February 26, 2015

Further Flooding Forecast for SW England

Following on from the floods earlier in the week another "super swell" is now heading in our direction from the North Atlantic.

Here's the Magic Seaweed surf forecast for 3 PM this afternoon (February 26th 2015):

Once again the maximum swell height is in the black (48 feet and over) range, but this "super storm" is aiming a bit further north than the previous one. Hence the first red flood warning today is for North West England:

Nonetheless the Environment Agency have issued their first orange alerts in South West England this time around, along the North coasts of Devon, Cornwall and Somerset:

The details for North Devon state that:

The River Torridge and tributaries are responding to overnight and morning rainfall. The band of rain should clear the area around lunchtime. Its expected the river will rise until the rain has cleared. This alert and floodline will be updated by 6pm or earlier if the situation changes.

Finally, for the moment at least, here's the "Earth/Wind" visualisation at 12 noon of the massive storm currently centred over Iceland that is sending all this weather our way:

Can you also see the smaller storm in the top right of the picture that is currently buffeting the Arctic sea ice in the Barents Sea?

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February 22, 2015

Britain Expects a Battering From a "Super Swell"

The Met Office has published a joint article with the Environment Agency about what it refers to as "super tides":

There has been a lot of media coverage about the potential impact of so-called ‘super tides’ which are due from today (Friday, 20 February) through to Monday.

Tides are governed by the gravitational pull of the moon and, to a lesser extent, the sun. Because the sun and moon go through different alignment, this affects the size of the tides.

When the gravitational pull of the sun and moon combine, we see larger than average tides – known as spring tides. When the gravitational pulls offset each other, we get smaller tides known as neap tides. We see two periods of spring and neap tides roughly every month.

However there is a longer cycle at work too, associated with the gravitational pull of the planets in the solar system. This means we can see additional, albeit relatively small, increases and decreases in the size of spring and neap tides over long periods of time.

We are currently at the height of those increases, so the astronomical tide is at an 18-year peak – although this is only a few centimetres bigger than a more average spring tide.

Of course then there is the weather to consider. Here's the Magic Seaweed surf forecast for 9 AM tomorrow morning (February 23rd 2015)

Note that the swell currently heading for Western Ireland is off the top of the maximum 50 foot scale. Here's how the Met Office's current national flood forecast looks:

The Met Office isn't forecasting any out of the ordinary winds today, but here's their yellow wind warnings for tomorrow:

As you can see, we're not going to get the worst of the incoming storm down here in the West Country. Nonetheless the coastal battering we can expect has already resulted in red flood warnings for the North coast of Somerset, and orange alerts for a long list of other north and south coast areas. Here's how our South West flood widget looks this evening:

We confidently expect some of those orange alerts to turn red tomorrow. Here's an Environment Agency video explaining their flood warning service in more detail:

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February 17, 2015

Dave, Nick and Ed Pledge to Save the Planet

The Green Alliance say they are:

A charity and independent think tank focused on ambitious leadership for the environment.

Since 1979, we have been working with a growing network of influential leaders in business, NGOs and politics to stimulate new thinking and dialogue on environmental policy, and increase political action and support for environmental solutions in the UK.

They announced on Valentine's Day 2015 that:

In a highly unusual move the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition have agreed to work together across party lines to tackle climate change.

The agreement follows the launch of The Climate Coalition’s SHOW THE LOVE campaign which has reached millions across the UK, thousands of whom are wearing green hearts and telling the world what they love that could be lost to climate change.

Here's video evidence of Dave, Nick and Ed showing their love for our planet by signing the agreement:

and here is another video revealing some famous faces ranging from Stephen Fry to Jarvis Cocker showing their love for our planet by reciting a Shakespeare sonnet.

The agreement our glorious leaders and would be leader signed states that:

Climate change is one of the most serious threats facing the world today. It is not just a threat to the environment, but also to our national and global security, to poverty eradication and economic prosperity.

