Thursday, 31 October 2013

Unprecedented global warming decline

Google Trends shows an unprecedented decline in global warming headlines over the past decade.

The trend is forecast to continue - see dashed line.

Loose change

I get rid of copper coins via the nearest charity collecting box. After all, you can’t do much with the piddling things and they lie heavy in the pocket.

However the other day it occurred to me that those tiny little five pence coins are pretty useless too, so why don’t I get rid of them in the same way?

Habit I suppose. I just hadn’t thought of it, but I notice some parking meters no longer take them and how else do you get rid of small change apart from parking meters or giving it away?

Ten pence pieces will go next I suppose. They are still moderately useful for local parking meters, but that’s about it and even a handful of the pocket-destroying blighters doesn’t buy much parking time these days.

Inflation eh? Isn't it great?

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Snow wardens wanted

The Star tells us:-

Volunteers are wanted to help clear snow and ice from the pavements over the winter months.

Derbyshire County Council wants more snow wardens to help coordinate snow clearing activities in local communities and to provide updates on road conditions.

The council’s deputy cabinet member for jobs, economy and transport, Councillor Dean Collins, said: “Severe winter weather can really damage the local economy.

Surely some mistake - isn't snow a thing of the past?

Bad taste - a parable

“I say, you!” bawled a fat ox in a stall to a lusty young ass who was braying outside; “the like of that is not in good taste!”

“In whose good taste, my adipose censor?” inquired the ass, not too respectfully.

“Why — h’m — ah! I mean it does not suit me. You ought to bellow.”

“May I inquire how it happens to be any of your business whether I bellow or bray, or do both — or neither?”

“I cannot tell you,” answered the critic, shaking his head despondingly; “I do not at all understand  it. I can only say that I have been accustomed to censure all discourse that differs from my own.”

“Exactly,” said the ass; “you have sought to make an art of impertinence by mistaking preferences for principles. In ‘taste’ you have invented a word incapable of definition, to denote an idea impossible of expression; and by employing in connection therewith the words ‘good’ and ‘bad,’ you indicate a merely subjective process in terms of an objective quality. Such presumption transcends the limit of the merely impudent, and passes into the boundless empyrean of pure cheek!”

At the close of this remarkable harangue, the bovine critic was at a loss for language to express his disapproval. So he said the speech was in bad taste.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Climate classic

If you haven't read it, there is yet another classic piece of climate detective work from Steve McIntyre. The recent IPCC AR5 used northern hemisphere data in a southern hemisphere temperature reconstruction graph.

You really couldn't make it up.

Monday, 28 October 2013

In a vast machine

You’re nothing but a minor bureaucrat in a vast machine. You’re a function of an impersonal cultural totality. You have no standards of your own. 

In the twentieth century men had personal standards of workmanship. Artistic craft. Pride of accomplishment. These words mean nothing to you. You have no soul—another concept from the golden days of the twentieth century, when men were free and could speak their minds.

Philip K. Dick - Exhibit Piece (1954)

The effort of dissent

Assume if you will that all we do most of the time is speak in a manner which has previously proved beneficial or similar to other beneficial ways of speaking. That goes for thinking too, because thinking is only covert speaking.

We follow the consensus – the path of least resistance – the comfort zone.

Not only is it the path of least resistance, but also the path of maximum personal benefit, which for social beings is often much the same. So what we say is merely a consequence of the social benefits of saying it. If it wasn’t beneficial we wouldn’t say it or even think it. It all depends on the social group we're attached to of course, but it feels like an obvious survival trait.

Yet even if we stick with verbal dissent, there is surely a major oddity here.

What about those people who go against their own interests by showing dissent? Most merely withhold assent, but even passive dissenters forego the benefits of overt assent.

Somehow a love of truth is so powerful that verbal dissenters put aside the social advantages of following the consensus. Sometimes it isn’t really a consensus at all, it just seems so because most people prefer passive dissent - the path of least resistance.

Intriguingly, active dissent must require effort, because it is never the path of least resistance. Where does that extra effort come from, the effort required to shun the path of least resistance?

Surely we would expect humans to be neurologically disposed to make as little mental effort as possible consistent with survival strategies. We should be neurologically wired to follow the consensus because it is socially efficient to go with the flow – once the flow has been established as safe or otherwise advantageous.

The other oddity is that many active dissenters seem unable to stop dissenting. They can’t shrug their shoulders, switch off and go with the flow. They may switch off temporarily, but even that feels more like cranking up the dissent battery for another discharge.

It’s as if the human race needs active dissenters to anticipate threats below the consensus radar – beyond the comfort zone. Threats which need not be taken on board, or even acknowledged unless the consensus fails in some way.

It also highlights the social value of passive dissent which may build up a covert readiness for change, so inevitable change is easier and less painful than it otherwise would be. In which case, large-scale passive dissent may be a forerunner of major social change.

