100 Tories revolt over wind farms

More misinformation and made up facts from Tory MPs.

If they are genuinely concerned about the subsidies devoted to wind power then why are they not also concerned about the unquantified, opaque and open ended subsidies for nuclear power.

What about the subsidies/tax breaks for North Sea Oil and Gas?

In fact all new sources of energy have been subsidised at least in their initial development.

What about the hidden subsidies due to pollution and ill health caused by coal fired power stations and the ill health and environmental damage due to coal extraction.

If those 100 MPs are genuinely worried about consumer’s energy bills why don’t they admit that renewable energy subsidises are a very small part of the increases in fuel prices . The reason for the rise in energy bills is the rapidly rising wholesale costs of oil and gas and  the massive profits being made by the six big energy companies.  The energy companies, many foreign owned, are able to increase their profits simply on the back of the rising international prices – they do not work more efficiently or harder, all they do is put the prices up a bit more than their costs.  So why don’t the MPs start with those unearned profits  if they are concerned about consumers?

Fossil Fuel Subsidies Six Times More Than Renewable Energy

IEA: fossil fuel subsidies must be cut

Why are energy prices rising (OFGEM)

Why Tory MPs opposition to wind power will put your energy bill up

Instead of sending baseless letters to the media, the 100 MPs would be better off using their time  signing up to this: http://www.38degrees.org.uk/page/s/the-big-switch#petition

Sierra Club vs “Ethical Oil” – One of them is a Ridiculous Radical

I recently came across a debate on Canadian TV (via Desmogblog) that is worth watching – it’s  only 10 minutes long. It shows what we are facing across the world if we do not start paying attention.  Wherever their interests are threatened, multinational oil  and mining companies are pouring money into campaigns to undermine their opponents. They do not do this by argument or rational debate but by the clandestine spreading of misinformation, lies, and smears.  In many cases they have actually corrupted the democratic process [1].  All of this is obvious to anyone who is paying attention, the facts are clear, the situation incontrovertible.  But we sit back and let it happen.

In Canada the government has been corrupted [2] by oil and mining companies who are also trying to misinform the public via phony grass groots groups such as “Ethical Oil”.  The video clip (below) shows a debate [2] between representatives from the Sierra Club (an environmental organisation) and Ethical Oil.  All you need to do is watch the video to see what is going on.


[1] http://www.reasonandreality.org/?p=338

[2] http://www.desmogblog.com/cozy-ties-astroturf-ethical-oil-and-conservative-alliance-promote-tar-sands-expansion (accessed 18/01/2012)

[3] http://www.desmogblog.com/unaccountable-oil-enbridge-already-polluting-canadian-political-environment (accessed 18/01/2012)

Canadian campaign puts the spin on ‘ethical oil’

Snippets of Stolen Emails Cannot Make the Earth Flat

(Scroll down for list of links)

Timed to undermine the Durban climate conference we have another release via a Russian web site of, apparently,  the same emails that were stolen from the University of East Anglia in 2009.  The person(s) responsible have had two years to search through a quarter of a million emails covering a period of ten years.  Yet all they have found is a small selection of short quotes which, taken out of context, might ‘look’ suspicious.  You could of course do this with anyone’s emails and generate a fictitious conspiracy theory. Bloggers are doing this all the time on the web.

If you take a look at the emails you will see that, out of context, they mean very little. At most, they give evidence that the scientists involved are human and have private discussions involving  arguments, debates, questioning each other, they have jokes and yes sometimes are rude about colleagues or people for whom they have no professional respect.

What the emails in general show is a group of scientists openly and frankly discussing the science, the uncertainties and the more general political and social ramifications of their work.  What else would we expect them to discuss?

However you look at the selected, out of context quotes, they do not show evidence of a smoking gun or a hot bed of fraudulent science.

It would be very interesting to see the emails of some of the members of Nigel Lawson’s Global Warming Lobby group (see below) but funnily enough they refuse to release them. One set of rules for climate science and no rules for those who refuse to accept the evidence.

Here is a list of links that give some balance to the story including the Real Climate site where some of the actual scientists involved in writing the emails explain the context of the quotes.

Sorry if suggesting that we actually read the defendants side of the story is anathema to a few of you but I think that it’s called natural justice.

