Roadside Shrine

Travel the roads of Britain and the sad reminders of road traffic incidents is often found in tributes in flowers or little items, although a relatively recent action in the UK such shrines are common in places like Greece where elaborate shrines frequently resembling tiny churches are worryingly common place.

Saint_Expédit_route_des_plaines_dsc02353Left- An Italian Shrine to St Expeditus


In the UK even the transient memorial of fading flowers is frowned upon and perceived to be a distraction  to motorists who might add to the problem of further accidents so the likelihood of permanent shrines being part of the British townscape and countryside is slim. Memories are, of course, important: they act as a transition from the past to an uncertain future and monuments to the past whether memorials or memories of every day life make up ‘heritage Britain‘. There are many churches, wells, stones and statues acting as shrines to gods, goddesses, heroes and the prematurely dead.

Taking a lighter approach to the value of shrines I built my Roadside Shrine- living in a small space means there is no attic to keep the boxes of things of my former lives.







The shrine is a repository – built from recycled materials lying around and filled with the sort of things so difficult to throw away – they include some old favourite boots whose soles wore out and one day I was meaning to get them repaired, there is also items from my childhood, items from my child’s childhood that are difficult to part with but without value.P1000229

Life is a long road, and as the scientist philosopher of ancient Greece, Democritus said, life without enthusiasm is like a long journey without an inn; for me that journey is a little easier if I can dump off some of my possessions on the way.

I’m lucky to have the space for such follies, however other people have asked for one for their garden- I’m always happy to oblige [if you live in the UK contact me and I can build something to your tastes for a modest fee- otherwise it not hard to DIY]. As to what happen to all that non- biodegradable waste: I’m in two minds- it would be nice to leave people shrines to future archaeologists but what is more likely is I will move on and be able to part with that former life.



Green Dreams – [the never ending story]

After the wettest winter on record the basic barn conversion went to plan- that is it was started at the autumn equinox and was hoping to be in by Christmas. Hoping being the main planning process throughout this venture, in reality 3 months was a challenge and it ended up being 4. [click on pictures for full size]

the land of rainbows

the land of rainbows


The wettest and stormiest winter on record. Abergavenny seafront after a January storm










As the photo’s show the first ‘temporary’ dwelling is the remains of an old cow barn, 3 walls and 2/3rds of the roof- it has planning fo a workshop- studio- garage and storage, so hopefully the planners will not quibble over the super insulation, french windows for ‘garage’ doors, as well as sink and entertainment system.

The building process was fairly straightforward.

The old roof was propped up to remove the slates and install a new facing wall.

The earth floor was dug out to receive a 100mm foam insulation lining with a concrete floor laid on top

When the building was reasonably stable sheet board, followed by 6inches of insulation followed by new roof rafters, and recycled slates [found in various piles] were all laid over the existing purlins and rafters to preserve the interior.


The three stone walls were drylined with lightweight thermolite blocks and bonded with P.U. foam. It is my own technique so it has not passed building regs, however lightweight blocks suck the moisture out of mortar making the joints fragile, also those joints make up 15% of the wall area which is very poor insulation.  Using foam came about after a can burst covering a combination of blocks, wood, board and dust some years ago – separating the blocks rendered them pretty broken as the glue was so strong. I’ve used it on a few tricky jobs in the past with no problems although not on this scale. One can of expanding foam [using a gun] will do about half a pallet of blocks, which at £4 a can works out cheaper than sand and cement.

the cow barn- or rather 3 stone walls with some roof and earth floor.

the cow barn- or rather 3 stone walls with some roof and earth floor.

The windows and doors despite being off the shelf standard sizes from Wickes took and age to come and were the most expensive single item.  Costs have been fairly low with all the labour ‘free’. Although the property was land and derelict farm buildings with planning permission the previous owner had collected together about £5000 worth of building timber, velux windows and insulation. [a local company- Seconds & Co, Presteigne sell Kingspan PU sheet ‘seconds’ at half price, giving a £1000 saving on RRP]. There was also several years of collected junk like old bathroom suites, plumbing fittings, piles of slates from the old farmhouse as well as gas bottles, old doors etc etc. even the oak beams from a boat which were recycled into the floor joists.

The property was sold as a work in progress project although the owner had managed to only install the water tank and cesspit, with electricity coming from the collapsed farmhouse from suspect extension leads.