Yet the effort required for active dissent is still a puzzle. Why do some people put so much effort into socially unprofitable thinking? I know you do it, because otherwise you would not have read this far.

You can’t stop and neither can I.

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Musical quackery

It is an afternoon concert; and modern German music was largely represented on the programme. 

The patient English people sat in closely-packed rows, listening to the pretentious instrumental noises which were impudently offered to them as a substitute for melody. 

While these docile victims of the worst of all quackeries (musical quackery) were still toiling through their first hour of endurance, a passing ripple of interest stirred the stagnant surface of the audience caused by the sudden rising of a lady overcome by the heat.

Wilkie Collins - The Fallen Leaves (1879)

Five climate arguments

The point of my recent Five climate futures post was to introduce the idea of future climate scenarios and their likelihood. To recap - how likely is each scenario and how do we know? 
  1. Unambiguous warming.
  2. Ambiguous warming.
  3. No change.
  4. Ambiguous cooling.
  5. Unambiguous cooling.

 The short and obvious answer is that we have no idea. I estimated percentages based on how many there are. I know the estimates are illegitimate in any scientific sense, although I received only one challenge in the comments. Ah well.

The point is this – how do you estimate the likelihood of these climate scenarios using credible arguments? As far as I can see, there are five basic climate change arguments commonly encountered in the public domain. 
  1. Science with no predictive track record
  2. Appeals to authority.
  3. Rhetorical emotional appeals.
  4. Images – ice crashing into the sea etc.
  5. Abuse – overt, covert and parody

 The debate is packed with nuances such the political use of exaggerated risk to control behaviour, but which of these arguments enables us to choose between the five climate scenarios do you think?

Well abuse can be fun and in my view has a useful place in the climate change debate, especially parody. If nothing else it holds before our tired eyes the absurdities of current energy policies and how we stumbled our way into this mess.

So let us humanise the whole debate and accept a more personal and emotional role in our own beliefs. Here are the crucial questions whereby I think we may get to grips with how little we know and how much we rely on authority :-

Which future climate scenario is your best guess?
Which argument supports your choice?

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Deadly Pole to Pole

Watched Deadly Pole to Pole, a cbbc show with Grandson this morning. It is a natural history show for kids. The episode came from Somerset Island, Nunavut, Canada, inside the Arctic Circle.

In spite of too much hype for my taste, the show seems quite well designed to capture the interest of young people and turned out to be free of AGW propaganda.

That may have been due to unexpected problems with sea ice (from about 4.50) although why this was unexpected is dismissed as weather and left unexplored. Remarkable shots of a polar bear climbing a cliff from about 2.00.

Steve and the crew continue on their epic Pole to Pole journey and head south to Somerset Island high in the Canadian Arctic, but as they leave Svalbard there is one last deadly encounter to be had. Steve witnesses some extraordinary behaviour as he watches a rock climbing polar bear scale a huge sea cliff in search of food. With the Svalbard part of their journey finished it's off to Somerset Island where Steve goes in search of some head banging musk ox, a rather curious Arctic fox still in its pristine winter coat and also the ghostly white whale. But it seems the weather is against them, as for the first time in 40 years the ice hasn't melted (my emphasis). Will Steve and the team succeed in their mission to see the beguiling Arctic beluga whale.

The hearts and lives of strangers

The resistless influences which are one day to reign supreme over our poor hearts, and to shape the sad short course of our lives, are sometimes of mysteriously remote origin, and find their devious ways to us through the hearts and the lives of strangers.

Wilkie Collins - The Fallen Leaves (1879)*

*Not one of his better known novels - you won't find it listed in Wikipedia for example.

Friday, 25 October 2013

Five climate futures

As I see it, there are five possible global climate temperature scenarios for the next five years. Apart from the unexpected that is! 
  1. Unambiguous warming.
  2. Ambiguous warming.
  3. No change.
  4. Ambiguous cooling.
  5. Unambiguous cooling.

 Scenarios 2, 3 and 4 are where various misguided enthusiasts claim we are at the moment. Climate science is too inexact in its definitions and too saturated with political exigencies for a neutral observer to distinguish between them. Not that there are any neutral observers in this debate.

Even so, what may we say about the coming five years with some degree of confidence? Obviously we have to guess, but if we are able to get over the idea that this has much to do with science, then we may get somewhere.

Commonly observed traits of human behaviour are what guide us through the climate debate which in my view is mostly driven by global political ambitions, middle class anxieties and an undue respect for authority. Even so, it is surely possible to get away from the failures of climate science and take a look at human nature.

Scenarios 1 and 2 should ensure the political and intellectual survival of mainstream pro-AGW climate narratives. The other three, namely 3, 4 and 5 will obviously cause increasingly severe problems for the mainstream narrative.

