More on the Cost of Renewables from Germany

It is very curious how the ‘Greens’ occasionally let the cat out of the bag regarding the real cost of renewable energy. I just found one such article on Spiegel online. Here, it is their desire to take a swipe at business that creates the revelation. As regular readers will know, I have been detailing the shocking costs that are being loaded on German households and firms as Germany dashes for a renewable future (e.g. see here).

The German government will exempt some 1,550 industrial companies from electricity cost increases in 2013, SPIEGEL has learned.

The Federal Office for Economics and Export Control informed the firms in mid-December that they won’t have to pay a special charge imposed on electricity customers under the country’s Renewable Energy Act to help cover the cost of expanding the production of energy from renewable sources.

The opposition Green Party estimates that the companies will save up to €4 billion ($5.3 billion) as a result. The electricity bills for private energy customers and smaller businesses will increase by a commensurate amount.

Note the number of companies and the cost quoted by the Green Party. The really curious part is that the government believes that it is necessary to exempt companies in the first place, if renewable energy is a viable plan for an economy. Implicit in the subsidy is a recognition that, in some way, the industries being exempted are threatened by the soaring costs of energy. Of course, the Green Party are right about the increase being diverted to other energy users, but the key difference with other energy users is that they are presumably smaller, and there will be no headlines as major businesses shut down due to higher energy costs. The German government has good reason to be concerned. Their next door neighbour of Poland is one of the least ‘green’ in Europe:

Poland is the 10th largest consumer of coal in the world and produces 92 percent of its electricity from coal, according to the World Coal Association. And despite EU targets for curbing greenhouse gas emissions, Poland is pressing forward with plans replace old coal plants with massive new ones.

Incidentally, the article that this quote comes from is one in which carbon dioxide is termed a pollutant; a curious description for a gas which is essential to all life on earth. However, returning to the main point, it is possible to guess why the exemptions were given. The companies granted the exemptions probably simply said that, with such high costs, they would decamp from Germany to a more business conducive economy such as Poland.

If I were German, I would not so much be worrying about the exempted companies, but rather the companies that are not exempted. These are presumably smaller concerns, and ones without the scale and resources to lobby the government. For these companies, the higher costs will go ahead, and for higher energy users they will undoubtedly give consideration as to whether they wish to continue to operate in Germany. This will not happen overnight; moving is a complex and expensive business. Rather, when it is time for the next major investment, for example a major capital expenditure, this is when the factories start to relocate.

The impact on lighter energy users is less dramatic, but is still there. The added energy costs will appear in their prices, and that cost will then be passed on to consumers as higher prices, and those consumers will already be paying higher prices for their own energy usage. Furthermore, each firm engaged in exports, or competing with imports, will be less competitive. That will mean less sales, and less sales means less jobs. Furthermore, the increased cost of living will see pressure for higher wages to make up for the inflationary effects of higher energy costs, and this will further dent their ability to compete.

The simple point is this. Energy costs can have a major impact on the competitiveness of an economy. Moving to renewable energy, as is being clearly demonstrated in Germany, creates a huge increase in energy costs. The ‘green’ dreamers have long claimed that ‘green’ energy is good for the economy; it is an absurd idea, and Germany continues to provide the evidence.

Cause for Optimism?

I was reflecting on the leak of the next IPCC report, and the revelations that are included in the report. For example, the mismatch between climate models and reality is a very strong point in favour of those who question the alarmist positions of some researchers. Added to, and connected to this, is the lack of any significant warming over the last 16 years. In conjunction with other lines of evidence that are emerging, and the shocking behaviour revealed in the climategate emails, I started musing that perhaps the debate on climate science was turning a corner. In fact, I started to feel more optimistic than for a long time that the skeptical position would really gain significant traction.

