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Thursday, March 25, 2010


Last night I attended the Royal Philosophical Society of Glasgow lecture in which Professor Anne Glover, the Chief Science Advisor & also on the committee of NERC told us all about how dreadfully catastrophic global warming was. I am afraid I was not impressed.

The lecture started by saying how important it is that we stick to the evidence. The sceptics have even done some good by making people focus on the evidence & that was what she intended.

Her evidence for warming turns out not to be that catastrophic warming is actually taking place but that human caused CO2 emissions are rising dramatically & that this means warming must happen. She used this graph foreshortened for the period 1850-2000 & with the perpendicular graph in units of 1 - 25 but without saying in what units This caused me to dump the question I intended to ask, which was about the fact that virtually the entire "scientific consensus" is among the government paid.

Other evidence, from the Antarctic, being that the CO2 in air is higher than it has been in millenia (this being from ice cores & is questioned since it is possible the CO2 leaks more than Oxygen). No mention of the fact that ice at both poles is increasing & that in the Antarctic it never stopped doing so.

She acknowledged that sea level in Scotland is actually falling ie that the land is bouncing back from the last ice age faster than any sea level rise but that in Bangladesh the rise would matter. During a previous lecture to a junior school one of the pupils had said they didn't care about Bangladesh but that she had pointed out to him that in that case the people of Bangladesh would want to come here - mass population movement being another of those things global warming is responsible for.

This was followed by an acknowledgement of the value of having sceptics around because "there is no such thing as truth or certainty" in science.

Then the familiar graph showing how temperature, or at least measured temperature, has risen & also that it has fallen over recent years, though that was ignored & described as "we're experiencing climate change now."

Then there was a graph showing the probabilities of various levels of temperature increase - apparently we have an 85% chance of 2 degree warming. However apart from saying the graph proved the chances she didn't say how this relative certainty had been achieved.

This was followed by another showing what catastrophic effects such increases will have, particularly on food production - though no mention of the increased growth caused by more CO2 & the only mention of all the Canadian & Russia tundra that would become fertile was to say it would be worse at the equator. To be fair to Scotland she did say that warmer weather here might not be bad particularly with the "increase in day length in Scotland" - I kid you not. Presumably some heretofore unknown effect of global warming is that it will tilt the Earth's axis to lengthen our day.

Another effect of warming is an increase in extreme weather such as parasites moving. An example is the midge causing Bluetonge disease in cattle. This previously could only survive in Africa but has now settled in Scotland entirely because of global warming.

She then lectured us on all the non-carbon energy systems we will have to adopt - except without mentioning nuclear.

This must be achieved by the spontaneous enthusiasm of the populace. The role of government is "legislation", "information", "eduction" & "leadership".

Then I learned something I had not appreciated. I have previously written on how the government's decision to reduce CO2 by 42% by 2020, means a reduction in electricity production & thus national wealth of 50%. One of her slides showed that Holyrood has also decided that we must get rid of 100% of CO2 production in making electricity by 2030. That would leave us with about 10% from existing hydro & probably about another 5% from windmills etc. The former requires a 7% annual recession for 10 year - the latter 9% annual decline for 20 years. Perhaps I underestimated when I said the former decision, made unanimously by all parties & MSPs meant they are all clinically insane.

Having slid by that bombshell she assured us that doing all this will only cost us 1% of GNP, because Stern said so, compared to paying 8% of GNP to bail out the banks. Apart from anything else that piece of sleight of hand omits that 1% a year is not the same as 1% in total.

She finished by saying how she had visited the carbon storage project & how "my jaw dropped in amazement" at the technology. The gentleman next to me quietly said "this is Scotland's chief science advisor!".

Audience Questions. The first was about Professor Lovelock quoted as saying that it was all to late anyway. She disagreed.

Then I got mine. First I said I had to point out that Professor Lovelock, having seen the fraud going on, had evidently changed his mind & said that only the sceptics had kept the debate sane. My question was about he CO2 graph - firstly that the period of sharpest rise, roughly 1940 - 75 was, on the other graph she had shown, a period of reduced temperature. Secondly that she ought to be aware that manmade emissions accounted for only 3% of the total & that had total CO2 production been shown the graph would have been of a 3% rise rather than a 2,500% rise.

She replied saying how much she valued the contribution of sceptics it is just that they "don't provide evidence" for their doubts. Really she did. Then that what mattered is that the entire system is so well balanced & there is no countervailing way of reducing CO2 so even a tiny increase is disastrous.

Since plant growth increases with more CO2 that most certainly is a method of taking more out but I contented myself by saying that with CO2 being 300 ppm of the atmosphere & mankind producing only 3% of it that is 9 parts in a million which is not much to cause catastrophe.

