. necessary storage etc, is substantial less than new nuclear reactors such as the one at Hinckley Point C!

      And no disaster risk (to be paid by citizens) as well as radio-active waste issue (to be paid by citizens), both costing ~$1billion/year!

    • Leo Smith says:

      Bas. I have spent the last 5 years doing exactly that.

      My conclusions are drawn from that research and a deep understanding of electrical engineering. Supported by measured data, not simplistic 11 plus ‘estimates’

      Where are yours drawn from? The Big Green Book of Fairy stories?AKA ‘Renewable UK’ the well known lie factory funded by Big Renewables?

    • Bas says:

      Sorry, either you used the wrong sources or you didn’t do it thoroughly.

      Europe’s most powerful country, is on the road to 100% renewable!!

      Executing a scenario, agreed in 2000 (after $200million spending on studies) that delivered 23% renewable now, and exceeded the Kyoto CO2 targets for 2020 already. It will deliver 35% renewable in 2020; 50% in 2030; etc.

      Until now they surpassed their intermediate targets!
      Main targets in order of priority:
      1. all nuclear out by 2023
      2. democratize electric energy. So roof solar, local Wind turbine cooperations etc.
      3. >80% renewable in 2050
      4. Further reduction of CO2

      Key findings: http://energytransition.de/2012/10/key-findings/

      For Solar check e.g.: http://www.ise.fraunhofer.de/en/publications/veroeffentlichungen-pdf-dateien-en/studien-und-konzeptpapiere/recent-facts-about-photovoltaics-in-germany.pdf

      Solar cost prices will go down towards 2$cent/KWh (e.g. http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/guest-blog/2011/03/16/smaller-cheaper-faster-does-moores-law-apply-to-solar-cells/

      For comparison of nuclear with other options: http://blog.ucsusa.org/climate-science-nuclear-power-and-a-renewable-energy-future-298

      For cost development of wind (downwards while nuclear upwards):
      http://blog.ucsusa.org/falling-cost-of-wind-power-spurs-new-investments-289

      New high capacity wind turbines have super-conducting wired magnets, etc which deliver further options to enhance the power and production (capable to produce more efficient in a greater wind range). This deliver cost prices of ~3$cent/KWh!

      Compared that with the strike price of the new Winckley Point NPP. That may run in 2023. Which implies with 2% inflation that strike price is 18$cent/KWh in 2023 and 20$cent/KWh in 2030 (despite the huge subsidies)!
      While in 2030 solar panels costs have also fallen into the 3$cent/KWh range…

      With deployment of more renewable, base load plants will become obsolete. Only flexible plants are needed that can adapt fast to changing demand and generated wind power.
      So circulating fluidized bed plants that burn waste/biomass/lignite/coal and gas plants.

    • Leo Smith says:

      NO bas. Yours sources didn’t do it properly. They were PAID not to. No one pays me anything.

      Germany is on the way to 100% coal future.

      The windmills are just decoration.

    • Bas says:

      That island needs 7x24hr power, just as urgently for its tourist industry.
      And that they have.

      As Germany showed, more renewable (wind+solar) implies more reliable electricity supply as grid management becomes more advanced!
      With the grow of renewable total outage time for consumers went from 30minutes towards 15 minutes!
      Compare that with the nuclear countries UK, France (both ~1hr) and US (~2hrs).

      Upscaling is not such a big issue, just a matter of time and effort.
      So Denmark targets 100% renewable electricity generation in 2040 (now wind turbines deliver already 35%, in 2020 50%). etc.

    • Joris van Dorp says:

      Bas has drank the renewable energy kool-aid. He doesn’t even know that his Green movement buddies in Germany are one page ahead of him. Perhaps he needs to lecture them, instead of us:

      “More than 2 1/2 years later, the coalition pact is “the negation of the energy shift,” Sylvia Kotting-Uhl, the opposition Green party’s nuclear-energy spokeswoman, said in an interview. “They simply want to keep burning low-cost coal.””

      No shit! It’s not like nobody could see this coming! If you are fighting nuclear power, you might just as well be promoting fossil fuels! Sheesh.

      http://www.businessweek.com/news/2013-12-11/merkel-embraces-coal-as-rookie-spd-lawmaker-makes-mark-on-policy

    • Bas says:

      Joris,

      Note that the Greens themselves want a faster nulear out, and faster more renewable.

      So they try to dis-credit the reached 23% of renewable in the hope to speed up the Energiewende more.
      And that is what you see.

  4. Bas says:

    Some additional remarks:
    In Germany the roofs of ~2% of the houses produce ~5% of all electricity.
    So if ~50% of the roofs are covered, than >100% is produced by solar alone already. And production per M2 is improving with newer panels (>20% yield in stead of 15%).

    just how fast it is growing
    Not at all in developed countries such as UK, etc.
    In Germany consumption even goes down (LED bulbs, etc).

    And renewable now deliver at least 50 times more of that grow compared with nuclear. While renewable can do far more, as shown with installation rates of only wind+solar of 10GW/year in 2011/2012 in Germany alone!
    And much faster as no building periods of >10years!

    The reactors in China are unacceptable less safe. E.g. the EPR (same as the new one at Hinckley) they build does not have the double dome (making it vulnerable for small aircraft attack!), no separated emergency control room, etc.

    • John ONeill says:

      Bas wrote-
      ‘ The reactors in China are unacceptable less safe. E.g. the EPR (same as the new one at Hinckley) they build does not have the double dome ‘.
      I wasn’t aware that the Chinese EPRs had only one containment dome, not two, but that raises my respect for them. A containment dome is about a metre thick prestressed concrete, with a dense webbing of reinforcing steel rods as thick as your arm running through it. Could a light aluminium aircraft penetrate it?
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RZjhxuhTmGk
      Go figure. Notwithstanding this, the EPR, presumably to keep people like Bas happy, has TWO domes, one inside the other. This helps explain why it needs nearly twice as much concrete as other modern reactor designs like the AP1000 or the ESBWR ( although still considerably less than 1500 wind turbines with similar, but far less reliable, power output.) Since the amount of concrete used is a major part of both the cost of electricity and the lifetime carbon emissions of the reactor, the Chinese have at a stroke got rid of one of the EPR’s less attractive features.

    • Bas says:

      @John
      … EPR, presumably to keep people like Bas happy, has TWO domes, one inside the other…
      Areva / EDF did many simulation studies.
      They needed that expensive second dome in order to be sure that an unarmed F-16 would not penetrate and create a Fukushima like scenario.

      Taken into account the difference in mass (~15 times) and length (only 4 times), there is very good chance that the EPR cannot withstand an (freight) airliner of 200ton!
      The reactions of Areva/EDF on questions about that seem to confirm that.

      This also implies that old NPP’s are really very vulnerable!

      Btw.
      Planes are made out of alu alloy’s, which is much stronger that the alu you know. It is enough if the plane crash and/or the (fuel) fire, destroy all cooling. So a melt down chain reaction (à la Fukushima) starts.