However, even as I was starting to feel more optimistic that the skeptical point of view was breaking through the clutter of alarmism, I found the latest discussions from Donna Laframboise’s excellent blog. In one post, Donna notes that the IPCC is flagging a forthcoming issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) journal, which offers an opportunity for alarmists to ‘to look for material that fills inconvenient gaps in their narrative.’ She notes that the PNAS issue is being edited by Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, who can reasonably be characterised as political, activist and an extreme alarmist. As just one illustration, Donna cites an article he wrote for the Guardian:

In 2003, he authored an article for the UK Guardian that characterized the use of fossil fuels as “a lifestyle of mass destruction.” He suggested that wealthy Westerners should feel guilty “for eco-crimes that sink distant island states” via an “SUV culture out of control.” In his view, the least we should do is establish “a UN supervised adaptation fund worth several trillion dollars.”

In other words, the narrative will be completed, and even though the papers for the PNAS are probably not written, the gaps in the narrative will be filled as if by magic in time for the final IPCC report.

I then started to consider the other invested interests in climate alarmism; for reputation investment, there are the media outlets, the politicians, the science academies, scientists, universities and so forth. As a result of their strident advocacy of alarm, they have placed their collective reputations on the line, and have done so with a result that massive expenditure and costs have been appropriated to support climate alarmism. Regardless of the multiplying reasons for doubt about catastrophic global warming, it will be extremely hard for those who have so strongly and expensively supported alarm to back down.

Then there are the more direct interests of money. The banks who can benefit from carbon dioxide trading, and the vast new industries of so called ‘renewable energy’. Both of these interests have very large amounts of money at stake, and every reason to continue to lobby in favour of alarmism. There are also the NGOs, such as WWF, who have reputation and influence invested in the idea of catastropic global warming, as well as funding from government and quasi-governmental agencies. Finally, in addition to reputation, the universities and scientists are also invested in catastrophic global warming for the large amount of funding that flows to those who support alarmist positions.

As such, my moment of optimism is no more than that; a moment. The theory of catastrophic global warming is a juggernaut. Far too many often powerful interests have good reason to resist any doubts that might be cast upon the thesis. As such, although there have been some very positive developments, the alarmism has a way to run still and this matters. All the while that alarmism continues to have its day, resources will continue to pour into ever more questionable directions. This resource matters; if resource is being directed into activity based upon questionable theory, then it is an opportunity cost. The costs are not notional, but very real. One wonders whether those who promote and support the alarmist position ever really think of the consequence of what they are doing. By depriving more constructive use of resources, they are doing harm and that is the real tragedy of alarmism. Nevertheless, the juggernaut will press ahead……

Note: As this is really musing, I have not referenced the article as I would normally do. Indeed, much of what is discussed is currently widely discussed on other skeptical blogs, or is from well worn themes discussed over long periods in skeptical outlets.

The Leaked IPCC Report: The Sun’s Influence

[updates at end of post- I am not so sure that the issues are as I originally laid out – comments welcomed] I was a little cautious about one element of the critique of the leaked IPCC report. This was the strong claim made by Alec Rawls that the leaked IPCC report highlights the importance of the sun in driving climate change. There was a backlash to this. For example, the New Scientist said this:

Climate scientists are lining up to debunk this claim, and to explain that the bloggers have simply got it wrong. “They’re misunderstanding, either deliberately or otherwise, what that sentence is meant to say,” says solar expert Joanna Haigh of Imperial College London.

The sentence in question is the bold sentence in this passage:

Many empirical relationships have been reported between GCR or cosmogenic isotope archives and some aspects of the climate system (e.g., Bond et al., 2001; Dengel et al., 2009; Ram and Stolz, 1999). The forcing from changes in total solar irradiance alone does not seem to account for these observations, implying the existence of an amplifying mechanism such as the hypothesized GCR-cloud link. We focus here on observed relationships between GCR and aerosol and cloud properties.

