Monday 7 December 2009

Global Warming, Wind Farms and the Wild

With the UN Climate Change Conference taking place in Copenhagen over the next two weeks the coverage of global warming in every type of media from blogs to newspapers is growing louder and more vociferous by the day. On the surface there appears to be a debate going on as to whether global warming is taking place at all and if it is whether human beings are in any way responsible. However when you look at what the experts say, the scientists who have studied this for years, then the vast majority say the climate is warming and that human activity is at least partly responsible, which means we can do something about it by changing out activity. All the major scientific organisations and societies worldwide are in agreement on this. Now, I’m not a climatologist or indeed any sort of scientist but when there is near consensus on something I think it is sensible for non-experts like me to accept it as true. The idea that all these different scientists and organisations could be part of some vast conspiracy to con the public into believing global warming was happening just seems ridiculous. Of course the science isn’t absolutely proven, nothing scientific ever is, but it is extremely unlikely to be wrong.

I’ve been following the global warming story for many, many years due to my interest and concern with conservation and the environment. It has not been a happy journey. There used to be agreement between conservationists and environmentalists on almost everything. Not any more. Enviromentalism now means global warming before everything. Groups like Friends of the Earth were hailing as a great victory for conservation the defeat of a proposed quarry on the island of Harris. Now they are in favour of giant wind turbines stretching mile after mile in the same place. Anything that can be seen to do something to combat global warming, however miniscule, is justified to environmentalists regardless of any other damage it may do. The idea of wilderness and nature having any value has gone. FOE founder David Brower, who spent much of his life fighting for wilderness protection and restoration, would be horrified to discover the group now favours industrialising wild places. I used to support groups like FOE. I find it hard to do so now. And when an environmental activist like George Monbiot calls for wind turbines on top of every hill in Scotland I think people like him are enemies of wild places and therefore my enemies too.

Global warming threatens humanity as we live at present, in our ever burgeoning numbers, and the natural world as it exists now. It does not threaten the planet or life in general. But it could wipe out many species and habitats as well as ruining our lifestyle. So I do think action needs to be taken. But that action must not also wipe out species and habitats. Environmentalists say that covering the hills in wind turbines, roads and power lines is necessary because otherwise the hills will suffer due to global warming. So destroying them now is okay because if we don’t they’ll be destroyed in the future? No, this is not okay. The price for combating global warming cannot be the trashing of wild places. To do so would be to so diminish the world that it would not be worth saving anyway. If wild places, the environment we come from and depend on, cannot be saved then what can? Wilderness, I truly believe, is essential to the human spirit. It’s not an add-on, not an option. We need it.

Photo info: The lower Khumbu Glacier in Nepal. It is estimated that this glacier is shrinking by 20 metres a year. Canon EOS 300D, Canon EF-S 18-55 lens @ 22mm, 1/125 @ f8, ISO 100, raw file converted to JPEG in Lightroom 2.5


  1. Yes, you're right of course, Chris. But unfortunately there's a problem, which the recent Climategate has highlighted.

    What the leaked emails *and* computer code have proved is that there has been, at the very least, a considerable amount of data 'massaging'. The CRU based at East Anglia University is *the* world authority on temperature data. What is now emerging is that there were very good reasons for their resistance to FOI requests. They have been very selective in their choice of temperature stations (data from the 1800s up to the 1960s is taken from thousands of stations around the world. Data from the past 40 years is taken from a handful of carefully selected locations to produce the desired results). Much of the data that they fed into the IPCC report was NOT peer-reviewed, it has now emerged.

    I'm not saying this disproves global warming is happening or that deforestation is bad.

    I'm just saying that what happened at CRU is a symptom of a more general malaise that has infected not just the environmentalists you mention, but public discourse in general.

    There has been increasingly a move towards ideological polarisation that has discouraged debate. And people like the BBC for instance have been using things like soap operas or drama (like Spooks) to put out propaganda in favour of the global warming package.

    So there's no surprise in the fact that you get people like Monbiot saying every hill in Scotland should have turbines. In their mind it's an all or nothing package and they've created a mentality where the moaning of hill walkers about 'spoiled views' are just seen as little more than a tantrum from people of no consequence. We complain about the loss of views when the world is sinking under the melted ice.

    By now the argument is totally lost. They WILL plaster every hill in Scotland with turbines. With the plants already approved, in three years time this country will be unrecognisable to someone who's been away for a while. In ten years' time it will be much worse.

    But we've lost it, Chris, and we've lost it because we haven't challenged the argument as a whole. It comes as a package. You can't argue that yes, you agree with them about the big issues but wind farms are the not the solution. If you grant the first step in the argument, they'll always come back to you saying: look, it's the only thing we can do NOW.