Acting on climate change is also an opportunity for the UK to grow a stronger economy, which is more efficient and more resilient to the risks ahead. It is in our national interest to act and ensure others act with us.

2015 offers a unique opportunity to accelerate that opportunity, with countries pledging their contributions to action before the world comes together at Paris at the end of the year to reach an agreement on tackling climate change. It is vital that this agreement is a success, and the UK will play its part in ensuring an ambitious outcome.

That is why we pledge:

  • To seek a fair, strong, legally binding, global climate deal which limits temperature rises to below 2°C.
  • To work together, across party lines, to agree [UK] carbon budgets”, which are required by law but which caused serious cabinet clashes in 2011.
  • To accelerate the transition to a competitive, energy-efficient low-carbon economy and to end the use of unabated coal for power generation.

Many fine words from the likes of Dave, Nick, Ed, Stephen and Jarvis then, but for me at least here's a different quote from Will that sums things up neatly:

It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

Why do I quote those words of Macbeth, or these?

Gracious my lord,
I should report that which I say I saw.

Last Friday I attended a seminar at Exeter University given by Professor Kevin Anderson,  who is professor of energy and climate change in the School of Mechanical, Aeronautical and Civil Engineering at the University of Manchester. Here is a brief extract:

You will note that Kevin asks a rhetorical question at 1:10:

What about 2°C?

and summarises the answer as follows:

He goes on to say that:

We can't do [2°C] with low carbon supply. We can't make the changes quick enough. You have to do something with our demand for energy, and that is very, very unpopular amongst all of us, all of our colleagues, all the policy makers, so basically the whole world, all the high emitting parts of the world, which is only a small proportion, none of us like this at all, and that's why we don't really like the science.

My words to that effect on the Green Alliance blog currently remain hidden from public view.

A copy of Professor Anderson's slides from his presentation can be downloaded from the seminar archive web page.

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January 21, 2015

The Climatic State of the Union

I stayed up late last night (UK time) to watch Barack Obama deliver his 2015 State of the Union address to the United States Congress. I was particularly interested to hear what he had to say about climate change. In the event he said the word "climate" four times. Apparently that's a new record.

Mr. Obama referred to another record in his speech:

2014 was the planet’s warmest year on record.

That "fact" is causing considerable controversy in the media at the moment, with the usual suspects disputing the overwhelming scientific evidence. Getting back to Barack Obama's speech for now though, the White House has conveniently uploaded a video of the "climate" section of his speech to YouTube. Here it is:

The White House also made a full transcript of the speech available online, even before Mr. Obama's stood up and started talking. Here's the climate section of that:

No challenge poses a greater threat to future generations than climate change.

2014 was the planet’s warmest year on record. Now, one year doesn’t make a trend, but this does  – 14 of the 15 warmest years on record have all fallen in the first 15 years of this century.

I’ve heard some folks try to dodge the evidence by saying they’re not scientists; that we don’t have enough information to act. Well, I’m not a scientist, either. But you know what – I know a lot of really good scientists at NASA, and NOAA, and at our major universities. The best scientists in the world are all telling us that our activities are changing the climate, and if we do not act forcefully, we’ll continue to see rising oceans, longer, hotter heat waves, dangerous droughts and floods, and massive disruptions that can trigger greater migration, conflict, and hunger around the globe. The Pentagon says that climate change poses immediate risks to our national security. We should act like it.

That’s why, over the past six years, we’ve done more than ever before to combat climate change, from the way we produce energy, to the way we use it. That’s why we’ve set aside more public lands and waters than any administration in history. And that’s why I will not let this Congress endanger the health of our children by turning back the clock on our efforts. I am determined to make sure American leadership drives international action. In Beijing, we made an historic announcement – the United States will double the pace at which we cut carbon pollution, and China committed, for the first time, to limiting their emissions. And because the world’s two largest economies came together, other nations are now stepping up, and offering hope that, this year, the world will finally reach an agreement to protect the one planet we’ve got.

