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A PRECAUTIONARY PRINCIPLE

Activities that present an uncertain potential for significant harm should be subject to the best technology available with requirements to minimise the risk of harm unless the proponent of the activity shows that they present no appreciable risk of harm – Wikipedia

A recent UKIPD post had the following paragraph: “People… don’t want fracking and they don’t want pollution, flooding and other effects of unsustainable development. UKIP should be campaigning for the environment on behalf of the people because nobody in parliament is. Descending into climate denial will not win votes.”

During the 2015 election, I mentioned on Radio Suffolk – that we were having an all-candidate roundtable discussion – that I had waged a successful campaign against a wind turbine above my town. It was a 500MW midget which would have done damn all for the climate, damn all for the electricity supply but would nevertheless have made a local landowner much wealthier and reduced the value of houses within two kilometres by 12%. The LibDem candidate asked me very indignantly if I was a “climate denier” There was no thought involved, no use of the brains God gave her. As far as she was concerned the words were enough to prove her case. ‘Denier’, ‘denial’, ‘97% consensus’, the words and phrases trip easily off the tongues of those who have swallowed the dubious and politically-biased science that has been pushed for the last 20 years.

For UKIP to embrace the climate doom narrative now, just as the wheels begin to fall off the bus, would be very short-sighted indeed. Nobody campaigning for the environment? Ye Gods! I sometimes think that those in government have done little else for the last ten years – they have certainly lost sight of their primary responsibilities for the well-being of the people of these islands, of the importance of a balanced budget, of their primary job which is defending our country and our people. They have even forgotten the need to keep the wheels of industry turning and the lights burning. The irony is that their concern for the environment (which they define too narrowly as the global temperature) is largely counter-productive, making things worse rather than better for the creatures which share our land.

An example– That Ladygate turbine above Haverhill would have killed barbastelle
bats, a species which lives along the ridge on which the proposed turbine site was situated. Rare throughout its range, any threat to this creature would normally have the Greens all in a lather, but because the threat was a wind turbine they let the application go through on the nod. UKIP councillors appealed. When the final judgement came down it went our way, and the plan was scrapped, vindicating my claim that it is not the responsibility of the planning system to stuff the pockets of wealthy landowners with gold.

Let’s get a couple of points out of the way. CO2 is a greenhouse gas, which means that the more there is in the atmosphere the warmer the world should be: the amount warmer will depend on positive and negative feedbacks. The difficulty is that the primary feedbacks, cloud cover and water vapour, are not fully understood. When it gets warmer we know that there’s more water vapour in the air, and water vapour is a greenhouse gas, but we also know that when there’s more water vapour in the air we can expect more clouds to form. Low-level clouds like stratocumulus cool. Higher clouds act like a blanket and warm but still reflect a lot of the sun’s rays which reduces the amount of warming to a degree.

(Sorry, sorry….) Does the water vapour/cloud feedback act as a temperature controlling mechanism, with clear skies when it’s cold so the sun’s rays can reach the surface, clouding over when the world gets warmer than the optimum? Possibly. Maybe even probably, but it’s a fiendishly difficult problem to measure with all the various things that are going on. There’s one theory, still unproven, that high surface temperatures set off thunderstorms which siphon heat by the gigajoule up into the stratosphere, well above the majority of the greenhouse gases so that it radiates harmlessly away into space. Next time someone tells you that the primary greenhouse gas is CO2, point out that it isn’t, water vapour is more important by a factor of three.

The theory behind global warming is not simple, although those with an axe to grind (and subsidies to bank) will tell you the science is settled. It’s not: some warming is due to CO2 but we have not proved how much; flooding is a result of over-building; pollution is caused by population pressure; population pressure in the UK is largely caused by uncontrolled immigration. But hey, let’s blame global warming for everything; it makes us feel good about ourselves.