Alec Rawls has provided a rebuttal of the critiques. It is long, and I believe quite complex, and can be found here. As such, I thought I would have a go at simplifying the point that he is making (in as simple language as possible), although do so at some risk I will get it wrong. I am not very familiar at all with this area of  science, but I think I have grasped the key principles of his argument:

  1. There is good empirical evidence that links the activity of the sun and global temperature
  2. One of these influences is total solar irradiance
  3. Total solar irradiance (which is known and can be accounted for) is, of itself, not sufficient to explain the linkage between the activity of the sun and the correlations with global temperature.
  4. Therefore something else must explain the linkages i.e. there is some other forcing mechanism from the activity of the sun that explains the linkage or ‘something’ is ‘amplifying’ the influence of the sun
  5. This might be the theoretical mechanism (backed by results from experimental work) in which solar activity impacts upon cloud formation

This is (in very simple terms) what I think is the gist of the paragraph quoted. There are points to note here.

  1. Observations are indicating a role for the activity of the sun on temperatures beyond what is currently being used in used in climate models. The models include solar irradiance, but not the other still uncertain/undiscovered amplifying mechanism.
  2. The passage accepts that the sun has a greater role in temperature than is currently used in climate models.

As you will have seen, there has been a response to Alec’s discussion which suggests that the context of the whole gives a different understanding. Indeed, there are even suggestions of ‘cherry picking’ and even outright dishonesty in the discussions of Alec’s argument. Central to the claim that the rest of the IPCC report is dismissive of the point in the paragraph is that other sections of the report cast doubt on the cloud formation theory.  Therefore, they claim that the rest of the report does not support a greater role for sun activity in the climate, and this is why there is nothing in the report which supports a greater role in climate change for the sun.

However, this is a very, very large problem, if that is their logic. For the moment we will accept their claim that the cloud theory is poorly supported (which is questionable). That merely means one explanation of the larger role of the sun in temperatures is poorly supported, and does nothing to argue against the evidence that the sun is a larger influence on temperature than is currently accepted in the climate models.

It just means that scientists should be looking harder for explanations of the larger role of the sun in the determination of climate [Update: RichardC reasonably points out that some scientists are already working hard on this, but the IPCC is uninterested]. In the interim they should still alter their models to include the larger role of the sun in driving climate [update: see John Hutlquist’s comment below for reasonable questions on this subject]. Whilst they might argue that they do not know what the additional amplifying mechanism is, they still need to accept the evidence that there is indeed an amplifying mechanism.

In summary, the argument in the IPCC report pretends that by casting doubts on a theory that exlains observation, they can then ignore the real implications of actual observations. These are not theory, and are observations. Casting doubts on a theoretical explanation of observations in no way makes the observations any less real! To pretend this is the case, is a sleight of hand, a magicians trick. It is getting you to look over there, whilst making the subject of interest disappear. If I have understood this correctly (and I am not certain of this), this is either a result of incompetence, or purposefully hiding an ‘inconvenient’ piece of evidence.

Important Note: In light of stepping out of my ‘comfort zone’ I welcome comments and corrections; for those who are reading; you should therefore check the comments below to see if any corrections have been made. Please note there may also be some comments which are from people who will seek to obscure rather than clarify the discussion that I have presented.

Update: In response to a comment below, I have added a large quote from the Economist, which discusses some of the science regarding the sun, climate and cloud formation. Being the Economist, it is well written, and for a lay audience. There is also a video with the original article which, if I remember when I first read the article, is very good.

Clouds are formed by the condensation of water vapour in the atmosphere around clusters of molecules such as ammonia and sulphuric acid. Ions created by the passage of cosmic rays can trigger the formation of such molecular seeds—a process of particular interest because the arrival of cosmic rays is regulated, in part, by the sun. The 11-year solar cycle, which governs the appearance of sunspots, also changes the sun’s magnetic field. That, in turn, affects the passage of cosmic rays (which are mostly protons released by distant supernova explosions), and thus the number of such rays that make it to Earth. Since clouds help regulate the climate, by reflecting sunlight back into space and cooling the atmosphere, some researchers think cosmic rays are a means by which changes in solar activity are translated into terrestrial climate change.