Given so much recycling and £5000 of inherited materials the total costs –

windows and doors [of a surprisingly high insulation spec from Wickes] – £1200

concrete floor [which also did the workshop] £1200

drylining thermolite blocks- £1100

new electrics including armoured cable- £300

odds ends, nails, some timber sheeting, sand cement etc- £600

hire of excavators, dump trucks [that included building a pond, terracing and fixing the road] £1200

chimney – the stove was here- £500

plumbing- £200

solar + immersion heater boiler- £600

all the things you forgot you needed to buy- £500 [this is a guess]

came to around the £12,000 – which is a surprise but if there had been more new and less recycling the total conversion cost without labour would have only been near the £25,000 mark. There are still things to be done, like build a proper kitchen although the cobbled together one and homemade concrete work top work, as well as install a fullsize bedroom window and some double-glazed panes around the french windows [the top lights are recycled and are temporary]

6 months on and a reasonably functioning home

6 months on and a reasonably functioning home


One of the most frustrating problems has been sealing the building- with maxed out insulation in the roof, floor and walls the building should have stayed warm but it has bee plagued with little drafts that amount to a high turnover of air.

A main culprit was the fact the roof was constructed one side at a time so the ridge leaks [air not water!]- before next winter it will need attention and by which time the windows for the main bedroom and around the french windows will be replaced. It does draw attention to the problems of retrofitting or converting old houses to be energy efficient – the new build will follow passivehaus principles designing out weak points where draughts get in.

the almost finished, living room, dining and kitchen area.

the almost finished, living room, dining and kitchen area.

Despite niggles [or snag list as it is known in the trade] the 90m2 home is quite fun to live in. Work is just a wander across the yard and there is a whole British summer to make hay when the sun shines.




However it has not all been work work work, as that would make jack a very dull beanstalk.


And what to do with half a dozen mid century doors, and the need for a garden shed [an ongoing project like everything else- the light, the signage, yale lock, time travel etc to follow when there is time – !?!]P1000291



the dogs are supposed to keep the rabbit population down- there are hundreds- but they have time to play.



And then there is what to do with piles of old gas canisters that every old farm house compulsorily comes with.

becoming more creative with the plasma cutter

becoming more creative with the plasma cutter

the new mail box

the new mail box

gas bottle evolution with the add of a plasma cutter.

gas bottle evolution with the add of a plasma cutter.

Plotlands- learning from history

and the present housing crisis.

Housing crisis? Some would say that the UK has a housing shortage, less of a crisis but more a supply problem. Yet for many housing is at crisis point and something Shelter [the housing pressure group charity] and others have reported to government. Rents in areas where there is work are bordering on extortion [ a £2500 monthly rent for a 2 bed in Brixton, London, is normal] and with current average prices for buying a home around  £165,000 to £247,000 depending on which government agency is used affordable accommodation is at crisis.

A 40 or 50 or 60 something, homeowners may be the lucky ones who is able to sell up in one area and either upsize or downsize in another area but for those who are renting the choices are getting restricted year on year. The average wage is around £25,000 although there are plenty of people on half that- given that a 90% loan is 3 to 3.5 annual income for single people and 2.5 for couples the house price limit is £36-40 thousand for a below averaged waged single person, £78,000 for the averaged waged single person [or below average wage couple] and £120,000 for a working average couple. Many couples have children, not all, some I believe are same sex! or don’t want children! And children tend to mess up pre child arrangements. Add to this is that about a third of wages is spent on housing which has progressively got worse over the decades: after the WW2 around 20% or less went on the mortgage.

One of the basics of life is now a form of servitude in the UK.

Government is urged to build more social housing and urged to allow more private housing estates on greenbelt land. Yet for the last few decades the problem has been left to the free market which has restricted supply and pushed house prices and rents beyond many people’s income. Local authorities are financially restricted to raise the capital,  to build the houses, to rent out to those in need and with the ‘right to buy’ the best social housing has been sold off [at a reduced rate]. Developers wishing to build new housing estates on greenbelt land are met with local objection.

Developers are also looking to make a profit, hence the reason for anonymous – homogeneous – rabbit hutch estates, where a three bedroomed detached house is squeezed into the smallest space. As much as many of us with a hint of architectural sense may loathe the ‘Barrett Home’ many aspire to live on an out of town modern estate. And, all the time towns and cities a sprawling into the remnants of the countryside.

