Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Politicians – solving yesterday’s problems today

So we will get a plastic bag tax? Wow, big deal!

The sheer quantity of rubbish strewn around our countryside is something that has long annoyed me. Plastic bags being a particular bugbear, some roadways being strewn with them on the verges, some in the hedgerows and often bags flapping around in the trees. Yet in recent years, although the level of litter has not improved, there are fewer plastic bags in evidence. The biggest plastic bag problem has now become dog mess bags, which some dog owners use to collect the poo then for some strange reason use to decorate trees along footpaths.

I tend to avoid using plastic bags in most circumstances but occasionally they are useful, an unplanned purchase or to buy something that could spill like some DIY materials. I then reuse them for a while before finally relegating them to rubbish sacks, especially for ‘dirty’ rubbish in the garage. Yesterday was one occasion, when I went to get a Sunday paper only to have the heavens open with a torrential rainstorm – so I had a plastic bag rather than get home with a block of papier mâché.

Reading the bag was quite instructive. It says that “Over 20% of the material in this biodegradable bag is from a renewable source” It also says it’s recyclable and biodegradable to ISO14855 standard. Well, perhaps that’s not environmentally perfect, but it’s better than most of the packaging around the shop products themselves. If I were to simply throw it away it wouldn’t hang around on my garden hedge for 1000 years.

On getting home I pulled out a few more bags from my garage rubbish stash. Yes, recyclable, yes biodegradable. Next one, yes recyclable and biodegradable. The next one was a French one – Catena, a DIY/houseware shop in Normandy. Recyclable, indeed it is, and biodegradable, with a nice cheerful message explaining how the bag is 100% ‘fragmentable’ by light and heat.

So why do we suddenly now require a plastic bag tax? It’s not as though it will only apply to non-degradable bags and encourage degradable ones – which would make at least some sense. It will of course cause increased use of paper bags – which require more energy to make and are less useful because they are not rainproof. It will increase the sales of manufactured bags for waste bin liners which are thicker, more material and energy intensive and only get used once.

As is all too frequently the case our politicians see a problem late then come up with a solution which we have to pay for and which will make things worse, in this case by failing to promote biodegradability and causing people to adopt more environmentally costly and damaging solutions.

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

I quite like Milliband’s power price freeze.

I’m not a fan of Labour, and most certainly not a fan of Milliband but his pledge of a freeze on gas and electricity prices sounds quite good to me.

Of course I realise it’s the pinnacle of hypocrisy for the architect of the climate change act (that put all the extra ‘renewable’ costs onto bills) to now turn round and complain at energy costs. Equally well I realise it won’t work. It’s a nonsensical piece of socialist thinking that will cause untold confusion in the supply industry. But that’s really the main reason I like the idea.

At the moment we have what is described as a ‘free market’, except that it isn’t. It’s a cartel of large corporations operating in a government set of rules. Most of these rules being defined to defend the corporations and ensure they make large profits.

The only champion for the consumer is a toothless and sofa-bound utility regulator that is in practice worse than useless. Why worse? Because in the event that the utility does something naughty and fails to provide fair service the regulator (if it bothers to do anything at all) fines them – i.e. they take money from the utility company and give it to the government. This does nothing for the consumer in the way of repaying them for being ripped off. In response to the fine the utility company then inflate their costs and charges, thereby extracting yet more money from the consumer to ensure company profits and shareholders don’t lose out. Thus regulatory fines act in practice as nothing but a simple tax on consumers – a penalty for having chosen a poor utility supplier!

What the consumer needs is a mechanism that would force the utility supplier to pay back the overcharging and rip-off pricing directly back to the consumer. A price freeze does exactly that. 

So it’s a stupid idea, it won’t work, it’s probably undemocratic and against EU rules and it will cause chaos. Bloody good job, the entire utility cartel system and the renewable obligation nonsense needs a good dose of chaos, maybe it will even help improve the existing rip-off system.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Trained architect fails basic physics

For years I have been taking note of new buildings and wondering why they were so ugly, why architects and occupiers were more interested in making a statement than in producing a good workable building.

Ever since a friend’s company moved, many years ago, to a then ‘state of the art’ modern building with glass panel walls that cooked them in summer and randomly fell off into the street thereafter it has been obvious to me that some architects don’t know what people need, and more importantly don’t know enough about materials technology and basic physics to do their job properly.

It should have been obvious from the initial design drawings that this building in London  was nothing more than a huge reflective lens. An average schoolboy in my day would have instantly recognized that it would create a focus of light and infra red radiation. 

I notice that the council have closed three parking bays – well I hate to tell them this but the focus will move around a much wider area than 3 bays, I would suggest that any building or item in front of it is at potential risk of heat damage or fire from the hotspot which will move around as the seasons change and the sun’s position moves.

It will be interesting to see how they fix it, if indeed they can fix it without making the building uninhabitable.

