Sunday, October 14, 2018

The effects of Sun and CO2 over the Holocene temperature

I have been debating climate change intensively on Twitter for the past three weeks. 

It has been a bit pointless most of the time, because most of the contrarians are simply there to gainsay any and every point made by defenders of the science of climatology, but it is useful to know what the main talking points are at the moment.

Some of them repeatedly post misleading graphs, and are totally immune to reason when they misunderstand the science. 

They often use insulting and emotional language, and the most common argument they use is a cherry-picked factoid which is supposed "bang the last nail in the coffin of global warming".

However, one graph posted by a contrarian was interesting. 

It shows the temperatures in Greenland over the last 10,000 years (the Holocene), set alongside CO2 levels over the same time span. Now Greenland is in the Northern Hemisphere, and the CO2 readings are gained from the Vostok Ice core in Antarctica, but CO2 is a well-mixed gas, so that should not have any effect on the situation The Greenland temperatures show the general shape of inter-glacial periods - warm beginnings followed by a gentle cooling. The graph stops before we reach the modern temperature spike . The interesting thing is that CO2 levels are dropping during the warm early Holocene, and rise when the temperature is dropping. The implication of the person that posted the graph is that this contradicts the idea that CO2 has a warming effect.

The variations of CO2 in the graph are slight: they amount to only 15ppm over 10,000 years. 
We on the other hand have produced a 120 ppm change in only 170 years. 

The answer to this observation is to look for what the Sun has been doing during the Holocene. This was a bit difficult, because clear drawings of solar activity are not easy to come by, but I found a couple.

The graph below shows insolation over the last 10,000 years. It is a bit poor, as I had to flip it horizontally to match the graph above. I am hoping to get a better graph of insolation.

The take-home lesson is that, in contrast to the claims and beliefs of the contrarians, climatology takes account not just of CO2, but of all known significant factors.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

The Hutton Survey on Consent to Frack 87% withold consent

Between 10th May and 12th July 2018 members of the Frack Free North Somerset group contacted 181 residents of Hutton parish in North Somerset to discover their opinions on fracking.

Hutton was chosen because Infinity Energy, who hold the licenses to frack the coast of Somerset from Weston super Mare to Watchet, have said that they intend to frack “somewhere to the south of Weston super Mare”, and Hutton is a parish south of WSM.

We knocked on doors and introduced ourselves as from Frack Free North Somerset, and that we were conducting a survey to find out whether they give their consent to fracking in their parish. We handed over two leaflets that we had printed, which gave information about fracking, with web links to more extensive information, including information provided by Government which is strongly supportive of fracking. We returned to the house after two or three weeks and obtained signatures from people who did not give their consent to fracking in their parish. We also recorded all those who did not know and those who supported the idea of fracking.

Of the 181 people who responded,
157 signed a sheet to declare “I do not give my consent to fracking in my parish”
17   were undecided/did not know
7     were in favour of fracking

In percentage terms, rounded to the nearest whole number, the result is
87% do not give their consent to fracking
9% Don’t Knows
4%   Supported fracking
Two people questioned were against fracking, but did not feel ready to put their names down on paper.
We intend to respect the confidentiality of signatories.
These results differ from national surveys of fracking, although these national surveys also show clear opposition to fracking.
YouGov  ( showed 43% opposed and 32% in favour, though opposition grew to 49% opposed with 29% in favour if the question was posed as “near you”. Opposition is on a rising trend.
A survey for the Department for Energy and Climate Change published in April 2018 ( showed 47% neutral, 32% opposed and 16% in favour of fracking.
The difference in our survey may be due to several factors, including the fact that it was conducted by volunteers (several people thanked us sincerely for our efforts) and the fact that our leaflets set out all the known dangers of fracking, including the dangers to human health, an aspect that is not mentioned in the Government surveys.
In fact our information left out one big challenge to fracking posed by the present very dry summer, since fracking has a high demand for water.  The news that Government delayed an adverse report on fracking for 3 years until it had given a permit to a fracking company ( also emerged after the survey was substantially completed.
The 2011 census counted 2,582 people in Hutton, so we surveyed 5.38% of the population.
This sample size compares well with national opinion polls, who typically survey 1000 people out of an electorate of some 34 million, a fraction of 0.29%

There is no “social licence” for any company to frack in this parish of Hutton, which is in the area targeted by the holders of the fracking licence. The ratio of 87% in opposition compared to 4 % opposed is very convincing, and is a good reason, when set alongside the impacts of fracking on road traffic, public and environmental health, for Infinity Energy to give up on their intention to frack in our beautiful Somerset countryside.