Just how much cosmic rays affect cloud formation has, however, remained elusive. A team at CERN, led by Jasper Kirkby, therefore decided to recreate both the solar cycle and the atmosphere in a lab. Their “cosmic rays” are generated by one of CERN’s particle accelerators. To simulate the atmosphere, they have built a special cloud chamber of their own, with the air manufactured from scratch, using liquid nitrogen and oxygen together with precise amounts of trace compounds, including sulphuric acid and ammonia.

A typical run at CLOUD, as the experiment is unimaginatively named, begins by tracking the growth of seeds from single molecules into clusters in the presence of ultraviolet radiation, which is known to encourage such growth. An electrical field removes any ions present, so the rate of seed growth should be equivalent to that in nature with no cosmic rays around. Next, the field is switched off, allowing actual cosmic rays to permeate the chamber for a while. Finally, a beam of artificial rays from the accelerator is added to the mix.

By comparing rates of seed formation during the different phases of the experiments, the researchers have been able to put a figure on cosmic rays’ contribution to the process. The results, reported in this week’s Nature, suggest naturally occurring rays enhance seed-formation rates by a factor of ten. That implies the rays’ varying intensity could indeed affect the climate.

Dr Kirkby and his colleagues remain cautious about the result, however, because of a second finding. To their surprise, they discovered that the seed-formation rates for sulphuric acid and ammonia are between a tenth and a thousandth of those needed to account for the cloud seeding actually seen in the atmosphere. That suggests other compounds are important, too—and this, in turn, implies that current climate models, which assume most seeds are made of ammonia or sulphuric acid, may require revision.

You may also wish to see this earlier article in the Economist, which gives further background, as it highlights the theory of Henrik Svensmark, who is a key theorist on the subject of cloud formation. I believe the science has moved ahead since these articles, but they do give a sense of the science at issue.

Another update in response to the comments and a little more consideration: This is with regards to the findings of correlations between the activity of the sun. There is a well worn statement that correlation does not equal causation (I recently stumbled across an interesting history of this, but forget where I found it, sorry). The best example I have seen as a simple illustration is that ice cream eating is highly correlated with hot weather, therefore eating ice cream causes hot weather (or the sun to shine). The point here is that correlations need a causal explanation. This is why the cloud seeding theory is important, as are other theories that link the activity of the sun to climate. However, as John Hutlquist points out in his comment, there are some correlations that are hard to ignore.

As you will note, I am starting to rethink a little on this issue. Science is about theory and observation, and that theory should be tested to see whether it is a true description of reality. There has to be theory in addition to observation. Added to this we have the question of intuitive plausibility. It seems intuitively plausible that the major driver of climate is the sun, but that does not make it true. However, when considering an intuitively plausible explanation and a less intuitively plausible explanation (i.e. the plausibility that human derived CO-2 emmissions are more influential in climate change than the sun), then it seems that there should be a desire to examine the more plausible explanation in great depth before settling on the less plausible.

In other words, we have some interesting observational evidence that is suggestive that the sun is more influential as a driver of climate than manmade CO_2. However, the mechanism for how the sun might have greater influence than the know solar irradiance is still a subject of hypothesis and theory testing. It appears, however, that certain members of the scientific community are resistant to the possibility of the sun as a more significant driver of climate than CO_2, and wish to stick with their own (less intuitively plausible) explanation in the face of a more plausible explanation. They do not seem to want to engage with those who are engaging in the process of testing of an alternative hypothesis. Further, whilst their current hypothesis has resulted in model predictions, the predictions are not doing well in face of observation. This should be a driver towards greater interest in the alternative (and more intuitively plausible) hypothesis.

As I have pointed out earlier in the post, I am not in a position to evaluate the science, but I think I am starting to see something of the questions raised in the IPCC leaked report. If they can demonstrate that the current theories of amplification of the influence of the sun are wrong (which I gather they have not), then they could argue that there is no mechanism given for how the sun might be a more important driver for climate than CO_2, and then argue that without a mechanism, the observations are nothing more than coincidence. Correlation and causation are not enough. However, their own theory, as expressed in models, is failing to predict, meaning that their theory is problematic, and that the observations of solar drivers of climate seem to better fit observations of the climate.