Useful Links:

*****Real Climate: Two year old turkey (Recommended: It is very revealing to read the comments by those involved in writing the emails and who actually know the context. To get a good picture of what is going on you need to be thorough and read them all)

Snippets of stolen emails cannot make the Earth flat (Scott Mandia)

A video that explains the emails in context

Media matters US

Climate Progress: Fool Me Once, Shame on You, Fool Me Twice, Shame on the Media

Climate Brief:More on the UEA ‘Climategate’ emails – recommended reading

Attacks on climate scientists are the real ‘climategate’

Bad News for Deniers: Grown-ups Weigh in on Email Leftovers

How have the UK Media reported the Climategate 2?

Nigel Lawson’s Think Tank: refuses to reveal funders, refuses Freedom of Information requests – Hypocrisy and Dishonesty but ignored by most of media.

Skeptical Science has the facts on the previous Climategate – essential background reading

On finding one’s email in the hacked climate science email files

Professor Phil Jones explains the context of some of the phrases cherry-picked from the thousands of emails

The Real Scandal: The Endless Effort to Smear Climate Scientists

Please let me know if I have missed any useful links

What is really fuelling energy bills in Britain?

My interest in Energy issues tempted me to watch this week’s episode of BBC’s Panorama:  “What is really fuelling energy bills in Britain?” – and unfortunately I was in for a shock.

There are two answers to the question in the title of the programme depending on your politics i.e the rise in energy bills is due to the rapidly rising wholesale costs of oil and gas or to the massive profits being made by the six big energy companies. Most likely the reason is a combination of the two.  Coming in well behind these is the cost of developing low carbon energy sources.  However, if you watched the programme (which confusingly mixes the future with the present) you would get the impression that the family collecting timber from their local forest for heating (yes I’m not kidding) were doing so because of the adverse affect of wind turbines on their energy bills.  The sources of information were an unpublished and unverifiable report from the accountants KPMG, some unsubstantiated figures from a self proclaimed expert with an unmentioned political agenda and some more dodgy figures from USwitch.

There has been criticism of the programme in the Guardian and, Tom Heap, the programme’s narrator, has responded to those criticisms but, in my opinion, Tom is not convincing.  I fail to see how anyone, whatever their point of view can come away from the programme thinking that it was anything other then one sided. Worse, it did not push the debate forward because of the sparsity of any useful and validated facts and figures.

There is a real debate to be had about how our energy needs are to be met. I am having difficulty getting my head around the complexity of the issue and the wealth of propaganda from a variety of sources does not help.  The need for the debate is urgent if we are to meet our future energy requirements.  The great thing about this debate is that we are in a position t0 argue on the basis of facts and figures.  There will always be those who will ignore or cherry pick the facts or simply make up their own facts to fit their -preconceived ideas. But for those of us who want the discussion to be based on reasoned, rational, evidence based debate we need programmes like Panorama to consist of high quality investigate journalism where the aim is to get as far as possible to the facts of the argument. It is essential that self proclaimed ‘experts’ with a hidden political agenda are not allowed to present their facts and figures without any attempt by the makers of the programme to validate those figures or to check their provenance or authenticity.

A big black mark to the BBC and Tom Heap and a missed opportunity to bring some light to the debate.

Below I have given some further sources of information  which I hope will address the lack of balance but the issue is so big and complex that they only really demonstrate the bias of the Panorama programme.   A great deal more research is needed – I hope to return to this subject.

Update: KPMG refuses to release controversial green energy report that the programme was based on.

Update 2: BBC Admits it got it wrong: Clarification: What’s Fuelling Your Energy Bill?

This is the programme: What is really fuelling energy bills in Britain? http://news.bbc.co.uk/panorama/hi/front_page/newsid_9631000/9631864.stm

This is Damian Carrington’s Criticism of the programme: The vast, shocking hole in Panorama’s analysis of rising energy bills: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/damian-carrington-blog/2011/nov/08/energy-bills-panorama-renewables

This is Tom Heaps reply: Energy Bills: the Guardians big green blind spot: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/blog/2011/nov/09/energy-bills-panorama?newsfeed=true

Further sources:

Video: Why BBC’s Panorama got it wrong on Green Energy

Looking into Panorama’s sources:  http://www.carbonbrief.org/blog/2011/11/looking-into-panoramas-sources

Huhne: Wind turbines are here to stay: http://www.businessgreen.com/bg/news/2123863/huhne-wind-turbines-stay

Why are energy prices rising (OFGEM): http://www.ofgem.gov.uk/Media/FactSheets/Documents1/Why%20are%20energy%20prices%20rising_factsheet_108.pdf

