Monday, February 15, 2010

Do we really want this?

Politics is about choices – especially when it comes to the spending of public money. Given a limited budget, do we spend hard-earned taxpayers' money on schools, libraries, fire services, hospitals ... our armed forces ... or what?

In many ways, the conflicts are impossible to resolve so spending is a matter of priorities and compromise, but in a properly functioning democracy the allocation of funding to different needs is, at least "guided" by public sentiment. And it is possibly a reflection of how far British democracy has eroded that public spending had become so profligate, and so much is spent on things of which ordinary people would not approve.

In the European Union, of course, our rulers are not troubled by vague concepts like democracy, or its sister-in-law, accountability. Thus, is you want examples of profligate spending, that is the place to go. And no more so will you find this on the research programme for climate change.

The big problem, though – which the "colleagues" exploit to their advantage – is that, while we are all aware of money flowing into the EU coffers, there is less information on where and how this is actually spent. And the devil is in detail. Thus, in a series of posts, I intend to look at where the huge amount of money allocated to climate change research by the EU – approximately €1.9 billion in this spending period – actually goes.

Starting with the first tranche, taken from the EU's Cordis website, we see a series of projects which, with the best will in the world, a truly democratic government would find it hard to justify.

We start with a project code-named (all the projects have a code-name) CLARIS LPB. This is, in the deadly language of the EU, a "Europe-South America network for climate change assessment and impact studies in La Plata Basin".

Led by the Institut De Recherche Pour Le Developpement, Marseille France, in co-operation with the University of East Anglia and 18 other participants, it started in October 2001 and is set to last four years. The project is aimed at predicting regional climate change impacts on La Plata Basin (LPB) in South America, and at designing adaptation strategies for land-use, agriculture, rural development, hydropower production, river transportation, water resources and ecological systems in wetlands.

Now, some might believe this is a worthy cause, but how many people in the UK, given a choice, how many would agree to spend €4.28 million of their money on it, of which Community funding amounts to €3.36 million.

Put it this way – would you as a politician, like to go canvassing on doorsteps at a general election and explain to some angry voter why their elderly relative can no longer have a home-help service because we (collectively) are spending €3.36 million on "predicting regional climate change impacts on La Plata Basin (LPB) in South America"?

Best of luck if you want to try.

Anyhow, the next little gem we are financing – albeit only in part (about 12 percent or so, depending on how it is calculated) - is called WASSERMED.

This is a project to establish: "Climate induced changes in water resources in southern Europe and neighbouring countries as a threat to security". That includes North Africa and the Middle East.

It started last month, and is projected to last three years, under the leadership of the Euro-Mediterraneo Per I Cambiamenti Climatici Scarl, in Lecce, Italy. There are ten participants and you granny will be pleased to know that the University of Exeter is one of them. As she waits the three years for her hip operation, however, she might be less pleased to learn that the project cost is €3.67 million, of which Community funding accounts for €2.93 million.

Our next little venture is called "Cloud initial training network", CLOUD-ITN, led by the Johann Wolfgang Goethe Universitaet Frankfurt Am Main in Germany, with seven other participants, including the University of Leeds.

This fascinating study aims to establish "a multi-site network of early stage researchers (ESRs, here predominantly PhD students) at 9 partner institutions across Europe to investigate various aspects of the interactions of cosmic rays with aerosols and clouds, which bears on the possibility of a 'solar indirect' contribution to climate change."

Besides the individual research of the ESRs at their hosting institutions, the major focus of the network will be two sets of common experiments on ion-induced nucleation and ion-aerosol interaction carried out at CERN to which all ESRs contribute. These will be conducted at an aerosol chamber that is exposed to a CERN elementary particle beam where the effects of cosmic rays on aerosol and cloud formation can be efficiently simulated.

This is actually part of a much larger and more expensive project called – appropriately enough - CLOUD (pictured), and started in August 2008, taking four years. This component is costing €2.38 million, all for Community funds. Many warmists might approve, because this might support an alternative theory for global warming, other than CO2. But would granny approve?

From cosmic rays, we now have the EU turn its attention to the ocean deeps, with a programme called THOR, given the speculative title: "Thermohaline overturning - at risk?"

This is the top end of the great "ocean conveyor belt", the northern branch of the Gulf Stream and another poster child of the warmists, the closing down of which was the centrepiece of the alarmist film The day after tomorrow.

Being a wind-driven system, there is actually no risk of that, but this does not stop the Universitaet Hamburg being commissioned to investigate the armists' wet dream, complete with 16 partners, including DEFRA, the University of Reading, the Scottish Association for Marine Science, the Met Office and the Natural Environment Research Council.

THOR, they say, willl establish an operational system that will monitor and forecast the development of the North Atlantic THC on decadal time scales and access its stability and the risk of a breakdown in a changing climate.

The project started in December 2008 and is set to take four years, finishing in November 2012, after which it will have cost €12.95 million, with €9.27 coming from Community funds. Granny would definitely not approve.

Still in the North Atlantic, we have another project, this one called NACSA. This aims to build an archive of the sedimentary fluxes and the timescales of the mechanisms that trigger and propagate climate changes.

This proposal aims to reconstruct a high-resolution record of the comminution age, sediment fluxes and focusing, and post-depositional history of the last glacial cycle of ODP site 984 (Bjorn Drift, S Iceland).

As an archival exercise, however, it is only involving one institution, the Universidad De Vigo in Spain, starting this month and lasting for two years. At a relatively modest cost of €148,964.00, Granny may not approve, but at least she will be relieved.