The solutions are all problematic: we want open spaces and countryside, and unlike many Europeans we don’t like apartments [unless they are in a particularly groovy part of a city overlooking some lake or docklands] but aspire to a little garden and three bedrooms in which the smallest would present problems swinging a cat. Smaller communities object to large estates popping up next to them and even ignoring the NIMBYS fear of their own houses losing a view and more importantly value, these communities have lost their local schools and economic infrastructure leading to new developments being dormitory.

One of the single biggest hurdles is obtaining land to build on- developers will sit on land until house prices have risen so as to make a profit, an issue that is currently being tackled by government but this is not the root of the problem.

Land values have sky rocketed- my own land is worth 20 times its purchase price in 20 years. Local upland which is fairly marginal sells for around £7,000 an acre- productive agricultural lowland is around £10,000 and more depending on location. For the average farmer the return on investment at that price is marginal- at best it is a tax loss and safer than the bank. With planning permission that £10 k an acre land is worth £800k or a million or more: a small plot with planning permission is a bargain at £70,000 although you would not get a mortgage for it. Just 3 or so companies offer mortgages for the self builder often requiring the land to be owned in the first place. With this is the simple lack of building plots most building land is packaged up into several acre plots which in turn is wrapped up into the complex world of local authority planning that secretly decides which areas will be open for development and which will remain greenbelt.

Building homes is not the expensive part, it can be but it can cost a few £1000 to connect electricity, water, and sewage. More remote locations with fewer or one dwelling cost more – up to £20,000 for water and electric and less with off the grid services or if there are several homes [customers]. My 100sqm cabin cost £2000 in materials and a further £1000 for the off the grid electric, but I do have a natural spring and space for a bio loo and reed water processing. Realistically £50,000 would build a fabulous  small home [visit tinyhouseblog for great ideas]. Across the spectrum there are options- in the 80s people bought old buses and took to the road and for a short while actually had a little control over their lives, for the conventional it is possible to build a family home for around £80,000 with most of work carried out by contractors.

The issue is planning and land.

The 1947 planning act had worthy objectives- the countryside needed protecting and people needed to be housed after the War and the act allowed local authorities to do both. The mission of the act is now in conflict with need. One of the first things to be reigned in were the almost anarchic ‘plotlands’

During the 1890’s, agriculture declined because of a series of poor harvests and cheap grain imports from America. Fields [especially marginal land with some along the coast ]were sold off to land agents, who auctioned them off as small plots.
After the First World War, the British Government promised ‘a land fit for heroes’ and building one’s own home in the countryside was encouraged. Later, the Depression of the 1930s drove people to settle in the Plotlands and build themselves a place to live.

For a more in depth article the Dabbler Blog is worth a read.  Plot lands were popular after both wars, it offered a new life and an opportunity to have control over it despite the lack of many services including surfaced roads. There are a few surviving plotlands- Bewdley overlooking the river Severn is a wonderful example of people architecture. Jonathan Meades the culture critic did a series on the BBC in 1990 called Abroad in Britain and features the ideals and architecture of this surviving plotland.

a photo collection of people housing on plotlands can be found here.

It is unlikely homeowners in the conventional sense would accept plotlands across the country- given the hostility to traveller camps, legal or illegal. There seems a widespread, [how to phrase it?] well make up your own mind- homeowners attitudes are ‘I worked hard to own a home why shouldn’t they?’ 20 to 25 years of a third of one’s income hardens attitudes. The view they have, the community they are used too are in there minds hard fought for. Housing which is a basic human right is a contentious issue whether it is ‘single young mums jumping the council house waiting list’ or outsiders illegally occupying land.

Curiously, one of the most popular Grand Designs [Channel 4] episodes is Ben Law who built his own eco home in the woods after living in a tent for years.

Perhaps if it is seen that ‘outsider’ or para-homeowners have earned their homes through hard work they can be accepted. So I propose a compromise- it is not the answer but it could be part of a broader solution. It even fits within the 1947 Planning Act.