If we assume that all five narratives are equally probable, and we have no science to tell us otherwise, then there is a 60% chance that the mainstream pro-AGW narrative may fail very badly indeed. It depends of the resilience of the narrative which is undoubtedly powerful for both political and emotional reasons.

On the other hand, there is a 40% chance that it will succeed politically and intellectually, at least for that five year period.

Not that these percentages should be taken too seriously, but we have to make sense of climate change somehow and the mainstream science isn’t getting us anywhere. Most of it is far too speculative as a basis for energy policies which one way or another will end up being driven by the real world.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Are we getting smarter?

In one sense I have multiple personalities...

No you haven’t.

What I mean is that I can be both pessimistic and optimistic...

Since when?

Shut up - it depends on which aspect of a situation I choose to look at.

An earlier post on the demise of politics may sound pessimistic, but I think there are a number of other trends suggesting optimistic possibilities too. Sometimes I think human intelligence whatever it may be, is increasing. I jibbed at the idea to begin with, but then I asked the simple and apparently rhetorical question – why do modern politicians appear to be so dumb?

Well maybe they are dumb and that’s all we need say about them, but I think there is something else going on here.

We may be getting smarter.

Oh really?

Yes. Maybe it’s the effect of mass communication over a number of generations. An incomplete social change kicked off by the invention of printing, pushed along by cheap books and now coming into flower in the form of the internet.

Or maybe it’s bollocks.

Okay, so part of me thinks we really are dumbing down as so many have claimed, but a more optimistic part of me thinks the opposite. We appear to be dumbing down for a very simple reason.

We have caught up with the elite.

No we haven’t, the cunning bastards are way ahead of us.

Maybe not. Universal education may have played a part, but in my view the main thrust has come from free access to information.

It’s why so many of our leaders appear to be insanely ambitious dullards, why so many business leaders come across as absurdly greedy spivs and why so many of our institutions are little more than sinecures for the upper middle classes. They haven’t changed – we have. We know the score – we are not so easily gulled by social pretensions.

The elite classes have tried to disguise their social pretensions by dressing down. No more top hats, walking canes and cut glass accents for example. Language is now roughened by glottal stops, slang and a prissy determination to be the very epitome of a reasonable chap while spouting the most absurd drivel.

But it isn’t working.

Yes it is you blinkered optimist. I was going to say blind optimist but...

To my mind it is connected with assent. Spinoza saw assent as our route to a kind of free will where assent to ideas or we don’t. Often we don’t show active dissent, we merely withhold assent.

Have you ever been in this kind of situation for example?

What, being ignored by a blinkered optimist?

No this one.

Someone in a small group raises the subject of royalty by enthusing about the latest royal baby. Nobody else in the group feels inclined to jump up and down in a republican rage, but nobody offers their assent either. After a few stilted moments the subject closes and the discussion moves on.

Or this one?

You have to attend a course on motivation which requires a minimal degree of active involvement because the presenter simply zings along with a mildly infectious if somewhat artificial enthusiasm. So you go along with it without showing much in the way of dissent even though to you it is all water off a duck’s back.

Agree with you there - can’t be bothered with motivation.

Quite, but I’m sure there has always been a huge amount of passive dissent in our society and many hints encourage me to think it is on the increase simply because we are smarter than we were. Not much and not dramatically, but it’s there.

Nobody really believes in apocalyptic global warming caused by CO2, I’m sure of it. Not even climate scientists. There are no cars tootling along the M1 at 55mph to save fuel, no indications whatever that anything but price matters when it comes to energy policy. It matters to the elite and a tiny minority of activists, but that’s all.

This is an informed yet passive withholding of assent by a large number of people and I think the number is growing. Not rapidly and not all that obviously because it is merely passive dissent, but we may be smarter than we were and something may yet come of it.

No it won’t.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

The climate protection racket


ScienceDaily moans about research indicating our unwillingness to pay for climate change mitigation fantasies. No doubt that's why we aren't offered the choice.

People Don't Put a High Value On Climate Protection

Would you rather have €40 (about $55 US) or save the climate? When the question is put in such stark terms, the common sense answer is obviously: "stop climate change!" After all, we are well-informed individuals who act for the common good and, more particularly, for the good of future generations. Or at least that's how we like to think of ourselves.

Unfortunately, the reality is rather different.

Of course the involuntary cost is much higher whatever people are prepared to pay and even if we don't count ditching five centuries of scientific progress along with rational energy policies.  

Scots express their fear of winter

According to a survey for the Scottish government reported by heraldscotland, Scotland has seen a marked increase in concerns about extreme weather.

Extreme weather is a bigger concern for people than terrorism, a survey says.

Weather emergencies topped a list, with about half of those questioned saying they are very or quite concerned (49%).