    But the fact of the matter is that the science is NOT settled. Which is not to say that we mustn't change our ways. It'd be mad to go on wasting resources like we're doing.

    So we're caught between siding with the nutters on the one side (saying that there is NO truth to global warming and that we can go on polluting to our hearts' content) and those on the other side, that have long mutated into religious zealots, ready to burn at the stake anyone who doesn't agree with them on every point.

    And if you say to someone like Monbiot that wind turbines ARE a waste of resources, they won't buy that. They'll tell you, look in 30 years time we'll take them down with not a trace left, what are you moaning about, you self-absorbed egotist. Grow up, give up on your views and the future generations will be grateful.

    What they don't see, is that the current political climate is such that estates all over Scotland are building new bulldozed tracks all over the place because with the wind farm construction work going on right left and centre they feel entitled to treat the countryside like dirt too. After all, if the Scottish Government vandalises the hills, why shouldn't they?

    The long term outcome is: our hills are being commodified for good. It will be irreversible. We'll never get them back they way they were.

    Wilderness, bye bye.

  2. I think the science is settled. There's vastly more evidence than that produced by the CRU, though from what I've seen their evidence will hold up anyway.

    I'm not by nature a pessimist so I still think we can save the hills, or at least most of them, and start restoring the habitats, for, of course, they have been damaged already by overgrazing and bulldozed roads.

  3. I'm with you on this Chris, we're copping the same treatment down here in Australia. I've seen survey marks all over the NW coast of Tasmania, so it's just a matter of time.

    My take on the 'science is settled' is that people read that phrase the wrong way. It doesn't mean that the science won't change (or can't change), or that new insights won't be gleaned from existing data - it means that there is enough parallel but totally independent studies using different researchers and different data that there is no other reasonable explanation.


  4. Chris - I am sceptical about the "man made" bit in global warming. However.....I totally agree with the thrust of your post. Windfarms are trashing the hills and no-one seems to care.

    However , even with my scepticism I think we should be relying less on oil for geopolitical reasons. Reliance on oil has kept us in thrall to some very nasty regimes in the middleeast - the west rarely speaks up against human rights abuses in Saud i A because it cannot afford to put the oil at risk.

  5. Nice piece Chris. I do agree with parts of it. I am not to familiar what the government and NGOs in the UK want in respect to renewable energy, but here in Finland it is a widely accepted fact that wind energy is most efficiently harvested off-shore. Sure there is a place for some windmills on hills, but to demand that every hill should have a windmill is ludicrous. We also set on many different renewable energy sources, wind, biomass, geothermal, biogas and solar, all have their place.

    Concerning Anonymous here, if he/ she doesn't have the guts to write this BS under his own name, how credible is that?

  6. Chris

    on another topic, do you ever feel slightly queazy about the whole outdoor equipment / magazine industry? I am thinking of the way in which it relies on selling gear - flogging things. The latest base layer, the latest waterproof, the latest sac..... so much gear. Thinking about preserving the planet surely we must start to be more about encouraging more thrift, thinking about making gear last, about being realistic about what we really need to own. I know you sometimes review cheaper things, but surely there is a need to reflect on these things?

    I am as bewitched as anyone - I see a new bit of gear (e.g. reviewed in TGO) and I want it - but that sort of attitude is what is ultimately driving the destruction of the wild - my desire for more stuff trumps my desire for the hills to be wild.

    Then again, the gear advertisers fund the magazines so you have to be careful.......

  7. Well, I'm not sure how anyone can say the CRU evidence will hold up anyway, given that they've admitted they've dumped much of the raw temperature data. We just have no way of telling what they did to the data other than the computer code used in their models is extremely iffy and unprofessional (a fact if ever there was one).

    As far as global temperatures are concerned, most of the science available has been piggy-backed on the data outputted by CRU (or closely related institutions that clearly shared the same research 'ethics' or lack thereof as evinced from the leaked emails). So it seems hard to deny that there's a cloud over the entire enterprise (whenever ideology is driving science, cool assessment of the facts goes out of the window).

    My point anyway was a dialectic one. If you concede that global warming is a "clear and present danger" (where have I heard that phrase before) as the Government is insisting, then you have not a leg to stand on to resist wind farm developments.

    They will always come back to you and say: look, Chris, you're complaining about the loss of views? If we don't do anything, we'll lose the entire planet. What's the loss of a few cherished viewpoints against the permanent damage to the planet?Are you selfish or something? Think of our grandchildren. Will we tell them we did nothing because we didn't want to spoil a few views?

    You just have no comeback on that. They'll insist it's only temporary, 25 years or so, and that you cannot possibly object to wind farms if you're serious about global warming. Something must be done, and above all it must seen to be done.

    That's where my pessimism comes from.

    There's no middle way for an environmentalist like your good self to say 'yes, the science is settled, but wind farms are not the solution'. That's not an option on the table, as any discussion with FOE-types does show.