      Bin Laden cs. considered attacking the Indian Point NPP, but decided not to do it because the target is far less easy to hit (less exposed and smaller) and their pilots were very inexperienced.

      China can build the EPR with one dome because they explicitly excluded all plane collision or attack, from risk analysis…

      There are new SMR designs that bury the reactor under the ground (=expensive), so a plane collision becomes difficult.

    • Bas says:

      John ONeill,
      Note that the Chines also did also not implement;
      – a fully separated emergency control system, and
      – neither an overrule by hand of the computer controlling system.

      The first caused about 18months delay in Finland as it was promised but not included in the design of Areva/EDF.

      The second is necessary in order to prevent that a computer virus can create a meltdown / Fukushima. Not a science fiction scenario taken into account that the Stuxnet virus could destroy the critical important parts of the Iranian ultra-centrifuge factory.

  5. Francisco G Nobrega says:

    Congratulations! The world needs more nuclear energy until solar becomes cheap and storable. You say “The recent report from the UN’s expert panel, the IPCC, warns that humanity is heading for climate disaster and is 95-100% certain that burning fossil fuels is the cause.” Another political statement by the UN. And pray that the UN is right because if the climate swings to the next ice age the eco-activists will be hysterical because we will need a lot more energy to defend us from the cold.

    • Bas says:

      I have to admit that the world became colder during the last 12 years.
      A change no climate scientist predicted!
      Worse they even now cannot explain why!
      Which shows that that science is still in its infancy.

    • Clyde Davies says:

      What ‘change that no climate scientist predicted’? Oh, *this* change you mean?
      http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/climate-change/exposed-the-myth-of-the-global-warming-pause-8945607.html

    • Leo Smith says:

      Ah. so its not hiding in the oceans after all! Its hiding in the attic! Sorry Arctic!

      There really ARE fairies at the bottom of my garden, they are just very well concealed

    • Clyde Davies says:

      Are you claiming that the scientists have simply *imagined* these temperature rises as opposed to *measuring* them?

    • Francisco G Nobrega says:

      As we all know there is a warming trend since the end of the Little Ice Age ~ 1850. The last decade exibit, to the surprise of many, no additional significant warming as predicted. Moderate warming and cold cycles have been mapped since the pre Roman cold (~800 to 400 BP) and before. Even with the reduced CO2 of the pre-industrial period. The “climate crisis” is a myth that interests many: romantic activists against technology, governments to raise taxes, lawyers, companies that sell the still expensive alternative energy (solar, wind, etc), the midia that loves to sell “bad news” and ONGs that receive money to mitigate various aspects of the “crisis” (some important I must say). All predictions of climate doom rest on computer models applied to an enormously complex scenario: the global climate of which we know just a little bit, a chaotic system nearly impossible to predict after a few cycles – a natural limitation. Just think about the weather forecast: if not wrong for the next day it will collapse at day 5 or 10.

    • Harry van Trotsenburg says:

      As you know there is a difference between the weather and the climate…

      Point is that the ice caps still deminish, as the glaciers.

      Although the average temperature does not do what models expected, last idea’s are that there is a heatsink in the deapsea where is not accounted for in the models?

      Conclusion : glaciers and icecaps still getting smaller, climate still warming up……….

    • Leo Smith says:

      They seek heat here.they seek heat there!
      From deep dark seas, to Leicester Square!
      Everywhere the Warmist army marches on…
      Each one a dedicated follower of fashion.

    • Mark Lynas says:

      Are we really having this conversation? If we’re reprising song lyrics, I might quote from ‘The Timewarp’.

    • Leo Smith says:

      If you feel it lowers the intellectual tone any further than it has been lowered already, feel free to delete it :-)

    • Francisco G Nobrega says:

      During the climate optimal of the Middle Ages (800 to 1250 AC warmer or as warm as today, no CO2 up in the air…) imagine Greenpeace types saying that it will heat up like hell according to their sacred computer and WE had to do something. The cause would be OUR sins and the salvation: just buy it from the priests. If you speak against or doubt, the Inquisition will take care of you.

    • Clyde Davies says:

      The link I posted points out that the reason why temperatures appear to have flatlined in the past decade is not because they have actually done that, rather that the Arctic temperatures were not being measured properly due to a lack of weather stations. When you add in extrapolated satellite data then the Arctic is one of the fastest warming regions on the planet.

      Leo: if you think *you* are right and the *whole of the IPCC* is wrong, write a paper detailing your objections and spelling out your own arguments and why they match the observations better. Put it through the critical review process, before and after peer review. Just like the climate scientists do. In other words: put up, or shut up.

  6. MikeB says:

    Fracking has been around a long time, and it was only the huge increase in the price of gas and oil between 2004-2009 that led to its being employed to the extent that it has been used lately. It’s expensive to do and demands the returns that high fuel prices bring about.

    I have no opinion about whether we’re “running out” or whether we’re near peak oil, and, like the writer, I’m for nuclear and not much excited about “renewables.” But it seems to me that this article takes a complacent and indeed false view of the current “renaissance” in fracking, which could turn out to be a matter of scraping the bottom of the barrel.

    • Leo Smith says:

      Finally a sane comment. Mike I am with you on that one. We should frack, we probably have to frack, but its only delaying the inevitable – fossil prices escalating beyond the next cheapest alternative, which is nuclear.

      But fracking buys the time to have the conversation and not rush into nuclear before the public is fully behind it as the only real alternative. Unless we build new coal.

      In the meantime we can stand back, grin and say ‘what’s the German for ‘Schadenfreude?’ as we watch the Germans make a right buggers muddle with their energiewiende.

      Which they completely deserve to do. :-)

    • Bas says:

      Germany goes far better than UK or other nuclear countries such as France!

      And German economists think that it is due to the Energiewende, as that creates ~half a million jobs!

    • turnages says:

      Germany goes far better than France with their energiewende, eh Bas?

      Carbon intensity per electrical kWh, Germany = 540 grams
      Carbon intensity per electrical kWh, France = 60 grams

      If that’s your definition of “far better” thenn you really do live in a weird, upside-down world.

    • Leo Smith says:

      Sssh. Don’t upset the greens. Germany is the Great Hope. An Example To Us All.

      The fact it generates more with nuclear than with renewables is Not To Be Spoken.

    • Bas says:

      Turnages & Leo,
      You both forget the high levels from which they came.
      They reduced already greatly, and are the only major country that surpassed the Kyoto targets!

      Furthermore, German has a much colder climate than France, so more heating.

    • Leo Smith says:

      No we don’t forget.

      German emissions are comparable now with what they were before energiewiende. And are fairly typical for a European country with a coal/nuclear/gas mix that is predominantly coal.

      It hasn’t been updated recently, but you can see historic carbon intesnity at
      http://carma.org/region/detail/2921044

      2004: 596
      2006: 570

      If today all they can manage is 540 grams, that’s a 10% reduction in emissions for a 20% renewable content. At best. Showing that at best renewable energy is only 50% effective at reducing emissions. I cant remember the exact figures from Denmark, but there the overall reduction was between 5% and 7% for a 25% ‘renewable generation’ figure.

