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

Energy Futures part 2

The future is yet to be written, we could move from our current fossil fuel driven, technology era to a sustainable technological era or suffer climate change and fossil fuel depletion in a very uncertain future. Exactly how bad the future of our lives, that of our children’s and our grandchildren is unknown, the discharge of CO2 through human activity will not in itself cause huge climate disruption, what is at issue is the feedbacks of the climate. Computer modelling, applied physics and observation can only do so much in the testing of climate change theory, they are not crystal balls but tools. And that is very much the theme of this post.

When I first became interested in the environment way back in the 1970s the issue was one of pollution and the loss of species, despite the knowledge that CO2 could change the climate as early as the 1950s it only became an issue in the early 1990s, but what if CO2 was not a problem, where would we be today?

Peak Oil, that is, the point in history when demand starts outstripping supply as well as the discovery of replacement wells is an issue now. [ the Wikipedia entry covers the issue extensively] Predictions for when it will occur range from any time between 1999 and 2040. The United States Government felt compelled to do a study of the consequences in its Hirsch Report in 2005  which concluded that oil would start to decline around 2015. Oil companies such as Shell are dismissive of Peak Oil believing that the industry will carry on supplying well into the future and when unconventional oil is taken account, that is very heavy crude and tar sands which make up over half of known reserves, we have plenty to burn as pointed out in these articles, here and here. Others however mistrust the fossil fuel industry [see here] [and here] with industry experts being at the forefront of the criticism, the author of the US Peak Oil report was a former high ranking employee of Exxon.

When the banks collapsed it took governments by surprise, well at least they pretended ignorance despite warnings from whistle-blowers in banking. Governments were assured by the finance industry that everything was above board and it was yet another way they were creating wealth. In hindsight it is all perfectly clear, the banks created a system the was inherently flawed and easily abused, and one some would consider fraudulent.  Why then, should we, our government and anyone effected by the 2007 credit crisis trust any industry? Is being burnt by the banks an exception or would it be wise to be sceptical of the energy industry?

Enron was, back 2000, an energy giant with a turnover of $100 billion and a value of over £60 billion, a year later it was bankrupt as a complex fraud was revealed. Board members and key personnel were unaware of the fraud, the clever book keeping and the amount of liabilities. Unconventional shale gas [aka fracking] may also be an elaborate business model bordering on a Ponzi scheme, or at the very least a gold rush. At the moment the dash for shale gas is big in the US, it is very competitive and the price is now low, at the same time insiders indicate some ‘seams’ are lot less productive than first thought but as drilling rights are highly prized some companies are appearing to be in good profit by selling off their rights to late comers. At the moment it is a gold rush with plenty of investors but if production quickly peaks then there will be more losers than winners and ultimately the gas price will climb. This video covers the issue in more detail. You may ask, why don’t people such as investors do a little research? Clearly on past performance whether it be the 1930s Wall Street crash, 2007 credit crunch, the dot com bubble or the recent sale of Facebook which lost half its value in just 3 months, investors operate in a very optimistic environment.

Sceptics/deniers of Climate Change are quick to mention the wonders of thorium nuclear reactors [which have failed to work commercially for 50 years] and shale gas, they want to believe both technologies will provide cheap abundant energy. The desire, particularly in the US to return to the good old days of cheap fuel is such that a new conspiracy theory is forming that it is only evil [tree huggers] [the government] [bankers] [Arab revolutionaries] (tick box) are keeping the prices high. But before we laugh at their naivety look around, do you see many people getting concerned that the beginning of the end of the oil era may be upon us in 2 years time?

About 3,170 years ago Ramsis III built great temples, many statues, a great tomb and additions to the great temples that superseded that of many of his forebears. His inscriptions and relief carvings show a great Pharaoh ruling over a great land, the truth was very different to the impression. Documents were to eventually turn up that tell of a different story: his most important staff, his tomb workers went on strike because of lack of food, his great battles with invading armies were undecided and his queen organised a military coup against him. Egypt was suffering drought and it was part of a 20 year climate change event that reshaped every civilisation. Ramsis III is considered the last great pharaoh and Egypt quickly fell into decline after his death. He held it together and gave the impression nothing had really changed.