    And of course, Scotland is windier than the rest of Britain and English marginal constituencies are a long way away.

    So that's where they'll put up more and more wind farms.

    (thanks for publishing my unbearably long post above!)
    Check the latest map from the Scottish Government detailing the wind farms already approved, those being considered and those being scoped for submission, and weep with me.

  8. Anyone interested in the windfarm debate would do well to read David Mackay's book 'Sustainable energy: without the hot air'. A pdf is available free at the link below:

    In the book he calculates exactly how much energy we can create from renewable sources and compares that to the amount we use. His conclusion was that even if we go all out down the renewable route (area the size of Wales covered in land based wind turbines, offshore wind turbines along entire Atlantic seaboard, tidal in every suitable location, pumped storage hydro in every suitable location, lots of clean coal etc)there is still a gap between what we can generate and what we require. This gap needs to be filled and - however unpalatable it may seem - the best way to fill it is probably to build more nuclear power stations.

    My question is this: if we are going to have to build more nuclear power stations anyway,why bother polluting the hills with wind farms? Should we not just bite the bullet and build the nuclear power stations? This is an important debate and one that is currently being stifled by the feel good factor created by the construction of highly visible - but ultimately ineffectual - wind farms.

    This week's Guardian Science weekly provided a further point to throw into the mix. It featured an interview with biologist and conservation campaigner EO Wilson in which he put forward the view that there is currently an over emphasis on saving the physical environment (reducing greenhouse gas emissions to mitigate global warming) but insufficient emphasis on saving the living environment (preserving habitat and hence biodiversity, which is being lost at an increasing rate). His point was that if we shifted focus onto the preservation of the living environment it is likely that these actions would also have a beneficial effect on the physical environment. The reverse, however, is not necessarily true. He calls for intergovernmental action on biodiversity loss along the lines of the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change).

    You can hear EO Wilson present his case by following the link below:

    There is no doubt that these are interesting, important and contentious topics. I will be using my own blog to address them in more detail in the coming weeks.

  9. Just one more thing and then I'll shut up.

    This was in yesterday's Herald:

    Crucial quote: "further expansion of onshore wind farms will be necessary whatever the consequences."

    And the general tone of the article is: stop moaning and accept wind farms as the dominant feature of the Scottish landscape for generations to come.

  10. Michael, excellent explanation of what "the science is settled" actually means.

    Good luck with protecting Tasmania's wilderness. I hear it's spectacular.

  11. Chris, I agree completely with regard to oil. And we oil is going to run out anyway so we need alternatives.

  12. Hendrik, conservation NGOs are in generally in favour of offshore wind here. Environmental NGOs are in favour of windmills almost anywhere. There is a concentration on wind power here rather than the whole mix. I do think more money and research is needed for other forms of renewable energy.

  13. Chris, yes I do feel concerned about the outdoor industry. I've always tried to encourage people to buy gear that will last and use it until it's worn out. And to support environmentally concerned companies like Patagonia and Paramo. The outdoor industry has made progress on this. In Europe there is the European Outdoor Group has done much on sustainability in recent years -

  14. Anonymous, I don't think it is a simple either/or for wind farms in the hills. Combating global warming does not mean accepting wind farms anywhere. Even pro windfarm bodies like the RSPB say this. Of course it's much easier to say that you oppose wind farms because global warming isn't happening but I think that's an indefensible position. The science of global warming is just about unassailable. I think we have to give positive reasons for protecting wild land not negative ones. If we fight on the grounds that global warming isn't happening then we will lose. If we fight on the grounds that the hills are worth protecting then we will have some success at least.

  15. Gavin, excellent comment. I'll look out for your blog post. E.O.Wilson's proposal is important. I agree with him completely. The living environment is what I meant by nature in my post.

  16. The global warming issue, regardless of your position on it, has clouded the water enough that the industrial wind profiteers have been able to sell their ineffective and costly snake oil which harms the environment and depletes taxpayer coffers. All the while, their enablers have been busy counting donations and patting themselves on the back for a job well done.

    Your concerns are shared by those of us in mountain communities finding ourselves under attack by these scam artists. If you have time you might find this interview of interest. - A Conversation with Jon Boone – Industrial Wind and the Environment - ( )

    Profit is the driver. Without massive government (taxpayer) subsidies not one of these eagle grinding tinker toys would be placed.

    I can only recommend that readers not fall for the illusionist's trick of using global warming as the decoy while they fill their bank accounts.

  17. Anonymous, can you post a link to the Scottish Government windfarm map you allude to above please?

  18. Gavin, not sure if this is the one anyonymous meant but this is from March this year:

  19. Actually a lot o the mountain tops in Australia are considered sacred by Aboriginals and walking onto the summit is discouraged. Also any building at all. Now theres an idea...