In these circumstances, rather than seeking to discredit the sun as a more significant driver of climate, they should be actively looking themselves at the possibilities, and seeking their own explanations. Instead, their minds seem made up so that, whatever faults there are in their own theory, it must be defended to the hilt. After all, the big ball of energy that is the sun seems a plausible candidate for being a major driver of the climate. This stiff-necked approach now seems to me to be the issue at hand. Why are the IPCC scientists so resistant to the alternative explanation for climate variability in the face of the problems with their own theory? There are observations, there are possible causal mechanisms, there are interesting questions which should spur scientific interest (all science commences with questions). Why the disinterest?

Note: A second thanks to John for his comment on models, which spurred this rethink. I think he was gently making the correlation/causation point in the question about models.

The IPCC AR5 Leak: why do the IPCC object?

There has been considerable excitement over the AR5 leak (for those not so involved in the climate change debate, this the latest major report from the IPCC). The leak was made by Alex Rawls, an expert reviewer on the IPCC, and he says:

I believe that the leaking of this draft is entirely legal, that the taxpayer funded report report is properly in the public domain under the Freedom of Information Act, and that making it available to the public is in any case protected by established legal and ethical standards […]

With regards to whether the leaking is a good or bad thing, in an ethical sense, Donna Laframboise covers the question extremely well, by quoting Rajendra Pachauri, the head of the IPCC, on his views and statements about transparency. This is just one of several quotes provided by Donna:

“So you can’t think of a more transparent process…than what we have in the IPCC. I would only put that forward as valid reasons to accept the science and the scientific assessments that are carried out.” – newspaper interview, June 2007

In light of the many quotes that emphasise transparency, the publication of an interim draft should not raise any problems, as it shows an element of the process in developing the final report. This seems to be the meaning of transparency; showing the stages and processes for how conclusions were developed in the IPCC reports. However, the IPCC is unhappy about the leak, and the Guardian reports:

The IPCC, which confirmed the draft is genuine, said in a statement: “The IPCC regrets this unauthorized posting which interferes with the process of assessment and review. We will continue not to comment on the contents of draft reports, as they are works in progress.”

As such, it seems that the idea of transparency is more rhetoric than reality. Indeed, one would have thought that, if the IPCC really did value transparency, they would be celebrating the interest that the leak has generated; there is considerable interest in their process. Furthermore, it is not entirely clear how leaking the report might interfere in the review process. Is it that the leaked report will make reviewers alter the nature of their reviews? Surely a review should be an objective assessment of the nature of the science being presented, and should therefore be ‘immune’ from any commentary that might be made on the basis of the leak.

There are some concerns regarding the leak. The first is that Alex Rawls also discussed that the leaked report includes admission of enhanced solar forcing. This part of the story has been taken up by several people, such as James Delingpole in the Telegraph. I will leave the analysis of the science to others, but the gist of the story is that sections of the report admit that solar forcing has a greater impact on the climate than previously accepted. However, there are indications that the conclusions being drawn do not reflect the actual substance of the report overall. For example, at the Reference Frame blog, the conclusion is that the only real change is that there are now references to the work of Svensmark et al., which offers a consideration of mechanisms for solar forcing. The post concludes:

The situation, as I see it, is that the IPCC writing process is still controlled purely by the staunch, stubborn alarmists. They may have just split into several camps that differ in the opinion whether it should be legal to pronounce the name of Henrik Svensmark, albeit with a negative sentence required immediately afterwords, or whether his name should remain a blasphemy.

