Archive for March, 2011

Met Office covers itself in forecasting glory again…

Courtesy of a Freedom of Information response from the Cabinet Office, we can now see what the Met Office advised the government about the weather for January to March 2011.

(click to enlarge)

So far we know that the UK was very slightly cooler than 1971-2000 average in January and experienced its ninth warmest February in the last 100 years, that at 2deg above the average can be considered more than mild for the time of year. No doubt this will be presented by the Met Office as another successful bit of work.

Given the fact they have demonstrated again that forecasting beyond several days ahead is ineffective, you would think they would focus on addressing the way their computer models work.  But instead they want us to count aircraft con-trails and watch bubbles float around as part of a ‘climate survey’ !!  And we pay for this out of our tax pounds.

Typhoon v Raptor = UK taxpayer being failed again

On Wednesday the UK National Audit Office published a detailed report on the current status of the infamous Eurofighter combat jet – nowadays officially known as Typhoon.  Lewis Page at The Register has taken a look and points out:

UK taxpayers will have shelled out no less than £215m for each of our 107 jets – that’s $350m at today’s rates, rather more than the US taxpayers have been made to pay for each of their 185 Raptor superfighters2, almost all of which will be used operationally. And the Raptor has third-generation Stealth: the Eurofighter has no stealth features at all. The Raptor has thrust vectoring for unbeatable manoeuvrability in a dogfight: the Eurofighter doesn’t.

The Raptor is a hugely more sophisticated and powerful aircraft, and is actually – astonishingly – somewhat cheaper, despite the fact that it is being made in much smaller numbers than the Eurofighter!

That’s a really astonishingly bad bit of value for money on our part.

1That was the original order when the project kicked off, and the price has not gone down – just the numbers of jets.

2Development and procurement cost of the Raptor for 183 useable jets is stated at approximately $62bn by the US air force, putting each jet at $339m.

I’m not the first, but allow me to add my sarcastic congratulations to the Labour government and the MoD for putting ‘European’ dogma ahead of value for money and getting the best equipment available.  Also to the Conservative-Lib Dem coalition for eviscerating our armed forces instead of merely fixing the problems associated with procurement; and furthering ‘European’ aims of forming a common EU military force at the expense of our own capability.

You politicians and civil servants are truly the most worthless, incompetent and contemptible scum of the earth.

Guest post by Martin Brumby

Chris Buff Huhne: “The Expert

So Buff Huhne announces the launch of “The 2050 Pathways Debate: having an energy-literate conversation about the UK’s options to 2050”.

Leading climate and energy experts will use the 2050 pathways calculator to present their personal view of how the UK can reduce its emissions by at least 80% by 2050, ahead of the online debate being opened to the wider public. Perhaps he has convinced himself that he is “energy-literate”?

It is interesting that when he introduced the Electricity Market Reforms Consultation to the House of Commons on 16 December 2010, Huhne stated:

The challenges and the opportunities are huge. Put simply, we face growing demand, shrinking supply and ambitious emissions reductions targets: demand for electricity could double by 2050 as we decarbonise the economy; 30% of our electricity must come from renewables by 2020—up from 7% today—to meet our contribution to the European Union’s renewable energy target; and in the next 10 years, a quarter of our existing power plants will need to be replaced, as nuclear and coal plants reach the end of their lives.

Of course The Luhnatic wants the 2020 target to be 30% (and the 2050 target to be 100%) – without Nuclear.  See the Lib Dims’ Election manifesto.  But it is interesting how he deliberately misleads the house of Commons in his statement. I refer to his phrase “up from 7% today”. Really?  Does this stand up to scrutiny?

Now Buff Huhne must be aware that the proportions of different electricity generation are (if you know where to find them) available on the web. This gives the amount of electricity fed into the grid half hour by half hour and figures for the last three months is available to download. At the time I’m writing this, Coal is producing around 41% of the total, gas 37%, nuclear 16% and so on. All the 3000+ wind turbines in the UK are managing just 0.7% – or a tenth of Buff Huhne’s figure.

(Click to enlarge)

So which is nearer the truth, 7%, 0.7%, or what?

It turns out that for 33 half-hour periods in the whole of 2010, the total of Big Wind and Hydro (which actually works, of course) managed 7% or more. Let’s be generous and assume he’s rounding up the figures. So 78 half-hour periods exceeded 6.5%, making 39 hours out of a total 8760 hours in the year. The figures are just fractionally better in you add in Pumped Storage, but to count PS as “renewable” means you can’t pump using fossil fuel electricity.

(Click to enlarge)

So Buff Huhne’s 7% claim isn’t just a bit hyped up. It is flat wrong.

Saying 7% of our electricty comes from renewables is about as accurate as my saying I spent all my time during 2010 having coitus. In both cases just wishful thinking I’m afraid. But we are the ones getting shafted by the Luhnatic and his “experts”.