  20. Chris.

    I find it difficult to take any AGW argument seriously when comments like those from Anon; "As far as global temperatures are concerned, most of the science available has been piggy-backed on the data outputted by CRU (or closely related institutions that clearly shared the same research 'ethics' or lack thereof as evinced from the leaked emails)" are routinely sidestepped and ignored by AGW supporters.

    It is fact that most AGW research scientists have used the same distorted data set. This means that their research is useless.

    As an example:
    The historical temperature monitoring stations throughout the USA have been used in their entirety even when it is know that significant numbers of the stations have been effectively 'engulfed' by urbanisation over their recording lifetimes. The AGW scientists have been recording rises of 0.2 and 0.3 deg C as significant evidence of AGW wheras in fact the effect of urbanisation on the stations has had an increase in temperature effect of plus 2.1 to 2.3 deg C. However the AGW researchers have carried on regardless and used the data from these stations.

    Bearing in mind they were looking at expected rises of an order smaller, it is not surprising that the media, when looking at the un-peer reviewed (despite FOI requests) published results were alrmed and picked up the torch for action on AGW.

    The UEA team were well aware of the distorted data, and yet continued to promote it's use as 'proof' of AGW.
    So - No. The science is not 'settled' at All. In fact - quite the reverse.

    And quite how Hendrick can call 'Anon's reasoned argument 'Bullshit' just compounds the very real fear of the growing proportion of science based individuals that the AGW brigade have reverted to name calling now as they cannot justify their spurious claims.

  21. Alan I disagree completely. I think the science is unassailable as it comes from some many different highly creditable sources. The vast majority of scientists agree AGW is happening based on all the evidence. The arguments about temperatures and urbanisation is an old one that was proven wrong years ago. Here's a piece from the BBC in 2004 about a study published by the Met Office in Nature:

    I think the CRU emails are a red herring that have been seized on by the opponents of global warming, whose leaders are funded by the oil,coal and big energy companies.

    The only spurious claims are those of AGW deniers.


  23. anonymous, that link is conspiracy theory rubbish

  24. Do we have to use the term "deniers"? Too many shades of holocaust denial. I am questioning a theory, not denying any facts. And the so called facts are pretty hard to determine.

    As I said above it is all complicated. The climate changes. What impact man is having is the question. There are datasets and there are models which project things into the past and future. The data sets can be questioned and the assumptions in the models - especially about feedback effects - can be questioned.

    With regard to the data sets the urbanization argument I don't think has been answered - fascinating post here for example tracing the way in which the raw data is manipulated. It is fascinating.

    I also must admit to being pretty sceptical about most of what the BBC puts out.

    Anyway, what puzzles me is that if people really really believed all this then they would live differently. They make a big fuss about it and then go on consuming. As I said above the outdoors magazines are just as guilty - advertising more and more stuff that we don't really need and then complaining about AGW. It is inconsistent.

  25. Here's some useful links on global warming: - blows away the myths of global warming deniers - the met office data showing global warming is happenind

  26. Chris, questioning a theory if one thing. I'm talking about peoplee denying the evidence of the vast majority of science and saying global warming isn't happening. I think this is akin to evolution denial.

    It is complicated and the outcome is uncertain and there are many possibilities but what is incontrovertible from all the evidence is that global warming is happening. The World Metereological Organisation has just said 2009 will probably be the warmest year on record. The Met Office has released its data showing this decade is the warmest on record:

    People often don't change their behaviour despite evidence it might be wise to do so. People continue to live on flood plains, below volcanoes and in other dangerous places.

    The inconsistency is that our society is based on production and consumption. That isn't likely to change. All governments and people want economic growth. So the only solution is to have growth without or at least with much reduced carbon output.

  27. Re the met office's position, even that is not as clear as it seems.

    See here

    To be honest all this is getting nowhere. You seem pretty convinced of your position...all I am saying is that I do not think the evidence is as clear as we are being told and there is scope for a more open mind.

    If you are in favour of reduced carbon output - and as I said above I think it would be wise in terms of politics to reduce our reliance on oil and the corrupt states that control it - what do you see as a replacement given that you do not want windmills on hills? Nuclear?

    That inconsistency remains I think - we have oil or we have growth. If you want to cut the reliance on oil we will have to consume less of everything - including fleeces, waterproof shells, tents and headtorches. Oil is running out anyway so we need to consume less.

  28. Chris, I think the evidence is clear. As I've said before as a non-expert I can only go by what the vast majority of scientists say and they say the evidence is clear.

    Reduced carbon output is essential anyway as you say - oil will run out and maybe fairly soon (this is an area where there doesn't seem to be clear evidence).