The proportion is up from the 38% recorded last year and is higher than power cuts (46%), health emergencies (37%) and terrorism (31%).

The research was published as the Scottish Government unveiled its "ready for winter" campaign.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Progressively Adaptable Science

From Wikipedia

Recent decades have seen fascinating advances in Progressively Adaptable Science (PAS), but many people appear to be unsure of the details. Let’s drill down beyond the journalistic hype and tease out the core aspects of PAS.

PAS theory can be somewhat technical, but the basic idea is that science should be modular and all modules should be reusable. In effect, a kind of structured recycling has been applied to scientific concepts, somewhat analogous to recycling waste.

Climate science is usually cited as the most forward-looking example of PAS. Take the climate science module below for example. Originally an inflexible scientific assertion poorly adapted to changing circumstances, it has been parsed into a PAS-compliant reusable module.

Global temperatures are [likely] to undergo a [catastrophic] [increase] of between [a] and [b] degrees centigrade over the next [thirty] years.

PAS structural rules require what are called progressive adaptability elements (PAE). These narrative elements allow any correctly formulated scientific assertion to be recycled into a more appropriate narrative should a key situation change.

As you will have noticed, by convention PAEs are enclosed in square brackets to indicate exactly where the module may be adapted to changing circumstances and differing contexts without altering the underlying settled science.

However the beautiful flexibility of PAS doesn’t end there. Some PAEs may be expressed as algebraic terms such as [a] and [b] in the above real-life module. In this case the algebraic elements refer to numeric temperature variables or [data]* as climate [scientists]* often call their favourite numbers.

* As you will have noticed, one of the attractions of PAS is that even statements about PAS, may be compliant. In other words, what we say about PAS can also be recycled by amending one or more PAEs. Powerful and beautifully simple as I’m sure you will agree.

In this ingenious manner, the essential [truths] of science are [preserved] and the scientific [method] is handed down [intact] for future generations.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Seven climate theories

Or is it eight... or nine?

Back in 2010 a booklet called Seven Theories of Climate Change by Joseph L. Bast was published by the Science and Public Policy Institute.

It lists seven climate change theories, one of them being the AGW CO2 theory. The booklet is worth reading not so much because it delimits what we know of climate drivers, but because it highlights how exceedingly complex the issue is. Vastly more complex than popular journalism would have us believe.

Climate science is dominated by uncertainty and there are also highly uncertain connections between these theories, so I’ll merely summarise them below. Additional theories and ideas from readers are very welcome – this is an evolving, not an evolved science.

1 Anthropogenic Global Warming
The mainstream theory of climate change heavily promoted for reasons beyond the scope of this post. Greenhouse gases, primarily carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide are said to be causing a catastrophic rise in global temperatures.

2 Bio-thermostat
The second theory of climate change is really a number of theories bundled together. Feedbacks from biological and chemical processes are said to contribute towards global temperature stability by suppressing temperature increases. These are :- 
  • Enhanced carbon sequestration by plants as atmospheric CO2 increases, thereby causing increased rates of plant growth.
  • Carbonyl sulphide (COS) produced biologically is said to form sulphate aerosols in the atmosphere which reflect solar radiation and lead to a cooling effect.
  • Biosols are biologically derived plant compounds which circulate in the atmosphere and may act as condensation nuclei for clouds. They may also diffuse solar radiation close to the ground, reducing the effect of shade and increasing photosynthesis and CO2 uptake.
  • Iodine containing compounds formed in sea air by marine algae may act like biosols.
  • Dimethyl sulphide is emitted by oceans and may be a source of cloud condensation nuclei.
  • Other aerosols. There are other natural aerosols which may also have an impact on climate.

3 Cloud Formation and Albedo
A third theory says that the climate is controlled by the formation and albedo of clouds.

4 Land Use
A fourth theory is that climate is affected by large scale changes in land use such as forestry, irrigation and building cities.

5 Ocean Currents
The fifth theory claims that climate cycles are the result of changes to ocean circulation patterns.

6 Planetary Motion
The sixth theory is that gravitational and magnetic oscillations of the solar system cause solar variations and/or other influences which change the terrestrial climate.

7 Solar Variability
The seventh theory is that solar variability accounts for most or all climate change.

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Policing from the cloud

Suppose a major search engine company builds a cloud-based policing app for small communities. The app is aimed at any small community from a village to a street.

Anyone may buy web cams and use the app to link them to a cloud-based policing system which monitors images for suspicious activity and the presence of known offenders. Web cam images of your house frontage and your bit of the street outside for example.

Anyone with previous who ever had their photo in a newspaper may be recognised by the system. If they disguise their appearance then the cloud-policing system will confine itself to suspicious activity.

It’s just another gadget, but people buy and the market grows.

Lots of political issues here of course, but think ten years down the line. Think micro web-cams used for personal security and the sheer scope of data on who, what and where.

