back to article Britain's costliest mistake? Lord Stern defends his climate maths

As the year winds to a close and a new one begins, it's traditional to think about the future and good resolutions we may be keeping. In particular, we thought it would make sense to take a look at the resolution the UK made a few years ago: to cut carbon emissions on a scale unmatched by any other nation. How's that going, and …

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Here's a suggestion...

...solve today's problems today. Today's energy problems are fuel poverty and the real risk that the lights will start going out because we have an impending energy gap.

Whatever fiddling around with spreadsheets you want to do the uncertainties are too great. It's open to both halves of the debate to change a number here or there to make the answer support their arguments. And why they are all arguing about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin the opportunity to address some real problems are passing us by.

Our descendants will have a better chance of dealing with there problems if they inherit a strong infrastructure and economy. If all the effort that was going into fiddling around with mitigations for a disaster that might not happen had gone into research into, for instance, new ways of using the limited hydrocarbon resources we have we would be in a better position in 100 years.

It is depressing that this is not going to happen. It seems everyone but Eastern Bloc and China are prepared to sacrifice their futures to the opportunity to keep the populace in fear and dependency.

BTW, the first person who says 'consensus' loses the argument, K?

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Re: Here's a suggestion...

The big problem with all this is understanding the problem. Any attempt to create a solution to an unknown (or not well understood) problem is, at best, a very hit and miss affair. At the moment, we don't really understand the problem at all. Both sides of the argument point at this and that phenomenon and claim it supports their view. Undoubtedly, the recent storms and issues will be caused by man made climate change according to one side and simply natural variance in climate to the other.

Unless we can truly understand the problem and come up with real proof of what is happening and what this will cause, how can we create a solution? Just about every prediction that is made (on both sides) fails to materialise and then out come all the excuses. Our failure to predict what will happen in a few years time clearly shows just how little we understand the mechanisms etc. behind global climate. So, how can we implement a solution (or at least mitigation). After all, a volcanic eruption or two and all our efforts are put to waste!!

In the meantime, people are really, really suffering today. These impacts we do know, are provable and can be predicted. Every time energy prices go up, more old people die of hypothermia in their houses etc.etc. Let's deal with these issues now and when we can identify the problem, then try and implement solutions or mitigations. We are causing untold misery now on the basis that something will happen if we don't. The current 'science' is looking thinner and thinner as time goes on and more observations show the predictions aren't happening.

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Re: Here's a suggestion...

While, their.

I only write this stuff, you don't expect me to read it too.

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Anonymous Coward

one small problem : "both halves of the debate"

There are not two halves to this debate. This is a common "fact" trotted out to deliberately misrepresent the mainstream science position.

There are two factions, one of which outnumbers the other by about 99 to 1.

The views do not hold equal weight, however much you might wish otherwise.

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Re: Here's a suggestion...

>> ...solve today's problems today.

I like this line of thinking and think it can be expanded to a more general use.

I'll skip paying my heating and credit card bills from before today (where 'today' is always the present day) so that I can solve my current need for a PS4 and a holiday. My descendants being warm and unburdened by material goods will be in a much better position to pay off my debts! Or they will just carry on kicking the can down the road and not bother doing anything about it either...

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FAIL

AC, that's a straw-man.

Climate change itself is not the debate. Yes, it's happening.

The debate is what we can and should do about it.

And right now, practically every single thing that's come out of the politicians has been ineffective, expensive and harmful. In some cases it's even increased CO2-equivalent emissions, in all cases it's cost way too much and responsible for deaths - in some cases directly. (Wind power is ****ing dangerous.)

- People will always min/max any defined-rate subsidy, creating the maximum subsidy for the minimum effort.

The subsidies for solar PV and wind installations have just cranked up the cost of energy, with very little effect on actual CO2-equivalent or and none whatsoever on climate change.

Had the same money been spent on research, or even simply insulating homes, we'd be in a much better situation!

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Boffin

Re: one small problem : "both halves of the debate"

"There are two factions, one of which outnumbers the other by about 99 to 1. The views do not hold equal weight, however much you might wish otherwise."

There was a time when those who believed the Earth (and a flat Earth at that) to be the centre of the Universe outnumbered the others by 999 to 1.

The number of adherents does not in itself give credence to any particular philosophy.

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Trollface

Re: Here's a suggestion...

'BTW, the first person who says 'consensus' loses the argument, K?