      That site is interesting. It shows that the only countries who ever had really low emissions levels in electricity generation had high levels of hydroelectricity, nuclear, or both, with the exception I think of Iceland which uses volcanoes to boil water, or something.

      Germany’s Energiewiende was never more than a cosmetic exercise to placate the Greens.

      And to legislate the sale of German renewable technology across Europe

      The policy is predicated on the fundamental principle that Greens are very vociferous, but fundamentally ignorant in matters technical.

      Any greens who still Believe In Man Made Climate Change but can run the numbers end up supporting nuclear power. And get ejected from the mainstream GreenThink.

      Its a fascinating subject, the Psychology of Being a Green. I see it as the fundamental response of people who are unable or unwilling to come to terms with reality as it is, but prefer to construct and idealised version of it as they feel it ought to be, and eliminate from it any inconvenient truths about humanity, nature, or science. Its characterised by a deep paranoia about what They are Doing to Us and the Planet, with Their Technology.

      Of course the extreme irony is that the people driving the Green Agenda today are in fact the people they warned you about. Doing Something Bad to YOU and The Environment with your total support.

      There is an old conflict between Arts and Humanities, and Science. Each side claiming moral dominance. There should be no conflict. If we summarise the humanities and arts as studies of the Heart, and the hard sciences and technology as studies of the Head, we can understand that without our hearts, we don’t know where to go next. Without or heads, we can’t actually get there.

      If people want desperately wih their hearts, a low carbon emission primary energy source, it behoves them to request that from the technologists, who will inform them that the unequivocally most cost effective and practical solution is nuclear power. And that renewable energy alone can never be a solution, because it has no dispatch capabilities and must always be part of a mix with something else, be that as yet undreamed of storage, or conventional fossil plant, which can provide the dispatch.

      And if in the process of providing that dispatch, nearly all the carbon gains are negated so the final solution ends up as of limited value in reducing emissions and three times the price of the fossil generation alone, you have to ask why one bothers.

      When you can achieve far far better carbon reduction at almost no increase in cost by going nuclear, if you are prepared to accept it rather than place expensive obstacles in it’s way.

      We are not yet at the point where veridanoia* is a recognised medical condition, but it cannot be far off.

      *Veridanoia: A mental conditions associated with paranoia and acute embracement of ‘green’ ideology, from ‘verde’ (green)’ and ‘noia’, of the mind) (grk). CF ‘Luddism’

    • Bas says:

      Leo,
      You linked WEB site is not updated and give partial picture only.

      This diagram shows the great progress the Germans made in the last 6 years: https://pbs.twimg.com/media/Bdydb4UCMAAiT1A.jpg:large

      Note that renewable replaced 25TWh of fossil!

    • Leo Smith says:

      Wrong Bas. Renewables don’t replace fossil. They simply force it from a relatively stable predictable demand into an unstable unpredictable unprofitable and energy inefficient demand curve as it is ramped up and down to fill the gaps between renewables.

      And as the figures show, little or no overall savings in fossil fuel or carbon emissions result from that

      Worse, you have to also add in the overall carbon intensity of the renewable technology itself and the extra grid lines needed to carry it when its there (and which are totally wasted when it isn’t).

      If headline figures of 18% renewable energy counts as success in your book, when overall its results in no less carbon emissions, its a clear sign that your verdinoia has reached clincal levels.

    • Bas says:

      If headline figures of 18% renewable energy counts as success
      That is a strange figure as German renewable produces 24% of the electricity the Germans consume.

      Increasing renewable production by 59TWh, causing ~25TWh less fossil fuel burning in the last 6 years is far better than UK, etc.

      As that is more than required to reach 80% renewable in 2050, I consider it a success.

    • Bas says:

      So your 18% is only a part of the renewable generated electricity.

    • Leo Smith says:

      No bas, the 18%s ALL of it. hydro pumped solar and wind.

      Are you unable to actually read plain English?

    • Bas says:

      Germany now produces 23% of all produced electricity by renewable, or 24% of all electricity it consumes.
      The difference because the net export of ~5%.

      Check Wikipedia (figures incl.2012):
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Renewable_energy_in_Germany

    • Leo Smith says:

      wikipedia has been compromised by the greens contingent. It doesn’t tell the truth.

      I prefer to rely on independent energy auditors who aren’t grinding axes or in the pay of Big Renewable.

    • Bas says:

      Especially since that are changes per year.

  7. Scott says:

    “As the small trickle of results grows into an avalanche — as is now happening overseas — it will soon be realized that the animal is our farming partner and no practice and no knowledge which ignores this fact will contribute anything to human welfare or indeed will have any chance either of usefulness or of survival.”-Sir Albert Howard 1947

    Carbon emissions is only 1/2 of the equation. Carbon sequestration is at least as important. By far the largest terrestrial carbon sink is the soil. Soil that currently over most the planet, has had it’s carbon sequestration properties destroyed by poor land management, primarily due to agriculture. So that land that used to be a net carbon sink has become a net carbon emissions source. Any proposed solution that ignores this simple fact is doomed to failure before it even starts.

    http://blogs.uoregon.edu/gregr/files/2013/07/grasslandscooling-nhslkh.pdf

    It can be easily argued that even without a single fossil fuel emission, the same exact problems we are seeing now are inevitable simply due to our conventional agricultural model’s impact alone. Although fossil fuel emissions certainly have speeded the process along. We do have to eat, but we most definitely do not have to destroy the land and environment just to provide food. There are many alternatives proven just as productive or more that actually improve the land. The key element turns out to be carbon, the same element that in our ignorance we have far too much of in the atmosphere and far too little of in our soils.

    Since the Haughley experiment which was started in 1939 we have known and proven with the longest running comparative study between organic and conventional agriculture, that it is possible to produce an abundance of food and be a wise steward of the land at the same time. This is done by working with, instead of ignoring, this symbiosis of plants, animals, and the soil.

    So yeah, work on solar, nuclear, wind, fracking, conservation, and every other energy technology human ingenuity can devise, but until the world gets serious and changes agriculture in a way that completes the carbon cycle, it is all for nothing.

  8. Peter Chow says:

    Hi Mark, Robert,

    It was good to see ‘Pandora’s Promise’ at Soho last week and take part in the debate afterwards.

    I downloaded ‘Nuclear 2.0′ and have read it.

    I also re-watched ‘Age of Stupid’ to compare what was said in the latest works with that film of 2008, where Mark did a short piece on the necessary peak in CO2 emissions before rapid reduction. What struck me was that the goal posts have moved.

    Mark drew a curve in 2008 and said it had to peak by 2015 in order for 2 degrees to be achievable.

    In ‘Nuclear 2.0′ (chapter: ‘All of the Above’) you now say the peak occurs in 2021 in the best case scenario of massive nuclear, wind & solar deployment.

    What made it ok to slip another 6 years? Are we ahead of the curve now compared to 2008? CO2 concentration in the air hit 400ppm in May 2013, suggesting we aren’t doing so well.

