Category Archives: Activism

Reading skeptical comments threads (fabricated by alarmists) will make you stupid

It wasn’t my intention of blogging about the recent Cook/Lubos controversy, but it evolved in a rather interesting way, that I couldn’t resist dedicating a blog post to it (maybe even two).

First some background. Last Wednesday Luboš Motl wrote a blog post Identity theft: the thief of Lubos_Motl turns out to be a well-known man about John Cook using the handle “Lubos_Motl” on the SkS “private” forum.

Motl’s article was the first that I read in that regard and it seemed to me that he took it with a healthy dose of humor. Motl and Cook are not exactly best friends. John Cook wrote on SkS a list of Global Warming & Climate Change Myths (I have to admit that I used that list quite often when I was looking for information on global warming in the early days – shame on me) and Luboš Motl then wrote a rebuttal of every point on that list (I later read this list with even more pleasure – it turned out all right after all). The whole controversy came when Motl found out John Cook using the handle “Lubos_Motl”, apparently made comments on a (skeptical looking) blog post (but written by Cook himself) in a way that Motl personally wouldn’t do. In fact misrepresenting his ideas.

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This will be for our children

Urgenda, the organization that sued the Dutch Government because they didn’t do enough to prevent dangerous climate change, got victorious Wednesday last week. The judge ordered the Dutch Government to cut greenhouse gas emissions compared to 1990 by 25% by 2020.

My first reaction was amazement. Wasn’t there something like the separation of powers? Yet, now judicial power is intervening with legislative power. Aren’t they a democracy? Yet, now a small activist group is bypassing the majority.

Then there was this statement made after the judgement that kept on resonating in my head:

“A courageous judge. This is fantastic,” said Sharona Ceha, another Urgenda worker. “This is for my children and grandchildren.”

In a way, I can agree with this one, but obviously not how they see it…

Let’s for a moment look at reality. Global warming/climate change is something, well, global. If you just look at the global emissions, they go up, steeply up. Three countries are responsible for more than half of the emissions and for 3/4 of the increase in global emission compared to 2012. These are China (which isn’t planning to decrease emissions until 2030), USA (which is telling that it favors emission reduction, but doesn’t ratify anything and knowing the republicans are in the majority, this could make it rather difficult) and India (which said they will not decrease emissions in the first place).

Let’s look at some numbers to get some feel for the proportions. These are the three largest emitters which consists of more than half of the emissions compared with the total emissions and emissions of the Netherlands:

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Do as we tell, not as we do

At beginning of this week, eleven Flemish celebrities wrote an open letter to the Federal and Regional Governments, threatening with legal action when failing to take action on climate change within 30 days. After that, they will proceed to court. They want a reduction of emissions of 40% before 2030 and 85-90% before 2050 to keep global temperature below 2 °C.

As if there is a control knob to influence global temperatures.

It was inspired by the actions of Urgenda, which done the same in The Netherlands last year.

The group behind this action is klimaatzaak (Climate Case). They choose the beginning of this week because it was also the start of the climate top in Lima. The media, as always, uncritically took it over and even whipped it up. We got loads of climate propaganda poured over us in the last days.

The action seemed to backfire. The reaction of the public was devastating. I heard and read things like

  • Can’t they act normal for once?
  • Don’t they have anything else to do?
  • How do they have the guts to sue the government without a political mandate?
  • If they want the politics to change, they just have to vote like normal people do!
  • They themselves are traveling by planes!
  • That is easy to say for them, they themselves have a carbon footprint of a small African country!
  • and so on…

I didn’t really expect so many reactions. Apparently, there seems to be a large gap between minds of the public and the minds of the activists/media. It was also striking how many of the public knew about the pause, the lack of debate, the “consensus” and many other subjects the media fails to tell us about.

Minister Schauvliege (Flemish Minister of Environment, Nature and Agriculture) also reacted. She said that this was a matter of us all and asked whether those celebrities could acknowledge their own emissions.

She hit the nail straight on the head.

This seems to be the Achilles heel for those celebrities. Two of those eleven celebs were very vocal in this, but weren’t exactly free of climate sins. They seem to have a huuuuuuuge footprint.

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The Mann lecture: the science missing in action

wished-you-were-here

Been to the Mann lecture “The Hockey Stick and the Climate wars – the battles continues” yesterday. It was a weird experience, to say the least.