Update: Please note an important correction I need to make here. It is detailed in this comment.  Apologies for the error.

Is the My2050 team a bit touchy?

A very curious development following yesterday’s blog post about the My2050 Pathways tool launched by the Department for Energy and Climate Change.

Having posted the piece I submitted two Freedom of Information requests to find out more about the costs to the taxpayer of this website and tool, using my pseudonym.  The FOI system I use allows people to send messages that arrive in the email inbox for my account and by midnight I had received two emails from people involved in My2050.

The first one reads:

I was looking for the URL to “My 2050” when I found your interesting request for information – apologies for “virtually butting in”.  I was part of the expert group hosted by IMechE to help DECC produce this tool – and it may or may not help you to know that as well as DECC direct costs, there are a lot of people who have given their time free to make sure the tool is good.  I doubt anyone has recorded the value of that contribution. You can estimate part of it – one all-day workshop with ~20 senior industry & academia people.  Anyway, I hope that’s useful.

The second one reads:

I was creative director of the DECC My2050 person. As a curious person I was curious to know why you were curious about the budget (having seen your freedom of information request while checking out how the project was doing online today). Can I put in a freedom of information request for the reasons for your freedom of information request? ;) I am not being narky at all, just genuinely curious (and I’ve no idea if I am supposed to tell you the answers to how much our bit cost – I’ll leave that to DECC as it was their money).

The two emails struck me as a touch defensive. I replied to the first email thanking the writer for the background and adding the following explanation:

I have no doubt there are some very decent and committed people who have been engaged on the project, but for me there are a number of questions about the default position vis a vis CO2 and the cost to the public of pushing this position despite an increasing body of evidence that the science is far from settled.

The first writer replied thus:  ‘Sorry, I didn’t realise. That explains your question.’ and politely wished me luck.  But I’m curious as to how they just stumbled across the FOI request as a simple Google search doesn’t take a reader to it, at least in the first few pages of results I could be bothered to look at.

As for the second email, I’ve not yet replied and I’m wondering quite how to respond to the question. Feel free to offer any suggestions in the comments…

 DECC My2050 person. As a curious
     person I was curious to know why you were curious about the budget
     (having seen your freedom of information request while checking out
     how the project was doing online today). Can I put in a freedom of
     information request for the reasons for your freedom of information
     request? ;) I am not being narky at all, just genuinely curious
     (and I've no idea if I am supposed to tell you the answers to how
     much our bit cost - I'll leave that to DECC as it was their money).

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5. Roger Pielke Jr on Maybe If We Don’t Mention No One Will Notice

Cleveland Police tells Officers to stop night vehicle patrols

Just over one week ago in the north east of England, it was announced that Cleveland Police, like other forces around the country, would reduce the number of its officers in an effort to meet a cut in government funding.

Cleveland Police Authority said that to meet its 20% funding cut the force’s officer establishment would reduce from 1,727 to 1,572 over the next 12 months with another reduction of 75 to follow the year after. The number of PCSOs would also reduce from 197 to 182.

The reported measures to meet the cut in funding, chosen by Cleveland’s policing authority, include savings on overtime, Bank Holiday staffing, reduction in staff posts in the police executive and authority and reduced expenditure on uniforms.  But news arriving at Mind Towers concerns a cost saving measure that has not been shared with the public and is likely to cause anger in the county.

For word reaches us that the Chief Constable has instructed rank and file police officers in Cleveland to cease night time patrolling in police cars.  We are told the instruction to officers on night shift is to stay in the station or find somewhere outdoors to park up and spend their time doing paperwork, and that Officers have been told to only respond to major emergency calls.  The reason?  To reduce police vehicle fuel costs.

Our source tells us the mood among Officers is one of incredulity given that night is the prime opportunity for the commission of crimes and removing the deterrent of night time police patrols will result in more crimes being committed and more money, time and effort being spent on detection.  Response times are expected to suffer, particularly in rural areas.

It seems that Durham Constabulary have also issued similar instructions.  FOI requests have been placed with both forces accordingly.  The question is whether this is a nationwide instruction by Chief Police Officers who are putting costs before policing.  Perhaps it would be appropriate for Cleveland to change their motto to ‘Putting Costs First’.

The war on CO2, updated 2050 Pathways Analysis launched

The propaganda onslaught continues apace today with the launch of ‘The 2050 Pathways Debate: having an energy-literate conversation about the UK’s options to 2050’ by the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC).

Chris ‘Luhnatic’ Huhne published a written statement in the Commons yesterday announcing the launch of this online event:

‘The 2050 Pathways Debate: having an energy-literate conversation about the UK’s options to 2050.’ Leading climate and energy experts will use the 2050 pathways calculator to present their personal view of how the UK can reduce its emissions by at least 80% by 2050, ahead of the online debate being opened to the wider public.

