A new record: 0.016% contribution of solar and wind to total load!

Can’t get enough of the (meaningless) metric of record contribution of solar and wind to total load. This time, I will go hunting for another such record myself, using the exact same data that leads to that cheered record.

Remember from previous posts that the claim was made that Belgian solar and wind contributed 45% of total load on July 28 and that it was brought as something significant. Also remember that July 28, 2018 is a Saturday and that there was coincidentally a lot of solar PV and wind energy production, leading to a big contribution of solar and wind to total load. When it comes to intermittent power sources, that record is basically meaningless.

There was also this graph from Elia (our network manager) that showed other similar records of the last 11 months (see also this post):

As I explained in my first post on the subject, it suggests a steady increase. Until you realize that these are spot counts of coincidental high values, it is no less than cherry picking.

But if our Minister (and the network manager) are allowed to cherry pick, so am I! Solar and wind are intermittent energy sources and the record values are directly related to the failure to follow demand by those sources. Therefor, if there are records of maximum contribution (low demand at times of high production), then there are also records of MINIMUM contribution (huge demand at times of low production).

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Solar and wind: some suggestions on how to inflate the numbers

The previous post focused on the contribution-of-solar-and-wind-to-total-load metric as used by our Flemish Minister of Energy. In short, there was a lot of electricity production by solar and wind on a Saturday afternoon (when electricity consumption is traditionally low) leading to a 45% contribution by those two power sources to total load. This was praised as a “new record”. We can’t control the sun nor the wind and consumption of electricity follows certain patterns, so some pretty high contribution values are bound to happen, making it a rather meaningless metric.

He also used other equally meaningless metrics in te past. At the beginning of the year, he surprised us all with the MWh-per-km2 metric. According to this metric the Belgians are among the best in “Europe” when it comes to solar and wind energy! We are in the top 3 when it comes to production of solar energy per km2 and in the top 4 when it comes to production of wind energy per km2.
The problem with this metric is that it is mining for small countries with a high population density like, well, Belgium. If one want to classify countries by their population density, then this is most definitely a wonderful metric, but that is probably not what he was trying to do.

Although these two claims are as brilliant as they are meaningless, I think there are many more meaningless claims that the Minister has neglected. I want to play advocate of the devil and help him a little bit in his communication on solar and wind. In this post I will propose some other utterly meaningless claims that can be used to deceive the public in order to promote solar and wind.

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Yet another meaningless metric: contribution of solar and wind to total load

“A new record for solar and wind”. This is stated in a tweet by our Flemish Minister of Energy:

The hashtag “stroomversnelling” (the Dutch word for “rapids” and used in expressions it roughly means “speeding up” or “moving faster”) and he often uses it in relation to his policies. So, do I understand it correctly that he connects the current policies are the reason that this record was broken?

That “new record” was solar and wind producing 45% of the Belgian electricity load on Saturday July 28 at 15:00. My first reaction was: “So what?”. It probably would boil down to a few minutes in the weekend. The Minister has a history of unnuanced and misleading tweets, so I thought it would be a good idea to check what that record is all about. I turns out that this record was even less significant than I expected.

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Climate deniers are obviously incredibly influential … obviously?

The most surprising claim in the Guardian article “There are genuine climate alarmists, but they’re not in the same league as deniers” is that the deniers are influential. But before we go into that, let’s start with the first paragraph of that article (my emphasis):

Those who debunk climate change misinformation often face a dilemma. We’re flooded with such a constant deluge of climate myths, where should we focus our efforts? Climate misinformation is propagated via congressional climate hearings, conservative media outlets, denial blogs, and even from some genuine climate alarmists.

Reading this, one could get the impression that those poor debunkers are seriously in the disadvantage here. They are tasked with the herculean effort of debunking such a deluge of climate misinformation propagated via congress hearing, conservative media and blogs, needing to chose very carefully what to debunk.

Poor sods.

He ramps it up a bit further down in the article (my emphasis):

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The cost of debunking “climate alarmists”

The starting point of the Guardian article “There are genuine climate alarmists, but they’re not in the same league as deniers” is a tweet from Richard Betts (screenshot taken from the article):

Betts writes that he considers skepticalscience political because their “misinformers” page doesn’t include those on the climate action side. Culminating in the question whether skepticalscience also should debunk climate alarmists.

This is the reaction of Dana to this tweet:

There is some validity to these critiques, and in response, Skeptical Science is renaming the page Climate misinformation by source.‘ But the site is run entirely by a team of international volunteers, and as such, opportunity costs must be considered. Time devoted to refuting alarmists is time not devoted to debunking the constant deluge of climate denial.

That “response” of skepticalscience didn’t make much sense to me initially: simply renaming that page doesn’t counter the “no alarmists refutations” critique of Betts. Unless they added some climate alarmists to that page of course. So I visited that “misinformers” page to see whether this was the case. That page looks a bit different now than it did before. In the past, that page was a simple list of “misinformers” with their photo:

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“Genuine climate alarmists” spreading misinformation?

At the beginning of this week, I had my coffee-almost-spoiled-my-keyboard moment when I read a The Guardian article titled “There are genuine climate alarmists, but they’re not in the same league as deniers“. There were some surprising claims in this article and while writing this post, it became rather long, so I will split this into separate posts.

This first post will be about the main subject of the article. The author, Dana Nuticelli, explains that the skepticalscience site has a page about climate misinformers. Currently, all those misinformers are “deniers”, but Dana claims there are also “genuine climate alarmists” who spread misinformation. Those climate scientists are not in the list, their (failed) arguments are not debunked, yet part of a “constant deluge of climate myths”.

That is interesting to hear coming from this source.

Two examples of such “genuine climate alarmists” are provided in the article. The first is Guy McPherson. I have not heard of him before. He apparently claimed that climate change would likely drive humans to extinction by 2030. Dana explains that being already halfway and looking at the current human population, it will be rather unlikely that the human race is going extinct in the next couple decades. Okay, I can understand that this is a alarmist claim.

The other example is Peter Wadhams. I heard of him before and even wrote some posts mentioning him here, here, here and here. According to the article, Wadhams predicted in 2012 an ice-free Arctic by 2016, which didn’t happen when 2016 came along.

That was rather gentle description by Dana. Sure, Wadhams predicted an ice-free Arctic by 2016 in 2012, but he also predicted an ice-free Arctic:

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The doctor’s analogy: people defer to the expert consensus of climate scientists

Another term that I recently learned is “False Equivalence” (when two things are proposed as being equal, although there are substantial differences between the two). Reading the Skeptical Science article “97% consensus on global warming” that I discussed in previous posts, I spotted one right away. It is the good ol’ doctor’s analogy.

This is how it is explained in the article:

Expert consensus is a powerful thing. People know we don’t have the time or capacity to learn about everything, and so we frequently defer to the conclusions of experts. It’s why we visit doctors when we’re ill.

Which is all true. Expert consensus is indeed a powerful thing. It is also true that people are not able to learn about everything and, in things we don’t know much about, we turn to people who (seem to) know more about it. One such example is going to a doctor when being ill. Not everybody is able to get a degree in medical science, so when we feel ill, we turn to those people who got such a degree. For the record, I will happily go to a doctor when I am ill, knowing that medical science, while not perfect, is rather reliable and if I listen to the advice of the doctor, chances are that I get well again.

My eyes started to roll when the author of the article states that:

The same is true of climate change: most people defer to the expert consensus of climate scientists.

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