    Or is it just too scary to suggest that we wasted the last 5 years?

    It is also interesting to watch ‘Age of Stupid’ and note that the basic message was there (that we must de-carbonise our energy production as fast as possible) but there was not one mention of the ‘N-word’. Pete Postlethwaite exclaims, “We had the technology to save ourselves, but didn’t use it” to images of lots of wind turbines and solar panels.

    But I guess that’s the journey you’ve both been on.

    I’m not convinced by the argument that old nuclear is ok to keep using. There’s a lot of old kit out there that has the potential for more disasters. Prime case being Fukushima Daiichi, that was scheduled for decommissioning but had its license extended (presumably to save money) just one month before the disaster. Lots of aged plant around the world has had its licence extended despite known issues.

    The Generation III+ also seems like a sticking plaster solution, not solving the inefficient use of the fuel and partially addressing intrinsic safety issues. The Daiichi reactors had passive safety cooling in the form of the Isolation Condenser system. However, the system had been manually disabled (as part of a manual valve cycling operation) at the instant of the Station Black Out (SBO) when the sea water flooded the diesel generator and battery rooms. From that point on, it was not possible to tell if the system was idle or active and it wasn’t recognised that the control valve was shut until too late.

    For passive safety to work, it can’t rely on human intervention. The NHK report also said that the staff did not know what to expect in terms of ‘normal’ operation of the IC (the volume of steam that should vent from it via the ‘pig nose’ when working) because they had never been ordered to test it and observe what normal operation looks like.

    It is these kinds of things that I have difficulty in believing will be properly addressed with any nuclear plant (old or new), as they are common cases of human error and corporate negligence.

    The technology may have improved, but has the management culture?

    In ‘Nuclear 2.0′ you said to not judge an Airbus A380 by McDonnell Douglas DC-10 disaster standards. Well, that’s an interesting point, given that much of the DC-10 failure was an intrinsic design flaw in the cargo door, resulting in cargo hold explosive decompression, which in turn caused the passenger deck to collapse and in turn sever the primary and backup flight control paths.

    But worse than that was McDonnell Douglas attempts to blame the baggage handlers for not closing the cargo hatch properly. A ‘gentleman’s agreement’ between the FAA and the company meant that fixes were not implemented after the first near miss, until a second identical failure resulted in a crash killing all 346 passengers and crew.

    The DC-10 also suffered another ‘human process failure’ in that the engine mount was susceptible to damage from a maintenance process error that placed unexpected load on it while the engine was being serviced. This caused the engine to fall off shortly after take-off, killing all 271 passengers and crew.

    Much has been learned since then and it is unlikely that the A380 would suffer the same failure modes as a DC-10. But the A380 has suffered from potentially disastrous wing cracks, a different and unexpected failure mode due to a new design and new components and materials used. That the entire fleet was recalled for repairs without a disaster is a testament to the modern air industry safety culture.

    In that respect, I sincerely hope that the nuclear industry is taking notes from the aviation industry. We’ve been designing and building powered aircraft for 110 years and we still haven’t got all the bugs ironed out.

    As much as Generation III+ and Gen 4 nuclear reactors may be technically improved, they are all introducing (by definition) new technology that may have new and unexpected failure modes and sequences. The fact that the passive cooling systems of the newer 3G+ designs are meant to work for a minimum of (I believe) 72 hours of SBO is some comfort. But so was the calculated height of the sea wall of the Daiichi plant that was over-run by an unexpectedly high 10m tsunami wave, thought ‘impossible’ (or at least a vanishingly small improbability).

    I agree with you both on the premise that nuclear power holds great ‘promise’ and is the only (current) workable bulk energy solution on the table that can deliver the vast quantities of energy we need to displace fossil fuels completely (with help from solar, wind and improved energy efficiency).

    But my comment at the film screening stands. I want to see it become intrinsically safe by dint of basic physics and passively “Homer Simpson-proof”.

    The greatest challenge though is not the technology or even the safety culture, but convincing a nuclear sceptic public that it’s safe to believe in nuclear (again). They must now believe that it is imperative to adopt nuclear power at ‘war effort’ speeds of deployment, or face the consequences of climate change. That they are still hesitant to believe in climate change is not a good start.

    But I’m a convert (of sorts). An achievement for your film and book in under a week.

    • Leo Smith says:

      You ask why the time-scales are lengthening for CO2 reduction: the answer is simple.

      The AGW theory, stripped of all known knowns, is posited to comprise a simple formula:

      ΔT= λ. log(ΔC) where

      ΔT = temperature change
      ΔC = CO2 concentration change
      λ = unknown positive feedback factor parameterised as ‘climate sensitivity’ generally of the form of degrees rise for every doubling of CO2 concentration.

      Without the positive feedback., climate sensitivity is trivial – less than half a degree C for every doubling of CO2.

      (With negative feedback, it is even less).

      In order to match late 20th century warming and fit it to the assumption that ALL unexplained warming was driven by carbon dioxide concentrations, initial values for lambda – climate sensitivity – were raised to 2, 3 or even 4 degrees C.

      AS temperature rises have abated and become negligible, the climate sensitivity has been progressively lowered: this is the only way to preserve the fit between the data and the theory over the last 17 years. So armed with that version with a much lower lambda, gives far less immediate danger.

      Those astute in philosophy will remark of course, that from the perspective of Occam’s razor, an unknown unexplained positive feedback mechanism is equivalent in complexity to an entirely separate driver altogether. That is an equation with the same number of unknowns matches the data as well as (if not better) than the original.

      That is:

      ΔT= λ + log(ΔC)

      Here the unknown feedback that MULTIPLIES the effect of CO2 concentration is replaced by an equally unknown driver that is INDEPENDENT of carbon dioxide.

      Why you might ask, was this form of formula not chosen over the former?

      I can only suggest that it has no political or marketing worth whatsoever. Lambda is not an anthropic effect, and if anthropic effects are minimal, there is no excuse for political action based on carbon emissions, and no products based on ecological morality can be sold against cheaper competition.

      That does not however negate the case for nuclear power: Nuclear power could and should be cheaper than fossil: It is certainly safer and less polluting historically. The reason it is not is again down to political action and negative marketing by its competition.

      http://www.phyast.pitt.edu/~blc/book/chapter9.html

      Gives some interesting material on the historic and current costs of nuclear power, and the whole book is worth a read especially in the contexts of risk benefit analysis of waste disposal and accidents.

      It is important to distinguish between the actual case for nuclear power, and ecological issues. They are separate issues.

    • Peter Chow says:

      Leo, summing up, your ‘answer’ to my question is:

      “I don’t believe in climate change and the whole thing is a conspiracy to make us waste money”.

      You’ve had numerous attempts at promulgating your minority views. They are noted and I’ll move on.

      I, for one, DO believe the majority of scientists who are telling me that climate change is happening (by any means) and that there is a statistically conclusive probability that it is our fault. Which, by the way, is a ‘good thing’ in my view. If it is our fault, then that means we can fix it. If it isn’t our fault, and an unrelated additive ‘lambda factor’ is the bulk term in the equation, then we’re screwed and we should all party like there’s no tomorrow and watch Rome burn.