Whilst I have to agree that the "historic announcement" in Beijing is a small step in the right direction, it is in fact far too little far too late given the scale of the problem. I've said this before, far too often, but I'll say it once more. Actions speak louder than innumerable fine words, and despite Barack Obama's stated "determination" the evidence of his first 6 years in office suggests that both American leadership and international action will continue to be sadly lacking.

By way of some evidence for that conclusion here once again is a graphic overview of the most recent data from the PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency's annual report on global carbon dioxide emissions, in this case for 2013:

and here are some brief extracts from the main findings of the report, which reveals yet another new global record:

In 2013 global CO2 emissions grew to the new record of 35.3 billion tonnes (Gt). Sharp risers include Brazil (+ 6.2%), India (+ 4.4%), China (+ 4.2%) and Indonesia (+2.3%). The much lower emissions increase in China of 4.2% in 2013 and 3.4% in 2012 was primarily due to a decline in electricity and fuel demand from the basic materials industry, and aided by an increase in renewable energy and by energy efficiency improvements. The emissions increase in the United States in 2013 (+2.5%) was mainly due to a shift in power production from gas back to coal together with an increase in gas consumption due to a higher demand for space heating.

Whilst we wait to discover what all the hot air that will no doubt be emitted at the UNFCCC COP 21/CMP 11 conference in Paris later this year produces in the way of American or international "acting like it", here are the long term trends in carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere:

global mean surface temperature:

and Arctic sea ice extent:

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August 28, 2014

Ashcombe Solar Farm Planning Deadline Extended

The original target date for the delegated decision on Solstice Renewables' application to construct a 7.5 MW solar PV park on the Ashcombe Estate was August 29th 2014. However I have just checked the Teignbridge District Council planning web site to see if my own objections to the proposal are visible yet. There I discovered a new letter from the applicant's agent which was posted yesterday, and part of which reads as follows:

Thank you once again for meeting us this afternoon; we hope you found it as constructive as we did.

We hereby agree to an extension of time until 19 September 2014.

It would therefore seem that if you would like to comment further on these proposals there is still time to do so, although I would suggest not leaving it until the (revised) last minute like I did!  My own objections incorporated my long standing arguments about the balancing act between food security and energy security here in the United Kingdom. In addition they now also include evidence concerning what seems to me to be the inevitable conclusion to the piecemeal addition of renewable generation to Western Power Distribution's electricity distribution network here in South West England:

Extract from Western Power Distribution's distributed generation EHV constraint map

Extract from Western Power Distribution's distributed generation EHV constraint map

The green lines represent 33 kV high voltage cables. Those bordered in yellow, including the line from Dawlish to Chudleigh Knighton that Solstice Renewables would like to connect the Ashcombe solar "farm" to, are already subject to "Voltage Constraint". Those bordered in blue are already subject to "Thermal Overload". In simple terms, most of the electricity grid in SW England is already "overloaded" by "intermittent" renewable energy generation. Getting slightly more technical the "capacity factor" of a power plant is the total amount of energy generated during a period of time divided by the amount of energy that would have been produced operating continuously at full capacity.

The latest UK government statistics reveal that in 2013 the average capacity factor for solar PV in the UK was 10.3%, which effectively means that the local grid infrastructure needs to be overspecified by a factor of 9.7 times in order to accommodate the peak power generated by the proposed solar farm, compared to the average power it might produce in practice. By way of comparison the capacity factor of "onshore wind" generation is 28.9%. Better still are "anaerobic digestion" at 60.2% and "plant biomass" at 65.5%. The obvious question, or so it seems to me at least, is why not do rather more of the last two and rather less of the first two down here on Devon's green and pleasant agricultural land?

