Proper Way to View Risks

October 26, 2016

From “25 Myths That are Destroying the Environment”, by Daniel B. Botkin. ISBN 9781442244924

What are the chances it will happen? What will be the effect if it does? What are the chances that we can fix things and prevent damage to begin with? And how much will the equivalent of an insurance policy cost, versus how much it will cost to repair the damage?

Another scare? Giant Kelp Sea Forests “Gone by 2100” Declare Experts. Oh No.

June 22, 2014

In today’s Sunday Times (UK), page 3, front main section (“News”):

Britain’s giant kelp forests–the sea weed that cover vast stretches of its surrounding seabeds–are being wiped out by human activities and will disappear within a few decades, marine biologists have warned.

Screen Shot 2014 06 22 at 10 24 15

They go on to explain how they create a rich environment “for thousands of other marine creatures, including many commercially valuable species”.

They say that the kelp forests are likely to disappear by 2100, “destroyed by a combination of climate change and ocean acidification, both caused by CO2 generated by humans burning fossil fuels”. The leader of the study, Juliet Brodie, professor of Botany at the Natural History Museum in London also said that more storms caused by climate change would add to the destruction. Professor Jason Hall-Spencer from Plymouth University, a co-author of the paper, was also quoted “What is staggering is how fast warming and the spread of corrosive waters are changing marine life around our coasts.”

The author of the piece was by Jonathan Leaker, Science Editor of the Times.

The report was also discussed in NERC’s publication “The Planet Earth Online” at where they conclude with a paragraph saying something different (my bold):

The results of these changes will be complex, though, and not all organisms will lose out. Seagrasses and kelp forests may thrive at high latitudes due to increases in CO2. These are productive ecosystems that raise seawater pH as they grow. If we look after these habitats properly they should continue to store carbon and provide bio-diverse habitats for commercially important fish and shellfish.

Humm. It must feel good to be so certain about all this. Any uncertainty is not mentioned.

I’m going to have to do some more reading as I don’t recall reading very many definitive papers on how the oceans are warming, how pH of oceans will actually become acidic (the sea is already corrosive and the pH is well north of acidic), or how more storms will be caused by climate change, nor how storms in deep water affect the bottom. Lots of things to learn, I guess. A lot of this doesn’t make sense to me and it’s not because I don’t already have a lot of knowledge of these issues.

How did this article make it to page 3 of the Sunday Times? This is just sensationalism. Oh … Now I understand how it got on page 3.

Renewable Energy Industry Faces “Shelf” in Growth in 2019..

March 19, 2014

In today’s Scotsman paper, reporting on what was said at the recent Scottish Renewables Conference in Edinburgh.

Speakers at the Scottish Renewables conference in Edinburgh said the UK government needs to extend the pricing guarantees offered by its recent electricity market reform (EMR) into the next decade to give investors in wind farms and other green energy projects more certainty.

Mike Thompson, head of carbon budgets at the committee on climate change, said: “It’s a cliff edge for the power industry after 2019. The government have not said where we are going. When a new government comes in next year, the priority is to get EMR extended.”

Further confirmation of sustainability risks for the “sustainable” solution?

Somerset Flooding Self-Inflicted

February 4, 2014

We hear all about how the awful recent flooding in Somerset (England) was do to government not taking action, and “climate change”. Turns out the floods are direct result of European Union Policy introduced in 2007 and adopted formally by the UK Environmental Agency in 2008.


Finally, we get an explanation that makes sense and is understandable. Not the policy is necessarily a good one and perhaps not something the people of Somerset would agree with had they known, but at least a good explanation of the root cause.

A Real Climate Scientist at Edinburgh Free Fringe

August 6, 2013

I had the opportunity last night to hear Dr. Andrew Russell, Brunel University, speak at an event sponsored by the Edinburgh Skeptics at the Edinburgh Free Fringe.

In summary I can characterise his presentation as smattering of slides that were meant to cement his status as a legitimate climate scientist and present the “climate science consensus”. He mostly used ad hominem arguments to support the science and its consensus.

On the science, his message is basically that since CO2 is a greenhouse gas, and CO2 is increasing, we are heading to severe “global warming”, and it predominately caused by humans (AGW: Anthropogenic Global Warming); therefore, this situation has to be reversed by humans by “de-carbonising”.

He acknowledged that water vapour has a greater green house effect and “does all the work” on the earth’s climate–but CO2 is the “trigger” and is the root cause. The wavelength where “most” of the radiation leaves the earth is where CO2 absorbs most. To have a long term change to the atmosphere you need something that stays in the atmosphere for a long time. Water falls out of the atmosphere quite quickly as rain, but CO2 stays in the atmosphere for up to 100 years. Therefore C02 is the main driver of climate change even though water vapour does most of the work.

It appeared that the majority of the audience were in agreement of this “consensus”.