The question of what the report really proposes will no doubt be clarified over time as the science focused blogs start to digest the detail of the report. In the meantime, I would urge caution, and not jumping to hasty pronouncements over the content of the report. Indeed, Anthony Watts is pointing at a ‘bombshell’ to be found in the following Figure 1.4 from the AR5 draft, and will follow up with an essay in the near future:

IPCC_Fig1-4_models_obs

For the moment, I will leave the figure undiscussed, but it will be interesting to see Anthony’s essay, once he has had the time to examine the details and context surrounding the figure. The reason why I give this example is that, if it is indeed a ‘bombshell’, it may indicate why the IPCC would not seek the transparency that it claims; the early drafts of the reports may include material that can serve to raise doubts about the science that is finally used in the final report.  In the end, the final report is selective in the material that is presented, and how the material is presented. This means that some material will be excluded, and also that the emphasis in the final report will also be determined by the review process.

Real transparency would see this process of selection, rejection, and choice of emphasis take place in the public domain. For example, the ‘bombshell’ figure above might have finally been excluded from the report (we have no way of knowing what would have happened without the leak, of course), and transparency would demand that there is an explanation for its exclusion, if it is indeed a bombshell (which I suspect it is). After all, this would be part of the overall science, and any treatment of the science is a matter of the public interest.

In particular, as Alec Rawls points out, the IPCC reports are used as a basis for policy decisions, and those policy decisions can have far reaching impacts. The real question surrounding the leak, therefore, is why the IPCC might object, and why it does not conduct the entire report drafting process in the clear light of day? There should, in other words, be no need for leaks, as a genuinely transparent process would make leaks irrelevant.

Update: I see that the Climate Conversation Group has picked up on the leak, but nothing so far in the New Zealand press (for the media I checked).

Update 2: The full IPCC statement on the leak can be found here. I think it simply reinforces the points I am making here.

German Wind Energy

I have unusually added a second post today, and if you have not seen it, you may wish to see my post on the Monckton-Doha affair. The article that has prompted this post is one I have just stumbled upon at Spiegel, in which Spiegel interviews Stephan Kohler, the head of the German Energy Agency. I will quote the early part of the interview:

SPIEGEL: Mr. Kohler, according to the government’s plans, the last German nuclear power plant will go offline in 2022. What will the domestic power supply look like at that point?

Kohler: It will be interesting. It’s easy to shut down a nuclear power plant, but that doesn’t mean you have something to replace it with. We know today, for example, that we don’t have enough reliable power plant capacity in southern Germany to be able to offset the loss of nuclear energy.

SPIEGEL: Solar and wind aren’t enough?

Kohler: According to the generally accepted opinion, the transition to renewable energy sources means that we will give up nuclear power and rely on wind and solar instead. The reality is that we’ll need conventional power plants until at least 2050, even if we do create massive renewable energy sources. Many people dispute this. They say that we could replace power plants operated with fossil fuels by adding more renewable energy sources. My response to them is: It won’t work.

SPIEGEL: What’s the problem?

Kohler: When a new wind farm is opened and we’re told how many thousands of households it can supply with electricity, that number applies to only a quarter of our demand. In Germany, 75 percent of electricity goes to industry, for which a secure supply — that is, at every second, and with constant voltage — is indispensable. Neither solar nor wind power are suitable for that purpose today. Both fluctuate and provide either no secure supply or only a small fraction of a secure supply. Solar energy has a load factor of about 1,000 hours a year. But there are 8,670 hours in a year.

SPIEGEL: But on some days solar power is already enough to supply all of Germany with electricity.

Kohler: Photovoltaic systems are distributed across hundreds of thousands of small power plants, which sounds nice. But when the sky is blue over Germany, these hundreds of thousands of decentralized plants act like a single, large power plant. All of the sudden we have 30,000 megawatts coming into the grid, which, in many cases, we can’t use.

SPIEGEL: Is that so dramatic? It’s better to have a surplus than a shortage.

Kohler: I don’t want to bore you with the details, but a surplus and fluctuations lead to very unpleasant systemic effects. We have voltage fluctuations within the grid that create problems for industry. Or we overload the grids in neighboring countries. Poland is in the process of installing technical equipment to protect its grids by keeping out surplus German electricity.