'consensus''consensus''consensus''consensus''consensus'! Rats, well, I didn't feel like arguing today an anyway.

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Re: one small problem : "both halves of the debate"

@Anonymous Coward.

I would agree that one side outweighs the other in terms of support. However, that doesn't mean they're right!! If you look at history, the right decision has rarely been made in anything. It's always been biased by some outside influence. The question is, what's the outside influence in this case..............

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Re: one small problem : "both halves of the debate"

Although you are clearly trying to avoid the use of the word consensus, numbers behind an argument are completely irrelevant to the quality of their position

"Let's be clear: the work of science has nothing whatever to do with consensus. Consensus is the business of politics. Science, on the contrary, requires only one investigator who happens to be right, which means that he or she has results that are verifiable by reference to the real world. In science consensus is irrelevant. What is relevant is reproducible results. The greatest scientists in history are great precisely because they broke with the consensus. Michael Crichton - Caltech lecture 'Aliens cause Global Warming, January 2003.

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Re: one small problem : "both halves of the debate"

Depends whether you count the number of reputable scientists on both sides, or the number of lobbyist dollars. Clue: you won't get the same disparity of opinion with one of these measurements as you will with the other.

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Re: Here's a suggestion...

What exactly do you mean by "Eastern Bloc" in context of the 21th century? Are you sure your Tardis is well calibrated?

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Re: one small problem : "both halves of the debate"

however your 99-1 still cannot explain a 10+ year temperature plateau, cannot explain a growing winter ice field, cannot explain why the cure should cost 20 times the amount that the disease would and relies on ad hominem attacks referring to 'deniers' (if we deny MMGW 3 times do we get to have a windmill named after us) and 'scepitcs' as though we are all just doing the chicken little dance, although it is that 99-1 faction that seem to be running round going 'the sky is falling' and if you try and give us facts that don't fit our /grant/ hypothesis we are going to call you names and cover our ears and say you're holding the planet wrong.

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Re: one small problem : "both halves of the debate"

AC didn't say 'consensus', he said 'mainstream', so that's OK, right?

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Re: one small problem : "both halves of the debate"

If the science is "settled" then it isn't science, it's that simple. The global warming (or climate change, take your pick) religious fanatics understand that if they were doing science, their raw data would be made public and there would be debate on all GW "proofs" until common usage eventually rendered either GW or anti-GW into the dustbin of history. The GW imperative to create a vaporware speculative financial instrument, i.e., carbon futures, should hint at who is behind this trip to the laundry. Their hysteric ideologically polarized hallucinations have managed to break every rule of science and objectivity in the book. All the primary evidence in mafia capo Al Gore's celluloid chimera have been shown to be nothing more than the fevered manipulations of data never made available to the general scientific community for confirmation. Manipulated and discredited data, manipulated and discredited photographs, manipulated and discredited public hysteria, manipulated and discredited scientific literature...the whole mess needs the rigor of a forensic audit

Earth's weather is solar driven, period. One can only hope the the GW fanatics manage to engineer themselves into a Solar Temple/Raelian reverie.

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Re: one small problem : "both halves of the debate"

Mainstream science was booted out of the room well before Mann should have been sent to the penalty box for high sticking.

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Re: one small problem : "both halves of the debate"

"There are two factions"

Benchley's Law of Distinction: There are two kinds of people in the world, those who believe there are two kinds of people in the world and those who don't.

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Re: one small problem : "both halves of the debate"

The problem isn't climate control but one of population control.

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WTF?

Re: one small problem : "both halves of the debate"

Why should those of us who have a clue waste our time explaining your bizzaro world fantasies?

"Growing winter ice field"?

What the fuck does that even mean?

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Re: one small problem : "both halves of the debate"

> Earth's weather is solar driven, period. One can only hope the the GW fanatics manage to engineer themselves into a Solar Temple/Raelian reverie.

This is just ignorant. Show me a correlation between *any* solar parameter and average temperatures.

Of course the energy comes from the sun. But how much energy stays in the system is not due to the sun.

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Re: one small problem : "both halves of the debate"

Bullshit. Flat earthers are a myth.

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Re: one small problem : "both halves of the debate"

the ice fields are not growing, they've shrunk for years and grown a bit this year, these sorts of small variations from the trend are to be expected.

Also, there is no debate, anthropogenic global warming is a fact and given the massive latency any mitigation efforts will have to contend with it's not to early to start.