I also noted that the recently "adopted" Teignbridge Local Plan for 2013-2033 explicitly states that:

The target in Policy S7 is based on carbon emissions rather than on renewable energy generation, as this is the key issue leading to global climate change.

which strikes me as most definitely a step in the right direction. Quoting my own most recent missive to Teignbridge District Council, and conjecturing whether things like "NegaWatts" or "NegaTonnes" enter into their carbon calculations:

Perhaps an even better option when you’re trying to reduce carbon dioxide emissions is to recall that as plants grow they take in carbon dioxide and release oxygen. If you plough them straight back into the soil that carbon dioxide is released again fairly quickly.  If however you convert straw and/or other plant "waste" into charcoal by “pyrolysing” it in the absence of oxygen, the resulting carbon (commonly referred to as "biochar")  can be ploughed back into the land whilst any excess “syngas” generated during the process can be used as a renewable fuel, in much the same way as the "biogas" produced by an anaerobic digester.  The carbon thus sequestered remains buried in the soil for hundreds if not thousands of years, and has the added benefit of greatly increasing the soil’s fertility. It also increases the “absorbency” of the soil for both water and nutrients. A win-win-win situation if ever there was one.

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August 22, 2014

Floodgates open to solar farm "monstrosities"?

According to today's edition of the Western Morning News:

Planning Minister Kris Hopkins has revealed he will not “call in” plans for 45,000 solar panels to be build at Coombeshead Farm, Diptford, South Devon.

The decision has angered Sarah Wollaston, MP for the area that has been targeted by a series of solar proposals, who said the Government’s promise to offer greater protection to rural areas from “monstrosities” was now “in limbo”.

The Tory MP for Totnes added the move “opened the floodgates” to developers.

Whether this is how things actually pan out in practice remains to be seen, since Western Power Distribution's electricity distribution network is already full to capacity across most of South West England. For the present at least, the WMN continues by pointing out that:

South Hams District Council, the planning authority in charge, approved proposals on the 58-acre parcel of land in May, but planning permission was not to be granted until the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) had run the rule over the plan.

Dr Wollaston said: “I am dismayed that the Secretary of State has failed to call in the planning application for yet another vast solar array near Diptford In my opinion it is simply not good enough to pass the buck to the district council. The question was whether this was ‘cumulative impact’. It now opens the floodgates. As I have raised with DCLG before, district government approves these monstrosities partly because of massive cost of appeals and penalties. What was needed was a clarification of whether this constituted ‘cumulative impact on landscape’; an important principle is now left in limbo.”

On her own web site Sarah Wollaston reproduces Kris Hopkins' letters to herself and South Hams DC in full:

I was very disappointed when I received the following correspondence from Kris Hopkins, Minister for Local Government to tell me that the Secretary of State has decided not to call in the Coombeshead Solar Farm application.

Thank you for your letter of 8 May requesting the Secretary of State to call in the above planning application.

We remain committed to giving more power to councils and communities to make their own decisions on planning issues, and believe that planning decisions should be made at the local level wherever possible. The call-in policy makes it clear that the power to call in a case will only be used very selectively.

In deciding whether to call in this application, I have considered my policy on calling in planning applications. This policy gives examples of the types of issues which may lead me to conclude, in my opinion that the application should be called in. I am satisfied that the application should be determined at local level.

I appreciate that this is not the preferred outcome for you and your constituents. However, it is now for South Hams District Council to determine the application and a copy of our letter to the Council is attached for your information.

The following is a copy of the letter sent to South Hams District Council.

Town and Country Planning Act 1990

Application for the installation of up to 45,000 ground mounted solar pv panels, erection of ancillary buildings and structures and access tracks at Coombeshead Farm, Diptford, nr Totnes, Devon.

I refer to the above application.

The Secretary of State has carefully considered this case against call-in policy, as set out in the Written Ministerial Statement by Nick Boles on 26th October 2012. The policy makes it clear that the power to call in a case will only be used very selectively. The Government is committed to give more power to councils and communities to make their own decisions on planning issues, and believes planning decisions should be made at the local level wherever possible.

In deciding whether to call in this application, the Secretary of State has considered his policy on calling in planning applications. This policy gives examples of the types of issues which may lead him to conclude, in his opinion that the application should be called in. The Secretary of State has decided, having had regard to this policy, not to call in this application. He is content that it should be determined by South Hams District Council.