Monday, August 06, 2018

Hiroshima Day - poem

at 8:15 am on August 6th 1945, 63 years ago, Hiroshima was destroyed by a small nuclear bomb. Our responsibility is to convince everyone that we must clear these weapons from the face of Earth.

The Promise of Hiroshima

It was all so beautiful.
Mathematics could dissect reality itself,
Complex, and finely balanced,
A logan rock that moves with just a touch,
and through these  mysteries
we came to understand
the energy constrained within a grain of sand.

Infinitesimal becomes
unbounded power.
One plane, one flash
One whole town gone to dust.
Nothing except a few skeletal lines
Some shadow where a man had been.
Silence,   apart from screams.

For some, that was success.
And this is how it stays. We live
under the sword of Damocles
death dangling by a hair,
our fallibility denied.
We live beneath the constant threat,
our wilful ignorance of hell.

As if the sheer perfection of the science
could purge the politicians' faults.
As if the discipline
that led them to unlock the door
could somehow spread itself
into the corrupted soul and mind
of those whose stock in trade is  lies.

(c)        Richard Lawson

Resolving the BBC's dilemma on man-made Climate Change

I have just sent this off the the BBC 

Francesca Unsworth
Director News and Current Affairs
BBC Executive Committee
Broadcasting House
Portland Place

Resolving the dilemma on man-made Climate Change

You will be aware that there is a great deal of controversy on the BBC’s position on man-made Climate Change. Many educated people are increasingly offended by the BBC’s insistence on balancing any scientific statement on climate change with a view from someone who is sceptical of the science. At the same time, you are subject to intensive lobbying by these “sceptics”.

There is a way out of this dilemma.

The BBC’s mission includes informing and educating. To do this the BBC itself needs to know and understand. Climate science is intensely complex, but at its heart are three basic scientific facts about Earth climate:

1)     The Greenhouse Effect is a reality. Without it Earth average surface temp would be -15C
 instead of the present +15C
2)     CO2 is second most important greenhouse gas, after water vapour
3)     Burning of fossil fuels is increasing the concentration of CO2 in Earth’s atmosphere.

There is no reasonable scientific doubt about these facts. You can always find individuals who are prepared to dispute each of them, just as you can find individuals who dispute HIV, MMR, and the shape of the planet. These individuals will always be with us, but they have no place in serious public debate, and they are not scientific in that they do not present a coherent picture of what is taking place. Instead they suffer internal contradictions in their arguments, and explanations put forward by different “sceptics” are often mutually incompatible.

Your presenters can therefore safely and rightly introduce the topic of climate change by informing your audience of the above facts.

This now moves the debate forwards into the realm of the magnitude of the effect of the CO2 that our fossil fuel is producing. You will be aware of an influential group called “Lukewarmers” who accept the scientific facts summarised above but claim that the influence of CO2 is less than that which is accepted by the scientific consensus. It is here that the BBC can exercise its educational responsibility.

The question now is about Climate Sensitivity (CS), which is an estimate of the global temperature increase, in degrees Celsius, to a doubling of CO2 concentration, which is due to take place around 2075. CS is a complex technical matter, but at the same time, there is a simple resolution point, where figures overlap. Lukewarmers claim that value of Equilibrium Climate  Sensitivity lies in a range of 1-2C. The IPCC holds that the ECS range is 1.5 to 3.5. You notice that there is an overlap at the 2 figure, which is towards the high end of the Lukewarmers estimate, and the lower end of the consensus estimate.