The lecture itself was bland. There was absolutely no depth and it was extremely one-sided.

We saw Mann the green activist, the political activist, the noble man, the preacher, the sales man, stirrer of emotions, the poor victim. I missed one person on stage and that was Mann the scientist.

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What is a consensus worth when thoughts can’t be expressed freely?

uitsluiting

Another one bites the dust. Not long after Bengtsson had no other choice than to leave the Academic Advisory Council of the GWPF Academic Advisory Council because of peer pressure, now it is Caleb S. Rossiter who saw his fellowship with the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) terminated because he expressed his opinion against the correct story line.

The op-ed he wrote in the The Wall Street Journal was titled “Sacrificing Africa for Climate Change – Western policies seem more interested in carbon-dioxide levels than in life expectancy.”, which was, as the title suggest, rather skeptical about climate change and more specifically about the catastrophic nature of it. After this his position with Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) was suspended because this op-ed showed them his ideas diverged significantly from theirs on this topic.

Bengtsson and Rossiter are not the only ones, they are not the first ones either. There were several editors before them, even a complete magazine, that didn’t survive a publication or a opinion of climate change skeptics. We have seen some background on this in the climategate emails where we seen a small group of scientists redefining peer review in accordance with their own views.

While his resignation is more understandable than that of Bengtsson (the IPS is a left wing organization with a known agenda), something is becoming more and more clear. All those events are a clear message: if you deviate from the story line, you put your career in danger. That is a very strong message if you ask me. I guess there isn’t much incentive of scientists in making public their skeptic opinions.

It shouldn’t be surprising that so many scientist support the story line in the media and in their papers. It shouldn’t be surprising that they start expressing their opinions on the matter mostly after they retire.

We are being told that the consensus on global warming/climate change is the holy grail and we should trust it. But what is this “scientific consensus” worth when scientists are not able to speak out freely in fear of ruining their career?

Energy efficiency is not the same as energy saving

MiniMetro

When I was around 20 years old I was, like many young men, interested in cars and dreaming of owning one. At that time I drove the family car: a humble Austin Mini Metro. As someone who was conscientious about the impact on our environment, I found myself looking at the fuel consumption of cars to see which one was the most fuel economic.

From memory: I found that our Mini Metro had the lowest fuel consumption (4.6-4.8 liter/100 km) of them all, then came the medium cars with 5-6 liter/100 km, then the bigger ones with 7-8-9 liter/100 km. At the tail end, the older cars with 10 or more liter/100 km. I remember that most older cars of that time had 13 or more liter/100 km.

Forward thirty years, out of curiosity I looked into it again and came to the conclusion that not much changed during that time. The only thing that really changed is that the clunkers at the tail end weren’t there anymore, but generally the modern cars had about the same fuel consumption as the cars in the beginning of the 1980s. Even the fuel consumption of the engine of a Toyota Prius of today (when driven solely on fuel) was in the same range as the fuel consumption of that of the Mini Metro in the 1980s…

It came as a complete surprise. The car manufacturers pride themselves that they are building more energy efficient engines now, but in these three decades there wasn’t much of the difference in fuel consumption of cars. Aren’t these modern engines more efficient than the old ones? Yes, they are. But the saving done by the more efficient engine was eaten up by more speed, safety and comfort. The 1980s Mini Metro was just a basic car with not much luxury. No electronics, a basic dashboard and it could barely drive 120 km/h (that was not a comfy thing to do though). Compare this to the modern cars with standard climate control and other options that add to the weight of the car or need extra energy from that engine. The engines now are much more efficient than those of thirty years ago, but they have to carry more weight, feed much more options and drive faster than the older cars. Saving would be if we put a modern engine in a Mini Metro and use the power of that engine solely to drive (if that were possible or even desirable, much of that extra weight is safety related). Or use a modern car at a lower speed, but that would not be safe in todays traffic.

This made me think of the Oxfam happening against increasing food and energy prices for the poor at the G7 meeting. This was one of their statements (translated from Dutch):

The energy efficiency should improve 40 percent by 2030, which could mean a saving of 239 billion, or 300 euro annually per household.

I have heard such statements many times before. Not only with the engine efficiency of a car, but also for example with the energy saving light bulb. It was hailed as the solution for saving electricity, but in the end this didn’t materialize.