Short answer, the sky /is/ falling and if we don't do something about it now, we're stuffed.

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Re: one small problem : "both halves of the debate"

I like how Mr Treen is getting down-votes for stating what is objective fact. It also says a lot about those doing the down-voting that they don't want any inconvenient facts to intrude upon their delusions.

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Re: one small problem : "both halves of the debate"

> however much The Reg might wish otherwise

FTFY.

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Re: one small problem : "both halves of the debate"

> In science consensus is irrelevant

That is actually completely wrong.

In every branch of science you have a couple of percent of kooks, people who believe weird things like that animals do not evolve, they just crossbreed (so a platypus literally IS a cross between a duck and a mole). That example is not a joke, there is a real biologist with a PhD and tenure who claims this.

The reason those kinds of view do not become dogma, is because the majority of scientists disagree. And the reason the consensus doesn't favor animal-crossing-guys theories, is that it doesn't jive with the evidence. The scientific position is determined by the consensus of the experts of the field.

The situation is exactly the same in climate science.

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Childcatcher

Re: my earlier post:- 30/12/13 @ 17:47

Hmmm... 12 thumbs down.

Since I made no comment, either for or against the Global Warming theories, but just pointed out that the number of proponents does not change the veracity or validity of the argument, then I just suppose that there are many commenters who perhaps:-

fail in English comprehension

or

viscerally react without due consideration

or

actually believe that if you get more people onside, it somehow proves your argument.

or

any permutation of several or all of the above.

Nice to see reasoned discourse still rules...

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Re: one small problem : "both halves of the debate"

@Vociferous.

I think there's two issues with your statement.

1. Even if the 'scientific position' (whatever that is) is 'determined by the consensus of the experts in the field', it doesn't make them right. As I said earlier, just because a lot of people think something, doesn't make it so. Also, if you look through history, consensus opinion has been wrong more often than right.

2. What the poster was saying is that there can be the biggest consensus ever on something (even 100%), but unless there is verifiable experimental proof of something, the consensus is irrelevant. Science works on experimental proofs, not a lot of people thinking something is true. There was a scientific consensus about the Higgs Boson, but it wasn't regarded as anything near true until recent experiments seem to show it exists. Consensus without experimental proof is known as theory as we all know how often theories are wrong!! If I could get every expert in the field of physics to believe something, would nature suddenly change to come in line with the theory? According to your consensus theory, it would.

So, the poster was absolutely right. Consensus in science produces theories, which remain exactly that (a group of people thinking and believing the same thing) until scientific experiments show it. As yet, we have very few scientific experiments that show anything around climate science and the whole area is largely theories. Indeed, almost every attempt to show an experimental proof of anything (such as producing predictions that actually happen) has failed miserably.

Hence my earlier statements that we really don't have much of a clue about what's happening and why.

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Re: one small problem : "both halves of the debate"

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=b240PGCMwV0

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Re: my earlier post:- 30/12/13 @ 17:47

@Ted Treen.

I know how you feel. People read something, put their spin on it and then either agree or disagree vehemently according to their view on climate change.

I've simply been saying that we don't really know what's happening or why (which seems a pretty neutral point of view) and that immediately puts me in the anti camp for some reason. Don't know why. I'm simply saying that as pretty much all theories on climate change don't produce verifiable results, our theories seem pretty poor at best. So, we simply don't really know what's happening and what will happen with any degree of certainty at all.

So, I've then asked whether trying to implement a "cure" for something we don't understand at all is really that wise. If you don't know and understand the problem is it really likely that the "cure" will work as desired?

This all makes me an anti for the simple reason I'm not agreeing blindly with the pros. I'm not agreeing with the antis either, but that is lost on the pros.........

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Anonymous Coward

Re: one small problem : "both halves of the debate"

How could anyone downvote the statement that "The number of adherents does not in itself give credence to any particular philosophy"? It's obviously true, and worth saying repeatedly.

There are two kinds of thinking: honest thinking and wishful thinking. Those who indulge in wishful thinking are prone to believe that "all people are equal, because otherwise it wouldn't be fair". Or "X cannot happen, because that would make me unhappy". Science is supposed to be the distillation of honest thinking: as Richard Feynman put it, "Science is what we have learned about how to keep from fooling ourselves".

In science, you are not right because you agree with the majority. You are right because you are right, even if not one single other person agrees with you.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: one small problem : "both halves of the debate"

Unfortunately, what is understood by "reputable scientists" may have a great deal to do with lobbyist dollars (in the broad sense, including for instance media exposure and official recognition).

