Monday, November 23

CRU hacked emails

The recent news about stolen emails from the UKs climate research facility is a worrying development, not from the point of view of the science, but because of the political motivations behind the attack.
Many skeptics and deniers are using the small amounts of information gleaned from a tiny number of emails to back their political cause. I have had a look at some of the information, thankfully the contrarians do the filtering for us and quite happily pick out their favourite emails to discuss in forums and blogs.

One of my favourite snippets (which may or may not be original) is this one:

Added: email text removed for legal/copyright reasons. But the email basically suggested that some temperature data might have been removed from the end of a series for a graph to be used in a presentation, in order to hide alleged cooling. The text of the email is quite easy to find via an internet search.

This allegedly presents (to uneducated eyes) manipulation of data and scientific results. One could easily interpret the statement as a cover up or a conspiracy. Indeed, Nigel Lawson on Radio 4 this morning was doing the usual political spin (despite being in the wilderness these days) by denying he was a 'denier' and proposed that such comments in the emails should be investigated.

OK lets analyse this one troublesome email snippet (a few bytes of data, out of many millions that were stolen!). Firstly the person in question was talking about a presentation to other people. This means the graph mentioned in the email would be under scrutiny in public, so any points that would be missing would be noticed by any scientist or intelligent person in the audience. Not only that, but it is quite possible that the scientist explained why he removed the points during the presentation.

Now lets look at why a scientist would remove points when creating a graph. The issue is quite simple. Basically many curve plotting techniques can actually produce poor results if the data points at the end or the start of the series are radically different to the main batch of points in the middle. Indeed, the fact that the data suddenly stops in time, because we don't have temperature data for the future, there is obviously an artificial drop off in temperature even without specific data at either end of the sequence.

Filter techniques are sometimes used to produce a graph, this can result in the curve at the start and end of a plot to incorrectly drop off or even increase. With such plotting techniques it can even make sense to chop the graph off so that only the middle section is used. This has nothing to do with manipulation, what does happen however is that skilled scientists that know the characteristics of the maths used to plot a graph, can use that knowledge to choose the right methods that actually produce 'true' or accurate results.

So does a discussion about removing data really create a big concern?
In this context, it means very little and climate change deniers are being 'alarmist', basically using politics to manipulate the scientists and global policy. Unfortunately the scientists are being attacked vigorously by many people with some very dubious political motives. This is really a desperate act, partly for attention and partly because those opposed to the changes we need to make in our lives are getting to a point where anything could be justified, including poor science and criminal acts.

For more information about curve fitting try: Open Mind: Dangerous Curves

Sunday, November 22

Hampshire Police test electric car

Hampshire Constabulary are testing a Mitsubishi iMiEV with the idea of cutting down the forces carbon emissions. The iMiEV has a top speed of 81mph and a range of 100 miles. It costs just 96p to charge up. A few years ago the Constabulary trialled an electric Vectrix motorbike in Portsmouth, however I don't believe they bought any of those. It is expected that after the trial, the force will decide whether to take some iMiEVs when the vehicle is launched next year.

Hampshire Chronicle
BBC News
Mitsubishi iMiEV web site

Thursday, November 19

How the Grainger development looks today

I thought I would take some photos from the footpath through the proposed Grainger (West of Waterlooville MDA) site. Note the descriptions are based on my own interpretation of the Grainger plans and the location that the photo was taken:

This photo shows the view at the corner of the allotments. According to the latest proposal the allotments will remain, most of the land in the photo will be built on though. There will be buildings that run along the the hedge which defines the allotment border.

This image shows 'plant farm' which will remain, most of the space in the photo should remain 'green' space with no building. The hedgerows and trees should remain. There will be a lot of building behind the farm.

In this shot the foreground should remain green space, but looking back to the London road, all that space will be built on. The hedge in the left of the photo defines the allotment boundary. There will be buildings in front of the allotment.

This shot is looking towards Hambledon road and the industrial estate. There will be a lot of buildings in the distance, but the foreground should remain green space. To the right, there will also be some building (the allotment boundary).

Havant Borough Council signs up for 10:10

Havant Borough Council might be slow to sign up for anything environmental, but it was quick to sign up to Franny Armstrongs 10:10 carbon emission cutting exercise. 10:10 is open to individuals and organisations to cut their emissions by 10% in 2010. Lets hope they achieve thge 10% cut, even better, lets see everyone in the borough achieve the same!

Sunday, November 15

Local colleges abandon adult education

As unemployment continues and many people are desperate to update their skills, both Havant and South Downs College have abandoned or cut back the running of adult education courses. South Downs College recently removed all the courses due to start in January 2010, whilst Havant college called a halt to courses starting in September 2009.