      Regardless of the CC debate, the core driver of ‘How can we clean this fossil fuelled mess up and live a comfortable and sustained existence as a species of 7 billion creatures on this world?’ remains.

      I accept that gas is a good interim solution and there is much that can be done to use it more effectively. Although not grid scale, the natural gas fuel cell (e.g. http://www.bluegen.info/ ) offers a much better use of gas, delivering 60% conversion efficiency from gas to electricity and 200 litres of domestic hot water per day from a unit the size of a fridge.

      Clean coal can be in there too. If you could build power plants with drastically reduced CO2 emissions, air pollution, transportation and mining waste, and make the energy affordable – go for it. We’ve lots of coal. We just need better technology to use it sustainably and without causing respiratory disease.

      Residential solar investment without subsidy breaks even in 21 years on current UK electricity prices with avoidance of import charges as the only revenue stream. Solar with li-ion storage breaks even in 24 years (including the cost of a replacement battery pack in that term). Both are go’ers of solutions now (if your aim is to reduce carbon emissions & pollution rather than earn free subsidy money).

      My house generates 60% of its own electricity annually because of solar with li-ion storage. The system also offsets about 300kWh of gas use annually for heating water. My total annual electricity use is about 2900kWh, lower than the average for a 2 person, 3 bedroom 1950′s house, due to energy efficiency measures. But we’re not cave dwellers. We’ve got TVs, laptops, hot water, cooked food, internet, and all that.

      Solar deployed at grid scale, tens or hundreds of kilometres remote to the point of use (with all the attendant losses in transmission over the grid), is a bad use of the tool. Use the right tool in the right way.

    • Leo Smith says:

      I don’t do belief.

      You are welcome to yours. Just don’t expect me to pay for it.

      I note you do not in any way challenge the logic of what I posted.

    • Peter Chow says:

      Leo,

      You most certainly do ‘do belief’. Unless you personally took the data readings for the evidence that you would present for your own peer reviewed papers on the matter; you read someone else’s work and believed it.

      Unless you worked every physical law up from first principles and re-proved every mathematical function yourself, you believed those who had done so over the centuries. You read it in a text book and believed it as ‘received wisdom’.

      I believe the IPCC because their report was produced by a large number of scientists who are vastly more qualified than me to make a collective and peer reviewed interpretation of the data they collected or collated from others.

      I trust that the entire enterprise is not a fraudulent attempt to make money or enslave the population of the world or any other such unreasonable behaviour, because those are reasonable assumptions.

      Given all of that, it would be foolish for me to not believe the IPCC and, by inference, presume to know more about the topic than their collective wisdom.

      Everybody at some level has to take things ‘on faith’.

      Your beliefs are, in fact, so unshakable that I shall not even try. Others more qualified than I have failed.

      Unfortunately, you most likely will have to pay for government policies that you do not agree with. It’s a common complaint. Some percentage of the electorate will always disagree with the spending of money on things that they do not perceive as ‘right’ or merely not of direct benefit to themselves.

      Fortunately, a good deal of the investment required for combating climate change will (indeed must) come from private investors, as they will believe it is in their interests to do so.

    • Leo Smith says:

      I am sure the scientific community will be enthralled to discover that science is simply a matter of faith.

      And you can achieve the desired outcome simply by believing in the result.

      Hitherto such propositions have been regarded as mere ‘magic’ and ‘hocus pocus’

      I think you deserve a Nobel Prize for pointing out the total lack of disparity between the scientific consensus on truth – ‘what happens whether you believe in it or not’ and magic – ‘what is happening because you believe it will’.

      In fact, scientific theories are simply competing belief systems! There is no need to actually perform any experiments at all! If enough people believe in them, they are true!

      To get the right answer, simply select particular people who believe in what you want to hear! And deny the rest!

      Perhaps I had an unusually privileged science education. I myself performed, or saw performed most of the crucial experiments that formed the 20th century body of knowledge called ‘science’ . Always being made aware by PhD level teachers that this was just a ‘way of looking it the world’ that ‘produced predictable results, every time’ .

      In my career I have spent my life manipulating models, and testing them against reality. Personally. Hands on. On stress testing machines, on test rigs equipped with meters …never have I found that what I believed was the case made one iota of difference to what was the case. Obviously I simply wasn’t believing hard enough…

      You may think the computer you type on runs on faith. I know better.

      I don’t need a weatherman to tell which way the wind blows. Neither do I need a climate scientist to tell me that plants which survived 12 years of warm late winters have all died in my garden because the old books that warned ‘suitable for maritime or south western parts of the UK only’ have ultimately been proved exactly right. Those books were written in the 1950s.

      You can disparage 50 years plus of dealing on a daily basis with science and technology to make it all work as ‘merely someone I choose to believe’ but frankly, that is an insult beyond contempt.

      Just because that is the way you received your received wisdom doesn’t mean its the same for others.

      I have pointed out earlier the ultimate weakness and flaw in the AGW hypothesis, and you simply want to deny the reality of the logical argument encapsulated therein.

      That doesn’t even depend on any data, or believing anything. It depends on being able to understand simply what a mathematical model is, and the shape of the results it gives. I don’t even have to challenge any of the temperature measurements that the IPCC claims are real, to make that point.

      I am simply saying that the IPCC model is not the only one that fits the short-term data, and the other one is no less elegant and no more complex, so why choose the one over the other?

      And I suggested that perhaps this is because the IPCC is not a scientific organisation at all, but a heavily funded political organisation.

      You should perhaps do your own research – a radical concept, it would seem, and investigate the terms of reference under which the IPCC was set up, and under which it operates. I can assure you, that challenging whether AGW actually exists, or not, is ultra vires for those terms.

      Whether or not I am right, or those you naively trust in are right is supremely irrelevant if I am right, in the narrow sense that reality is what happens even if you don’t believe it will.

      What is clear is that atmospheric CO2 levels are marching upwards, and global temperatures, sea levels, frequency and intensity of storms, warm winters – are not. Not at any rate that confirms the models anyway. In short its all depressingly reverting to some kind of mean, as the historical and geological record shows.

      Even the IPCC doesn’t deny that. And a theory that produces, or is increasingly being ‘adjusted’ to produce, very few real results, to match the lack of observed results, implies that politically it’s not a theory that has much traction.

      Naturally those organisation whose continued existence depends on it being a theory with traction will suddenly ‘find’ that heat has been hiding somewhere, anywhere, that no one has had a thermometer stuck for the last thirty years to see if its true or not…

      I mean really.

      I am sure you think there is a global conspiracy to encourage climate scepticism funded by big global organisations. Yet you are in complete denial that AGW itself might be a global conspiracy, funded by global corporations and organisations (like the UN) for profit?

      You may say its all down to who you choose to believe: If so you are in a very dangerous place. If you, and others cannot exercise rational judgement and assess the evidence presented to you in order to decide who to believe, if indeed you choose to believe anyone at all, then you are simply out of control of your intelligences – mere cannon fodder in a global marketing war, and prey for anyone whose flattering presentation appeals to your deeply held prejudices and bigotry.