Councils are allowed to lease land and allowed to compulsory purchase it and allowed to lease it out to developers. Their powers allow them to by land without planning permission and give permission. Land bought for £10,000 an acre remains the same value with planning permission- therefore the £80,000 budget to build a home available to working couples is possible. The lease can be specific to avoid profiteering with resale value being entirely the value of the actual building not its speculated value. It would have other benefits- provision could be made for DIY builders to build sustainable cheap homes and to avoid the danger of slum dwellings rental would be forbidden and resale limited. For local communities individual homes would have their own character influenced by their owner and avoiding the bland housing developments that use the same bricks, roofs, and 3 bed box design. Also, such ad hoc building would employ many more small building businesses and contractors.

It would stimulate design, it would stimulate empowerment of people to control their environment, it could stimulate a literal ‘cottage industry including cutting edge factory built prefabs aimed at the £50 k market. Allowing flexibility, and innovation in the planning system so certain restrictions are lifted -such as ‘being in keeping with the local architecture’ that often condemn new builds to copy unimaginative architecture – may actually start giving people the confidence to be bold and imaginative.  Their fear is and has been that given a choice the working classes will make the wrong ones- they will have little houses with Corinthian columns or fake beams, but so what? How are we going to find out what we want?

There are a host of other issues such as protecting the environment, sustaining local and rural economies as well as reducing the need to drive everywhere just to work and shop. Part of the solution to those problem is to have a rekindled frontier spirit, something that plotlands could achieve.

Homes, Green Dreams, and the Land of Rainbows pt 1

This is Part 1 of a series of articles and diary of building the green dream, but first the ‘gold standard’ the German ‘Passivhauses’.

Passivhauses is certified standard of house building that can increase the value of your home, reduce insurance but principally  reduce heating to the body warmth of the occupants and appliances. Cooking and hot water are the only big energy consumers with an air heat exchanger [costing around £20-£40 in electricity per year] conditioning the hot air from your bathroom, kitchen and other humid areas and exchanging its heat with clean cool air from outside. The Guardian article on how Passivhauses have changed peoples lives and heating bills has a simple diagram of the principals. It also stimulated plenty of comments of people living in Britain’s energy inefficient houses on how to retrofit the Passivhauses features into theirs.


The cost difference between a standard UK new build [with a build cost of £80,000] and a fully spec Passivhauses is £20,000- that may seem a lot [or little, and the coming blogs will investigate how much it costs to build a house] but given that UK energy prices have doubled since 2005 the savings are potentially huge.

Why don’t people get exponential growth? I wrote about it and it seems obvious now but not before. Fuel or at least good old fashioned fossil fuels are never going to be cheap again [unless we have a major economic collapse and demand crashes but then we won’t have the income to buy it], the alternatives like nuclear isn’t getting cheaper and wind and solar may, but not quite yet [although not to be dismissed]. The latest wave of price increases by the Big 6 UK energy providers is around 10%, it is exceptional but with income only rising at 1% and general inflation at 2.5-3% even modest above inflation energy prices rises has long term implications.

The average UK household energy bill is £1400, but like so many ‘averages’ it hides the reality that poorer households in poor property are spending a higher percentage of income on keeping warm and possibly more than the average middle income family in a better insulated house with the best gas boiler. With a 7% annual energy inflation the average fuel cost will double in 10 years, and double again 10 years later. 7% inflation may be the high end, it may also be a low guess given that we have used up half the oil resources in the world and will consume the rest in decades and global population increase is demanding more energy. Assuming a 7% inflation [and only 1% increase in real income] means that over a 20 year period the average household will spend in the region of £60,000 to keep warm, have hot water and cook.

There is an old axiom that rich people buy once and save money [I can’t remember the actual saying] poor people buy 10 pairs of shoes whilst the wealthy buy a good pair that last. Spending money now to save later is not always possible especially on a low income but it makes sense if you can to reduce energy consumption [and CO2] to do so.  As a builder and eco-enthusiast  I have been consulted on energy efficiency retro fitting as well as doing the tasks, and as I’m currently embarking on building the green dream [see the next blog when I download pictures on the current project] energy efficiency is a priority.

Recently I did the research and plans to renovate a 18th century town house to very high energy efficiency standards. A problem with it was that it is Grade 2 listed which requires a jobsworthy inspector overseeing renovation work to ensure the building’s character is preserved. Unfortunately pretty well everything suggested was considered to be almost vandalism and as a consequence the building remains on the market and unrenovated. It was was an interesting exercise in costing and planning a major retrofit.