In considering whether to exercise the discretion to call in this application, the Secretary of State has not considered the matter of whether this application is EIA Development for the purpose of the Town and Country Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations 2011. South Hams District Council is responsible for considering whether these Regulations apply to this proposed development and, if so, for ensuring that the requirements of the Regulations are complied with.

In conclusion according to the Western Morning News once again:

No-one from London-based developer AEE Renewables was available for comment.

and there is no new news bulletin on the Coombeshead Solar web site as yet either. However AEE are presumably very pleased with this outcome!

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August 9, 2014

Bertha Brings Flood Warnings to SW England

We've had quite a nice summer so far here in South West England but it looks as though that is about to change, temporarily at least. Bertha began life as a tropical storm east of the Antilles on August 1st 2014, over the following 2 days she passed over several Caribbean islands before briefly reaching the status of a category 1 hurricane on August 4th. The following day Bertha was downgraded to a tropical storm again, but now her remnants  are bearing down on SW England. According to the Met Office at the moment:

The weather will turn wet and windy in many parts from Sunday morning, with gales perhaps severe, likely along some southern coastal and inland areas.

The Met Office has been assessing the effects of ex hurricane Bertha on the UK by using its own forecast models alongside models from other world-leading forecast centres.

At the moment it looks as though the storm will track across the southern half of the UK on Sunday before heading out into the North Sea and travelling up the eastern coast, bringing some disruption to Scotland on Monday. Much of the UK will see large rainfall totals, however their remains some uncertainty relating to the strength of the winds, which could be locally very disruptive.

We are expecting unseasonable storm force winds in the northern North Sea with the risk of 80 mile per hour plus gusts which could be dangerous for shipping / offshore operations.

We are watching very carefully and the forecast is constantly under review and subject to change.

It seems as though, much like the "St. Jude day storm" last October, the likely effect on various parts of the United Kingdom won't be clear until the last minute. For the moment though, the Met Office has issued a severe weather warning for rain on Sunday covering almost the entire country:

Our "flood widget" over on the right hand side of the page currently reveals a total of four flood alerts for South West England, each covering a long stretch of coast:

As you can see, together they currently include the entire coastline of Devon and Cornwall! The South Devon coast is nearest to us, and that alert states that:

There is potential for stormy coastal conditions starting on Sunday (10/08/2014) and continuing into next week. This coincides with a period of rising spring tides. The storm will create an area of low pressure, high winds and large waves which could lead to flooding for exposed seafronts starting from Sunday evenings high tide. We will continue to monitor the situation and issue updates as the weather system moves across us.

The next obvious question, to us at least, is what will the surf be like over the next couple of days. That all depends on the exact track of the storm, and nobody seems very sure about that the moment unfortunately! Here's what the Magic Seaweed UK swell forecast looks like at the moment for 12:00 tomorrow:

and here's the wind forecast for 06:00

That shows offshore winds on the north coast at first light, so here's the overall surf forecast for Bude tomorrow:

Unfortunately I don't think that is sufficient to temp us to set our alarms for an early start! Of course with all the current uncertainty everything may have changed by the time the sun eventually rises tomorrow morning!

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June 10, 2014

COIN Flooding Workshops in Totnes and Taunton

The Climate Outreach and Information Network has a mission and a vision. COIN is:

A ‘think and do’ tank focused on connecting people to climate change and climate change to people.

We communicate, connect and catalyse action on climate change through our three major areas of work.

Our mission is to ensure climate change and its impacts are understood, accepted and acted upon across the breadth of society in a manner that creates a truly sustainable future.  We will achieve this by using our unique position as a bridge between research and practitioners to:

  • develop meaningful narratives and storylines about climate change that engage a wide range of different people and influence key organisations
  • raise the voices of those most impacted by climate change to ensure they are central in any policy discussions
  • collaborate with others on innovative new climate change projects that fit with our vision

To that end they are holding workshops about the recent flooding in South West England in both Totnes (postponed – see below) and Taunton this coming weekend. According to their news release about the workshops:

Unprecedented flooding this year ruined lives for hundreds in the South of England. As the clear up operation continues many are asking questions about the future.  COIN has organised a set of events to support communities planning for a more unpredictable climate. Events take place in Devon, Somerset, and Oxfordshire.