      You like to think you are on the side of the good guys, the right guys, the guys who care…

      You should also consider that it might in fact be exactly the other way around.

      After all if its simply a matter of ‘who you choose to believe’ how would you actually know?

      And that is why I am not asking you to believe in any thing., I am urging you to examine the arguments yourself, and not simply dismiss them in an act of gross denial.

      I was early into AGW. It was 1993 when I left a house 1 meter below sea level and bought one 100meters above :-)

      It was a chance remark many years later that brought me back to look at it closely, and that was the rise of what today is known as ‘renewable energy’ which is so close to my core experience in electrical engineering as to make me feel that I could analyse it as well as anyone. From first principles and from facts that were essentially agreed upon by everyone.

      What I found horrified me, and was totally unexpected. I had expected it to be a bit overhyped, but I had not expected almost total fraud.

      And then I looked at climate change…..

    • Peter Chow says:

      I’m sure I should be honoured to be talking with such an eminent scientist.

      Us global marketing cannon fodder, far beneath the prejudiced and bigoted intelligentsia, rely upon subject matter specialists to form a consensus and agree a policy on what needs to be done.

      We then naively get on with it, in the belief that it’s the right thing to do.

    • Scott says:

      @ Leo,
      You said, “AS temperature rises have abated and become negligible.”

      Well I would say you are using old data. There is no abatement. Just a temporary change in the el nino/ la nina cycle. We should actually be cooling now (since 1998) and we are not. Holding approx. steady. Which means when the el nino/ la nina cycle flips back we are in for it.

      Best way to explain it is to throw a rapidly spinning ball upwards. While the ball is rising. the part of the ball spinning downwards may for a time halt or even reverse direction…until it gets around to the upwards spinning side and it rises all the faster.

      Good news is we have a lucky break, time to use it wisely and not squander the opportunity.

      http://news.discovery.com/earth/global-warming/halted-global-warming-tied-to-pacific-cooling-130828.htm

    • Joris van Dorp says:

      Leo writes: “I am simply saying that the IPCC model is not the only one that fits the short-term data, and the other one is no less elegant and no more complex, so why choose the one over the other?”

      Your alternative model may work for the short term global warming, but it fails completely on long-term data from the paleo-record.

      Climate science *does not* and *has never* relied only on the last few hundred years of temperature data for it’s climate sensitivity analysis. It uses multiple lines of evidence that span much of the earths climate history.

      I think you are being far too casual in your dismissal of climate science.

    • Leo Smith says:

      Er no, the IPCC model has never fitted the paleo data very well and in fact the first person to tell he he had grave doubts about AGW was a paleogeologist a decade ago.

      In fact the IPCC CO2 model only ever fitted the 1970-2000 period at all. And it had to erase the mediaeval warm period to do that.

      It’s not worth arguing over really: time is telling whose models work and whose don’t, and the IPCC ones are being propped up with nonscience right now.

      I really don’t care about AGW any more. If its right, there is nothing we can do about it anyway, and if its wrong we shouldn’t be doing anything about it at all!

      I merely posted what I did out of academic interest so that the few open minds that might be around, can see where the fundamental flaw is.

      Given that there is nothing that we can (or need) do to address its grosser predictions, the argument for practical men, as opposed to those who merely want to win arguments, is what to do about the wreckage of the European electricity supply that political tampering has left us with.

      And a slightly less urgent, but still very important point. When AGW collapses back into the realms of mere academic bickering, and most of the ‘green’ solutions to it are seen to be the fraudulent profiteering nonsense that they are, there is a very real chance of a massive backlash against the whole green movement, and that too will be exploited by the profiteers to go for dismantling of all ‘green’ legislation, which is a pity, because about one tenth of it is a pretty good and wise thing to have.

      Believe it or not, I would not want to see that happen.

    • Scott says:

      @Leo
      “I really don’t care about AGW any more. If its right, there is nothing we can do about it anyway, and if its wrong we shouldn’t be doing anything about it at all!”

      UMMM no. I look at it the exact opposite. It doesn’t matter one bit if you flip it around exactly the opposite. There is something we can do about it. Sink the excess carbon in the soil.

      Then it doesn’t matter if the excess carbon would have raised the climate 0.1 or 10 degrees. Whatever the excess would have been, getting rid of the excess neutralizes it.

      There is no question the soil is by far and away plenty large enough a carbon sink to hold every bit of the carbon our modern industry has released. Further, carbon in the soil in the form of humus increases the productivity of the land, so it can actually be profitable.

      Therefore, it doesn’t matter whose model is right, we should in fact do something about it. There is no down side if the AGW models are wrong, and a huge upside if they are right. And either way the land gets healed.

    • Leo Smith says:

      So you think there is no downside to sinking a whole nations activity into an activity that turns out to be utterly pointless?

      I am beginning to understand ‘green thinking’

    • Joris van Dorp says:

      Global temperatures in november 2013 were the warmest on record.

      “The November 2013 national and global climate updates are a perfect reminder that our local weather in any particular month is not a good predictor of the status of the global climate. While much of the United States was cooler than average in November, the globe as a whole set a new record for warmth. It was the 37th November in a row that was warmer than average.”

      http://www.climate.gov/news-features/featured-images/november-global-temperature-highest-record

      Climate science is credible and has been for thirty years. The planet is warming and humans are the cause. The full consequences will be born by future generations.

      In my opinion, climate science denial and nuclear power denial are among the greatest threat humanity faces today.

    • Leo Smith says:

      Ah . Filed under the ‘when its warm, its climate change, when its cold, its just weather’ posts….

      So one month proves climate change, and 20 years of no significant temperature rise is ‘just a weather/el Nino climate cycle’

      ROFLMAO.

    • Scott says:

      @Leo You said, “So you think there is no downside to sinking a whole nations activity into an activity that turns out to be utterly pointless?”

      What makes you say it is pointless? And what makes you think a whole nations activity is required? It seems to me increasing the productivity of the land is a very good point. Not to mention all the ecosystem services provided. And the only part of a nation’s efforts needed is in the agricultural sector.

      In fact you are the one without a valid point saying, “I really don’t care about AGW any more. If its right, there is nothing we can do about it anyway”

      Well that is a complete cop out. We did it and it is our responsibility to fix it. And since we can, and it even generates profits, there is absolutely no reason why not, unless you have a fiscal stake in the status quo that is destroying the environment in the first place, and are too much of a reactionary Luddite to adapt to advances in science and technology.

      Well I call BS on your ignorant, negative and dismissive attitude.

  9. Harry van Trotsenburg says:

    “It is important to distinguish between the actual case for nuclear power, and ecological issues. They are separate issues. ”

    This is a quite non sensical argument?
    Both Fukushima and Tsjernobyl made it impossible to live on large areas of land? How can you then say that nuclear and ecological issues are separate issues?