Therefore the BBC could put on a programme to educate the public about this interesting point of agreement, which can be seen as a resolution of the long debate about climate change.

A further programme could explore the kind of global changes we can reasonably expect at a global increase of 2C.

I hope that you will find the above suggestions helpful in resolving what must be a seemingly intractable problem to the BBC, and I look forward to your reply.

Yours sincerely

Friday, August 03, 2018

Policies to Address the Migration Problem

I wrote this back in 2016, but never posted it for some reason. Now I am involved in a debate about it on Twitter, so it is time to put it up.

Mass migration on the scale we have seen over the past few years is a symptom of global political and economic dysfunction. It cannot be met by individual countries putting up barriers, with simple obstruction or unthinking denial. Mass migration is a major international challenge and demands major international action to address it.

Addressing the present situation

First it is necessary to accept that we are in this situation. Mass migration is a reality at present. We may or may not like it, but it is necessary to accept it as a given, and react rationally rather than just with negative emotions such as fear and anger.

Short term policy may be sorted in two ways: Obstructive or Humanitarian.

Obstructive measures against migration aim to make it difficult for migrants to travel. They are epitomised by Donald Trump with his "beautiful wall".

British Government foreign policy is often based on a crude behavioral psychology which aims to apply negative reinforcement (punishment in common speech) to unwanted behavior. For example, they are deliberately driving immigrants into povertyi.

This punitive approach is shown in the non-involvement of the UK Government in Operation Triton, where the Government specifically stepped away from saving lives of drowning people because being saved from drowning might (in their view) encourage other to migrate.

The shameful situation at Calais is another example of the punitive approach, as is the failure to honour promises to help children in Calais.

The punitive approach is irrationally applied by the UK Government if it does not also supply authoritative information to the people in sending countries stating that they are putting themselves at risk by taking the journey, and that the British Government will not help them if they get into difficulties. The suffering caused by the policy would have no impact on the motivation of the next wave of migrants unless this information is widely known in sending countries.

The Channel is our wall, but it is pretty certain that if we completely stop taking people in from the continent as UKIP and some Conservatives seem to wish, the busiest sea lane in the world will be filled with boats stuffed with people trying to enter illegally.

The punitive approach is simply inhumane. By pursuing this policy the Government is not only denying the humanity of migrants, it is also degrading Britain's own claim to being a nation that pursues high standards in human rights. Many within Government will be prepared to accept this status, and will be able on that basis to talk down many other points of humanitarian action within Government. The end result will be a continuous movement away from democracy and towards authoritarianism within Britain itself.

This is clearly not acceptable.

Therefore the obstructionist approach must be opposed. In its place, we must put a humanitarian approach to the present cohort of migrants, and a preventive, global approach aimed at reducing future waves of migration.

Humanitarian response to the present cohort
Since the obstructive response is not effective or humane, a humanitarian approach must be used instead.

Basic needs - water, food, shelter, sanitation and health care - must be provided at set points on the journey.

There is no reason that "Processing" (filling in official paperwork) cannot be carried out in camps and at way stops while travelling. The data gathered in this way will help to filter off children, women, bona-fide asylum seekers, and those with relatives in host countries, who can be put into a fast track to their destination.

The Green Party's policy of amnesty to all illegal immigrants at present in the UK, pulling them out of the black market and away from the control of the criminal underclass, and enabling them to contribute to the economy and pay taxes makes good sense.

Government should take out one page advertisements, advertorials and commission articles in newspapers and broadcasts in sending countries to inform people of the difficulties of the hardships and mortal risks of the migrant trail.
An extension of this information policy is to increase integration with well communicated information about the cultural norms that obtain in our society, such as respect for all regardless of their race, sex and sexuality.
Goverment must expand services (education, NHS, housing, social services etc) to meet the need of the UK's expanding population, whatever the cause.

Addressing the root causes of migration

In this section, we can only put up the headlines, sketching out the kind of political changes and reforms that are needed to create a world where people feel less motivated to migrate.