Renovating and retrofitting compliment each other- if the roof needs removing and repairing then it is an excellent opportunity to fully insulate at little additional cost. Likewise is the ground floor needs lifting [the house had slate slabs that were damp and laid on to soil] then a new concrete slab can be laid with suitable insulation and then the original floor can be replaced again at minimal additional cost. However a problem in the UK is that builders are not familiar with efficiency measures and will skimp on material costs to keep their quote competitive. Knowledge is power and the homeowner needs to up their understanding of the options, a daunting task given the confusion over U values, R values, and Watts per square metre.

The principle is simple-

have an insulation barrier of 1 foot [270-300mm] of most materials [glassfibre, recycled paper, thermal blocks etc] or half as much of polyurethane envelop the entire building. Ensure there are no leaks – which requires wrapping the building [usually internally] in an air tight membrane before plaster board is installed- and making sure any punctures in the building such as pipes are sealed. Have draft free doors and windows and control the ventilation with a heat exchanger.

the practise is tricker.

The best advise is to DIY, or at the least fit your own loft insulation- glass fibre is cheap and laying another roll in the roof space will do no harm, particularly pay attention to the hard to reach eaves: drafts that come up around floor boards have there origins at the point the wall meets the roof.

If you are up for a challenge learn to plaster [and be able to remove skirting boards]. External walls can be insulated by removing skirting, window trim [pictures etc] – gluing either 100-150  of PU foam board or twice as much polystyrene sheets on to the walls, then gluing [there is a plasterboard sticky plaster for the job] plasterboard on top and then finishing the board with plaster. You can glue the skirting back on but it serves no purpose. To really do a good job, insulation [glass fibre] needs to be placed in the void between ceiling and floor along the external wall. The rooms will be smaller but much warmer- and you can do one room[ one wall] at a time.

A DIY project that is cheap[er] and effective is to insulate the ground floor. If it is a floating timber floor the boards can be lifted and insulation stuffed inbetween the joists- either staple fruit netting to the underneath of the joists and fill with glass fibre or use PU foam rigid boards. Whilst you are down there use PU foam in a can to seal any cracks in the walls. Buy the foam gun rather than the cans with their own applicator- they can also be used to fill gaps around pipes in external walls.

Concrete floors are more of a challenge- you could get a breaker, dig up the floor to a depth of foot, lay membrane- 6inches [150mm] of polystyrene, or 75-100 mm of PU foam board, include 50 mm upstand along external wall to avoid cold bridging, and replace the 125mm of concrete. If all of that sounds like a lot of trouble then laying 50 mm of foam board directly on the floor and then laying floor boards on top is the alternative. You will have to cut the doors down, remove the skirting and hope the electrical sockets are not too close to the floor.

Double glazing is pretty ubiquitous in most UK homes even old ones, as long as they are sound there is little economic reason to replace them. If they are up for replacement then it is questionable if triple glazing is worth the energy savings. A passive house- rather than a Passivhauses utilises the sun rays [in winter months] to enter the house through south facing windows and heat the interior- by installing triple glazing that heat is deflected to a degree so in latitudes of 50o it is questionable to install triple glazing in south facing windows. What I would recommend is removing the plastic trim around double glazed windows [it is stuck on with silicone that can be cut with a knife] and in the void between the walls and frame fill with expanding PU foam. when cured trim and replace the plastic strips with white silicone.

If you have been really diligent in insulating and draft proofing your house you will find mould growing everywhere. Bulk ventilation removes warm air which contains more water from breathing, boiling the kettle and having a shower- reduce the ventilation [or draft] and the water will condense and provide a home for mould. Even in a poorly insulated house the benefits of an air heat exchange unit have been proven in studies. A number of housing associations have done basic draft proofing, replaced the boiler for a new condensing gas boiler and installed heat exchangers- 70% of heat is recovered [less the moist air] and returned to living spaces. The biggest problem was changing peoples habits- windows need to remain closed- but not during warm periods- and the machine needs to remain on- and not switched off at night. In summer they are switched to a non heating mode and running costs are £20- £40 a year. With a fan[s] being the only moving part there is little to go wrong.