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

12 reasons why I don’t believe in Global Warming alarmism.

The silly season is drawing to a close, and after an intellectual hiatus caused by enjoyment of the weather, visitors, chores and visits to interesting places, the darker evenings bring me back to my computer. When I started this blog I had no clear idea in mind, except I wanted an outlet for the increasing stupidity, nonsense, greed and idiocy that affected my life. I’m still not sure whether it’s for my own benefit, or in the hopes that I find some other people with similar views, I don’t suppose it matters.

So I thought I would restart with a bit of background, to get my ideas straight about some issues and to explain how I arrived at them, I shall start with global warming and climate alarmism. 

I’m not a climate expert, but I approach from a common sense point of view. A maths teacher once suggested that with a numerical calculation the first move should always be a quick mental estimate. Forget the detail and just get a ball-park answer. Then do the calculation, but if it falls way outside the estimate look for what you did wrong, a misplaced factor of 10, or a missing variable. This approach, i.e. check against common sense first, is something the world seems to have forgotten about and yet it is even more important when dealing with things that cannot be easily measured.

Here goes. My thoughts on Global Warming:

1, I have worked for many years with computers and know that computer models and simulations are not reality. They are useful but only for limited scenarios where all inputs are known. Climate (so called) science hasn’t a clue about most of the inputs needed for their models.

2, I have worked in an academic social science setting for years. I have seen how some modern academics take bland data then torture it with a barrage of assumptions and increasingly esoteric statistical tests until the required outcome is found. This is an outcome that conforms to the groupthink of their contemporaries, and hence leads to publication and future grant application success. One might expect that modern communication and travel opportunities coupled with international science co-operation and specialist conferences would help science progress, but in some cases, those where assumptions and expectations are built into the research exactly the opposite has happened, it has encouraged a situation of groupthink and the exclusion of dissenters.

3, We have absolutely no idea of what the ‘right’ temperature of the globe should be. Records go back with increasing inaccuracy for about 100 years or so and are certainly not good enough to draw conclusions to an accuracy of a degree or less. Nor is the record long enough to see long term cyclic variations. Further back we have proxies and some written descriptive documentation. These are of doubtful usefulness except as a broad indication. What they do indicate beyond any doubt is that there have been huge naturally occurring changes in climate in the past. Even in written records we can find evidence of times when it has been measurably warmer than today and times that were colder. The obvious examples being the Roman warm period when grapes were grown in Yorkshire (and not modern hardy varieties that will grow here now), the mediaeval warm period and the ‘little ice age’ with pictures of ice fairs that we still find on Christmas cards. Climate changes, and has always changed, for reasons we don’t know. Hence it is the height of absurdity to decide that the changes over the past century are all caused by just one atmospheric factor.

4, We have no idea what the optimum world temperature or climate is. What would we like it to be? For us people in northern climes cold is our worst enemy so global warming would be a bonus.  It can be argued a milder climate around 1000 years ago allowed prosperity for social improvement and education to happen and lead eventually to our modern society. For some people in Saharan Africa more heat might be unwelcome, but increased rainfall would be beneficial. I see no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ in changes to climate that justify a huge investment in trying to prevent them, even if that were in any way possible.

5, We have no idea what other influences are active on climate. Yes of course changes in atmospheric makeup must have an effect, but so must the sun, the Earth’s internal nuclear activity, particulate pollution, building and changes to the surface, changes to forest cover and all sorts of other little understood mechanisms. Even something as fundamental as the effect of CO2 is uncertain and the carbon cycle, that removes CO2 from the atmosphere and defines how long it survives and where it is most concentrated, is very badly understood. Until these things are known no sensible conclusions can be drawn.

6, Into this crucible of uncertainty and proto-science were drawn all the worst elements of personal egos, corporate greed, political grandstanding and opportunists. We were fed lies, absurd alarmist horror stories, more lies and bad science then forced to follow and pay for poorly thought out knee jerk responses which enriched the corporate and political backers. It’s tempting to call it a conspiracy, but I suspect it’s simply an amalgam of the very worst of human nature. A generation of people who had travelled through school without being taught how to think logically were easy to co-opt into an army of believers, thus supporting the corporate money grabbers and political opportunists who jumped onto the climate money-go-round. I accept such a situation doesn’t prove climate alarmism is wrong, but it does make it almost certain that any genuine problem has been amplified and distorted.

7, We are constantly being harried by reports of the worst storm since year x, or the hottest day since year y. But all these alarmist reports contain the seed of their own disproval as anything more than normal weather. The fact that such rainfall, or snowfall, or drought, or temperature is comparable to something that happened many years ago simply illustrates that weather does bring extremes. Often these extremes are the ‘once in 100 year’ event or ‘once in a lifetime event’, but that’s how it works.  Personally I can just remember the North Sea floods of 1953, they were devastating, and hopefully not to be repeated, but they were caused by a natural mix of natural factors. We had a hurricane on the south coast in 1987, that wasn’t caused by CO2 levels of over 400ppm either. I have experienced heavy snow in May and mild weather in January. These unusual and extreme events happen, and have always happened; it’s just ignorance to suggest that they are a new phenomenon simply because we personally haven’t experienced weather like it before down our street in our lifetime.