    I don't think windmills in the hills will have much effect on global warming anyway, which is a different argument. I think there should be a mix of renewables, including offshore windmills, and rapid research into other renewables. Energy conservation is crucial too. A vast amount of energy is wasted. I'd rather not see more nuclear power stations as I'm not convinced the waste can be disposed of safely but I think they are now inevitable.

    As oil runs out either substitutes will have to be found or we will have to do without some items. Reycling is important here. Fleeces can easily be made from recycled polyester, as some are. Companies like Patagonia and GoLite are using more and more recycled materials.

  29. After hiking the Appalachian Trail this year the one thing that stood out more than any other was my addiction to driving, having to many material possesions, etc. I am trying to ride my bike or walk more, not aquire all the things I used to think I needed, and grow plants and herbs. I would love to have a few acres for chickens and goats, but for now I have to settle with store bought products.

  30. Chris

    You continue to paste links that have been run over and flattened in the recent discussions on climate change.

    That New Scientist Article has been comprehensively dismissed over a year ago. The other 'Chris' has pointed you to the mangling of the dataset by the CRU/UEA and others with ridiculous 'corrections' that are the only reason that temperatures are shown to be rising. The CRU has been understandably secretive about its manipulation of the dataset as it completely blows a massive hole in their flawed 'science'.

    You continue to support the 'weight of the scientific opinion' without first challenging for yourself its veracity.

    Perhaps, if you were to dig a little deeper than you have currently, you would find that the IPCC was actually set up and funded very generously by Margaret Thatcher to gain a moral high-ground in Europe in her search for 'clean power' when she was fighting off the miners to shut down what she saw as an old industry in favour of nuclear power. Hwever, at the time Britain was percieved as the dirty man of Europe with our pollution of fresh water, the air, the beaches and the sea.

    By funding the IPCC she wrested the initiative from the European Commissionby making greenhouse warming a global issue with Britain not just at the table but in the chair.

    In her own memoirs she explained a more partisan consideration in her policy: The environmenatal lobby used the concern about global warming to attack capitalism, growth & industry. She wanted authority in the environmental debate to'ensure a sense of proportion'.

    'Britain achieved its goal of a seat at the table by creating the famous IPCC. The trick was done by a 'negotiated agreement between scientific institutions largely competing with each other for scarce resources.'

    And so it continues at an even more alarming rate, today as seen at Copenhagen.

  31. Alan, why do the vast majority of climate scientists say the evidence shows AGW is happening and a serious problem?

    I just don't believe in vast conspiracy theories involving the most prestigious scientifice organisations worldwide.

    Are the Met Office and the World Met Organisation lying when they say temperatures are rising?

    Given the choice between experts and non-experts I think it's foolish to believe the latter.

  32. I don't think the New Scientist article has been scientifically dismissed at all. And there's plenty of other information:

    The Telegraph article is particularly good (and I don't often say that!).

    And here's some up to date stats:

  33. Are the Met Office and the World Met Organisation lying when they say temperatures are rising?

    I - and I assume Alan - are not saying that the Met Office are "lying". It is more than that.

    Did you look at the links that I gave earlier?

    The argument there is that (a) in the context of the last 2000 years with the medieval warm period and the little ice age the last decade is not out of the ordinary (further demonstrated by ice core data (here). (b) Things seem to have flattened out in the last decade. (c) There are many problems with the raw data in the first place with poor data - again the link (here) I provided above is fascinating. here is another.

  34. By the way, the Met Office on Radio 4 News just now are calling for huge geo-engineering schemes to suck CO2 out of the air (!).

    If you thought windfarms were bad wait for these!

  35. Reycling is important here. Fleeces can easily be made from recycled polyester, as some are. Companies like Patagonia and GoLite are using more and more recycled materials.

    It still takes energy and carbon to recycle. Again if people really believed this stuff they would have to stop buying things not just start buying different things.

    Seriously, how about a feature - a series even - in TGO on not buying new gear. Or will you continue to encourage us all to consume more and more gear and therefore - according to your belief in AGW - exacerbate the problem?

  36. Chris, I looked at the links but my position is still that as a non-expert I accept what the vast majority of experts are saying - global warming is happening and we can do something about it.

    Recycling uses less energy than using raw materials. That is the point. Using less energy is a key.

    TGO did run a piece on making your own gear recently. My view is that people should buy the right gear and wear it out and then recycle it or, if there's any life left, pass it on. Quality gear that lasts, especially gear like Paramo that can be reproofed so it lasts a very long time, is better than budget gear with a short life.

    People are not going to stop buying things but buying less would be a good idea. As would buying recycled gear and gear that is durable. Supporting companies who are doing more for the environment is valuable too.

    TGO's editiorial policy is decided by the editors. I'm a self-employed contributor. I can make suggestions but that's all. I think promoting good gear that lasts from companies who are doing something for the environment is the way forward.