Next in line we have CLIMATEWATER. This is aimed as the first step on the analysis and synthesis of data and information on the likely (known, assumed, expected, modelled, forecasted, predicted, estimated etc.) water related impacts of the changes of the climate with special regard to their risk and to the urgency of getting prepared to combat these changes and their impacts.

The most important output of the project, we are told, will be the identification of gaps that would hinder the implementation of the EU water policy in combating climate impacts on water.

For that, the Vituki Kornyezetvedelmi Es Vizgazdalkodasi Kutato Intezet Kozhasznu Tarsasag, in Budapest Hungary, is leading 10 partners, including the University of Leicester, in a project that started in November 2008 and is set to finish in October 2011. Granny will again be relieved. This one is only taking €956,932.00 from Community funds.

Now we have CCTAME, a project to determine "Impacts and feed-backs of climate policies on land use and ecosystems in Europe", led by the Internationales Institut Fuer Angewandte Systemanalyse in Austria, with 14 other partners incliding the Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine and the University of Aberdeen.

The project, we are told, "will assess the impacts of agricultural, climate, energy, forestry and other associated land-use policies, considering the resulting feed-backs on the climate system."

Readers should know that, "Geographically explicit biophysical models together with an integrated cluster of economic land-use models will be coupled with regional climate models to assess and identify mitigation and adaptation strategies in European agriculture and forestry."

Then, as one might expect, "the role of distribution and pressures from socio-economic drivers will be assessed in a geographically nested fashion." Yes, they do write this guff.

And, at the end of all this, the proposed structure of the integrated CC-TAME model cluster allows us, to provide an evaluation of policy options at a great level of detail for EU25(27) in a post-Kyoto regime, as well as to offer perspectives on global longer-term policy strategies in accordance with the principles and objectives of the UNFCCCC.

Close interactions with policymakers and stakeholders will ensure the policy relevance of CC-TAME results.

That little lot, which will take three years, having started in June 2008, will cost €4.59 million, of which €3.5 million will be drawn down from Community funds. Granny would definitely not approve.

Just to liven things up, we have another warmist poster child, a project called ATP, standing for Arctic tipping points.

Leaving nothing to the imagination, the Universitetet I Tromsoe is leading 12 partners, including the University of Cambridge to "identify the elements of the Arctic marine ecosystem likely to show abrupt changes in response to climate change, and establish the levels of the corresponding climate drivers inducing the regime shift for these tipping elements."

Readers will be pleased to learn that the impacts of abrupt changes in the Arctic ecosystems for activities of strategic importance for the European Arctic and the associated impacts on employment and income will be elucidated, and policies and legislative frameworks to adapt and mitigate these impacts will be analysed.

Then the effectiveness of possible alternative, post-Kyoto policies and stabilization targets in avoiding climate-driven thresholds in the Arctic ecosystem will be examined, and the results and projections will be conveyed to policy makers, economic sectors and the public in general.

The project started in February 2009 and will finish in January 2012, having cost €6.55 million, of which €5 million will be drawn from Community funds. That would pay for an awful lot of home help services.

Bizarrely for a research programme, however, we also have CLIMATENIGHT2009 - Climate Night Hamburg 2009, organised by Aldebaran Marine Research & Broadcast, from Hamburg.

The happy objective of this project was attracting all the categories of the public at large and bring them together with climate scientists. The researchers guided all the activities organised and attendant were constantly in direct contact with them, having the possibilities of exchanging on any topic of their interest, linked or not to the job researcher.

They were provided with multi-media based information about consequences of the Climate Change and motivated to think about concrete actions preserving the natural environment.

Events included an exhibition in Hamburg's most popular shopping mall, the Europa Passage (pictured) and guided tours on impacts of climate change through the harbour of Hamburg on traditional sightseeing boats.

All these activities, we were told at the time, were likely to attract a mass audience and would provide the public at large with a unique opportunity to know more about climate change and its consequences while getting directly in touch with the researchers operating in the topic and, as such, discover their human face and the fascinating aspects of their job, as well as their important role for their well-being and daily lives.

Fortunately, that little lot only cost €80,431.00, of which the Community doled out €60,000.00 - barely a rounding error in the Cordis programme.

And from the ridiculous to the sublime. A project run by the Oxford office of the Stockholm Environment Institute has been set up to estimate the costs of climate change. Predictably, it is called CLIMATECOST.

This, we are told, is a multidisciplinary project, with many British partners. These include AEA Technology Plc, the the University of Southampton, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, the University of East Anglia and Paul Watkiss Associates Ltd. Another partner is Dr Pachauri's operation, The Energy And Resources Institute.

The objectives of the study, which started in January 2009 and will not be completed until August 2011, are "to advance knowledge ... of the full economic costs of climate change," through identifying and developing "consistent climate change and socio-economic scenarios, including mitigation scenarios".

Then, the group has to "bring all the information above together to provide policy relevant output, including information on physical effects and economic values, and undertake analysis of policy scenarios."

But, if the costs of climate change are huge, so – relatively speaking – are the costs of this report. Budgeted at €4.61 million, the Community contribution is an eye-watering €3.5 million. Granny would most definitely not approve.

So, these are the first ten examples, bringing the running total to €31.11 million. British taxpayers "contribute" about €4 million, plus national top-ups. and there are many hundreds more projects. I will keep visiting this issue with additional posts as I pull more examples from the database, all grist to the mill as we see our precious money being poured down the drain for nothing more than an obsession.