Blog Software Upgrade

Posted by TonyN on 09/05/2011 at 1:45 pm Admin 10 Responses »
May 092011

During the next day or two I’ll be upgrading Harmless Sky’s software and design, so things may look a bit weird at times. For instance it will take time to get all the plugins - like recent comments and comment preview - up and running again under the new configuration, and these things seldom go without a hitch or two.

This is a very necessary task that I’ve been putting off for ages, and the end result should be a fresher, more stable, and more up-to-date site. There will also be with more bells and whistles that a younger generation of surfers expect, which will increase it’s outreach, plus more efficient behind-the-scenes operation and maintenance.

Update: Thursday 12th May 2006

The software upgrade is posing a few more problems than expected, which is entirely my own fault for leavidg it so long before moving to a newer version. It will probably be tomorrow before things get back to normal.

With the redoubtable John A of Climate Audit  fame very kindly looking over my shoulder, I should get there in the end.

Apr 112011

If there is one pivotal date in the evolving saga of climate change it is probably a day in early June 1988, when Jim Hansen made his notorious claim during a US Senate hearing that:


 “I’m 99% sure that human beings are contributing to climate change.”


Of course Hanson didn’t just fetch up in Washington on that very not day by chance, so it’s interesting to read an account of what happened from Timothy Wirth, the man who claims to have stage-managed the whole thing, quite literally.


There are a lot of astonishing things about Wirht’s recollections, not least the way in which AGW alarmism dovetailed perfectly with an ongoing political scenario. Then there is the breathtakingly superficial and banal thinking that lies behind his narrative, and the oft forgotten fact that, although the US is portrayed as the villain that has retarded action on global warming, at the same time most of the pressure for action has originated from that country. Indeed it is arguable the forces that put climate change on the political map all those years ago, and has kept it there ever since have predominantly originated in America.  


Anyway, Wirth seems inordinately proud of his antics on the morning before Hansen’s performance, and oblivious of the fact that when you have to tamper with an air conditioning system in order to persuade people that the earth is warming, then your evidence is pretty threadbare. But that’s the way it seems to be when science and politics meet.

Apr 052011

In 2005 - and the date is quite interesting - Hans von Storch conducted a long interview with one of the titans of climate science during its formative years after World War II. You might almost say that this was a time before climate science got silly, or even when it was still a respectable discipline.

The man in the spotlight is a Dane called Harry van Loon, a name that will probably mean little to readers of this blog as he suffers from the appalling handicap of not being very impressed by claims that Earth’s climate is now under the control of humanity and in no hurry to speak to the media.

You can find the whole thing here:

Parts of the interview are rather technical, but don’t miss the following:

1)      Van Loon’s account of how studying the Vikings first got him interested in climate.

2)      An interesting qualification that he needed before he could start on a science degree in 1940s Denmark.

3)      Some very obliging South African meteorologists.

4)      Evidence that this was a time when climate researchers didn’t just sit in front of VDUs and torture data sets until they produce the right answer. As Harry says, in his heyday you had to do everything for yourself.

5)      In the last couple of pages he gives his views on anthropogenic climate change in a matter of fact way that should make a few people’s cheeks burn.

6)      Some familiar names crop up along the way

This interview was conducted two years before AR4 was published in 2007, and when Harry van Loon was approaching his eightieth birthday and retirement. By then I am sure he would have been seen by the new generation of IPCC orientated trend setters on the climate research scene as the kind of embarrassment that should be swept under the carpet along with Hubert Lamb.

Harry van Loon’s research record, and his obvious commitment to his calling, suggests otherwise.

Apr 012011

Since the Christmas and New Year holidays, I’ve only put up a couple of posts at Harmless Sky, rather than my usual one a week. There’s is a reason - or two or three  - for this happening.

At the time when I started Harmless Sky, three years ago, I had already amassed and indexed quite a large quantity of research material concerning climate change and other related subjects. Being a bit of a traditionalist who likes the look and feel of sheets of printed-paper - and who also finds underlining and scribbling in margins useful - this task was not undertaken altogether in the spirit of the new information age; in other words digitally. Looking back it is easy to see that this was a mistake, but on the other hand the technology was rather different when I started. Document management systems were expensive and OCR, on which effective electronic searching of documents depends, was chancy, to say the least.

Over the last three years I have continued to download and print out whatever catches my eye, but the time spent running Harmless Sky has left little opportunity for routine and tedious tasks like indexing.  The result is a ‘piling’ system, which by the end of last year had covered every surface in my workroom to a significant depth and was beginning to occupy a steadily increasing area of the floor.