As far as humanity’s total effect on the environment is concerned we are in unknown territory. Is our fossil-fuel-burning generated CO2 the same CO2 that is increasing in the atmosphere? It has the same isotopic signature – the light C12 fraction is increasing – but if we have altered the ecosphere by, for example, increasing the amount of carbon fixed by C4 plants compared to C3 types then that would be expected. Maybe it’s a bit of both, some C12 from us while the C4 plants and phytoplankton pull down larger amounts of the heavier C13 isotope which leaves an unexpected deficiency of C13 so it looks as if there’s more C12… And the planet is greening because of the extra CO2, more carbon-fixing plants covering a combined total area bigger than the continental United States are now green and growing… See? I told you it is more complicated than they’re letting on.

Then there’s the Urban Heat Island effect where buildings and concrete and cars and roads make it warmer. And there’s albedo change – the amount of heat reflected back into space depends on the albedo – and we’ve been cutting down forests, polluting the seas, spewing black carbon onto the pristine Arctic, all of which will give a warming signal. And so on and on…

Complicated.

So complicated that I’m going to need more space, as I particularly want to mention the Chihuahua of Doom.

Editor’s note ~ This article will be continued on Saturday, with particular attention given to the Chihuahua of Doom.

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9 Comments on A PRECAUTIONARY PRINCIPLE

  1. Thanks for quoting my words. It’s OK to credit them to my name. I stand by them. That’s because climate change is not politics, it’s scientific fact. Atmospheric CO2 concentrations are rising steadily. CO2 is a green house gas. Average global temperatures are rising. The three years 2014,2015 and 2016 were the three warmest years on record. 2017 will make it a run of four years. Of course there is some uncertainty in the amount of feedback that will determine how fast it will rise, but it will rise, and no that is not a good thing. It is not just a case of living higher up. When there are difficult decisions to make you have to look at all the pros and cons and weigh them up. Yes, wind farms kill birds and bats, but pesticides, housing developments, cats and power lines kill a lot more. We can mitigate against this by putting wind farms in the right places, such as offshore. Climate change is already killing the Great Barrier Reef and we can’t mitigate against that, or all the other harm climate change will cause if we don’t act now. I hear people say that we should not bother because other countries like China are increasing CO2 emissions. In fact China is investing in renewable energy and already produces a higher percentage of power from renewables than we do. They are doing it partly because they see a need for energy security and sustainability. We should not be relying on the finite reserves of fossil fuels in countries like Russia and Saudi Arabia. What we can’t do with wind power we can do with nuclear. Don’t tell me nuclear is too difficult. We have been doing it for years. France generate 76% of its electricity from nuclear. The only reason we aren’t doing the same is because we paid too much heed to the left. That was politics, climate change isn’t politics, but whether we stop it will be.

    • Philip, perhaps you missed the bit where I mentioned the true science behind warming theory – yes, all things being equal we need to allow for the chance that the warming is anthropogenic, but we need also to accept that there are sufficient grounds to doubt that the science really is settled and the problem may be caused by other than rising CO2 levels.

      What can we do in those circumstances? First do no harm. Many solutions suggested or even being put in place at the moment are actively damaging people – not in the future, not in some distant time when we will all be dead and gone, active harm now. Germany’s dash for renewables has destabilised their grid, had meant that they are turning to the dirtiest fuel possible – brown coal, thick with sulphur and very carbon intensive – in order to keep their lights on and their energy-intensive industries functioning. They make noises about carbon sequestration but it’s pie in the sky, no-one has made it work. They are, actually, cheating. South Australia has had grid disruption for the same reason.

      You say that building full-scale nuclear is simple. I disagree. https://www.theguardian.com/business/2017/apr/14/toshiba-us-nuclear-problems-uk-cautionary-tale
      http://www.ft.com/content/99922334-acc8-11e7-aab9-abaa44b1e130
      BTW, if Toshiba is involved, run for the nearest exit, they made this computer and the operating system is flaky to say the least. I shudder to think what they would mange with really important software.