Maybe a small monthly charge would be made for the app depending on the package purchased. Maybe the basic package would include reporting suspicious activity to the police.

A more expensive package could have extra functions such as logging police response. Maybe the police officers themselves would be identified by the system or maybe it would use private security outfits.

Eventually the system would cover everything from drunks pissing in shop doorways, speeding, parking, kids playing truant, disability claimants playing football – the list is endless.

Universal policing. You may have nothing to hide, but you have nowhere to hide anyway.

Friday, 18 October 2013

Who is Sandra Bullock?

The other day, I was with a group of friends chatting about this and that when the names Sandra Bullock and Julia Roberts came up. I’m not very familiar with either name, although I know I’ve heard of Julia Roberts in connection with films. I also know from the conversation that both are celebrities.

I was conscious not being part of the conversation, which wasn’t long enough to matter anyway but for some reason those two names stuck in my mind.

I was reminded of the time we were returning from the Alsace this summer. We stayed overnight in Laon and the hotel reception area had a huge TV on the wall showing that cookery celeb with a face full of creases. His name escapes me and I’m not going to look him up, but just the sight of him triggered a passing whiff of gloom after a most enjoyable holiday.

What is it about celebrity culture? Why is it such a turn-off for some of us? We’d seen nothing of it in the Alsace but the first TV we come across and that’s it. Ignorance is bliss they say – I’m sure there is something in that.

It also highlights the gulf between TV and the internet. I use the internet for hours on end without a single celebrity spoiling the atmosphere. For me, it makes a difference and I’ve reached the end of this post without having to know who Sandra Bullock might be.

To my mind it’s a minor gain.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Really simple climate change

My background is chemistry, one of the most experimental sciences. No doubt that’s why I look at the empirical evidence when it comes to claims made by other sciences.

Unfortunately it seems to me that far too many pundits, both amateur and professional, rely on arguments from authority instead of empirical evidence when comes to climate change.

Of course climate experiments have an inevitable tendency towards ambiguity because climate is not a great subject for experimental science in that none of the variables can be controlled.

Yet to my mind, this is still where the climate debate should begin – experimental design. If scientists make claims about a causal link between some climate parameter and global temperatures then we should surely demand a repeatable experiment to support those claims.

Yet how do we design a controlled empirical trial of climate change theories when we can’t control any of the variables?

A really simple approach
Suppose we confine ourselves to inventing a simple trial of global temperature prediction which may be applied to any climate theory.

For example, we could say that global temperature predictions must be accurate over a period of thirty years – at the moment that would be from 1983 to 2013. I suggest thirty years because the climate appears to be crudely cyclical and some of the cycles may be long. Even thirty years is much too short, but it will do for falsification if not verification.

Therefore, according to this really simple test:-

Anyone who in 1983 predicted a pattern of global temperatures which in 2013 has turned out to be correct, then their theory passes our test. Whatever theory they used. Evidence might be a paper published in 1983 or earlier, or maybe even a newspaper article.

As far as I know that’s nobody.

No matter – we can easily shift the test period by five years. So anyone who in 1988 predicted a pattern of global temperatures which in 2018 turns out to be correct, then their theory passes our test. Whatever theory they used.

As far as I know that’s nobody again – no need to wait until 2018.

And so on and so on. In my view we don’t set the bar anywhere near high enough to assess the performance of climate theories. Yet demanding real world performance is no different from checking the fuel consumption claims of car manufacturers.

As with all things climate-related there are caveats, but one attraction of such a robustly empirical approach is that anyone may take personal ownership of their stance on climate change. There is no need to be browbeaten on this issue – it doesn’t require scientific qualifications or even expertise. Do you need engineering expertise to measure the fuel consumption of your car?

We turn around the usual relationships with climate scientists with: don’t tell me – show me. We also create a more level playing field for alternative climate theories and that is surely the most interesting aspect of raising the bar.

skool matters

Gosh chiz wot a dismal day for the hole skool. It never ranes but it poors as matron keep saying if any boy dare wake her up with a trivial injury such as crawling into her sordid den on hands and knees dragging a broken leg or crashing about with eyes so bad the pore little chap cant see his homework well enuff to hand it in on time hem hem.

We hav a new head of st custards called mr kameron or smoothichops as peason calls the grate oily oik. Wot is the new head like we all want to kno and will he resort to desperate attaks on pore defenceless boys with the kane like old Grimes of horrible memory?

Well wot smoothichops does with his kane we now kno to our COST. He swings the terrible kane around his oily head with an evil leer and then he sa “it’s only a nudge my boy, only a nudge”. It didn’t feel like a nudge to me chiz chiz.

As if to rub salt into the wound kameron also gave fotherington-thomas a gold star for acting like a gurl. He sa the wet weed is a gay little chap which kameron says is a Good Thing.