At around £700- £1000 the heat exchange unit is a simple machine that is easy to fit- the ducting is more problematic but if you like the industrial look it can be on show- I would chose galvanised duct. Otherwise it has to be installed through walls and between floors. Kitchen and bathroom extractors are removed and replaced with input ducts- you would also want to have a means to seal chimneys- at least whilst they weren’t used. You also have to install carbon monoxide detectors- by law. They’re cheap so buy 2 or 3.  If £1000 is too much to out lay in one go there are individual room heat exchangers that require a hole in the wall and cost around £300.

Personally, I have rented old leaky houses that were almost impossible to keep warm and that was when energy was pretty cheap. One of the simplest tricks was to open up the old fireplace and fuel it with skip diving activities. In the heady days of the 1980s and 90s the skips of towns and cities were brimming with furniture, parquet flooring, and builders timber- either furnishings, renovation material or fuel for humble rented accommodation. Living should be comfortable and a reason beyond saving money and reducing CO2- we mortgage our lives to live in a better [as in a pleasing] house, in a better environment, in a better neighbourhood and comfort including air quality shouldn’t be an afterthought. Smug and snug.

Next Part 2- building the dream in the land of rainbows.

Matt Ridley in denial about being in denial

Matt Ridley: 5th viscount Ridley no less, peer of the House of Lords, educated at Eton and obtaining a zoology degree at Magdalen [pronounced maudlin for you uneducated oiks] and currently a science journalist after his previous job as Chairman of Northern Rock [before the bank went tits up]. So he should be a clever man.

Matt Ridley claims he is not a AGW denier, rather that he is a true sceptic. He accepts AGW, he accepts the human driven release of CO2 has warmed the planet… a bit. He is definitely not a science denying weirdo like many on ‘t’internet’. Yet Matt’s last two journalistic outings on Climate Change would rather suggest he is a big fat fiber.

In September [28th 2013] Matt wrote an opinion piece for his regular slot in the Times ‘Global lukewarming need not be catastrophic’ – it is behind a paywall but he reprints it in his Rational Optimist blog. The title gives the clue, his opening paragraph-

In the climate debate, which side are you on? Do you think climate change is the most urgent crisis facing mankind requiring almost unlimited spending? Or that it’s all a hoax, dreamt up to justify socialism, and nothing is happening anyway?

Because those are the only two options, apparently. I know this from bitter experience. Every time I argue for a lukewarm “third way” — that climate change is real but slow, partly man-made but also susceptible to natural factors, and might be dangerous but more likely will not be.

Matt Ridley sets the scene: he is an outsider, hounded by both ‘sides’, but his middle way shows that rises above the debate. In the first instance Matt Ridley is firmly with the deniers as being on the ‘Academic Advisory Council’ of the GWPF [Global Warming Policy Foundation], a thinktank with the supposed agenda of offering balance but churns out the same old myths. Matt Ridley shares the Academic Advising with such denialists as Ian Pilmer, Dr Indur Goklany, Professor Robert Carter, and a host of other fake sceptics including the economist Professor Richard Tol. Do remember him.

Matt continues-

Yet read between the lines of yesterday’s report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and you see that even its authors are tiptoeing towards the moderate middle. They now admit there has been at least a 15-year standstill in temperatures, which they did not predict and cannot explain, something sceptics were denounced for claiming only two years ago. They concede, through gritted teeth, that over three decades, warming has been much slower than predicted. They have lowered their estimate of “transient” climate sensitivity, which tells you roughly how much the temperature will rise towards the end of this century, to 1-2.5C, up to a half of which has already happened.

there are two issues here, that the IPCC has changed its position on the threat of AGW and mention of ‘transient’ climate sensitivity. Even though Matt is a scientist he doesn’t get TCS [transient climate sensitivity].

IPCC authors concluded that the global mean equilibrium warming for doubling CO2 (a concentration of approximately 540 parts-per-million (ppm)), or equilibrium climate sensitivity, very likely is greater than 1.5 °C and likely to lie in the range 2 to 4.5 °C, with a most likely value of about 3 °C. For fundamental physical reasons, as well as data limitations, the IPCC states a climate sensitivity higher than 4.5 °C cannot be ruled out, but that agreement for these values with observations and “proxy” climate data is generally worse compared to values in the 2 to 4.5 °C range. [from wikipedia]

IPCC AR5 physical science report has reduced the lower end of the “likely” equilibrium sensitivity range from 2°C in AR4 to 1.5°C.The 0.5°C drop on the lower estimate ‘most likely’ temperature increase is transient: a short term- i.e. up to 2100, temperature rise with the doubling of CO2 from 280ppm. Currently it is 400ppm and if business as usual continued the doubling would occur in 2050. To pretend that a 0.5°C is good news is to miss the point- it may simply buy a little more time. See here for more details of this long running misinterpretation.