  37. For those of us who aren't climate scientists, we aren't in a position to know one way or the other. We therefore have to decide whether it is more rational to trust a body like the UN IPCC or whether it is more rational to trust various sceptical opinions that are voiced.

    It seems to me that there is no body that has more likelihood of being right than the IPCC. Why should we think that Nigel Lawson's opinion is more likely to be right than that of a body like the IPCC? I therefore think that it is rational to assume that the IPCC are right about climate change, while accepting that science is never capable of absolute proof.

    Chris, I was really heartened to read your piece, as I think that the majority of wilderness-lovers feel that the only way of opposing windfarms is to reject the idea of climate change. As you say, this is not going to be a very effective campaigning position (and risks reducing our chances of addressing the problem properly).

    At the same time, it is clear that politicians and campaigners are completely ignoring the intrinsic value of wilderness areas. Our job therefore is to convince them of that value, so that it is taken properly into account.

  38. Patrick, thanks for your comment. I agree with you completely. The two easy options are to say global warming isn't happening so wind farms aren't justified or that global warming is happening so anything that combats it is justified which means you can't argue against wind farms in the hills. It's more difficult to say that global warming is happening but that doesn't mean wind farms in wild places are justified but I think that is the correct position. We have to support ways of mitigating the effects of global warming while protecting and restoring wild areas.

  39. But how many times in the past has the accepted science proven to be wrong? Look at all the kerfuffle in the past about high cholesterol levels and high fat consumption being responsible for heart disease (another instance where a hockey stick curve was used in a graph to justfy flawed research). Look at the dietary advice since the 1980s advocating low fat high carb diets when a lot of recent research now suggests that its the high carb consumption that causes these conditions and has lead to a forthcoming epidemic of obesity and diabetes in affluent countries.

    History is full of examples of heretics, deniers and skeptics who were later found to be right. Why have so many scientists had their viewpoints stifled, why doesnt the mainstream media presented a balanced view from both sides of the spectrum. If theres no thing to fear from skeptics why are they are denied a voice? Watch the bbc coverage on climate change issues and its like the news in a one party state where the powers that be is the only view shown.

  40. Anonymous, there are are vastly more time when the scientists have been right. And the general view is that a high fat diet is still unhealthy.

    Given that global warming deniers are getting a vast amount of coverage at present - I'm sick of hearing Nigel Lawson - they are not being stifled. In fact I think they get more coverage than their case deserves. There is no balanced view - the science says global warming is happening. It's like creationists demanding equal time for their inane views with evolutionary science.

  41. Chris: "There is no balanced view - the science says global warming is happening."

    I always believed that journalists were encouraged to check their facts.
    Checking your facts by talking to just one party in an argument is not responsible journalism.
    Never has been.
    Never will be.

    You obviously have no interest in finding out for yourself what the true facts actually are.

    I will not pursue a discussion with someone who sticks his fingers in his ears and sings the March of the Dambusters.

  42. You're the one doing that Alan.

    I've read the rubbish put out by global warming deniers and I can see when I'm being conned.

    I've checked the facts and the overwhelming scientific evidence is that global warming is happening and that we can and should do something about it. Believing anything else is wishful thinking based on false, twisted "facts" and propaganda from the big oil and coal companies and right wing politicians who have a vested interest in nothing being done about global warming.

  43. Chris: One last heave! (And then I really have to give up on you as a lost cause.)

    How could you possibly say that the links provided the other Chris are "rubbish... and I can see when I'm being conned."

    That is arrant nonsense. You should be ashamed.

    Data is data. It is fact. How you interpret data is what is important. How you manipulate data is very important.

    If you do not understand that simple fact you will forever be in the thrall of the arts journalist who also takes at face value the opinions that are supplied to him.

    And for your information, quoting Bob W doesn't really support your case, does it!!!

    Good grief!

  44. Alan, I ask again, why do you think the vast majority of climate scientists say global warming is happening and that we should do something about it?

    The answer is because the evidence is overwhelming that this is so. I accept the interpretation of the data by this vast majority rather than by the tiny minority who disagree.

  45. Maybe the majority just toe the party line to keep their funding? It does happen.

    The so called consensus in science is quite a strange beast. My girlfriend is a research scientist and there are certain journals in which it is hard to get published because of personal issues with the authors and editors, nothing to do with the science. Non scientists often have an idealized view of science but in reality it is a lot more messy and less definite, especially with modelling like there is in systems as complex as climate.

    As it would do, this discussion has degenerated into fundamentalist positions. It gets almost theological! I was just seeking to point you to other rational & well argued & well supported interpretations of the data and critiques of the data. Have a look through some of the sceptic material with an open mind. The majority may be right.....but often they are dead wrong.