Even worse we hav a new deputy head called klegg who scowls a lot and keep nipping off to the bike sheds for a crafty fag cadged off poor boys who don’t smoke of course hem hem. Klegg borrows them anyway tho he say he doesn’t really smoke the friteful fibber.

Wot I do kno is that kameron talks a lot and never agrees with klegg who instead of listening with rapt attention as we hav to goes sneeking off the staff room for yet another fag. The staff room is where teechers plot their evil plans and drink gallons of vile brown tea amung huge grate clouds of thick smoke wich stane the ceeling as brown as the sluge in the skool pond.

Old Kable the maths master never agree with Kameron or Klegg even tho he nods away in skool assembely while they are yakking at us full bore which is all the time. I don’t kno how they have time to breathe wot with all that yak yak yak. Kameron and klegg never nod when the other one is yakking tho.

Peason sa old kable is 157 and only nods a lot in assembely because his brane is so big and heavy for such a stringy ol neck.

Peason also claim klegg v fond of brussels which he says make no sense becos any fule kno you do not hav to eat brussels xcept at xmas and then you give them to the skool dog to make him sick while you park the gravy in fotherington-thomases music bag.

Having done geog homework for once hem hem I kindly inform peason that brussels is not a tiny cabbage wot taste like the skool hedge. It is I say grandly, a place in eurpope where people go to loaf about, talk at each other in loud voices and drink wine before falling over like gillibrand’s pater during sports day outside the beer tent.

Becos he is a general with real medals matron had to pretend gillibrand’s pater had come over all feint but we kno different. He told some dredfully rude army stories just before he fell over tho. I rote them down in the back of my lat book.

Wot a fatefull day. Fotherington-thomas danced up to us and say he can marry peason becos kameron said so. Peason not chuffed and rammed the dere little chaps head into the end lav which never gets fixed and flushed it sixteen times witch is a new skool record. A grate feet witch deserve fifty gold stars in my humbule opinion.

Fotherington-thomas changed his mind about getting marrid to peason after much pathetic blubbing witch at least briten up a gray day.

Monday, 14 October 2013

Where are the goblins?

I seem to remember that during my childhood there were little people we referred to as goblins. As I recall it, their exploits were recorded in colourful books so we could recognise and deal with them in daily life.

Yet these days I hear nothing of goblins. Did they die out, mutate or what?

My theory, and it is only a theory at present, is that they became middle class.

Sunday, 13 October 2013

We may as well adapt

To my mind, politics appears to be collapsing as regulatory regimes take over. When we speak of power, maybe we should speak not of political regimes and political elites, but of regulatory regimes and those shadowy regulatory elites. 

From the UN downwards, it is professional bureaucrats who rule now. The old political regimes are dying and there is no going back. Ambitious politicians aim to join the regulatory elite, having no need to make a genuine success of their political career. 

That is merely a stepping stone to something more durable and lucrative such as a comfortable EU sinecure. A sinecure purchased by handing over some remaining bits and pieces of political independence. Soon there will be nothing left to barter with. What then?

Yes we could vote UKIP at the next UK general election, but it won’t make any difference in the medium term, let alone the long term. There are no political solutions to a process over which political control was ceded some time ago.

All we have left is a certain limited amount of input to regulatory regimes, but no veto and no power to go back to politics as it was. In any event, the vetoes we have left are disappearing down the plughole of our own political carelessness.

How should we respond?

As far as I can see there is no worthwhile political response to be made – things have gone too far. We made too many concessions and regulatory regimes provide too many comfort zones for the rich, powerful, ambitious and above all – for the regulators and their minions of which there are millions.

Nobody can be persuaded to bang the table on our behalf because we have nothing to offer in return. Most of us are not regulators so our views are not relevant. Only our behaviour is relevant and that is being moulded.

It seems to me that all we have left is a limited degree of free speech, but that too will change. New regulatory powers will ensure that the range of officially offensive comment is widened and widened again.

We may as well adapt because regulatory regimes are not about to change their ways. We have nothing left to force their hand.

Saturday, 12 October 2013

A new climate model

As the IPCC still seems determined to turn science into political fiction, it’s about time we had a climate model which is less likely to contribute to the UK winter death toll via sociopath energy policies. Let’s design a Settled Science Model (SSM) based entirely on data in the public domain.

p = prediction.
Mainstream climate scientists failed to predict the current global temperature hiatus after insisting for years that the global temperature would rise in tandem with a continued rise in atmospheric CO2 concentration.

r = remedial action.
Mainstream climate scientists have also been instrumental in persuading governments around the world to take exceedingly expensive remedial action that could never work.

d = dishonesty.
Mainstream climate scientists have yet to admit publicly that we may as well stop all the remedial action because the globe isn’t warming as they so confidently predicted.