It will be objected that we have been trying for ages to address these international problems, without success, and why should it be any different now?
First, there has been success. Wars are on the decrease over the last 70 years. More countries are democracies than ever before. The literacy rate is growing. We are making progress.
On the other hand, there has been a concerted effort to downgrade and denigrate the UN as a legitimate source of authority, because the dominant neo-liberal ideology deeply distrusts any pooling of power.
The key here is the political will. These problems are permanent items on the agenda of international summits, and as such, they become routine, and do not get addressed urgently. Once the connection has been made in the minds of public and politicians that we will never control migration until we control war, poverty, oppression and environmental degratation, we can expect to see positive change.

  1. War
    Politicians are treading water on issues like war and militarism, paying lip service to peace initiatives, but in reality the interests of corporations carries more weight. It is shameful that the UK is one of the major arms producers in the world.

    If we look at the wars happening in the present century, we find that Separatism, War on Terror, Ideology, Dictator/political, Corporations, The "War on Drugs", Ethnic rivalry and warlordism account for most of the larger conflictsii.

    There is a case for the United Nations to set up a framework for discussion and resolution of separatist aspiration, and also to provide diplomatic and logistical help both for areas where separatist conflict is ongoing, and where there is a clear separatist sentiment that has not yet turned to violence.

    The UN has recently concluded a successful arms control process, and it is time now to move on to ammunition control. A practical possibility for inhibiting irregular fighters is to concentrate on seizing ammunition, which is detectable by trained dogs. Without ammunition a gun is nothing but a very expensive clubiii.

    Future wars will be fought over resources, especially oil unless we rapidly move away from reliance on fossil fuels.

  2. Poverty As we have seen above, remittances are an immensely important component of the economy in Less developed Countries (LDCs). Increasing aid budgets is unlikely to be able to compensate, since remittances are three times greater than the aid contribution. Therefore the only sustainable solution is to increase the wages paid to workers in LDCs, as part of a new package of workers rights, perhaps mediated through the Internatinoal Labour Organisation. This would put prices up for good originating in emergent economies, which would in turn help UK manufacturing.

  1. Oppressive , authoritarian and totalitarian regimes cause people to try to emigrate, and also tend to become embroiled in civil war as people try to break free of the regime. The Green Parties of the world have adopted the idea of a Global Human Rights Indexiv published annually by the United Nations to show clearly at a glance the relative position of every government in terms of human rights. The worst performers could then be helped to improve their record, and regimes on the slippery slope to dictatorship could be given incentives to move towards democracy.
  2. DfID's international Aid programmes should be comprehensively reviewed. If there is a large amount of migration from any country, the causes should be examined in case and adjustment of the focus of aid might be able to help to stabilise the situation.

  3. Climate change is being addressed in a desultory way. The Paris Agreement is excellent, but there is widespread expectation that it will not be ratified and implemented byu many countries. A change in attitude and urgency would make a huge difference. Many measures are required, but the most important issue in the UK is fracking. If this can be blocked, we will be constrained to meet the energy niche filled by gas from biogas and also energy storage.
  4. Population growth needs to be discussed seriously. We should look at successful non-coercive programmes as in Thailand and Kerala, and focus on empowerment of women, provision of contraceptives, and education.


Migration is not just a phase that will go away of its own accord, it is a part of human social behaviour, but is on a rising trend that is amplified by war, oppression, poverty and environmental degradation. Its impact on the economies of receiving countries' economies is weakly positive, but right wing tabloid newspaper stories stir up resentment that threatens social cohesion. Migration contributes significantly to a population overshoot in the British Isles. Therefore efforts must be made to reduce migration at source.
Obstructive policies are incompatible with humanitarian values, and migration pressures can only be reduced by an intensive and serious global, long term drive against militarism and for peace, against dictatorship and human rights abuses, against poverty, and against climate change. Addressing the causes of migration therefore will motivate us to work for true improvements in the state of the world.


Anodyne report on migration and climate from the British Government

Richard Lawson