I shall be attending the event in Totnes Civic Hall on Saturday afternoon at 2 PM. Perhaps I will see you there?

Until then here's a short video in which COIN Executive Director Jamie Clarke explains their vision:

and here's the poster for Saturday's workshop in Totnes:

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June 6, 2014

The Two Degree Target Is Close To Impossible

My title today is a quote from John Barrett, who is Professor of Sustainability Research at the University of Leeds. You can listen to him saying those words near the end of this extract from the Paul Hudson Weather Show originally broadcast by BBC Regional Radio across the North of England on May 25th 2014, shortly after John gave a presentation at the Transformational Climate Science conference at the University of Exeter:

Many thanks to Paul Hudson and his producer, Jack Meegan, for their permission to reproduce this extract from the broadcast.

In the final section, starting at 22:00, Paul Hudson asks each of the scientists their views on the two degrees Celsius "global warming limit". When asked by Paul:

Is it a hopeless cause, or can we do it? Personally!

John had this to say:

Personally, the two degree target is close to impossible, but I don't want to just let it go because I still want to feel that we have something decent to aim for. That doesn't mean that we shouldn't still try and achieve as much rapid reduction as quickly as possible.

Paul then asked Mat Collins, Joint Met Office Chair in Climate Change at the University of Exeter:

In the IPCC meetings, is there a sense of despair?

Mat told Paul:

I don't think there's a sense of despair. There's still a sense that we can adapt to some aspects of climate change, and for that we need more detailed science about how the world is going to look at a regional level. I think we will still see a role for the IPCC, and the science that we do, informing the debate.

In conclusion Paul asked Peter Cox, Professor of Climate System Dynamics at the University of Exeter:

Two [degrees] Celsius. Can we stop it?

Peter replied:

I don't think so through conventional mitigation, through reducing our emissions. In fact the IPCC includes in its scenarios so called "negative emissions technology" which is a fancy way of saying "sucking CO2 out of the air". That's not impossible, but if we're going to assume that to avoid two degrees then we have to invest in that technology because it doesn't yet exist.

at which point Paul interjected:

And that's expensive?

Peter replied:

It could be. It's probably cheaper than some of the other alternatives though!

I thoroughly recommend that you listen to the whole conversation and not just the concluding remarks. Should you wish to gain further insight into why those three climate scientists told Paul Hudson what they did, here's a video of Prof. John Barrett's presentation at the Transformational Climate Science conference:

and here is Prof. Mat Collins' presentation:

A video of Prof. Peter Cox's presentation at the Transformational Climate Science conference can be viewed near the end of our recent article about "The Scientific Consensus on Climate Change".

In conclusion here's the transcript of what John Barrett had to say at 20:35 into the recording:

[There's] the need for both global and national leadership. We need politicians to actually stand up, to be able to understand the science and to portray the message to individuals that "I'm really sorry but this is extremely serious and we're going to have to make some really tough decisions about this". We need someone to stand up and not carry on questioning the science, not questioning the economics which is getting quite firm on how much this costs and what we need to do, and start taking some real action. Without that we can't expect individuals to be trying to push for a more low carbon lifestyle without the leadership from above.

Quod erat demonstrandum?

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June 5, 2014

Richard Tol Says "Climate Change is Caused by Humans"

Fresh from testifying on Capitol Hill in front of the United States Committee on Science, Space, and Technology Richard Tol, Professor of Economics at the University of Sussex, has just had a new "short communication" published online in the journal Energy Policy. Since energy policy is one of my own specialist subjects I read it with interest, but now I'm rather confused not least because whilst the paper does mention "climate policy" a few times the word "energy" is noticeable only by its absence. At last week's hearing Richard testified that:

It is pretty clear that most of the science agrees that climate change is real and most likely human made.