So for our Settled Science Model we have  p + r + d = bs
Where bs = bent science

This isn’t a matter of opinion, but the output of an unprecedentedly empirical model based purely on data in the public domain. Global warming ceased about fifteen years ago, CO2 concentration in the atmosphere is still rising so further remedial action is pointless.

So as the SSM appears to be consistent with the current situation and much less lethal if translated into sane energy policies, let’s use it to make predictions of future scenarios. We’ll begin with the next few years because the SSM isn’t quite tuned yet.

nw = a new warming trend.
If a new warming trend begins, warming nutters will falsely claim to have known all along that warming was in the climate pipeline.

nn = no warming trend.
If no new global temperature trend begins, warming nutters will falsely claim that no warming is the same as warming.

nc = a cooling trend.
If a new cooling trend begins, warming nutters will falsely claim to have known all along that cooling was coming before more warming.

So for climate scenario projections based on the new Settled Science Model, 
nw, nn and nc all imply bs where bs = bent science.

Crikey – it’s the same result!!

Maybe some climate models don’t lie.

Thursday, 10 October 2013

A graphic tale

This is a wee story of days gone by, imparted to me in the seventies.

Once upon a time there was a small laboratory on the edge of the great unknown. Not too far from Birmingham to be more precise. This little laboratory carried out basic tests on waste water such as sewage effluent, including a test for ammonia.

A simple chemical test was used where a colour develops in the test cell, the intensity of colour indicating how much ammonia is present in the water sample. Light absorbed by the colour allows an ammonia concentration to be read off from a previously prepared calibration graph.

In this case the calibration graph was kept in a drawer where it had been stored for so long that it had become tatty and disreputable as laboratory paperwork usually did in those days. It had never been checked either, until that fatal day when some keen person decided to recalibrate the test and draw a brand new graph on a fresh sheet of graph paper.

Oh dear.

The old calibration graph turned out to be wrong by a factor of two. For years, ammonia concentrations in the effluent had been reported as twice what they actually were.

What to do?

During the following few months, the scientists concerned made a series of small adjustments to their calibration graph, eventually bringing it into line with reality. Nobody was any the wiser, although a welcome improvement in the ammonia levels of the effluent did not go unnoticed.

Not a typical episode in scientific history I should add. It took place in the sixties too. Not a reliable period, yet by analogy it provokes a question. Do climate modellers intend to do something similar if the climate continues to misbehave? Of course in a sense the Met Office already has.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

If the devil-gas escapes?

In this carbon capture lark we are supposed to store CO2 in underground suppositories... or maybe that should be repositories. Anyhow, what happens if the appalling stuff slips out and worms its fiendish way back into our atmosphere?





Hang on - surely there’s a lesson in there somewhere?

Dead Man's Fingers

Xylaria polymorpha or Dead Man's Fingers growing on a dead tree near Cromford in Derbyshire. Good name isn't it? 

Monday, 7 October 2013

Football is dull

Football has become dull, dull, dull...     and yet....

...speed, skill, money, violence, cheating, money, corruption, sycophantic media, money, autocratic governance, lack of transparency, tedious TV commentary, money, hordes of gullible ripped-off fans, expensive booze, money and dodgy pies, football is the archetypal modern professional sport.

What’s not to like?

Sunday, 6 October 2013

The bonds of behaviour

It seems to me that one of life’s little problems is conversation, or rather lack of conversation. How many people are there in your particular circle with whom you have meaty conversations. Serious conversations about the existence of God, life on other planets, climate change, political correctness, moral standards or whatever.

Is it related to this dumbing-down we keep hearing about? Maybe not, maybe it’s more fundamental. To my mind it has something to do with the fact, at least I think it’s a fact, that we are not encouraged to be analytical with respect to our own behaviour.

One of the oldest and most enduring social discoveries is the idea that we simply respond to a stimulus in a way that has previously been positive for us and avoid those which have been negative. It goes back at least as far as the pleasure/pain principle of Epicurus, although to my mind the word pleasure has too many physical connotations and peace is often better.

From Wikipedia
For Epicurus, the purpose of philosophy was to attain the happy, tranquil life, characterized by ataraxia—peace and freedom from fear—and aponia—the absence of pain—and by living a self-sufficient life surrounded by friends.

However we describe it, our lives are a record of positive and negative impacts and feedbacks and the way they made us what we are. It’s a simple enough philosophy and very powerful but we don’t make much direct use of it. Yet the rich and powerful have always used it as the primary method of social control. It is used today in mind-boggling detail and presumably always will be.

We don’t seem teach the pleasure/pain principle to children in any systematic way though, even though the idea is simple, suited to role playing and the value of it screamingly obvious. I wonder why?

Perhaps the whole idea is just too revealing?

The rich and powerful still need it as much as ever because they don’t have anything else. So they have to use it covertly, obliquely or at least keep it below the mainstream radar most of the time.