      So, what’s the quickest way to a lower carbon dioxide future? Natural gas does it. Transporting gas is expensive and boils off a lot of the product, itself a potent greenhouse gas. Best to use the gas we may have. If that’s not possible the USA will – in the future but not quite yet – be better than relying on Russian gas or Qatar. Gas power stations are quick and easy to build and are cheap.

      Slightly longer term, SMRs are almost completely carbon dioxide free.

      My solutions to the problem are affordable, quick and cheaper. Even if, as I suspect, the scare is just hysterical nonsense with CO2 causing only a part of the warming, they are good solutions and do no harm. ‘First, do no harm’ is a good watchword. Relying on renewables has the potential to kill thousands. The Grid is running on very low margins – margins which have been held just the right side of load-shedding by the skill of the engineers. Keep your fingers crossed that their luck doesn’t run out.

      http://www.gridwatch.templar.co.uk/

      JF

  2. Solids and liquids can store heat but not gases unless they enclosed. The belief that CO2 raises the temperature of a gas system is based on the assumption of a closed system in which energy cannot escape. The earth is an open system and hence it cannot accumulate heat in its atmosphere.
    Due to convection currents, warmed gases rise and any excess heat is radiated away through the atmosphere and into space, this is certainly apparent on cloudless nights.
    The seas and land can store heat but not the atmosphere.
    Back in 1863 the science was better understood then it is now.
    http://www.ukipdaily.com/politics-corrupted-science/

    • Gases have a lower heat capacity which is why the temperature of the atmosphere is so variable, but its temperature still rises due to greenhouse gases and some of the heat is transferred to the oceans. Without CO2 in the atmosphere the average global temperature would be around zero celcius instead of the 15 degrees (and rising) that we have. This is very well understood physics. Carbon dioxide concentrations have risen to 30% higher than pre-industrial levels and it is having a dramatic effect on global temperatures. What is really astonishing is people’s capacity is look for reasons to disbelieve well-established scientific facts.

  3. Bats: I was amazed by the attitude of the bat people. It amounted to sticking their fingers in their ears and going nah nah nah. It would be instructive if Greens were forced to assess B&BDPM — bat and bird deaths per month. There’s an article in today’s Guardian which goes on about how wonderful Spain’s wind arrays are — not to migrating raptors they’re not.

    Ship Tracks: In the illo at the head of this post is a beautiful example of ship tracks. The cloud layer is deficient in aerosols, particles on which water vapour can condense. The ships’ exhausts are providing extra condensation nuclei. There was a proposal by Salter and Latham to build wind-powered cloud ships which could increase the albedo and cool the Earth by making aerosols from seawater. It’s a good solution, non-polluting, easily turned on and off, and if things were to turn out for the worst they give us an answer. My favourite theory for what’s gong on is a mix of greenhouse gas warming and pollution of the ocean reducing aerosol production and hence albedo. No evidence apart from years of looking at grossly polluted sea surfaces.

    The other Corbyn: Odd that two brothers should be so different –one a scientist, the other a demagogue.

    JF

    • Politically the brothers are two peas from a pod. Another thing they have in common is that neither have the qualifications or publication record that would justify calling them scientists. Piers Corbyn said in 2009 that the Earth had stopped warming and would continue to cool. He has been proved dramatically wrong by the last four years of temperature records. Why would anyone still be listening to him?

  4. What is the estimated BDPM (Bat Death Per Month) rating for your turbine? 🔮🦇☠️📅

  5. AGW is a specious hypothesis invented as part of a multi-pronged attack on Western Civilisation. Remember where the UN building is and what else has come out of it.

    An expert on Climate is Piers Corbyn whose website is

    http://www.weatheraction.com/

    perhaps Brexiter, Piers, could be induced to provide an article for UKIP Daily?

  6. Yup.

    I know, it’s unbelievable. But explain it to university lecturers. Never mind kids

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