The ‘stand still’ of global surface temperatures is just another denier talking point. There has been no cooling, or standstill and scientists are neither baffled or unable to explain the slow rising in Global Surface Temperature. Tamino followed up Ridley’s fellow GWPF academic advisor Dr David Whitehouse who pushes the ‘no-warming’ ‘failure of IPCC models’ denialist line, on his blog.

After another paragraph of denier talking points- the sea levels aren’t rising much, the Antarctic is melting- he ends

-Talk of tipping points is gone.

Talk of tipping points was not in AR4 either, but the report on mitigation which follows the report for policy makers did briefly mention tipping points- the point we have no chance of returning the climate in the long term to something like the way it was. In fact, scientists are critical of the IPCC AR5 for giving the illusion that change will be gradual.

Ridley then bemoans the fact that only if the IPCC [the hundreds of scientists that contribute papers, perhaps?] had listened to Wattsupwiththat, Bishops Hill and other denier blogs in the past then they would not be in this embarrassing position of climbing down from being doom merchants. The IPCC is more certain of the A in AGW and warns of the C- the complete opposite to denier blogs.

After taking on the victim stance that climate sceptics [denialists] are called names and evil and compared to Nazis he winds up the piece with.

Of course, the IPCC’s conversion to lukewarming is not the way it will be spun, lest it derail the gravy train that keeps so many activists in well-paid jobs, scientists in amply funded labs and renewable investors in subsidised profits.

Hardly a veiled version of the usual ‘AGW is a hoax’ ‘Climate change is a scam’ or ‘the UN just wants to tax us’ and other tinfoil hattery.

Bob Ward of the Guardian wrote about the campaign by the likes of GWPF [and it’s academic advisor writing in the Times] to undermine the IPCC report even before it had been released.

Among many false assertions by Lord Ridley was that the IPCC had “lowered their estimate of ‘transient’ climate sensitivity, which tells you roughly how much the temperature will rise towards the end of this century, to 1-2.5C, up to a half of which has already happened”.

This was wrong because the transient climate response refers only to a doubling of carbon dioxide levels over 70 years, but as the IPCC report points out, concentrations could be much higher by 2100, leading to much greater levels of warming.

But Lord Ridley’s brother-in-law, Owen Paterson, the UK environment secretary, was clearly oblivious to the glaring error in the article and incorporated it into his speech at a fringe event at the Conservative Party conference, declaring: “I think the relief of this latest report is that it shows a really quite modest increase, half of which has already happened. They are talking one to two and a half degrees.”

Matt Ridley was not pleased and wrote a stern letter to the Guardian.

In his continuing attempt to polarise the climate debate into believers and deniers, Bob Ward has resorted to conspiracy theories and attacked me.

After reiterating that he was right in his interpretation of the TCS he changes the subject and mentions a paper by fellow ‘Academic Advisor’ to GWPF Richard Tol an economist. In a 2009 paper where he reviews 14 economics papers [one of which is his own and half being from the 1990s] Tol concludes that in the short term warming will be beneficial. The paper is free to download – and concludes that there a great many unknowns and fixing the right price for carbon is tricky to get right.

There is a strong case for near-term action on climate change, although prudence may dictate phasing in a higher cost of carbon over time, both to ease the transition and to give analysts the ongoing ability to evaluate costs, benefits, and policy mechanisms.

Which transforms into

[Tol] found that there is likely to be net global benefit to human or planetary welfare from warming till temperature has increased by 2.2 degrees from 2009 levels, which is about 3 degrees above pre-industrial temperatures. This is before taking adaptation into account so it is conservative. That means probable net benefit from climate change until towards the end of the century.