The oil [and gas] industry want to give the impression there is no need to worry, and we want to believe them. We won’t be thrown into some Mad Max world where gangs of bikers scavenge the last of the petrol, but fuel will continue to be more expensive until a point when countries start warring, economically and perhaps violently to get their share of a diminishing resource. Both China and the US need to keep their peoples happy with the consumer dream, for China consumerism has been the treat to keep its people from revolution, the moment it fails to deliver is the moment the people will hit the streets. If a billion new car owners is what it takes I am sure China will do everything in its power to enable that [it plans for just 20 million electric cars by 2020].

So if you are an investor, say, with a few £billion for pensions in 20 years time where will you put your money. Even the oil companies admit that the cheap easy oil will be severely diminished in 22 years. If climate disruption continues to increase in frequency we can expect more years like this year where the US and Europe have lost 20% or more in food production. If governments do decide to act belatedly and cap CO2 emissions and therefore the fossil fuel industry where are you going to put that money, now?

BP’s 2011 profit was $24 billion, with assets of $280 billion, as long as it stops its rigs or refineries blowing up it is a safe investment, but those assets are future oil, oil in the ground which may have to be left there or may be grossly over-estimated. As an investor you don’t know and if times are good now what is going to be the signal that the black gold oil rush is over? As oil companies seek new reserves they are drilling into deeper waters, operating in unstable countries, spending more money looking for smaller and smaller reserves and those healthy dividends will start to look smaller and smaller. You don’t even need peak oil to get nervous: Saudi Arabia is one of the most oppressive societies on earth, it is also secretive, if a country like Tunisia can erupt in revolution so can SA, and there the Wahabi Islamists,  who are likely to prevail, are not friendly to the West.  A few months, a few weeks without their oil would throw the markets into chaos. [If in the first Gulf War we hadn’t joined in the Kuwaitis would have have sold $billions of assets to raise a mercenary army and cause chaos to the global economy in the process.]

We won’t know when peak oil has occurred until after the event so does it not make sense for investors to plan ahead now? The alternatives to the $6 trillion energy market as well as current transport are clear. It is alternative energy, it is electrification of railways and eventually private transport, it is local business, local shops, and local housing rather than out of town suburbs, shopping malls and long commutes. It is thousands of opportunities to be there first and make a profit in the process. Even Richard Branson and Virgin airlines is investing in a non fossil fuel, non bio fuel alternative ‘for when oil runs out‘.

I doubt many investors will read this blog but to make that change and for humanity to avoid that environmental disaster we need to do something. May be it is -the economy stupid- we are perhaps, wasting our breath on the denial-sphere, on politicians with a five year agenda, instead we need to focus on those with a long term vision, we need to get the market to think straight and really hedge its bets.

Energy Futures

Oil: future historians will no doubt look back at our short 150/200 year era as the one of oil. This human era will sit neatly between the Industrial Revolution of coal and steam and a new period that we will ultimately decide. The future is unwritten but there are interested parties not least the oil industry who actively write their version.
I don’t want to join the ranks of conspiracy theorists [albeit mild one] who blame all wars on oil but ‘its all about oil’ is a truism. Sure the Iraq war would have unlikely to have happened had it not been for the first one with the invasion of Kuwait, triggered by a supposed oil dispute, and invasion of North Korea with its WMDs [and no oil] is highly unlikely but the real issue is our economy: it is driven by oil and gas. Our love affair for the motor car is such that newspapers eagerly report almost every discovery of a new oil field, reassurance that our lifestyle is not under threat. Only the dark existential threat of Climate Change hovers over the optimism that the wheels will continue to turn and our futures will remain unchanging.

There are facts that are disturbing: there is around 1,200 billion barrels of oil in known reserves, if they are burnt [along with known gas & coal reserves] it  will produce 2,800 gigatons of CO2. The most optimistic view of mitigating climate change is stopping at a 2c increase in temperature by 2050 which means we get to produce 570 gigatons of CO2, so you can see the problem, there are 5 times more reserves than wriggle room. But reserves of fossil fuels is a lot less straight forward than the fossil industry would have you believe.