By the time a scientist has become thoroughly reputable in the eyes of the establishment, it's often been quite a while since he did any original research or had an original thought.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Here's a suggestion...

Actually "Eastern Bloc" never made any sense. Russia, China, India, Indonesia, Iran, Pakistan... all nations with drastically diverse cultures, histories, and interests. There was a "Soviet Bloc", but that was far from being "eastern", as half of it was in Europe.

Which brings me to that moronic term "the West". What on earth is that supposed to mean? In truth, it's a phrase used to conceal rather than reveal: apparently it means something like "the USA and its followers". What is constituted by "the West"? Presumably the USA, Canada, the UK, much of Europe, Australia and New Zealand. I defy you to name any place on earth that is "East" of that lot - given that the Pacific is more reasonably thought of as "West" of the USA and Canada.

I once saw an article written by an establishment journalist (the sort of guy Paul Craig Roberts refers to as a "presstitute") which criticized the government of Ecuador and warned that it had better improve its relations with "the West". But actually, Washington DC is EAST of Quito - although the obvious spatial separation between them is north-south.

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Re: Here's a suggestion...

"My descendants being warm and unburdened by material goods will be in a much better position to pay off my debts! Or they will just carry on kicking the can down the road and not bother doing anything about it either..."

Nothing new here, this is how national debt works. Anyway, scientists will have figured out nuclear fusion by 2200, so what is there to worry about?

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Re: one small problem : "both halves of the debate"

There is often a misunderstanding regarding the meaning of the word "Theory" as used in scientific literature.

The phrase "I have a theory that...." would in scientific circles indicate a hypothesis that requires proof.

A scientific theory is a hypothesis that has been tested. The results (data) indicate that the hypothesis is correct to the required level of tolerance.

The theory holds until a new better hypothesis is tested and verified.

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Re: one small problem : "both halves of the debate"

@Mad Mike:

1) Outside mathematics and theoretical physics, no one knows what The Truth(tm) is. We can only know what our interpretation of the preponderance of evidence tells us.

2) "verifiable experimental proof" is not a magical bullet in any science which care about historical events. No astronomer can ever recreate the birth of a star, much less the big bang; no paleontologist can have a dinosaur fossilize in the lab. Finding the Higgs boson was important because there were several competing alternative theories, and evidence (such as finding something which fits the description of the Higgs) is how you select which one to believe in.

3) Everything in science is hypothesis, theory, or interpretation of observations. Contrary to popular myth theories (such as the Earth is flat, the Aether, the Geocentric world view or the alternatives to Higgs such as the Preon) weren't disproven, they were abandoned because more evidence supported the competing theory. That is, the consensus no longer favored them.

In Science it is always the consensus of experts which determines which theory is considered right. There is no other mechanism for doing so. Even something like quantum theory or that hereditary material is DNA, took decades to get accepted, to become the consensus view of the scientists in the field. And there's STILL scientists who disagree.

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Boffin

Re: AC, that's a straw-man.

@Richard12

I agree with most of what you say, which one could summarize as follows: The greenest/cleanest watt is the watt you saved.

But saying that wind power is dangerous is ridiculous - it is not the safest energy source, but is way safer than the sources we use to get 80+% of our energy - shit, other sources are not even in the same galaxy, let alone league, except solar energy of course.

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Re: one small problem : "both halves of the debate"

@Vociferous.

I'm afraid you're doing it again!!

'which theory is considered right'!! So, it's considered right, but actually that is based solely on the number of people believing it. Therefore, you're happy to 'believe' something based on no experimental evidence at all?

Scientists work in Sigmas (effectively probability of being right). No climate science has passed even the lowest levels of this let alone levels required to be considered 'right' and therefore fact. If you were to talk with physicists about the sigma levels achieved by climate science, they would laugh you out the room. Climate science is constantly being sold as 'fact', but it hasn't even reached the sigma levels to even be probable let alone anywhere near 'fact'.

Until all these scientists you speak of can get it somewhere near 5-Sigma, everything they say is at best a guess. It doesn't matter how many of them there are, it's still a guess.

Same applies to the antis as well of course. Their science is no better, so again, they're guessing.

And all this means, we don't really know what's happening and from that, what will happen.

The consensus can be as large as you like, but until they get to 3,4 or 5-Sigma, claiming anything simply makes them bad scientists.