The obvious problem here is the starting point.  It has been decided that human caused CO2 emissions – a mere 5% of total CO2 emissions globally – is changing our climate.  There is no evidence, there is no proof, just a theory.  But rather than focus on further scientific investigation in the face of a rapidly growing counter consensus that questions the premise of CO2 induced climate change, huge sums of our money are pumped into tackling what looks more and more like a non existant problem using propaganda such as the My2050 site. As always, the target of choice are the young and impressionable:

This user-friendly version of the analysis is aimed at a youth audience and we plan to engage schools and colleges in using it to raise awareness of the issues.

The more you repeat the mantra, the more likely they will accept what they are told as fact without question. Without evidence or proof this propaganda constitutes a fraud being perpetrated against the public. It is a form of brainwashing building upon the appeal to authority of scientists whose flawed and corrupted methods have been exposed but remain unmolested by government, and the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) whose reputation lies in tatters after a string of errors and known distortions.

What we are seeing is a shameless effort to take advantage of many youngsters only getting their knowledge from school.  By not encouraging them to think, challenge and question and instead providing them with a false starting point on this subject, our politicians are betraying at least a generation and corrupting their education.  This should be an international scandal, but who is making a stand?

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If you read one blog post today, make it this one

We are seeing here structural cuts which remove the UK’s ability to act independently as a nation, and to project our foreign policy. We have moved from independence to a transitional stage where our capabilities have been removed and there is no replacement.  The agenda unfolds.

Climate change propaganda and use of public money

Readers familiar with Heather Brooke’s book ‘The Silent State’ may find this one resonates with them.  Among the messages in the Mind Towers inbox this morning was an email from a frustrated reader who shares our annoyance at taxpayer funded climate change propaganda.

The reader has very kindly scanned a page from Darlington Council’s taxpayer funded rag, the ‘Town Crier’, which as you can see here is promoting ‘Climate Week’ and asking for people to come forward as ‘climate champions’ and after taxpayer funded training, tell other people to do more to tackle climate change.  The article is about a climate change adaptation initiative that has been run at the 160-year-old Gurney Pease Primary School, the oldest School in Darlington.  Gurney Pease is a ‘Climate Change Lead School’.  What is that, you ask? Apparently these Lead Schools are:

an organic and pioneering network of schools who build climate change understanding and positive action from the ground-up. Visionary schools and teachers are at the core of this approach, though the focus of the Project is on young people – helping them to achieve a better understanding of everything from the nuts and bolts of climate change science, to exploring how to positively adapt to the impacts of a changing climate.

The same link on Science Learning Centres reveals that:

The Climate Change Schools Project is a collaboration between Science Learning Centre North East (operated through Durham University), the Environment Agency (via the Northumbria Regional Flood Defence Committee), ClimateNE (the regional climate change partnership), the North East Strategic Partnership for Sustainable Schools, One World Network North East and the Association of North East Councils.

So many organisations.  That is a lot of public money sloshing around and a lot of taxpayer funded meetings and action plans being hatched.  No wonder our council tax keeps rising and service delivery continues to decline.

It transpires that schools taking part in the Climate Change Schools Project ‘Adaptation Challenge’, including Gurney Pease, each received funding of £3,000 through the Local Levy raised by the Northumbria Regional Flood Defence Committee (via the Environment Agency) and ClimateNE (via Defra). This is strange as you would think the Flood Defence Committee would focus its resources on, you know, flood defence.  We’ll come back to the flood risk to Gurney Pease shortly.

The idea was to initiate individual projects that demonstrate how schools can become hubs of [climate change] adaptation action by working with their local communities and businesses to prepare for the impacts of a changing climate.

The message being preached to our children by teachers and organisations such as those at Gurney Pease and those throwing council tax payer Local Levy money around, is that climate change is going to flood the area and drive up air temperature.  No wonder the kids want to do something when they are spun such a line.  Ironically there is nothing in the adaptation work that deals with Gurney Pease being closed as a result of severe winter weather, which it was in November.

So the adaptation work to counter the supposed impact of climate change included: moving the boiler from the basement to ground level, raising all the plug sockets in the school, reflective film added to ‘new windows’ to keep classrooms cooler in summer, planting trees to increase shade in the playground, adding thermostats to ‘new radiators’ in each classroom for improved temperature control, and developing an outdoor classroom to provide a cool place to work.