Saudi Arabia with the worlds largest reserve of crude oil had 261 billion barrels of crude in 1992 yet 18 years later had 264 Bb, this, despite extracting 60 billion barrels and not discovering any new fields in the same period. The same increases in estimates occurred throughout known oil fields. Another figure of interest is the amount of extra heavy and tar sands reserves in the global reserves which is 55% these are mainly in Venezuela and Canada. Canada has the 3rd largest reserves with Saudi 2nd and Venezuela in top position but Canadian oil is in a heavy form, it is oil sands which are close to the surface and are scooped up and processed. Oil wells do not tap down into great lakes of oil they are locked into porous rock with a capping strata of dense rock above. Drill through the capping over-lying rocks and the immense weight of [ 2 Km  in the N.Sea] of rock above the oil bearing strata forces the oil out, the same is for gas. Conventional crude was an easy resource, it comes out of the ground under its own steam and with a 10% input of energy it is quickly converted into useful and cheap fuels, extra heavy and tar sands require a lot more energy to extract fuels. Canadian tar sands require 1 barrel of oil to process 3 barrels so in energy terms there is a quarter less reserves than reported. The other issue is the difference between what is a proven reserve and how much can be actually extracted which is nearer half,  the Forties  field in the North Sea reserves were proven at 5 billion barrels on discovery but less than 2 billion could ever be extracted.

Current global consumption  is around 90 million barrels per day, to put that in perceptive one of the most recent discoveries: the Peregrino South oil field off the coast of Brazil is between 150-300 million barrels  that’s just 2 or 3 days of demand. The Wikileaks documents revealed that countries may actual lie about reserves, Saudi production is huge but despite promising for a decade to supply 12 million barrels per day to help control prices that figure has not been met because there is not the oil. It is guessed that reserves may be between 40 & 50% less.

There are two ways to look at the problem, and either way it is a problem: there is plenty of oil for the next century but in burning it we will raise temperatures above 2c into the extremes of 4c and more meaning certain dangerous change for our grandchildren. How bad? Well it seems many scientists are more pessimistic than the consensual opinion. The other possibility is that there is a lot less oil. Oil reserves link into the whole financial market, as an instance BP is valued on potential production, when its shares are traded [and whose dividends pay pensions] the share is in future oil production- or rather extraction. Big up the companies reserves of oil and you big up the value of the shares. A recent example is UK shale gas reserves: Cuadrilla announced that it found a potential 200 trillion cubic feet of gas, this was, of course hype, as reserves and recoverable reserves in this case can be as little as 10-20% but the British Geological  Society was a lot more reserved with a figure of 5 trillion cu/feet [150 billion cu/m]. The UK annual consumption is 100 billion cu/metres of gas which means fracking would provide 18 months of consumption.

The global energy market is estimated to be $6 trillion, so with the World economy being $60 trillion 10% of our production/consumption is energy. Most of that energy, which drives the power stations, the factories, the farms and our homes is derived from fossil fuels. Getting the value of the fossil fuel market as a percentage of the Global economy is difficult and I don’t know how realistic $6 tr is, a quick look at oil consumption = 32 billion barrels and its price at $100 per barrel gives $3.2 trillion and that is just wholesale oil, once processed the barrel [158 litres] of crude gives up valuable raw materials for the chemical and plastics industry as well as fuel  . Some of that energy market is non fossil fuels, [burning wood being the main energy source in developing countries] but nonetheless our economy is dependant on fossil fuels and the markets use the ‘potential’ value of energy companies as secure investment. Not only is our lifestyle dependant on fossil fuels but also our livelihoods and future economic growth.

If the World’s governments were to take Climate Change seriously and committed to a 2c stabilisation this would restrict us to burn only 20% of fossil fuel reserves and would mean oil, gas and coal companies would lose 4/5ths of their value. The oil companies may be selling an elaborate Ponzi scheme and have significantly smaller reserves which may become apparent when demand from China and India out strips supply but that would be gradual, a Global declaration to avert climate disaster would happen overnight. It would strip value off the markets, trillions would be lost over night, and the global economy would be in crisis. The financial crisis was caused by the banks lying about their value of their assets, their Ponzi scheme of toxic mortgages simply valued property at a higher rate with people unlikely to pay it back. It cost the US economy $12 trillion but that excluded the $23 trillion in Quantitative Easing and bank bail outs, the $2.6 trillion in lost GDP and $trillions in share losses and unemployment.