As it happens, I’ve never been too concerned about untidiness; in fact it’s my natural habitat, only mitigated by the influence of an extremely tidy wife. Fortunately for domestic peace and harmony she rarely visits my workroom, and when she does, wisely ignores what she sees.  But even I acknowledge that there is a point at which untidiness becomes squalor, and an impenetrable information storage system becomes a handicap.

In recent months, digging up references has become a major problem that a good memory born of a lifetime’s chaotic work practices is not entirely equal too. The volume of material is now just too great and the number and altitude of the ‘piles’ ever growing. But there is another issue that has become almost as unavoidable, and this has to do with the content that I post on this blog and the way in which I use my time.

When I set up Harmless Sky, I thought that the ideal length for a blog post was about 350-700 words. The immediacy and ephemeral nature of the new media, together with the short attention span this encourages, seems to require short punchy posts. This may explain why some blogs can seem curt and assertive if one is not used to the style. Where bloggers are concerned with being first with breaking news, of course, this is perfectly acceptable. The good Bishop Hill has become a master of this style, and in his hands it is supremely successful. However Harmless Sky has never really done news, or been that kind of blog.  I far prefer to stand back and wait awhile, and then take a more considered look at what lies behind the stories that appear in the MSM and blogoshere.  Of course both approaches have their place.

Really exploring the kind of complex issues raised by the climate change debate can seldom be satisfactorily accomplished in short pieces. So I haven’t often managed to wind up a post in less than 1200 words, and very often they have been considerably longer. Such posts take a good deal of time to write, or at least that is the way it is in my case.

Looking back over the three years I find that I have written well over  200 post; a total, probably, of about a quarter of a million words. That is enough to fill one rather long book or a couple of fairly short ones. Combine this with the fact that I write slowly, and like to worry away at an idea or an augment until it yields some kind of conclusion, this represents an enormous amount of time invested in a medium that is by nature ephemeral.

Around Christmas, I began to think about these statistics and the mighty piles of paper in my workroom, much of which relates to topics that I find fascinating but have never got round to blogging about.  The time had surely come to try and put two-and-two together.

There has to be at least one book in the research material that I have and the only hindrance to starting work is finding sufficient time and, crucially, being able to retrieve references quickly as and when I want them. In other words I have to tame the ‘piling system’, which now amounts to thousands of documents, some of them long and complex. This means finding a lot of time, and the obvious way to do this is to write fewer or less time-consuming blog posts.

On the other hand, I have no wish that activity at Harmless Sky should dry up altogether. I still have quite a few irons in the fire in the form of FOIA requests and a possible inquiry by the Parliamentary Ombudsman, and if any of these become interesting I want a forum in which to report what is happening.

Then there is something else that has been on my mind since the end of last year.

At the moment, I’m not too sure where the climate debate is going. The heady ‘back-against-the-wall’ days for sceptics seem to be well and truly over, but if there is to be a victory for rational inquiry into climate change over the dogmatic assertions of politicians , activists, and the climate science machine they rely on, then we still seem to be some way off this happening. Although the weight of evidence, and public opinion, is clearly piling up in the sceptics favour, there still appears to be a furtive, and very determined, finger on the scales that is preventing the balance shifting.

So how to combine keeping Harmless Sky going with making enough time to research and write a book? As the next two or three months are likely to be spent organising my material so that I can find what I want in significantly less than a lifetime, there has to be a change in the way that this blog is run. In order to keep the kettle boiling, this is what I intend to do.

As I sift through, digitise, and classify the teetering escarpments of paper that greet me each morning, I’ll post links to some of the material that seems most interesting. Inevitably, as I’m dealing with archive material, not much of this is likely to be recent but, as a talented amateur historian is supposed to have said:


The further backward you can look,

                                   the further forward you are likely to see

And perhaps the most intriguing question in the climate debate today is not where are we headed, but rather how the hell did we get to where we are at the moment?

By the way, the talented amateur historian’s name was Winston Spencer Churchill, and I found this quote scribbled on a scrap of paper among a pile of stuff to do with palaeoclimatology.

Mar 312011


Ecologists in Wales have been warning about species migration caused by global warming for years now. In fact it’s become quite and industry.

Of course, there is an element of swings and roundabouts here, because as some species move north in search of cooler climes, and we loose old familiar species, fascinating refugees from further south will arrive to enrich our countryside.

I hear that computer models predict the imminent demise of the bluebell, there are fears that the Snowdon Lilley - one of Britain’s rarest native alpine plants - will be driven to the mountain tops and then tumble into oblivion. Numerous species of butterflies are expected to forsake their usual Home Counties habitats and head for the northern hills too.

Mitigation measures have, of course, been suggested some quite sensible, others more imaginative than practical, and a few pretty barmy.  In the latter category is the idea that we should create escape corridors of uninterrupted wilderness leading northwards, regardless of expense, disruption to anything that lies in their path, and the fact that only computer models of doubtful probity say that they will ever become necessary.

