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Greenpeace in our time

2011-06-19 4 comments

Current green energy policy is a complete farce

The cartoon above is just one of many amusing items I’ve just discovered on the Cartoons by Josh website. I’ve been trying to keep my sense of humour about AGW, although when I read that electricity and gas prices are going to go up by 20% and 10%, respectively, in the next months mainly due to feed-in tariffs, and that we will soon be at risk of rolling black-outs because our cretinous politicians think windmills and solar cells can adequately replace our existing coal, gas and nuclear power plants, I’ve felt my blood pressure rising to dangerous levels.

Our energy policy is written by vested interests

Based on the above, you will be not surprised to learn that I was not impressed by the revelation this week that a key author of the IPCC report into climate change was in fact on Greenpeace’s pay-roll. That’s right: someone paid by a lobby group that campaigns on behalf of vested industry interests was a key player in a document which, when implemented by our paid-for politicians, will divert billions (if not trillions) of dollars from customers into said vested industry interests. Then again, this comes after numerous IPCC claims have already be shown to be made up or based on ridiculous assumptions. It’s already be found out that one ‘expert’ report author had not even completed her PhD at the time.

Obviously, we all want to live sustainably and leave our environment in a good state for our children; however, I completely and utterly disagree with those who advocate the dismantling of our economy and lowering of our quality of life to achieve it – all justified on now-thoroughly-discredited computer models.

Nuclear fusion power cannot come soon enough, since it would have so many advantages:

  • No carbon emissions. The only by-products of fusion reactions are small amounts of helium, which is an inert gas that will not add to atmospheric pollution
  • Abundant fuels. Deuterium can be extracted from water and tritium is produced from lithium, which is found in the earth’s crust. Fuel supplies will therefore last for millions of years
  • Energy efficiency. One kilogram of fusion fuel can provide the same amount of energy as 10 million kilograms of fossil fuel
  • No long-lived radioactive waste. Only plant components become radioactive and these will be safe to recycle or dispose of conventionally within 100 years
  • Safety. The small amounts of fuel used in fusion devices (about the weight of a postage stamp at any one time) means that a large-scale nuclear accident is not possible
  • Reliable power. Fusion power plants should provide a baseload supply of large amounts of electricity, at costs that are estimated to be broadly similar to other energy sources

What price sanity in energy policy?

The inconvenient truth about peer review

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I remember watching An Inconvenient Truth, Al Gore’s documentary on man-made global warming, a few years ago. What with dire warnings of rising sea levels, more droughts, hurricanes and floods around the world, drowning polar bears and swarms of malaria-infested mosquitos poised to ravage Europe, the film certainly delivered its key message. I was depressed for a week afterwards.

It’s a shame that it would appear that global warming may well be little, if not nothing, to do with human activity (specifically CO2 levels) at all. Worse, ‘climategate‘ as this whole saga is now referred to, has been denounced by some to be all shady politics rather than based on proper science. Further details on this can be found on the excellent Watts Up With That blog, amongst many others.

Anyway, however this issue plays out, one aspect was particularly interesting to me – namely allegations that leading scientists supplying data to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) interfered with the publication of manuscripts in peer-reviewed journals that went against the ‘accepted’ consensus.

Having been a research scientist myself, I had personal experience of the vagaries (and outright back-stabbing) that is the standard peer-review process. For those who have not had the pleasure, your paper – representing months or years of work – goes off to a journal you believe warrants a piece of research of this calibre. It is then sent off – usually on an anonymous basis – to be reviewed by 2-3 experts in the field, who are supposed to check it thoroughly for errors of fact, point out anything that might be missing, and/or suggests improvements. Assuming you didn’t go for a ridiculously high profile journal, and you jump through the reviewers’ hoops, voila – publication!

Except it often doesn’t work like that. Anonymity is not always assured, since research areas are so narrowly-focused these days that everyone pretty much knows everyone else in the field so can guess who wrote the paper. One or more of your reviewers might hate you, your boss, one of your named co-authors, or your institution. He (or she) may not like your conclusion (whether or not it is correct is irrelevant) – particularly if it contradicts their own pet theory.

Your paper – which could be 100% factually correct with a sound conclusion – can then be vetoed by said reviewer, with no consequences for him (or her), and with little or nothing you can do about it. In the end, all you can do is pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and move onto the next journal. Eventually, you’ll see your name in print.

Remember that this is common in science already, where pretty much the only thing on the line is personal reputation. Throw in global politics, deals involving trillians of dollars per year and massive vested interests and you truly have a process ripe for corruption.

Categories: climategate, science