Don’t get me wrong, saving energy with more efficiency is a noble strive. But two things are mixed here.

First are the savings done by more efficiency, which are real. If an engine is more efficient, it can do more with the same fuel. If a bulb is more efficient, it will give more light for the same electricity. If one has a house or appliances that are more energy efficient, energy will be saved.

The second thing are the economic savings. We could use an efficient engine and have the advantage of more options that makes car driving more fun, safe and/or comfortable. We could use an efficient light bulb and leave them longer on for comfort or we could make a bigger television with money of the savings. We could use more energy efficient houses and appliances and use the savings for an extra vacation by airplane.

The fact that we use more efficient things and saving money by it, doesn’t mean we are actually going to save energy. It is only saving emissions if the savings are not used for some other activity that is using fossil fuels.

The big problem with this is that the poor, who certainly could use this 300 euro, don’t have the money to buy these (more expensive) measures and therefor will not gain from these “savings”. And wasn’t that why there was a happening in the first place…

The way to sustainable price increases

Previous post was about the Oxfam happening against increasing food and energy prices at the G7 meeting. In this post I will focus more on the reasons why they claim food and energy is getting more expensive for the poor.

This is how Lies Craeynest (Oxfam EU policy analyst on climate and food security) explained it (translated from Dutch):

Craeynest links that pollution with rising food prices and notes that Europe is one of the largest food importers. Climate change indeed let many crops fail. Therefor threatens to increase the cost of food and energy supplies, in such a way the poorest in Europe would have hardly any access to food or heating. “Break that addiction to fossil fuels and choose a solution that is sustainable and good for food security worldwide,” said Craeynest.

That “pollution” was not mentioned in the text before this quote, but in the video on the same page they meant: pollution from fossil fuel use. She claims that “gigantic” droughts, storms and extreme weather events (caused by our emissions) let harvests fail. So “Harvests are going down while the demand is going up” and “poor people having to choose between eating or heating”.

Let’s go back to reality. The statements of crop failure were done in the present time. As far as I know storms and droughts are decreasing, not increasing. This is logical because in a warming world where the poles warm quicker than the equator, the temperature difference will be smaller and there will be less storms. So where does she gets that data of the contrary?

Can we see a loss in harvests because of these extreme events already? According to FAO the production of foods is actually increasing. According to their latest report of May 2014 most foods are at a record or near record production. Her claim of crops failure seems not substantiated. Or does she expect the effects of climate change only in the future?

In the FAO report there are some real reasons why food prices are on the rise, such as geopolitical developments like wars (she also acknowledges this further in the interview) and the mandatory mix of ethanol in fuel (which she doesn’t mention).

But what about Haiyan or the drought in North America? These are weather events. I think she conflates climate, climate change and weather. Droughts, storms and extreme weather existed long before we were around, they are here now and without a doubt will continue to exist in the future. Whatever the climate does, we need to be prepared for them.

On the other hand, aren’t fossil fuels the reason why agriculture became MORE productive in the first place? There is a reason why our economies are “addicted” to fossil fuels. They have a high energy potential needed to support for example large scale food production. Converting to “sustainable” energy sources probably would decrease food production, unless other high density energy sources are being used (which are not available yet).

But if storms, droughts and extreme events are not the driving force behind the current price increase, then what is it? It is not Russian gas that is increasing our energy prices, it is also not the fossil fuels, not even coal. At least in this region, it are wind and solar that are very expensive energy forms in need for huge subsidies. These are adding to the energy bill in that way that poor people can’t afford energy anymore (here it is called energy poverty). For example, in Flanders we pay more than 1 billion euro per year (and increasing) on subsidies alone for inland wind/solar/biomass. For a population of about 4.5 – 5 million people. This excluding offshore wind that was directly done via our government (so this will increase taxes).

As mentioned above, there are also crops that are grown for being converted into (bio) fuels in order to make our cars drive. Making food cost higher. Clear example was the 2011-2012 price increase of maize and soybeans. Farmers switched to maize and soybeens from other crops they were growing, combined with the increasing use of corn for ethanol and a slight drop in production drove up food prices worldwide. Ethanol production for use in cars took 27% of the maize produced. The shortage is not in production, but in how it is used.

In the end she got it the other way around! It is not the fossil fuel use that is driving the higher costs for food and energy in the last years. Until now it is the cost of “sustainable” energy that did the trick…