    On http://www.monbiot.com/2012/10/09/the-heart-of-the-matter/ you can read a good and sound discussion on which I now rely, and quote :

    1 Already in the start ecological issues are forgotten in the case of Hinkley : ”
    But if we assume that the consultation is genuine, then clearly by any normal standards of fairness and objectivity it would be wrong for major construction to commence before the permission has been granted.

    But bizarrely that is exactly what has happened here in West Somerset. In the next month or so, apparently with a special licence to clear ground during the nesting season, EDF’s contractors will commence the erasure of 400 acres of West Somerset coastland, including the habitats of red-list species, skylark breeding grounds, bat roosts and the little stand of West Quantocks oak woodland, not to mention a place of much archaeological interest and recreational amenity. All this will be demolished, felled, stripped and levelled before EDF have obtained planning permission to build.”

    2 Then about the consequences of the technology itself : ”
    But I think you miss an essential point about the nuclear machine here: it’s not just its history as “a by-product of nuclear weapons research” that has left it with a few old creases we need to iron out. Its guardedness arises implicitly from the technology itself. Because it is a prime target for terror, a prime source for lethal military material, and so potentially hazardous that all activity around it must be tightly and carefully controlled, it is a process that demands impenetrable security, armed policing and authorised-only access. The paradox is that, as one of the most uniquely toxic industrial processes we have ever developed, the greater good requires that there is total public scrutiny of its affairs – but the world is not safe enough for that, so we must rely on unaccountable self-regulation instead.

    3 Accidents happen anyway. They just do. I’d love you to have a head to head with a technical expert like the retired high-ranking Hinkley B engineer who came to our camp. From a far deeper knowledge base than mine or yours he’d explain the shortcomings of the EPR design, and tell you how contractors driven by deadlines and financial pressures inevitably build mistakes into complex systems. Actually you could chat with any ex-workers, from this or any other large hazardous industrial process, and get all the hair-raising insights you need into the inevitable foibles of human behaviour, compounded by the capitalist bottom line, which make some processes just too risky to pursue. ….

    But it’s not just through collusion. Accidents happen anyway. They just do. I’d love you to have a head to head with a technical expert like the retired high-ranking Hinkley B engineer who came to our camp. From a far deeper knowledge base than mine or yours he’d explain the shortcomings of the EPR design, and tell you how contractors driven by deadlines and financial pressures inevitably build mistakes into complex systems. Actually you could chat with any ex-workers, from this or any other large hazardous industrial process, and get all the hair-raising insights you need into the inevitable foibles of human behaviour, compounded by the capitalist bottom line, which make some processes just too risky to pursue.

    4 I see that Mark (Lynas) has been using the term “green luddite” about people like me – a compliment I am not worthy to bear having never risked either a soldiers bullets, state execution or life-exile as they did for their cause. But this is an appropriate time to recall the words of one such Ludd, 200 years ago this year, that we must “put down all machinery injurious to the commonality”. We don’t need to pick nuclear up. We know it is one of the most hazardous industrial processes we have yet stumbled upon and that the waste product will remain hazardous into future generations. Just the imposed and non-negotiable responsibility for looking after that nuclear fire once we’ve lit it will be injurious to them. So also, on an emotional level I think, will be the knowledge that their ancestors just couldn’t be arsed to get more creative with meeting our energy needs than leaving them to pick up the tab. In the meantime we have to hope that it won’t turn out “injurious” to us.

    5 …. we should defend lines drawn in public and environmental safety as gains in our evolution towards a rational society. In my opinion, the boundaries drawn around my behaviour by the duty of care and the precautionary principle that stems from it are in line with the biological interests of my species and with maintaining the integrity of the biosphere. In other words they are as inviolable as the 7 planetary boundaries identified by the Stockholm Resilience Centre (and used by Mark in “The God Species” as the springboard for his own reactionary ideas). That means I have to create ways to live within them and still thrive. That means, like it or lump it, I’m going to have to do it without nuclear.

    Finally :

    What is necessary is to encourage and empower a left ?-HSVT democratic social movement which is steeped in ecological understanding.

  10. Francisco G Nobrega says:

    Dear Commentators:

    The survey among the America Meteorological Society professional members that I got says that the majority (52%) believe that the warming is human-caused but 48% do not. That means the “science isn’t settled” as some claim.
    Next I call the attention of all of good will to read the impressive address by Matt Ridley when he received the Julian L Simon 2012 Award. A lesson about how to comment on issues and bring new arguments and metaphors to illustrated concepts. Enjoy, eventually…hate!

    http://blog.skepticallibertarian.com/2012/06/20/julian-simon-award-lecture-matt-ridley/

    • Scott says:

      Dear Francisco G Nobrega,

      I read your post and the link you provided several months ago, when you posted it. I wasn’t sure how to respond, because in the link are many good points and many problems intermixed. Part of the problem is there are many assumptions made, based on political differences in how to address the issue. In other words. once you define the problem (400 PPM CO2 in the atmosphere), then you have different approaches as to getting the problem fixed.
      One point Matt Ridley correctly points out is this:
      “I try to point out that drastically cutting emissions by 90% might do more harm to the poor and the rain forest than anything the emissions themselves might do. That we are taking chemotherapy for a cold, putting a tourniquet round our neck to stop a nosebleed.”
      It reminds me of an old joke. “Man goes to the doctor and says, “It hurts when I raise my arm like this. Doctor says, “Don’t raise you arm. Pay on the way out.”
      That joke may seem silly, but the sad thing is that the same silliness is happening in the AGW debate. The problem is too much CO2 in the atmosphere, and the climate scientists solution is to lower emissions. Now I do respect the 95% of climate scientists that say AGW is in fact happening, and is in fact a dire problem our generation must solve. However, like the doctor in the joke, their solution shows a profound lack of understanding of the root causes of AGW.
      Matt Ridley is correct to point out many of the proposed solutions might make it worse in the long run. However, I was saddened to see while he does understand the flaws in taking that approach, he also failed to get to the root of the issue. So that lecture by Matt Ridley is just as bad. Doing nothing is also failing to deal with the problem.
      See, it’s not just carbon emissions. It is a very complex carbon cycle. Since all life on the planet is carbon based, you could call it a life cycle problem. If we don’t solve it, it does jeopardize our very existence. If we did actually lower emissions by 90%, it still would not fix anything, any more than the doctor fixed his patient by telling him not to raise his arm. Until that 400 PPM CO2 in the atmosphere gets sequestered in the biosphere and soil and out of the atmosphere to a level around ~250 PPM +/- , the same extinction level problem will continue to exist. As much as I am in favor of alternative energy, NONE of them address this at all, what-so-ever.
      So you might ask, what is the root of the problem? And ironically the answer is just that, roots. Professor Nina Fedoroff touched on it in a previous topic here at Mark Lynas’ forum, “The problems of agriculture are many: from an ecological perspective, there just isn’t anything as destructive as agriculture.” According to NASA satellite data ~40% of the land surface of the planet is under agriculture of one form or another. The vast majority of that is managed in a way that is either a net carbon emissions source, or at best nearly carbon neutral. That is what we humans destroyed, the capability of nearly 1/2 the land surface of the planet’s ability to sequester carbon in the biome and soil. (primarily the soil) This is why the various ecosystems of the world are failing to keep up with Fossil Fuel emissions. For the most part they are gone and are replaced by artificial agricultural biomes that don’t function as carbon sinks. Here in the USA we are loosing our topsoil at 10 times the rate it is being replaced! The % carbon in the soil is dropping like a rock. There is the root of the problem.
      The good news is the problem is also the solution. For more than 70 years now the science of organic has been advancing. Sadly, even though the science based approach to organic agriculture originated in England with a Cambridge educated botanist named Sir Albert Howard, currently you guys in England fall way behind the rest of the world in the science and technology of modern organic systems that use biomimicry to restore the function of the carbon cycle on agricultural land. So even though the industrialists resist, if we can get enough of the rest of the world to implement these modern breakthroughs in agriculture, the job could be done in 15-20 years, 40 by the most conservative of estimates.
      We can actually restore both the land and the atmosphere in less time than it takes to plan, license, and build your nuclear plant and for it to break even in carbon footprint. But we have to be serious about it. Denying AGW is most certainly NOT getting serious.