    By the way I mentioned those geoengineering projects that are being proposed. Have you seen what they are talking about? As I said if you disliked windfarms wait until this lot arrives!

    Anyway...I've got a day off tomorrow and will go for a walk. Forecast is looking good!

  46. Chris, the thing is it's a majority from all over the world and includes the most prestigious scientific organisations. I just can't believe that all of them are toeing a party line for funding and know that what they're saying isn't true. I'm aware that science is messy and that scientists aren't angels. I've read many science books and accounts of acrimonious arguments between scientists. And of course the majority could be wrong. It just seems extremely unlikely. And as I said originally as I'm not a scientist it is logical for me to go with the clear majority. And mostly in science the majority are right.

    Also, as I think we've both said in this now very long thread as fossil fuels will run out changing to a carbon free economy will have to happen anyway. Starting the transition now would seem to make sense.

    I've seen some of those geoengineering ideas before. Some strike me initially as balmy.

    Have a good walk. The weather up here is superb at present. I'm hoping it lasts until Sunday, the earliest I can get away.

  47. There are a lot of studies of people on high fat diets ie natural fats not heavily processed vegetable oils, that prove it to be healthy. Its very rare for inuit and other indigenous/first nation people on their traditional diets to have heart disease, diabetes and other modern ailments. The same goes for people from developed nations who reduce their carb intake and up the intake of healthy fats.

  48. I'm aware of the Inuit. They do of course have a very active life and are eating natural fats not processed ones. I accept that it does depend on what the fats are and that some fats are far healthier than others.

  49. Back to reality - superb day in the Trossachs! Above the mist on Ben A'an - photos here

    Sad to say that I also agree with Anon about fat! But lets not go there.

  50. Great pictures Chris. I love cloud inversions.

    I agree partly on the fat issue. I think it's to do with the type of fat and the amount of exercise. Certainly a high carbo diet isn't necessarily healthy, especially if most of those carbos are highly processed. I'm vegetarian and eat lots of wholefoods rather than processed stuff. Much of the dietary advice given isn't science based anyway.

  51. Well, I'm the anonymous (or else I'll lose my job) who posted the first comment in the thread. I have to say that, with all due respect, I'm struck by the monumental naivety of people like Chris Townsend, whom, prior to reading this thread, I used to respect a lot. The problem with AGW is precisely that opinion now is polarised along political lines. But to think that those scientists who question the legitimacy of AGW theories are in the pocket of oil companies while on the other side of the barricade we only have pure-as-doves little angels is risible.

    It is in fact one more thing to the eternal shame of current day liberals and left-wingers that it's mostly people on the right who are raising doubts about the ethics of AGW science.

    Phil Jones, he of the CRU emails fame, recently got a £13 million grant for his section. And most grant applications for climate studies, in the UK at least, carry as a pre-condition (or as they call it 'a goal') that they 'confirm' that AGW is taking place. So if you're in the business of checking facts, forget about going into climate studies.

    And why do you think there's so much pressure on us all to acquiesce with AGW initiatives? Who do you think makes big dollars out of wind farm, some sandal-wearing idiot living in a squat? No, it's the very same big companies who build nuclear plants when asked to do so. In fact, oil companies themselves have diversified quite nicely, and will make as much money out of renewables (and the carbon trading schemes that made Al Gore a billionaire) as they make out of refining oil.

    Chris T's statement that "The only spurious claims are those of AGW deniers" is also particularly unfortunate. You're saying that NOTHING Phil Jones has said is spurious? Blimey, you do live in cloud in cuckoo-land all right. It's not just the leaked (not stolen!) emails that are a problem for CRU and its ilk. The problem is the CODE. The code used in the computer models that 'adjust' raw temperature data. The projections outputted by that code are the main basis for much of the science. And the code is a) totally unprofessional; b) shows plenty of evidence that major fiddling with the raw data has been done.

    Chris T will again resort to ad hominen arguments and take refuge in his quasi-religious belief that the IPCC cannot be wrong. But what has also emerged is that the temperature data component of the famous IPCC report was NOT peer-reviewed. That this has happened is a fact that you can't just wish away with your blind trust in your 'experts'.

    In short, there's enough evidence to WORRY that much of the science going on right now in the field is aimed at fitting a thesis that is deemed so important that no amount of actual data can disconfirm it. You, Chris T, appear completely unfazed, and link to the various attempts at damage limitation. Fine. Suit yourself. Lock away your brain until further notice. But if this is you reaction, then I cannot see any difference between your blind belief in AGW and the rabid conspiracy theories going the round on the 'deniers' side.

    Myself, well, I'm not sure really. I am seriously FRIGHTENED that the people with power in the climate science field are so determined to shut out debate. Most of the scientists who have taken position against the AGW are retired, precisely because you will very quickly lose your job if you raise questions.