Anyway, does anyone know what these little critters that have turned up in our garden are? My wife is complaining that they keep nipping her ankles.

Last Monday evening, BBC2 broadcast a Horizon programme with the title Science Under Attack. Both the title and the content of the programme were deeply misleading but, no doubt unintentionally, it may reveal far more about the scientific establishments confused and panic-stricken reaction to the onslaught of criticism that it has witnessed since the Climategate scandal broke just over a year ago than either its illustrious presenter or the programme makers realise or intended.

The white knight who galloped to the rescue of our beleaguered ‘community of climate scientists’ (the presenter’s words) was Sir Paul Nurse, a Nobel Prize winning geneticist and the newly appointed president of the Royal Society. His rather blokeish, seemingly modest, but relentlessly confident and avuncular style in front of the camera, together with a gift for appearing to explain complex issues in a fair-minded and easily digestible way, were more than enough to lull any audience into a complacent acceptance of anything he might have to say. So what went wrong? Continue reading »

The following appeared in the Financial Times today:

As Expected: Treasury Sees Red At Huhne’s Green Bank

Monday, 31 January 2011 12:35 Elizabeth Rigby, Financial Times

Chris Huhne is at loggerheads with the Treasury over the size and scope of the green investment bank, as officials seek to thwart his attempts to ensure it operates as a fully fledged bank.

The Treasury has already earmarked £1bn for the bank, to be spent on green infrastructure projects such as renewable energy. It has also privately confirmed that more than £1bn of funds from asset sales will also be made available, according to two ministerial aides. But in return for the additional funds, officials are trying to prevent the energy secretary and Vince Cable, the business secretary, from establishing it as a bank. The bank is one of the flagship green initiatives of the coalition.

A commission on how the bank should operate – led by Bob Wigley, a former European head of Merrill Lynch – has recommended it should have powers to raise finance from the private sector. But the Treasury is concerned the bank will increase national debt and would prefer it to act simply as a fund, dispensing grants and loans.

“The Treasury is completely against the idea of a proper bank because they can’t see where it would go on the government’s balance sheet,” said one person familiar with the talks. “Huhne is determined to get a bank and Cable is acting as the arbiter.”

Mr Huhne believes the bank is central to efforts to build Britain’s green infrastructure and low carbon economy in the coming decades. The energy sector needs to invest at least £200bn over the next 10 years to meet official targets for developing renewable energy and cutting carbon dioxide emissions.

The government is due to outline plans for the bank this spring but is struggling to meet the deadline.

I wonder if anyone at the treasury, let alone at Chris Huhne’s Department of Energy and Climate Change, saw this chart that someone kindly pointed out to me in the Investors Chronicle:


Click for larger image

Note the juxtaposition of Automobiles and Parts (+89.91%) and Alternative Energy (-52.3%) at the beginning and end of the listing.

If this reflects the level of market confidence, post Copenhagen and Cancún, in the coalition’s so-called Green Revolution, then God help the green bank. Investment in Alternative Energy looks as though it holds about as much allure as subprime mortgages, and it seems that the coalition has learned nothing from the banking crisis. The value of assets are determined by supply and demand: politically correct optimism is not an entry that any accountant would attach a value to on a balance sheet.



Posted by TonyN on 24/12/2010 at 9:59 pm Uncategorized 2 Responses »
Dec 242010

A very Happy Christmas to everyone




 … and this is something that my wife noticed in the kitchen right at the end of the growing season


Perhaps the title should be either ‘When did I last see your father?” or “Surprise, Surprise!”


Posted by TonyN on 23/12/2010 at 10:16 am Uncategorized 4 Responses »
Dec 232010

At the moment we’re snowed up and carrying in supplies for Christmas is taking priority over blogging. I’ll catch up with comments this evening, but be warned, any moderation is likely to be summary and savage.

Update: A message from Manacker:

To one and all

I’ll be away from my computer for a few days, but would like to wish you all



On 22nd October 2010, Business Green had a story headed:

Huhne hints at revival for onshore wind farms

If we like windmills, why not wind turbines, asks Energy and Climate Change Secretary

This included a startling revelation;

“Onshore turbines are something I very much want to look at again and see if we can do more onshore,” he [Chris Huhne] said, adding that recent studies had shown that the cost of onshore wind energy could now compete with conventional energy supplies.

I say startling because I follow what is happening in the wind industry with some interest, and I hadn’t seen any hint of a sudden breakthrough in a technology that may well be the most impractical, uneconomic and environmentally destructive means of generating power for a mass market known to man. So I decided to ask the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) where their secretary of state had got his information form. Continue reading »

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