South Downs College were offering a range of courses that included Engineering, Catering, Animal care, Health and Safety, Accounting and many other subjects. However the college has quietly abandoned adult education.

Havant College publicly stated earlier in the year that it could no longer keep courses going. It seems that local public institutions are no longer required to serve the local population, despite receiving substantial funds provided by local tax payers, many of whom are now having problems obtaining work.

Wednesday, November 11

Age of Stupid on DVD and on TV

The DVD of The Age Of Stupid was released this week. HMV stores in Portsmouth have it in stock, although it isn't easy to find!
Probably a good idea to look in the Documentary or General Interest sections. The DVD is has paper and card packaging, so it is good to see that Franny Armstrong and her team continue to do what they can to make it eco-friendly as possible. The first run of the DVD is a two disc set with a load of 'Stupid' stickers and a Stupid certificate that you can fill in and give to an eco-damaging organisation.

The other news is that the BBC have bought the film and plan to show it before or during the Copenhagen discussions next month. So if you don't want to buy the DVD, then you have a chance to see it on TV.


The Age of Stupid Global Premiere Trailer from Age of Stupid on Vimeo.

The Age of Stupid
Not Stupid

Friday, November 6

Sainsburys pre-application forum update

It is unfortunate that the level of opposition to a new Sainsburys in Waterlooville is almost non-existent. It is also disappointing that the leaders of the Waterlooville Business Association decided to support the new development with a tone of desperation and pleading. Sad really.
Most concern is with road traffic, but one wonders how insistent HBC will be in making sure the concerns are met.

Thank goodness government legislation at least now makes sure some level of consideration is given to long term issues such as the environment, even if there is a level of greenwash in there somewhere. It is also nice to know that walking and cycling now have a much higher status on the transport planning agenda (partly as a result of encouraging healthy living, as well as climate change issues) and even some HBC councillors support cyclists and pedestrians in the area.

However because the focus is often still on car use and traffic, pedestrians and cyclists still need to be vocal as possible, making sure their opinions are voiced in the planning process. Otherwise all the car driving councillors will be focused on car traffic, basically because that's all they really know or understand.

On the positive side of things, it is good to know that new cycle paths are planned along the Milton road and between Denmead and Waterlooville. Sustrans are involved with this scheme and are looking at raising matched funding. Even if the Sainsburys juggernaut can not be stopped, it would be good if the transport developments near Sainsburys can link in with the planned Denmead/Waterlooville cycle route.

One issue that will affect the schedule of work will be the recycling centre, there is apparently a specific schedule for that to be moved and it is unlikely Sainsburys will be able to open any proposed store before the recycling centre is moved to a new location. The deadline date for the recycling centre move is July 2011, however if Taylor Wimpey manage to build 200 homes before then, the centre will be moved when the 200 home figure is reached.

Newlands development - consultation

Lots of stuff to write about! But the first post is about the ongoing saga of the West of Waterlooville MDA. As reported in a previous post, Grainger are extending their part of the MDA to include 1,000 more homes.

They are launching a web site on the same day that they are presenting the new plans at the Waterlooville Community Centre on the 13th November. At the moment the web site just has a splash screen, but on the 13th the site will become active and an online consultation form will be published.

It is important that Waterlooville folk participate in the consultation to get the best results. However it should be noted that this appears to be a commercial consultation carried out by Grainger for their own purposes and not a statutory one conducted by the council
Grainger - Newlands Hampshire Consultation web site

Thursday, November 5

Compact Fluorescent (energy saving) Lamps vs Incandescents

compact fluorescent lamp For quite a while now I have come across discussions about the merits (or not) of Compact Fluorescent Lamps CFLs . There is a lot of disinformation published about them in the media. Typically those that 'fight' against CFLs say that they don't save energy because their manufacture uses so much more energy. For ages I had wondered if there was any analysis done to prove or disprove this theory and recently I found some research that shows CFLs are better.

The problem we have today is that we are only beginning to learn how to understand complete processes. In the case of a CFL, the process starts with acquiring the materials, progresses through manufacture of the lamp, purchase of the product, using it at home and finally disposing of it and recycling. When we buy the product, we participate in one part of the process.

The research I found is by Annette Gydesen and Dorte Maimann of the Technical University of Denmark (details and link at the end of this post). They split the process into 3 stages, production, operating and scrapping. Although more energy is required to produce CFLs, the total energy consumed in the lifecycle process of a CFL is about 5 times less than incandescent lamps. The resulting CO2 emissions are also about 5 times less than an incandescent lamp.

One interesting point made by the research is that as long as we continue using coal in power stations, incandescents would be responsible for more mercury pollution than CFLs!