SPIEGEL: So far the prognoses that anticipated possible blackouts during peak load times have not come true. Weren’t the concerns, including yours, exaggerated?

Kohler: We were lucky in the winter of 2012. By 2015, we will manage to secure the current power supply with old power plants. Then a number of large power plants in southern Germany will gradually go offline, starting with Grafenrheinfeld in Bavaria. If we don’t act very quickly now, the reality will show us that we face real problems.

And so the article goes on, detailing the problems associated with intermittent energy provision, and making points that skeptics have been making for so long. The simple and plain fact is that these so-called renewable sources of energy are simply a disaster. An expensive and pointless disaster. I have written on several (e.g. see here) occasions about the dangers of the move to renewable energy, and German experience trumps the sunny and rosy predictions given for a ‘renewable future’. If Germany cannot make it work, what on earth makes people think it can work in New Zealand. After all, we are looking at the example of Germany, which is famed for great engineering and efficiency.

The ‘Panto Villain’ Narrative and Climate Change

A little while ago, there was coverage and publicity of Lucy Lawless and members of Greenpeace taking ‘direct action’:

Lucy Lawless and seven other Greenpeace activists today pleaded guilty over the occupation of an oil drilling ship in February in protest of planned oil drilling operations in the Arctic.

The New Zealand actor’s arrest and the subsequent court action received publicity from far afield, and was covered by global media giants including the BBC, ABC, Reuters, the Daily Mail and the Washington Post.

The huge media scrum outside Auckland District Court this morning also attested to the success of the protest.

It is just one example. It does not take much to find huge numbers of articles on ‘direct action’ by environmentalists. Many of these ‘direct actions’ involve breaking the law, and preventing people going about their perfectly lawful business. This is often wrapped up with the justification that the protestors are ‘saving the planet’. Reporting on such ‘direct action’ is often fawning.

I am not keen at all on ‘direct action’ that breaks the law. At least, not in countries in which there is freedom of speech and assembly, and where marches and other legal forms of protest are allowed. In such places, there are mechanisms for people to make their point, and to raise interest in their cause, and there is no need to break the law. Where these mechanisms are curtailed, this is a completely different story.

This brings me on to the latest news of Christopher Monckton, who has caused upset by having the temerity to push a button and talk at the Doha COP18 conference; the latest round of talks on establishing an international climate change agreement. This is his description of the incident:

I have been a bad boy. At the U.N. climate conference in Doha, I addressed a plenary session of national negotiating delegates though only accredited as an observer.

One just couldn’t resist. There they all were, earnestly outbidding each other to demand that the West should keep them in pampered luxury for the rest of their indolent lives, and all on the pretext of preventing global warming that has now become embarrassingly notorious for its long absence.

No one was allowed to give the alternative – and scientifically correct – viewpoint. The U.N.’s wall of silence was rigidly in place.

The microphone was just in front of me. All I had to do was press the button. I pressed it. The Chair recognized Myanmar (Burmese for Burma). I was on.

This is a video of the incident on Youtube:

As anyone who follows the debate on climate change knows, Christopher is firmly in the skeptic camp. Those who are skeptical are, just like the environmentalists, driven by concerns but the concerns are sometimes different. In the case of the environmentalists, the concern is often about saving ‘the planet’, albeit that they will also discuss the impacts of the climate on humans. It is often the case that the ’cause’ is abstract, and simply founded in a belief that humans are disease on the face of the planet. Or about the ‘good’ of ‘nature’.

In the case of skeptics, the concern is always human centred. I hope that I can speak for all, and am not being arrogant, when I say that everything I have read indicates that the skeptic position is driven by concerns that the policies of governments on climate change are economically damaging. It is a concern that is about human consequences. For example, when good agricultural land is turned over to provide material for bio-fuels, it is not being used for the growth of food. This means that the available supply of food in the world is diminished. With less supply of foods, it is basic economics to say that this will see increases in prices. Whilst this is not a problem for the richer people in the world, for those living on the margins, it is catastrophic. It can mean the difference between life and death.