In his new paper, catchily entitled "Quantifying the consensus on anthropogenic global warming in the literature: A re-analysis", he is even more specific, stating in his conclusions that:

There is no doubt in my mind that the literature on climate change over-whelmingly supports the hypothesis that climate change is caused by humans. I have very little reason to doubt that the consensus is indeed correct.

Prof. Tol thus makes it abundantly clear that he is part of "the consensus on anthropogenic global warming", so I'm forced to ask myself what it is that he is quibbling about here, since in his introduction he says that:

A claim has been that 97% of the scientific literature endorses anthropogenic climate change (Cook et al., 2013). This claim, frequently repeated in debates about climate policy, does not stand.

What on Earth is the problem then? That "over-whelmingly" is not precisely the same thing as "97%"? Prof. Tol continues:

A trend in composition is mistaken for a trend in endorsement. Reported results are inconsistent and biased. The sample is not representative and contains many irrelevant papers. Overall, data quality is low. Cook's validation test shows that the data are invalid. Data disclosure is incomplete so that key results cannot be reproduced or tested.

It all sounds to me a lot like one of the academic "cat fights" that Prof. Peter Cox was referring to in the presentation he gave at the Transformational Climate Science conference that I attended in Exeter a couple of weeks ago!

The Intergovernmental Panel of Cat Control thought experiment

The Intergovernmental Panel of Cat Control thought experiment, courtesy of Prof. Peter Cox

Needless to say the authors of the paper Richard Tol is criticising aren't taking all this lying down. In a post on the Skeptical Science web site Dana Nuccitelli, a member of the "et al." section of the paper in question, responds as follows:

The crux of Tol's paper is that he would have conducted a survey of the climate literature in a slightly different way than our approach. He's certainly welcome to do just that – as soon as we published our paper, we also launched a webpage to make it as easy as possible for anyone to read the same scientific abstracts that we looked at and test the consensus for themselves.

Tol chose instead to look for faults in our study's methods in what he described as a "destructive" approach. Ultimately he concluded that because those who were categorizing the abstracts based on their position on the cause of global warming were human, our ratings were imperfect (this is certainly true), and that accounting for these imperfections brings the consensus value down to about 91%. That's where Tol made his big mistake.

That's followed by a long section explaining what it describes as "Tol's big mistake", going on to ask:

One might wonder how Tol's critique made it through the peer-review process with so many serious flaws. It took five tries, as the paper was first rejected four times by three other journals. He received some harsh but fair criticism from the Environmental Research Letters reviewers, who listed 24 problems and ways the paper could be improved.

I guess that helps explain why this particular paper hasn't been published in a more obvious journal for such subject matter, but it doesn't explain why Richard Tol has jumped through so many hoops to get his views published in a peer reviewed journal. Perhaps some indication can be gleaned from the final paragraph of Prof Tol's conclusions, which reads as follows:

It will take decades or longer to reduce carbon dioxide emissions to zero—the only way to stabilize its atmospheric concentration. During that time, electoral fortunes will turn. Climate policy will not succeed unless it has broad societal support, at levels comparable to other public policies such as universal education or old-age support. Well-publicized but faulty analyses like the one by Cook et al. only help to further polarize the climate debate.

Whilst I agree with the first two sentences, what about the third? What's the point of "further polariz[ing] the climate debate" by publicly picking holes in the methodology of a paper when you broadly agree with its conclusions and you yourself imply that you are concerned about said polarization, particularly when your critique has itself been criticised by a number of independent referees? If your answer isn't simply "academic cat fight" pop it on a virtual postcard to me please, because I'm afraid I can't see any sense in it.

P.S. For numerous alternative viewpoints on this controversial topic please note that this article is now (recursively?) featured near the top in both Richard Tol's list of "Apologists of pseudoscience" and the Skeptical Science "Resources and links documenting Tol's 24 errors"!

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