Life Cycle Analysis of Integral Compact Fluorescent Lamps versus Incandescent Lamps - Annette Gydesen and Dorte Maimann, Technical University of Denmark.

Tuesday, November 3

Grainger to be challenged in court

The company behind the biggest part of the West of Waterlooville MDA will be challenged in court over the sacking of its head of sustainability. Tim Nicholson has won a court battle that now allows him to challenge his dismissal. He claims that he was sacked for his views about anthropogenic climate change and the science behind it.

Hopefully the court case could reveal something about attitudes in the building industry. One wonders what exactly is confirmed in the mind of the Grainger corporate affairs spokesperson mentioned in the BBC article??

Sunday, November 1

Renewable energy isn't reliable?

So often I come across the idea that environmentalists want to drive us back into the caves. To be honest, I guess there has always been an element of this in environmentalist thinking, although having worked in engineering, the idea of living in caves has never been on my agenda!

Anyway having a genuine interest in new technology and ideas, I am always looking for new stuff. One issue that is always highlighted by people opposed to renewable energy is that it is variable and unpredictable. For individual electricity generators this is obviously a problem, in fact it is a problem for large power stations as well. As an engineer I had the privilege of working on a major computer/software/electronics project many years ago and the client had their own power station to power the systems they operated. Unfortunately not long after our system had been installed in the clients premises, the clients power station suffered a brief over voltage situation (the voltage went above the tolerances set by the client) this knocked out all the memory boards on the systems we installed.

The point I'm making here is that dependency on a small number of large and allegedly stable power stations doesn't actually make for a reliable system. In fact a greater number of small power sources networked together can provide a more robust system, because the impact of one or two generators failing has a smaller impact on the system as a whole. This is also the conclusion arrived at by the International Energy Agency in a recent report about renewable energy variability. The reality is, renewable energy is at the cutting edge of science and technology, not at all primitive.

Some of the most advanced work is actually being done on energy storage, including batteries and other storage systems. Recently the US Department of Energy contributed some funding to some highly technical and advanced projects that are aimed at providing solutions to grid stabilisation and electric vehicle development. These include Liquid Metal Grid Scale batteries, Advanced high density Lithium-Ion batteries using nano-technology, Metal-Air Ionic Liquid Batteries and Nanotube Advanced Ultra-capacitors

Here in the UK, we missed the boat a bit with wind turbine manufacturing and all the key players in that field are in Europe, some are in the US, with China and India fast catching up with their own comapnies. The UK has no home grown large scale wind turbine manufacturers other than a few factories here owned by those foreign companies.

All is not lost though, because an American company called Clipper is developing the largest wind turbine in the world in the North of England. The Britannia project will produce a 10MW turbine for offshore wind farms and will hopefully create many jobs (most modern turbines are between 2MW and 3.5MW).

The UK is actually the lead nation when it comes to Marine energy development and research. With companies like Marine Current Turbines, Lunar Energy, Swan Turbines and Tidal Energy Ltd amongst many others, we have an opportunity to actually build a stable design, development and manufacturing base in the UK that can provide a long term future for us all. But it requires some short term investment that is probably lacking right now and the danger is that British companies will go elsewhere to find the facilities and funding to keep going.

The questions is, what is it to be?
Stacking shelves at Sainsburys, or a new era of science, engineering and technology?

Sainsburys and traffic

There seems to be growing concern about the impact that the proposed Waterlooville Sainsburys will have on traffic on the old Hambledon road. The recycling centre (dump) opposite the proposed site is busy nearly every day with a queue of traffic waiting to get in.
The new Sainsburys is proposed to have a ground level car park for over 400 cars, with the store built on top of it. Ramps and lifts would allow access to the store, this would create more traffic, creating additional stress for pedestrians and cyclists.

As well as a Sainsburys store, the company is proposing a petrol station on the vacated Sprint Print site. This will create more traffic and given that we are on the 'road' to a move away from petrol and on to electric vehicles, this proposal seems outdated and archaic. It really negates the environmental features (greenwash) Sainsburys are proposing for the store and highlights the fact that Sainsburys is 'anti-local' by promoting car use.

There is a possibility that the closed off Hambledon road between Milton road and Aston road could be re-opened so that traffic can flow past the houses. I'm sure residents along that road will be pleased (not). Currently the road provides a quiet and peaceful pedestrian and cycling route for many residents that live along Milton road and towards Denmead.

It is unlikely that visitors to the store will be bothered about visiting Waterlooville town centre, despite any claims Sainsburys might make, such a store would move the focus away from the traditional centre of the town, which continues to have difficulty to fill the existing small retail units.