Chris Huhne is the UK’s former minister for Energy and Climate Change. He may be going to jail, having been sentenced to eight months for ‘perverting the course of justice’. But, for folks like me, he remains unconvicted of a much greater crime of “perverting the course of reason” on the climate debate. Repentant he is not:
Chris Huhne, talking to The Guardian hours before his sentence, said he felt “awful that people I love have been dragged into this gruelling experience“. He added: “I am sorry. I want to say that to family, to friends, to constituents and to colleagues, and more broadly to everybody who cares passionately about the causes I care about, including saving the planet for our children and our grandchildren”.
“Saving the planet” – Oh, the hubris! Lord preserve us…
In the Daily Telegraph (February 9th 2013) Louise Gray said this about wind turbines:
“Already there are 4,366 turbines in operation in the UK providing 8.2GW of power, enough to power 4.5 million homes for a year” (source)
That sounds impressive, no? But is this claim a reasonable one? Quite definitely NOT!
If she is referring to the installed capacity. then the figure of 8.2GW is about right. When I check at Wikipedia (which in turn is based on this), I see the following:
“At the beginning of 2013, the installed capacity of wind power in the United Kingdom was 8,445 megawatts (MW), with 362 operational wind farms and 4,158 wind turbines in the United Kingdom.” (source. 8,445 MW is 8.445GW)
Yet it should be plain as day that installed capacity is not the same as the actual power generated!
Immediately on reading her article I checked at the UK National Grid web site and found that although current demand in the UK was 43.8GW, wind power was only contributing 0.29GW (admittedly it was a calm morning). It’s surely a “tell” that the the designers of the UK National Grid web site have not seen fit to set a maximum reading of their virtual wind energy meter greater than 5GW…
I don’t believe Louise Gray can be unaware of the difference between installed capacity and actual power generated. In fact I know she understands it, because later on in her article she says this:
“In the last year the industry has hit new heights, providing 10 per cent of the UK’s electricity needs – when the wind is blowing. “
This caveat - “when the wind is blowing” – makes some difference! So, given that she understands this big, big difference, how can she allow herself to NOT qualify in a similar way her original statement? Without that caveat it vastly overstates the success of wind power in the UK. One is left to conclude that this is EITHER very sloppy journalism OR deliberately biased reporting on her part.
The way Louise Gray plays fast and loose with installed versus actual wind power capacity puts me in mind of the infamous way telecoms companies exaggerate broadband speed in their marketing literature. This is where they will make claims of, say, “up to 12Mbit/s” to sell their wares. The reality is that next to no one will ever actually obtain the advertised speeds. Fortunately they have come under pressure to be more honest. In 2010, the industry regulator Ofcom said that to combat ISP sleight of hand, they planned to get them to sign up to a new code of practice, so that customers get more information about the true performance they can expect. See “UK broadband ads are a bloody disgrace” for a robust rant on the subject.
Do we need journalists such as Louise Gray to sign up to something similar to stop them using sleight of hand to promote wind power?
Following “climategate”, times are hard for the University of East Anglia (UEA) and their Climate Research Unit (CRU).
But should they be “spinning” quite so hard? After all as the old wisdom goes: “when in a hole, stop digging!“.
In the Sunday Telegraph today Robert Mendick reports that a “source close to CRU” is saying:
“One option is a mole was placed inside the university to leak emails to deliberately discredit the work being done at the CRU” (my emphasis).
A mole “was placed“?
This brings to mind John Le Carre’s “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy“, so wonderfully dramatised on the box all those years ago. Ian Richardson played Bill Hayden, the “sleeper” right at the heart of British secret intelligence – the “circus”.
Does CRU have its own “Bill Hayden”? How long has the mole been a sleeper? How was the mole recruited? By the KGB at Cambridge? Or maybe by ExxonMobil?
Or should we conclude that UEA are trying just a little bit too hard to distract from their scientific embarassment by conjuring up such sinister scenarios?
I was very sad to hear of Michael Crichton’s death this week. Of course he was famous for his books and films (The Andromeda Strain, Rising Sun , State of Fear, Jurassic Park and more) – but to my mind he had great insight as a thinker.
Here’s something from a talk at the California Institute of Technology on Jan. 17, 2003 that I believe is spot on:
“I want to pause here and talk about this notion of consensus, and the rise of what has been called consensus science. I regard consensus science as an extremely pernicious development that ought to be stopped cold in its tracks. Historically, the claim of consensus has been the first refuge of scoundrels; it is a way to avoid debate by claiming that the matter is already settled. Whenever you hear the consensus of scientists agrees on something or other, reach for your wallet, because you’re being had.
Let’s be clear: The work of science has nothing whatever to do with consensus. Consensus is the business of politics. Science, on the contrary, requires only one investigator who happens to be right, which means that he or she has results that are verifiable by reference to the real world. In science consensus is irrelevant. What is relevant is reproducible results. The greatest scientists in history are great precisely because they broke with the consensus.
There is no such thing as consensus science. If it’s consensus, it isn’t science. If it’s science, it isn’t consensus. Period. . . .
I would remind you to notice where the claim of consensus is invoked. Consensus is invoked only in situations where the science is not solid enough. Nobody says the consensus of scientists agrees that E=mc2. Nobody says the consensus is that the sun is 93 million miles away. It would never occur to anyone to speak that way. . . .“
“Consensus is the business of politics” – that’s exactly it. If the scientific revolution counted for anything it was surely the idea that our theories and ideas should be tested against Nature and Reason – not by the whim or bias of some arbitrary social group. Before that revolution it was the Church that exercised social control over ideas. The post-modern advocates of a consensus epistemology are simply replacing that discredited system with a form of control based on an entrenched academia (which in turn can be “managed” by the ruling political class on whom the academics are dependent for funds).
Let’s hope Science can survive!
“Snow fell as the House of Commons debated Global Warming yesterday – the first October fall in the metropolis since 1922. The Mother of Parliaments was discussing the Mother of All Bills for the last time, in a marathon six hour session. ” More on this
How does the UK Met Office’s forecast compare?
“25 September 2008
The Met Office forecast for the coming winter suggests it is, once again, likely to be milder than average. It is also likely that the coming winter will be drier than last year.“
- little planet/big sky
- lo! The waters will rise…
- odds 'n' ends
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