The markets are not renowned for their foresight and it seems unlikely they are going to switch their investments from fossil fuels to green economies. The solutions are there, and the technology is proven. Even the costs are not an issue: the 1973 oil crisis, when prices quadrupled, made the North Sea Oil fields commercially viable with companies like BP investing and developing technologies that far outstripped the cost of Nasa putting a man on the Moon. Canada’s oil fields of tar sands are only viable because oil prices are so high and it is trend that can only go in one direction.

Investing in green energy on a huge scale is the only safe option given the alternatives are either ecological catastrophe or economic calamity, but with the markets dependency on fossil fuels the only alternative of funding rests with the individual and more importantly government.

It was 20 years ago today

that a cuddly hairy botanist was seen leaping about on BBC explaining that ‘the biosphere is under threat’, global warming would start changing our ‘bweatiful’ world unless we acted soon.

Twenty years on it is now happening, the climate is now our weather and David Bellamy who predicted the dangers back then now believes it is all made up. The Arctic reaches its ice minimum around the middle of September, it reached the historic record breaking minimum in August. link . Click the link and be concerned.

My vegetable and fruit growing enterprise has produced little this year, commercial growers in the UK are predicting at least 20%  lower yields and of a poor quality,  in the US the maize and  wheat crop has suffered because of the drought. Food prices are set to rise. The wettest [and coolest] summer on record or for at least 100 years [depending on what months you measure]  in the UK may have washed out festivals, BBQs, and holidays for the city dweller but in the countryside the impact is subtle. Insect numbers are noticeable very low, although some species [like cabbage white] have seen massive and sudden increases. Bird numbers are noticeable down especially compared to a couple of years ago. Certainly species are adaptable to a degree and if next year is better the numbers can recover. Some weeds do well and other wild plants suffer, some trees flourish whilst others struggle. In the UK sitka spruce as a timber crop has had to be planted either higher up the mountains or further north as the decades have passed by as a warm climate produces soft pulpy timber with low value. Tree species that are native to areas further south like sweet chestnut have done well in recent decades but have hardly grown this year. Climate change means winners and losers. [see the latest update on food security]

A part of me 20 years ago optimisticly expected Britain to move into a warmer climate similar to the south of France but things rarely work out as expected. The big player in UK [as well as US, Russia etc] is the Jet Stream, its position determines if warm air will move up or cold Arctic air will move south, it will be no surprise to know it spent it time located just south of the UK dragging wet cold air in from the Atlantic. In the US it has snaked its way so far north that it has brought drought to grain belt. Research is in its early stages but there seems a link between the lack of Arctic ice and the location of the Jet Stream.

“In a paper published in the scientific journal Geophysical Research Letters last March titled “Evidence linking Arctic amplification to extreme weather in mid-latitudes,” Jennifer Francis of Rutgers University and Stephen Vavrus of the University of Wisconsin-Madison offered a hypothesis that may explain why world grain prices have risen 30 per cent in the past four months (and are still going up).

First, a warmer Arctic reduces the temperature gradient between the temperate and polar zones. That, in turn, slows the wind speeds in the zone between the two and increases the “wave amplitude” of the jet stream. The jet stream flows around the planet in great swooping curves, like a river crossing a flat plain, and those curves — Rossby waves, in scientific language — are getting bigger and slower.

This is a recipe for extreme weather. In the old days, the Rossby waves went past fast, bringing the alternating of rainy and sunny weather that characterized the mid-latitude climate. Now, they hang around much longer and generate more extreme weather events: droughts and heat waves, or prolonged rain and flooding, or blizzards and long, hard freezes.”

Nobody expected global warming to have this effect although it was predicted that the Arctic would warm up faster. So with a future of extremes preparation and adaptation is a priority, so last year after 2 consecutive dry Springs causing an early drought when watering was a priority I spent money building a dam to retain winter rain and installed a large tank and irrigation. It has remained unused. This winter I will invest in polytunnels to bring on blueberry shrubs until they are big enough to cope with the rampant weeds and rain. No-doubt the coming year will totally surprise me.

The thing is, if you go back in time and read the articles 20 years ago it was all neatly predicted, except the complete melting of the Arctic summer ice was set to happen another 20 years from now.