And that is the point. In this one example, it is possible to see that the conversion of agriculture to foods is going to lead to the death of those living on the margins or, in many cases, malnutrition and disease. Other policies are less dramatic in their consequences. For example, the increase in the price of energy, even in rich world countries, resulting from mad schemes like wind energy, will see poorer people struggling to meet their bills, unable to keep their children and themselves warm in winter. For others, the increase in energy costs might see the loss of their livelihood, as their employer relocates in search of cheaper energy, where there is no policy to promote uneconomic energy. The consequences of policy to mitigate climate change have consequences; from death to destitution, to energy poverty to disease.

The environmentalists cloak their arguments in ‘righteousness’ and decry the skeptical camp as wicked. What they do not and will not accept is that there is a strong moral dimension in the skeptic camp. It simply does not fit their neat narrative, and their narrative dominates much of the discussion in the media. How noble to ‘save the planet’ echoes around the media. For those who seek to portray skeptics as wicked, this is a wake up call; we are driven by concern for the real consequences of the policies that you are promoting. Consequences that do harm to people.

Whilst the media and environmental movement cloaks direct action in the clothes of morality, they are unable to give credit to Christopher Monckton for doing the same. The point is this; the whole environmentalist movement seeks to turn their views into a simple black and white morality play. They want you to believe that they are the players with the white hats on, and we, the skeptics, are the people wearing the black hats. However, our aim is to prevent and reverse climate change policies. We do so, not out of wickedness, but out of concern for the real harm that ‘green’ anti-climate change policies do. The views of the green movement are best summed up by an article in the Guardian, in which Christopher Monckton is described as a ‘climate panto villain’.

And that is the story, the narrative, that is pushed forwards. We, the guys in the white hats, face down the ‘panto villains’. The problem with the narrative is that is simply a lie. In order to be a villain, you must act out of malice, with bad intent. It is quite the opposite of motives of the skeptical camp, who act out of concern and compassion. We do so in the absence of government grants, of government funded conferences to sunny climes, of prestige in the press. Indeed, vilification is often the reward of skepticism, along with damage to careers, and being treated as ‘panto villains’.

In light of this, environmentalists may wish to ask where the real nobility lies.

But they will not. They are blind to the possibility.

BBC and 28Gate – Follow Up

I was a little foolish when first viewing the BBC 28Gate scandal. I foolishly thought that it would garner some attention. The BBC, as an impartial broadcaster in principle, neglecting to follow those standards would be of interest in the rest of the media. By the time I wrote my post on the subject of 28Gate, I had shifted my opinion.

In particular, I wrote about ‘right thinking’ people, the group mentality of the media that agrees that all right thinking people will agree on point x, y or z. So, there is a real scandal at the BBC, and one that is in its broader implications is more worrying than the Jimmy Saville affair. Nevertheless, the abandonment of impartiality by the BBC makes no news traction. The problem is that so many media outlets are following the same path. All ‘right thinking’ people know that humans are destroying the planet, so the BBC has done no wrong.

In the echo-chamber of right thinking, the actions of the BBC in abandoning impartiality on the issue of climate change is justified. ‘So what?’ is the silent cry. Who cares that they did so on the basis of a meeting largely comprised of activists. They were right, because all ‘right thinking’ people agree, and it does not matter what the source of the justification of the BBC might be. As long as they are ‘right thinking’, that is all well and good. For a couple of days, I scanned the news waiting to see if the story would break. I guessed it would not. It did not. Instead, a few of the usual suspects, and I mean usual suspects in a positive way here, published condemnations of the BBC. Overall, the story has fizzled out.

That is the tragedy. That ‘right thinking’ might see such a story buried. We agree, so we ignore the faults. Never mind journalistic and editorial integrity, as long as it is about right thinking, that is enough.