David Cameron’s reference to nudge theory is an obvious example of how the idea is still seen as politically unidirectional – from rulers to ruled. After all, anyone might reasonably ask how Cameron responds to nudges from the electorate. Maybe he responds to winks from his cronies instead.

Sip a cup of coffee and put it down because it is too hot. Stimulus and response – we are bound by it throughout our lives but rarely bring it into the open and admit the mechanical nature of much of what we do – much of what we are. Maybe there is anticipated pain which prevents us from knowing too much about ourselves.

A painful shattering of illusions perhaps?

Also posted at Broad Oak Magazine


When you speak or think, do find yourself casting around for the right words? If so, then do you also seek to influence yourself – are you conscious of a feedback mechanism which censors, approves or adjusts your own words and thereby tries to improve your own thinking?

One further question:-

Is everyone much the same in this? Do we all seek to improve our understanding by using our own words to edit our own thoughts?

Or do some only seek to edit others?

Thursday, 3 October 2013

The future of climate change

Environmental science tends to be carried out within a regulatory regime which why it attracts funding. Once established, the regulatory regime is in the driving seat, not the science.

This is a fact of life for environmental scientists. The science is mostly about monitoring regulatory compliance and providing evidence for prosecution where such things as discharge licences, emission licences or environmental laws have been broken.

I must have signed many hundreds of witness statements in my role as an expert witness in cases of water pollution, although I hardly ever had to attend court as scientific evidence was challenged only rarely. The witness statement was almost always sufficient.

What we refer to as climate change with its associated treaties and laws is merely another regulatory regime but on a global scale. Climate science has a similar support role to other regulatory regimes, but the science is significantly less mature and dependable.

As well as having an enforcement role, the environmental scientist’s job may be to provide a scientific basis for new regulations. For example the quantification and regulation of dioxins and dioxin like substances in the environment.

It requires spending on advanced analytical technology and the development of reliable methods for the sampling and analysis of soil samples. This means reliable enough to go to court and give evidence about scientific results under oath.

Provision of funding and expertise for new environmental investigations is the positive side of regulatory regimes. Another example has been the identification and quantification of endocrine disruptors in the environment.

In this respect, climate change is a fairly typical if wildly controversial and ambitious regulatory regime. It has facilitated funding and expertise for the investigation of an alleged environmental problem due to human emissions of CO2 into the atmosphere supposedly causing a rise in global temperature.

As I see it, the problem with the regulatory regime for the global climate is a clumsy desire by UNEP to regulate combustion processes before the scientific rationale devised by the IPCC was known to be sound.

For me this has been one of the most startling aspects of climate change – the science is horrible and nowhere near reliable enough for regulatory purposes. I suppose one advantage of a carbon market is that m’learned friends are given no opportunity to pick apart the science in an enforcement process based on prosecution.

So what does the future have in store?

To my mind, the most interesting aspect is the future direction of global temperatures. The climate is in charge here, not UNEP or the IPCC. It’s as if Defra had no idea what the Thames might do next.

If a global warming trend sets in, then it will probably be business as usual and the regulatory regime will require climate scientists to carry on as if nothing untoward happened. They won’t spend much time on explaining the warming hiatus either.

If the warming hiatus continues or a global cooling trend sets in, then it may still be business as usual, but how they intend to carry it off I have no idea. There may be contingency plans spoken of in private, but you or I will never hear of them until the press releases pop up.

A much bigger problem is the obvious damage done to national energy policies as they become more and more absurd. Somehow the climate regime may have to compromise on this one.

Don’t bet on it though – regulatory regimes don’t care about a few thousand extra deaths each winter.

Also posted at Broad Oak Magazine

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

The delights of recycling

From Wikipedia

In my view, recycling has two delightful advantages.

Firstly it offers green lifestyle lite - a virtually effortless and pleasingly sanctimonious way to hang onto the old lifestyle.

Secondly it avoids significant changes to the amount of packaging we use. Producers are happy, supermarkets are happy. We are happy. 

Nothing really changes and everyone’s a winner!

Cameron's land of opportunity

I see Cameron has made a schmaltzy claim to be building a land of opportunity.

David Cameron vowed to get behind business to create a "land of opportunity for all", in his big speech to close the Conservative conference.

What on earth does he mean by a distinctly old fashioned use of the word "land" in this context? Land of hope and glory I suppose. 

We are well on the way to becoming a region within the EU. Cameron's use of the word "land" implies a degree of political independence he has no intention of allowing, let alone fostering. In a more rigorous and honest world we'd call it lying.

Piped music

Should purveyors of piped music be boiled in oil?

It's a moot question I know, because there is the added controversy over whether or not their screams of anguish should be recorded and played instead. Would their agonised howls put us off while pottering around Sainsbury's?

A tricky one.