So that’s ok? our children will be fine but the next generation will have to deal with the negative effects? The rest of the letter, like most climate change deniers then goes on to mention the poor people who suffer fuel poverty along with

hunger, malnutrition and respiratory ill health by today’s climate policies

A nod to those terrible wind turbines driving up home energy prices and the Third World who we stop from having a better life. But respiratory ill health? Pollution from coal power stations and diesel particulates is part of the fossil fuel world- what I expect Matt Ridley is saying is that poor people are being denied electric cookers and heaters and have to burn dung and wood in their huts. Ridley is a long standing care troll. The reason poor people burn wood and dung for cooking in unventilated huts or slums is that the electricity and gas companies don’t tend to offer that service, and besides electric hobs don’t come cheap on $1 a day.

Mr Ward appears to think they [poor people] should be ignored in favour of concern for the welfare of wealthier people in the next century.

Having failed to address Bob Ward’s article it does give Matt Ridley inspiration for his next article in the Spectator.

Carry on Warming

Climate change has done more good than harm so far and is likely to continue doing so for most of this century. This is not some barmy, right-wing fantasy; it is the consensus of expert opinion. Yet almost nobody seems to know this.

‘Warming is good’ has been around since AGW became a serious issue in the late 80s with Sherwood Idso, the scientist for hire who was writing about how great CFCs were and how wrong it was to ban them back then was also churning out papers on CO2 on how it was ‘plant food’- ‘warming was good’- ‘warm is better than cold’. 20 years later Matt Ridley is spreading the same old myths.

The chief benefits of global warming include: fewer winter deaths; lower energy costs; better agricultural yields; probably fewer droughts; maybe richer biodiversity. It is a little-known fact that winter deaths exceed summer deaths

The consensus opinion of these experts is rather limited to Richard Tol and his 2009 economics paper, and Bjorn Lomborg.

Matt Ridley’s attempts to be a genuine sceptic is the same fake scepticism that has been churned out by deniers for over two decades. Climate Change is happening- but ‘even the IPCC say they are only 95% certain that 50% is man-made, the rest is natural’, there has been no warming for 16 years, the models don’t work, they can’t explain the lack of warming, a warming world is good, CO2 is plant food, spending money on preventing carbon emissions is a waste, wind turbines are bad, combating climate change will make the poor poorer, and fuel bills more expensive, climate scientists are doing it for the money, sceptics cannot get their sceptical papers published,

and the list continues. Ridley is the same as Monckton who also believes CO2 is a greenhouse gas and there has been some warming. Admittedly Monckton also believes the UNs Agenda 21 on sustainability is about enslaving us in a UN Marxist totalitarian world government.

Why does Matt Ridley peddle the same old denier talking points.

the superabundance of shale gas and oil has postponed peak oil once again and is already driving down coal, gas and oil prices in the United States, with other parts of the world likely to follow suit.

Cheap energy or green energy -you cannot have both

The five myths about fracking -wind power does more environmental harm.

abiotic gas !

Abiotic gas and oil is the fantasy wet dream of oil never running out. Much loved by some climate deniers who also think shale gas is the answer to all our energy needs. Despite owning an estate of lordship proportions, and holding a wide variety of shares Matt Ridley has no business interests in oil or fossil fuel companies or power production.

More- George Monbiot on the errors in his book -the Rational OptimistHis Wall Street Journal article recycled in the Times debunked

Oil and Gas Limits Underlie Syria’s Conflict

Syria is, of course a hot topic, I was going to blog after a very interesting article in the Guardian
There are plenty of opinions concerning the causes of unrest and war in Syria- all with the exception of some Zionist conspiracy have an element of truth. But simply: too many people, diminishing resources, religious diversity/conflict and fear make for a frightening mix.

Our Finite World

In my view, oil and gas resource limits are major contributors to the conflict in Syria. This is happening in several ways:

1. Syria is an oil exporter that is in increasingly perilous financial condition because of depleting oil resources.  When oil production is increasing, it can help an oil exporter in two ways:  (a) part of the of the oil supply can be used internally, to grow more food and to support increased industry, and (b) exports of oil can be used to provide revenue for governmental programs such as food subsidies, education, and building highways.  Syria’s population grew from 8.8 million in 1980 to 22.8 million in 2012, at least in part because of the wealth available from oil extraction.

Now Syria’s oil production is dropping. The drop between 1996 and 2010 reflects primarily the effect of depletion. The especially steep drop in the last two years reflects…

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