  11. Francisco G Nobrega says:

    Dear Scott

    I like your point, little (nothing..) can be done. What is being done is most likely wasteful.
    Freeman Dyson in one of his books comments about this soil ability to sequester carbon. Also the use of herbicides over GM herbicide-resistant crops are reducing the loss of topsoil considerably.

    Dyson said in his “The scientist as rebel”:

    “The fundamental reason why carbon dioxide abundance in the atmosphere is critically important to biology is that there is so little of it. A field of corn growing in full sunlight in the middle of the day uses up all the carbon dioxide within a meter of the ground in about 5 minutes. If the air were not constantly stirred by convection currents and winds, the corn would not be able to grow. ”

    Currently less than 1% (correct me if necessary) of crops are organic. To move all agriculture to organic procedures at present tecnologies will more or less eliminate all forests or create a genocide.

    Why the global warming at the Medieval optimum was even more intense than today’s and the CO2 was at the pre-industrial level? As far as I can see I cannot believe that CO2 is the culprit.

    • Your statement : “To move all agriculture to organic procedures at present tecnologies will more or less eliminate all forests or create a genocide.” is wrong?

      Even the Netherlands can produce its own food, when we stop eating meat, which we really don’t need…

      It is true that organic will produce less, but it is able to produce for long periods of time, where soils treated with anorganic fertilizers and ( herbi) cides are detoriating…. this will be the problem of the near future. and in fact already is a problem.

    • Scott says:

      Dear Franscisco Nobrega,
      There are a couple problems with your post. You said, “Also the use of herbicides over GM herbicide-resistant crops are reducing the loss of topsoil considerably.” And that is true to a point, but more importantly organic no till can beat both by a considerable margin. In fact, organic no til doesn’t just reduce the loss of topsoil, it builds topsoil.

      You also said, “To move all agriculture to organic procedures at present tecnologies will more or less eliminate all forests or create a genocide.” Which is also wrong. I agree that in the UK the organic technology is pretty stone age, but actually as a rule the opposite is true, using modern organic methods. The Rodale Institute has proven with continuous scientific trials for well over 30 years now that organic can yield equal to or better than all conventional BMP year in and year out. The yields are similar in normal rainfall years, and much greater in years with drought. This is because the humus in the soil (sequestered carbon from the atmosphere) acts like a sponge and holds water, resisting drought. But there is more. The most modern organic animal husbandry methods beat conventional CAFO models by very significant amounts in both carbon and yields per acre, sometimes by orders of magnitude! It is actually quite common to see double, triple, 10 X, and even 100X or more productivity per acre. And the current animal husbandry CAFO models are the biggest polluters. Guess what? The most modern organic animal husbandry models actually show the most benefit to the environment while producing the much higher yields and the most net carbon sequestration, use far less energy, and even improve crop yields, all AT THE SAME TIME.

      Now I understand that “organic” is a broad term. But if you are going to compare conventional BMP, then to be fair you must compare it with organic BMP, and not some antiquated traditional methods that can only be considered “organic” nominally at best.

      Lastly, you said, “Why the global warming at the Medieval optimum was even more intense than today’s and the CO2 was at the pre-industrial level? As far as I can see I cannot believe that CO2 is the culprit.” which quite frankly, not trying to be rude, is an argument from ignorance logic fallacy. The fact that you can’t believe it is irrelevant. CO2 is a greenhouse gas. The physics behind that effect is very strong, confirmed by actual measurements both in the lab and by satellites measuring the whole earth, and not even really refutable. As far as the Medieval optimum which was the fastest warming for thousands of years, we passed that in 2004. So even taking the peak Medieval Climatic Anomaly, and comparing it the the average we have today, which is decidedly biased, we still passed it. Just to show how biased it is, why didn’t you choose the Little Ice Age minimum as your starting point (which is also part of the Medieval Climatic Anomaly) instead of the medieval optimum? When you say things like that, you quite frankly sound like a Flat Earther.

      Now to be fair, you did say some right things. You got the part right where Dyson speculated on solutions being related to plants sequestering carbon in the soil. The biggest problem Dyson had was he didn’t study it long enough or in depth enough, which he admits. He had the right concept, he just didn’t follow it through to include which plants and how exactly our human management could effect that process. Quite a pity actually. If he had, it probably would have resulted in that Nobel prize he never was awarded. He has the name and reputation he built up, he was on the right track, he just didn’t grind it out to the end. There are people doing just that though. Alan Savory and W R Teague are just a couple.

      http://www.savoryinstitute.com/media/40591/Savory_Institute_Carbon_RestoringClimateWhitePaper_April2013.pdf

  12. Francisco G Nobrega says:

    Dear Harry

    Recently I am almost vegetarian and feeling well. Anyway I completely accept that people want meat in their diets. A reasonable target, to me, would be to educate people to a better diet, not simple due to the many competing views, and it would take time. To convince people to abandon meat altogether is next to impossible.

  13. Francisco G Nobrega says:

    Dear Harry:
    I would prefer to use education so people start migrating to a plant based diet. I would vote for the negative incentive of higher taxes to curb habits that are really damaging: booze and smoke. Maybe be beverages with excess sugar..
    Environment costs are complicated. The “deep ecology” crowd consider men the vermin of the earth and will present a bill that will create a genocide somewhere else of course.

  14. Francisco G Nobrega says:

    Dear Scott

    I cannot keep up with your knowledge. Now I believe in a flat earth! Time will tell… I imagine that organic methods will improve and that’s good although there is no scientific proof that a plant based diet, for sure good for our health, is no better if the stuff is organic or conventional (save the price at the moment). The scare about climate change is based on computer models and Dyson knows that stuff more than most. I side with him on that: CO2 is anything but “scarce”.
    Thanks for the Savory Institute pdf, I will read it. I do not believe in conspiracies that last. If the vision that you explain is not only good but economically viable it will prevail.

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