She replied by saying that it was so finely balanced that just a 2 - 3C rise would be enough to melt Greenland. I wished to reply that since we have had a 4C rise during the climate optimum of 9,000 - 5,000 BC but Greenland has been unmelted for at least 650,000 years that could not be correct but was told, quite properly since it is a lecture not a debate, that my time was up.

She was also asked a couple of questions about nuclear power. Particularly had she, in her role of chief science advisor, advised the government that it was impossible to keep the lights on without nuclear? The questioner, correctly in my opinion, implied that it was her absolute duty to give good such good advice on the issue. She ducked a direct answer saying that some less chiefly advisers knew more about nuclear but agreed that "nobody ever said wind can provide baseload - baseload is coal, gas & oil" (though presumably not in 2030).

She also rather praised recession as a way of cutting CO2 saying of the graph shown "if I had extended the graph it would have shown another dip".

While this lecture may do for frightening younger schoolchildren the Royal Phil is a society with a lot of very qualified members, moreso than me & I think are entitled to expect something more serious.


Dear Professor Glover,
I attended your lecture at the Royal Phil last night & have written it up for my blog. I think it fair & accurate but hope you will let me know if you think otherwise or if there is any assertion in it you wish to alter.

I was interested to see that you are a senior person on the £400 million a year NERC. The boss of NERC did once, through the columns of the Guardian, challenge sceptics to a public &/or online debate but when the challenge was accepted, for some unknown reason, went silent. Would you be willing to take part in a public debate on warming? If you are going to be busy all this year do you know of any other representative of that government information propagation organisation who would?

Neil Craig

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What is about biology that it seems to attract more than its fair share of people who seem unable to keep things in a sensible perspective?

Paul Ehrlich is perhaps the worst ever, but then there is also Monbiot of the Guardian, and Amy Bishop of the tenure shootings.

I suspect it is a lack of maths and physics ability. This chap thinks it is a lack of economics knowledge: 'What are the lessons to be learned from this record of badly exaggerated predictions of environmental disaster? First, scientists, even well meaning ones, don't know as much as they think they do. They generally go wrong because they ignore or misunderstand how human beings interact with the natural world and with other people, that is, they are largely ignorant of economics. This ignorance constantly leads them astray because as biologists and ecologists, they tend to think that human beings are merely more clever herds of deer. When deer run out of their sustenance, they die. When human beings begin to run out, they turn their brains and their social institutions to producing more. Science can tell us what may be problems, but it can't tell us what to do about them. Solutions depend on a deep understanding of human values, politics, and economics. Scientists are no more qualified to pronounce on those topics than their non-scientific confreres and fellow citizens. ' (
It is something to do with Biology. The subject that is. It seems to have far more than its fair share of people who cannot see things in any sensible perspective, and get carried away with what others would dismiss as trivial speculation. There is Ehrlich of course, the daddy of fantasy alarmism, and Monbiot the unhinged journalist, and Amy Bishop who shot half her faculty and her brother. Whoops, she doesn't really belong here, except that she is also a bit of a moonbat.

I put it down to not enough mathematics in their schooling, but here's a chap who blames their lack of economics:
Thanks, that is a good article. The economist Julian Simon did win his bet with Ehrlich on commodity prices falling in real terms for exactly these reasons.

My feeling is that "sciences" can be divided between those requiring complex maths & for which the answer is a matter of fact & those where it isn't & the answers are a matter of opinion, or worse, of government opinion. I would be happy to see a formal division between the 2. Economics should be rigorous but, I suspect because government has such a strong interest in certain answers having "expert" support, it often isn't.
I have also noted that the most ardent AGW support comes from biologists. It seems that they start with the presumed consequences and work back to an assumed cause.They entirely miss out the physics and logic. perhaps their training does not included much physics?

Arthur Eddington famously divided the sciences into two varieties, physics and stamp-collecting.
she did say that warmer weather here might not be bad particularly with the "increase in day length in Scotland"

Words fail me.

What the heck was that about:

"an increase in day length"

Do you have a transcript?
It wasn't recorded so i have no transcript but I was there & as you can see I have invited her to deny or "clarify" what she said.

Having also seen her on a BBC TV programme saying she didn't understand technology I have to conclude the professor is an idiot.
Since this was written the SNP government have promised that this "100% renewable" goal will be reached by 2020.

Aye carumba.
It is a bit ironic that Scotland is really the only part of the UK that could meet _any_ significant proportion of its electricity demand with 'renewables' i.e. hydro, albeit at enormous REAL environmental cost. You're right to raise a metaphorical eyebrow though - it's still utter nonsense.

We might also contemplate how many additional windmills, hydro projects, etc. will have to be built to accommodate the power needs of each year's new immigrants.

Given the distance from the Highlands to Tower Hamlets (and attendant transmission losses), expect an announcement concerning planning consent on Leith Hill any day now.

I'm so glad we now have joined-up policies.
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