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Re: one small problem : "both halves of the debate"

Hideki - did you think to include the SOUTHERN hemisphere in your figures ?

you know; of course that the ANTARTIC is currently 2 standard deviations ABOVE average ?

or how about the TOTAL ice cover for the entire planet - - oops that's about the same as it has been for the whole of the record - which of course doesn't even go as far back as the 1950s when a US submarine surfaced at the North Pole.

We DON'T actualy know what the ice cover is on average EXCEPT over the last few years.

Just like we don't actually know what the earth's average temperature is - but we do know as an absolute piece of empirical science is that it VARIES naturaly. We don't know how or why in detail - we have some theories that appear to explain some long term trends - but we still have no idea what triggers an ice age or an interglacial.

Here's another importent piece of empiracl evidence you can prove all by your self - Life does better when it is warmer not when it is colder.

Lowest temperature on earth - -93C

Hotest temperature on earth - +58 (might be a bit higher)

where is OUR comfort zone - ~20C

So why the panic ? I still fail to see why we can be worried over a couple of degrees warmer - unless you don't believe in science that is (ever heard of Darwin & Survival of the fitest?); life will adapt - just like it always does therough all the climate variations that have ever happened.

disprove the null hypothisis (its natural mate; natural) using empirical observarions not models. Models ain't worth spit; not even simple models of simple systems (like refinaries or economies); for predicting real world outcomes. When there is empirical proof that some other hypothisis explains what is happening BETTER than the null hypotesis; then and only then should any one bother to take any notice.

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Re: one small problem : "both halves of the debate"

Contrary to popular myth theories (such as the Earth is flat <snip> weren't disproven, they were abandoned because more evidence supported the competing theory.

No. Just no. The theory that the earth is flat has been decisively disproven. First by first sailing around the planet without falling off the edge and secondly by putting satellites in space that fly around the earth, which has been proven beyond any doubt to be more or less spherical if you ignore the slight flat bits at the poles and the slight bulge at the equator. No belief in this is required, you just have to do something like sail around the planet, look at a photo of earth from space or do your own experiments such as el regs own PARIS project (Paper Aeroplane Released Into Space) which reached a sufficiently high altitude to show the earth is curved.

Science is not, and should not be a religion. Personally, I don't believe in "science". I believe in the scientific process. Science does not demand belief, it demands your eyes. The scientific process is quite simply a formalised method of someone wondering "what happens if you do x" and recording the results so that somebody else can repeat them to confirm they got it right.

A theory is looking at a set of results and then coming up with a possible explanation, which can then be proven or disproved by rational analysis and observation, to the point that something can then be proven by doing something like sailing around the planet or launching a paper aeroplane with a camera into space, thus proving that the planet does not have edges that you can fall off.

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Re: one small problem : "both halves of the debate"

"The number of adherents does not in itself give credence to any particular philosophy."

Rather worryingly, the number of people voting that comment up was almost balanced by the number voting it down!

What's happening to this once-great readership?

For those of you who voted it down, please do read up on the fallacy 'Argumentum Ad Populam'

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argumentum_ad_populum

This isn't a matter of debate. Such arguments are logical fallacies and should be shot down in flames on these boards. Please join me in picking up the machine gun and killing it dead.

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Re: one small problem : "both halves of the debate"

"...How could anyone downvote the statement that "The number of adherents does not in itself give credence to any particular philosophy"? It's obviously true, and worth saying repeatedly...."

It is, indeed, obviously true, at a logical level.

However, in human society, it is NOT necessarily true. If a lot of people, the vast majority, think one way and you do not, then you have a BIG problem. Throughout recorded history, such a dichotomy has been responsible for many deaths. In such a situation, if you do not quickly persuade yourself that the majority belief is true, then you may not live long. You will certainly suffer some disadvantage.

Just saying. No pressure...

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Flame

@Hans 1- Wind is very dangerous.

Have you ever seen a wind turbine? Ever been to the top of one?

Building and maintaining a wind turbine requires complex work-at-height in a location deliberately chosen to have high winds, be far from habitation (thus rescue/hospital) and nearly always in places where the weather and visibility are highly changeable. On top of that, there's also the additional power lines that must be run out to the installations.

Offshore wind is far, far worse, but not included in the data up to 2007. (Few to no plants online.)

Rooftop Solar PV was unfortunately worse, as again it's work at height, and unfortunately the workers tend to be less well trained and protected and so have more accidents.