Some thoughts… In an old school the risk of pipes bursting through age or freezing conditions like those during November and December obviously pose a risk to the boiler room, so it makes sense to move it from the basement. Raising plug sockets is something demanded by authorities with a mind to adapating buildings for disabled people who can’t reach sockets lower down. New windows can help stabilise temperature, but one wonders if the aim here was to stop the kids freezing during the winter. Likewise with new radiators, they don’t tend to be used when the sun is frying us. It would be interesting to find out if the tree planting counts towards any carbon offsetting observed by the Council. And with nearly 200 children on the roll, one outdoor classroom is not going to help many children at any one time.  It is worth asking if additional trees around the play ground will do more harm than good given the greasy and leaf strewn surface they will create in the autumn and winter.

Back to the flood resilience work that presumably played a key role in the £3,000 of Local Levy money being allocated from the Northumbria Regional Flood Defence Committee which speaks in these minutes of the need for value for money while spending £21,000 on the seven Climate Change Lead Schools for this project. Despite calls to Darlington Council we have yet to get a response to tell us how many times Gurney Pease has been flooded by the more frequent ‘high intensity’ rainfall that is predicted. There are no news items online that we can find.

We can also be sure that local rivers are not a factor because a look at the location of the school shows that even in the event of extreme flooding of the River Skerne, the school is not at flood risk, as the Environment Agency map which can be found here shows:

So what is really going on here – apart from a propaganda effort to ‘climatewash’ necessary maintenance work at the school, a concerted effort to terrify the kids into believing climate change is putting their school at imminent risk of deluge and suggest to them they are at risk of sunstroke?

Is this not just an example of work being done to improve the efficiency and energy consumption of a heating system and school building being hijacked by the AGW lobby to push their own agenda?

Is it appropriate to use public money levied for flood defence from local rivers – a real threat to a number of properties and businesses in the area as Morpeth demonstrated – to undertake such works at a school that is not under flood risk?  This is supposedly frontline spending that being used to perpetuate the PR of a mere theory lacking any hard evidence.

When people like Bob Ward whine about the funding of AGW sceptics, perhaps he should note all these organisations in receipt of public and big business (vested interest) funding to preach propaganda to kids about an unproven hypothesis.

Fair Trade, ethics and gesture politics

An exchange on Twitter with the free thinking and autonomous @untwining (Lisa Amphlett) who authors the excellent blog All About The Voluntary recently led to a decision that one of us would blog about Fair Trade.

This being the start of Fairtrade Fortnight, Lisa pointed me to a must-read piece in yesterday’s Telegraph by Philip Booth who makes a powerful argument that Fair Trade is neither fair, nor good for trade. Booth points out that ‘researchers sympathetic to fair trade have suggested that only 25 per cent of the extra price paid by consumers finds its way back to producers’.  He also points out that:

Fair trade is supposed to bring better working conditions to poor producers, together with higher prices and better social infrastructure. Questions have been asked about whether monitoring in the supply chain is sufficiently robust, and examples of unsatisfactory practice have been found. Furthermore, there are costs for producers. Poor farmers have to pay considerable sums to join up and often have to organise their businesses in particular ways: it is not suitable for all producers, especially in the poorest countries.

This is a consequence of Fair Trade’s structure that seems to be swept under the carpet or simply unknown to people who want to feel they are doing something ethical and playing a part in tackling poverty by choosing to buy products labelled as Fair Trade.  Booth’s piece also highlights an anti-competitive element of Fair Trade as he explains:

Fairtrade schools and parishes have to commit themselves to selling Fairtrade products. This is unfortunate for producers – who may be as poor – for other schemes, such as the Rainforest Alliance or Bird Friendly, that are designed to protect the environment.  And, of course, if we transfer our allegiance to a fair trade producer from a non-fair trade producer in a poor country, what happens to the farmer who loses his customer base?

It appears that despite these justifiable concerns, the government is pressing ahead with a supposedly ethical Fair Trade policy at the expense of taxpayers who have no way of holding politicians to account for it.  The plan is to introduce a requirement to purchase a minimum of 50% Fair Trade tea and coffee, and it will apply to central Government departments, prisons and the armed forces under Government Buying Standards.  This was confirmed in a written answer from DEFRA in Parliament yesterday… (click to enlarge)

What really stands out here is that last paragraph, where there is a clear recognition that the policy will result in increased costs to the taxpayer and that the decision has been taken without prior evidence of equivalent costs having been submitted by the Fairtrade Foundation.  Convinced by the righteousness of the policy government is pressing ahead regardless.  The public is entitled to evidence based policy making which is not happening.

It should be a matter of concern to everyone that government is engaging in gesture politics at taxpayer expense to follow a supposedly ethical policy, that research shows has the capacity to harm people in poorer countries, by selecting produce generated within a system over which there are question marks that do not appear to have been critically evaluated.

Perhaps it is time for voters whose parish, borough or city councils have imposed a Fair Trade procurement policy to challenge their authority for evidence of the benefits to producers in poorer countries of Fair Trade – rather than anecdotes – and write to their MPs asking for the same to justify the additional cost being passed on to us.

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