    My initial remark was that the hills are lost because of the dilemma I outlined. There's more stuff to support that remark in the BBC Scotland website today:

    The Green Party guy makes EXACTLY the points I was anticipating a few days ago. Deny AGW and of course you are stuck in the company of Sarah Palin (see her piece in the Guardian today).

    [I have to cut this message in two because of space limitations. A little more follows in the next instalment...]

  52. So you're stuck in the middle with your very difficult line of agreeing in full with AGW theories and yet resisting wind farms. It's a line which in itself I respect, if only your reasons were a little better than just saying "I trust the experts".

    I'll close with a few figures, from Wednesday's Scotsman:

    Turbines currently operating: 1,382;

    Turbines having been granted consent but still not erected: 938.

    But there's more, for there are 1,707 turbines in the planning process. At recent rates of approval that's probably another 1,200 or so turbines that are going to hit us in the next five years or so (on top of the 938 already approved).

    Plus some 1,130 being scoped. Scoping is usually far less of an indication of approval rates, so maybe there may be another 500 or so hiding away in there.

    So it's quite possible that by 2015/2017, we'll have about 4,000 or so turbines gracing our hills.

    You're going to need a lot of luck to convince your green friends that for all the evil of AGW we shouldn't inflict this on our hills.

  53. Anonymous you are misrepresenting me, either deliberately or because you can't be bothered reading what I've said. I have never said that the IPCC cannot be wrong or that scientists are little angels. In fact I've said the opposite.

    Of course major power companies make money out of wind, nuclear, oil, coal, solar and every other sort of power. That's their business.

    You are presenting what I think, and have said, is an easy but ultimately futile option. To oppose developments in the hills you have to believe AGW isn't happening. As the vast majority of scientists involved in the field that is an illogical position to take.

    Rather than do that we need to be arguing that the hills are worth conserving and should be conserved
    (and the habitat restored) regardless of anything else.

    Ben Goldacre has a good piece on global warming on his website:

    There are some interesting comments including one from a scientist who says that you don't go into climate studies for money.

  54. Anonymous, there will of course be more turbines. It's too late to do anything about that. The question is where those turbines will be. I think the fight at present is about location not about numbers.

    I think we will need a lot of luck, and a great deal of hard work and campaigning. But whether I or you accept that AGW is happening or not will be irrelevant to this.

  55. Anonymous said "the problem is the code" re: the CRU climate data emails. Here's an article that shows it isn't:

  56. Much stuff appearing now showing that those saying AGW isn't happening are wrong. New Scientist has a good piece which says: "If you believe climate sceptics, a huge body of evidence involving the work of tens of thousands of scientists over more than a century should be thrown out on the basis of the alleged misconduct of a handful of researchers, even though nothing in the hacked emails has been shown to undermine any of the scientific conclusions" plus much more.

  57. The thing is the New Scientist would say that......just as the Spectator would say something different (here)

    Is this discussion sterile now?

  58. Chris, surely you cannot take Melanie Phillips seriously?

    The New Scientist is a science magazine, the Spectator is a right-wing political magazine. I know which I trust. There's a left wing political look here:

    Ben Goldacre's piece on his Bad Science website is good too. I'd trust him over Melanie Phillips any day.

    Is the discussion sterile? I don't know. It depends who is still following it, if anyone else.

  59. Chris,

    Well I wasn't following it, I just dropped in to see your latest posts as I do every so often.

    What I find here is something that makes me sad. Several people have taken it upon themselves to attack a respected writer and photographer because he reveals that he accepts the generally accepted scientific conclusions on climate change. This is wholly unjustified and deplorable behaviour by people who should know better..

    There is an air of evangelism amongst those posters here akin to the type of fervour displayed by newly converted Christians who can be encountered 'witnessing' for the lord on city streets.

    You're not alone Chris, whether time shows your judgement to be correct or incorrect is irrelevant.

    I don't read your blog to find out about AGW. Even if I disagreed with your view on AGW would make not a hoot of difference to whether I read your blog or articles and books.

    It's a pity these other posters lack the decorum and basic politeness to do likewise.

    I hope you have a great New Year!


  60. Absolutely agree, why should anyone be allowed an alternate point of view? We should all agree with the scintific consensus on global warming. After all look at the accuracy of the meteorlogical scientists predicting our barbecue summer and the mild winter we are witnessing,they should be able to predict global temps in 30 - 40 years witn the same accuracy surely?

  61. Anonymous, who said no one should be allowed an alternate point of view? All I ask is that people bother to study the evidence and think about it rather than simply going with what is most convenient for them. Making broad based predictions on global temperatures in the future is vastly easier than predicting small shifts in weather over very short periods of time. And this summer was in fact very warm.