  • He said many if not most “skeptics” are “contrarians” and believe in conspiracy theories, e.g. smoking has little to do with with cancer and that the 9/11 attack was a conspiracy led by the American Government. Therefore those skeptical of the “consensus” have no credibility.
  • While said that CO2 [molecules] can stay in the atmosphere for up to 100 years, others [See here.] say it’s closer to 5 years. That long-term residence of CO2 in the atmosphere is why CO2 is the “main driver.
  • There are lots of problems with computer climate models, he says.
  • On a number of occasions he said that skeptics can’t and won’t publish their work in in peer-reviewed journals [“like we do”]. He did say that the [“not respected by us climate scientists”] journal “Energy and Environment” publishes papers by skeptics.
  • Both the Arctic and Antarctic are quickly losing massive quantities of ice.
  • He showed correlations of world GNP with CO2 concentration since the days of Burnel. [I did not ask how much GNP would, therefore, go down as the UK and world “de-carbonises”.]
  • He said many “skeptics” are in the debate to only to “win” and care not of the effect of AGW on society. Dr. Russell specifically said that James Delingpole motivations are only to “win”.
  • He says that climate science is based on the preponderance of evidence and not experiments. Experiments on the earth are not possible, he says. He says that scientific theories are offered and if after a while the theory is not dis-proved,it must be “right” and thus is established. He says “science works that way.” [Richard Feynman might have had something to say about that had he heard Dr. Russell say that].
  • He said skeptics funded by oil companies. In particular he said the Global Warming Foundation is funded by oil firms–mentioning its leader Lord Lawson by name–and that Lord Monckton is primarily funded by “mining interests”. [I believe Lawson and Monckton says differently.]
  • He characterised Anthony Watts as “just a weather man” who knows little of climate science. Russell acknowledged Watt’s widely-read and influential web site. Russell proved Watts’ lack of expertise by showing demonstrate Watts’ erroneous understanding of radiation.
  • American “Think Tanks”, funded by the religious right, are at the heart of the skeptic industry.
  • To help and convince the Chinese to de-carbonise, he proposes that the UK design and build for them nuclear power plants.

He did not say what would happen when the earth warms due to AGW, but clearly suggested it would be “bad”. About the only thing he did say was that the topics would be uninhabitable and that would lead to all those people moving away and that would be a big problem.

He did not demonstrate any understanding of risks (and/or opportunities) of the warming he expects.

Speaking with a few attendees before the event, the recurring theme of fear was about the green house effects of carbon dioxide and ocean “acidification”. The two issues are related in their mind and they wish that we would de-carbonise so that the ocean would stop “becoming an acid waste”.

I found the whole thing rather depressing that he thinks this way and worse–he appeared to get away with it.

Slate: “Why Don’t Farmers Believe in Climate Change?”

July 16, 2013

Slate has an interesting article today.

Take, as an example of skepticism, Iowa corn farmer Dave Miller, whose day job is as an economist for the Iowa Farm Bureau. As Miller is happy to explain, it’s not that farmers in Iowa don’t think climate change is happening; it’s that they think it’s always been happening and therefore is unlikely to have much to do with whatever us humans get up to down at ground level. Or, as the National Farm Bureau’s spokesman Mace Thornton puts it: “We’re not convinced that the climate change we’re seeing is anthropogenic in origin. We don’t think the science is there to show that in a convincing way.” (Given the basic physics of CO2 capturing heat that have been known for more than a century and the ever-larger amounts of CO2 put into the atmosphere by human activity, it’s not clear what “science” he’s holding out for.) The numbers back that up: When Iowa State University sociologists polled nearly 5,000 Corn Belt farmers on climate change, 66 percent believed climate change is occurring, but only 41 percent believed humans bore any part of the blame for global warming.

(My Bold)

A farmer is quoted:

The key to reaching farmers is bringing them practices that improve their farms. “If you can help me deal with weather variability,” Miller says, “I can probably adapt to climate variability.”

Makes sense.

Quantitative Risk Assessment

June 13, 2013

Yesterday I attended the Palisade Software Risk Conference in London. While one or two of the presentations were a miss, there were some terrific presentations and conversations with other attendees which were enlightening and inspiring. It had been a while since I used @Risk software in earnest so I thought it was about time to kick the tires again.

I’m organising a golf outing for later this summer. We are certain of the costs (unit and overheads), but are uncertain about how many people will attend. I am assuming 21, but it could be as much as 28 (unlikely) or something less than 21. I’ve assumed here 12 as the minimum.

I know how much the golf rounds cost, how much food costs, the budget for the prizes, etc.

We plan to charge £100, which is £15 more than we normally charge. More than that is considered beyond the market.

How does this look if we model it in @Risk? See the following summary of the computation of surplus income:

The spreadsheet:


The Output (surplus) shown as a probability distribution:


Nice. It tells me we should consider charging more for the event as the current projections show we are unlikely to cover our costs.