Let’s end the tyranny of the six big energy companies: http://www.leftfootforward.org/2011/10/friends-of-the-earth-time-to-end-tyranny-of-big-six-energy-companies/

EDF found guilty of spying on Greenpeace:  http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/nov/10/edf-spying-greenpeace

Breaking News: The Earth Still Goes Around the Sun, and It’s Still Warming Up

“The scientific community has known — and been saying for decades — that the earth is warming up. Except for a small cadre of highly vocal, ideologically stuck, but increasingly marginalized people, there is no dispute about this among scientists. The data are extensive – covering the globe – and they have been vetted, reanalyzed, corrected for error, compared with satellite data, and subjected to every known criticism. And independent group after independent group has found the same thing: the earth is warming.”  So begins an article in Forbes magazine by Peter Gleick prompted by the latest confirming evidence for global warming. Continue reading “Breaking News: The Earth Still Goes Around the Sun, and It’s Still Warming Up”

“The earth is warming”

A strong, credible body of scientific evidence shows that climate change is occurring, is caused largely by human activities, and poses significant risks for a broad range of human and natural systems….
Some scientific conclusions or theories have been so thoroughly examined and tested, and supported by so many independent observations and results, that their likelihood of subsequently being found to be wrong is vanishingly small. Such conclusions and theories are then regarded as settled facts. This is the case for the conclusions that the Earth system is warming and that much of this warming is very likely due to human activities. (US National Academy of Science) Continue reading ““The earth is warming””

The Guardian’s reporting of the leaked climate change emails

Below are links to criticism of the Guardian’s coverage of the leaked emails from the University of East Anglia and the response to the criticism from James Randerson at the Guardian .

I must add that the Guardian’s reporting of science issues is normally excellent and they have an experienced team of science writers, who also produce excellent science podcasts.  The problem only arose due to a series of articles by Fred Pearce who seems to have been less than thorough in his research with the result that a number of serious factual inaccuracies appeared in his articles.  The issues are so important that any mistakes will be exploited by other papers and commentators who are only interested in furthering their own politcal agenda.

The Guardian Disappoints

The Guardian responds

Institute of Physics and the Science and Technology Committee’s inquiry into the disclosure of climate data

Here are three emails that I sent to Dr Beth Taylor (Director of Communications and External Relations) at the institute of Physics (IoP) following the submission of a memorandum to the Science and Technology Committee’s inquiry into the disclosure of climate data. (To be compliant with Dr Taylor’s desire for openness and transparency I have taken the liberty of posting her replies).


Subject: IOP and the Science and Technology Committee’s inquiry into the disclosure of climate data

Dear Dr Taylor,

As a member of the IoP I am very concerned at the way the Institute has handled the recent memorandum submitted by the IoP to the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee.  I will not go over the serious failings of this document or its factual errors – these have been extensively discussed elsewhere. However I must emphasise that the criticism of the memorandum is not connected with the IoP’s commendable desire for greater transparency and openness but is directed at the memorandum’s unfounded pre-judging of independent inquiries, based on apparently no more than what the writers of the memorandum had read in the media. Continue reading “Institute of Physics and the Science and Technology Committee’s inquiry into the disclosure of climate data”

Letter to the Guardian

Here is a copy of an email I sent to the Guardian ( copies to the letters page, the editor and the science team). I did not get a reply from the editor but James Randerson of the science team did send a lengthy and positive but not entirely satisfactory reply.  I have not shown his reply out of respect for his privacy.

Dear Letters Page,

I am a Physics teacher and long time Guardian reader.  I have been disappointed with the Guardian’s coverage of the “Climate Change Debate” over the past few months. I do not wish to defend errors by the IPCC or any professional misconduct by scientists. Even the issue of  whether the science is correct or not is secondary to whether the science should be tested by weighing evidence against theories, or by a campaign of disinformation, deceit and out right lies.  Superficial investigation shows that a significant, possibly a majority, of the criticism of the science has come from commentators intent only on destroying the credibility of the science by whatever means is to hand – they do not seem have any interest in finding out the truth.  There is a once in a lifetime chance for the Guardian to make a real difference by doing some thorough research into what is going on, and where the truth lies.  If we allow the forces of unreason, political fundamentalism and shoddy journalism to take a hold in the way they have in the US then we have no hope of surviving this century – climate change will be the least of our worries.

Best regards,

Colin Lawson