8, The world has become more alarmist. It used to be that the weather forecast gave a forecast of the typical weather expected in the next few days, and it was concentrated on the south east of the UK, where the weather is usually least troublesome. So they would forecast a windy day and that’s what most people would get. Some unfortunate folks in North West Scotland might find themselves in storm force winds but the forecasts ignored such outliers.  Nowadays the opposite happens, a forecast invariably foretells the worst expected extreme in the worst location, often with amber and red warnings of extreme weather. So we will be warned of storms and savage winds, only for most of the UK to have perfectly ordinary if breezy day.  Yes, somebody somewhere will get the brunt of the nasty forecast, but compared to 30 years ago such forecasts have done considerable damage in spreading the myth of increasing extreme weather.

9, Compared to 50 years ago we are more crowded, we rely daily on quite fragile technology and infrastructure and there is less margin of error. We have built on flood plains, creating housing estates that are prone to flooding and at the same time losing that flood plain reservoir that helped regulate river flow and prevent flooding downstream. We build housing on open fields where once extreme rain would have puddled, formed temporary ponds, and gradually soaked into the ground or only gradually run into the rivers. Now, with that field covered in houses, concrete and tarmac the rain is directed into a drainage system that dumps it as a sudden instant surge into the rivers. No wonder there are more floods and we need better flood defenses, but that has nothing to do with climate change or CO2 or changes in weather. It has to do with compromises made by planners and civil engineers.

10, We have been forced to try and ‘mitigate’ climate change with renewable like windfarms. The problem is that they are basically useless. Yes, of course they produce electricity, but at an enormous financial and environmental cost. They create environmental disaster in mining rare minerals, cause untold damage to virgin land with concrete bases and roads, kill birds and bats, create visual blight, cause noise and flicker for nearby residents and even then can only provide a variable, uncertain supply that is anathema to a national grid tasked with providing constant reliable power for industry, hospitals and homes. It appears to my ‘common sense’ view that (even if we accept a problem with CO2) these are a non-solution. If used at all it would have been sensible to use them to produce some storable power, maybe as stand-alone hydrogen plants where variability would not be a problem, then convert part of our transport fleet to hydrogen, not try and integrate electric vehicles. Again lack of planning, narrow thinking and greed has left us with a system that is the worst of all possible worlds, basically a square peg to fit a round hole.

11, The effects on wildlife and flora are also reported with ridiculous amounts of alarmism. In the past year the temperature in my garden has varied between minus 15 and plus 32 degrees Centegrade. The plants and animals have survived – with the usual random variations that makes some years more suited to some and harsher for others. So even if we get warmer what will one or two degrees matter? It’s a long term average of something that is strongly variable in the very short term so the extra temperature might appear as a couple more hot summer days, or maybe a couple more frost free nights, or maybe a slightly shorter winter season. So what, why would it be a problem? Mr. Hedgehog would hibernate a few days less, the plants in the cold corner of the garden would do better, those in the warm corner might or might not but nature is nothing if not adaptable.

12, As far as I can see, with just 60 year’s personal experience of climate, it went pleasantly warmer in the 90s and now it’s getting colder again. Most independent measurements seem to agree with that empirical observation.

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Same Old

I haven’t written anything recently because no matter which way one looks everything is getting too silly and stupid for words.  

 The international economy makes no sense even by the terms of magic ‘fiat’ currencies plus the usual smoke, mirrors and skyhook accounting. The crooked politicians continue as always helping the vested interests and global conglomerates call the tune. From banning e-cigs to make money for big pharma through to creating diesel generator farms to produce hideously expensive and polluting electricity to hide the deficiencies of the green energy scam it’s all the same, a mix of rampant greed and appalling stupidity.  Until it gets so bad that we get our ‘Egypt moment’ and our chance to sweep the lot of them away I fear there isn’t much hope except to fiddle round the edges of the situation. I wonder if our army will have the balls to step in on the side of the population?

On the recent hot weather however I can’t ignore one interesting statistic which came to light in – of all places – a BBC quiz on heatwaves.

Apparently today is the 100 year anniversary of the hottest temperature ever recorded on earth. Death Valley California recorded a temperature of 56.7 degrees Centigrade (134 F) on July 10th 1913.

I have no doubt the alarmists will be telling us in the next few days all about how we are getting cooked nowadays by CO2 in the atmosphere. I guess in 1913 it must have been frictional heat from all those western settlers’ wagon trains we used to watch on TV westerns.