As of 2007, rooftop Solar PV, Hydroelectric and Wind were the three biggest direct killers per unit of energy generated.

If you include deaths due to mining/extraction accidents and estimates of deaths due to particulates, coal comes out as the most dangerous (mostly due to China mining practice), followed by oil then biofuels, gas, hydro, solar PV and wind. Nuclear is the safest by an order of magnitude.

Exclude China, and coal becomes safer than oil and hydro becomes safer than wind (mostly due to one accident in China that killed 171,000). Presumably China will slowly come down to this 'rest-of-world' level as their workforce safety improves.

Wind turbines are however getting more dangerous, as new ones are being built in 'marginal' conditions - eg offshore.

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Go

Re: @Hans 1- Wind is very dangerous.

Being afraid of heights makes you get a job on the ground... the average lineman probably gets hurt more often than a Hydro, Wind or Solar PV worker who hardly ever go out during a storm to fix anything...cross country transmission lineman get dropped off by Copter, on the line to be repaired...fun in the sun...

Deaths from energy use is similar to deaths due to civilization...folks die...

IMHO= what the problem really asks is how many will die of bad water... lack of sanitary waste facilities... lack of basic all-weather roads... lack of police, fire, and health workers... lack of basic food and shelter... if sensible energy policies don't allow for all of the folks living here to have a chance of simply surviving for another day...WHY are WE doing ANY of this guy's suggestions ??

Should we maybe try to build out power transmission systems that don't fall over in the average storm of any kind...couple that with whatever Power Plant can work year around to provide this power...have emergency services with vehicles n radios that work in the entire area they cover ?? we should do the simple stuff first...fix the world later...if we are able to...RS.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: one small problem : "both halves of the debate"

Yes it can, yes it can, that's not true, no it doesn't, no they don't.

I especially like that fact you ended with a thinly disguised ad hominem. Well done.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: one small problem : "both halves of the debate"

> Earth's weather is solar driven, period.

That's the biggest load of bull anyone in this entire thread has written.

And that's up against some pretty stiff opposition.

At one point obviously true on the other utterly, utterly pointless and so dishonest to be laughable.

You might as well say the Earth's weather is entirely Big Bang driven.

"Well, when the sun goes into a red giant, the Earth will be vaporised, if we put that point on a graph, here... we can see that barring the occasion statistical noise the Earth's weather is entirely solar driven. That concludes the lecture I will now be selling tin foil hats in the foyer."

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Anonymous Coward

Re: one small problem : "both halves of the debate"

Yes but the thing you're forgetting is that Michael Crichton was a swivel eyed lunatic.

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Re: one small problem : "both halves of the debate"

> Earth's weather is solar driven, period.

That's the biggest load of bull anyone in this entire thread has written.

Admiral Fitzroy, best known for Captaining HMS Beagle, where he invited a bloke called Charles Darwin along for company and less well known for founding what later became the Met Office (which is why the Met Office head office happens to be on Fitzroy Road) was convinced up until his dying day that solar activity had an effect on the weather and there is plenty of scientific research which supports this view.

Was he right? No idea. It's quite possible though so possibly not the best idea to declare that it's impossible.

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Re: one small problem : "both halves of the debate"

> ou're happy to 'believe' something based on no experimental evidence at all?

Sure, I am quite happy to believe in dinosaurs and the big bang, no problem. Neither have any experimental evidence whatsoever.

You're naively hung up on experiments, what you SHOULD care about is observations and what can be inferred from them.

> Scientists work in Sigmas

No, they don't.

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Re: one small problem : "both halves of the debate"

> The theory that the earth is flat has been decisively disproven

No, it hasn't. How have you ruled out the possibility that all who sailed around the world didn't hallucinate? How do you know the entire world isn't lying to you? Ridiculously tiny possibilities yes, but nonzero.

Absolute disproof does not exist outside mathematics and theoretical physics, because all observations are to some degree subjective and all theories are ultimately based on at least one unevidenced assumption. This is philosophy of science 101, guys, seriously, look it up.

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Boffin

@roger stillick - Work at height is dangerous work.

UK HSE:

Falls from height remain the most common cause of workplace fatality. In 2008/09 there were 35 fatalities, 4654 major injuries and a further 7065 injuries that caused the injured person to be off work for over 3 days or more, due to a fall from height.

That's the first thing you're told in work-at-height and harness training.

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