Monday, February 17, 2014

Anthony Watts in Somerset: not back-peddling, dredging up dredging at WUWT

Sou | 10:12 AM Go to the first of 29 comments. Add a comment

As Bob Ward wrote, the terrible UK floods are doing strange things to fake sceptics.

After I wrote this article about how Anthony Watts decided that mammoth floods in Somerset were all because "the one pump" was "turned off", he shifted tack.  He isn't back-peddling, he's shuffling sideways - morphing into dredging.

Who cares why? Blame it on the guvmint!

Anthony has re-written his headline and changed his introduction.  He's decided to jump on the "dredging" bandwagon instead of the "one pump was turned off" silliness.  This latest idea of Anthony's doesn't have too many takers outside of the anti-science mob in cyberspace and a few people in the UK who are looking for someone to blame.  Anthony Watts wants to blame the "guvmint", so he's prepared to sacrifice evidence and expert advice for the sake of keeping his ideology-driven denier mates happy.

(It's interesting that he's not saying that people are to blame for living on the Somerset Levels. It would be supremely ironic if fake sceptics got so incensed with guvmints that they started blaming them for adverse weather events.)

This tweet from Anthony Watts:

and this headline (as archived here and as I discussed here)
The real reason for flooding in Somerset Levels? Not global warming – the pump was turned off!

has become this (archived here):
The real reason for flooding in Somerset Levels? Not global warming – river management
...The real issue has to do with the lack of flow capacity in the Kings Sedgemoor Drain, (gravity drain, not pumped) due to silting and vegetation encroachment, as well as similar issues in the River Parrett where a campaign was launched in 2013 to get it dredged, to no avail. ...

Anthony Watts refuses to acknowledge that the real reason for the flooding in Somerset Levels is unrelenting record rain and storms.  

Anthony Watts couldn't accept that rain can cause floods. I don't know why he won't accept that.  It's probably the same disability that stops him from accepting that as the ice melts, sea levels will rise.

Dredging won't prevent floods like this, say the experts

As for dredging, the experts say that's not the answer.  From the BBC:
Dredging is a "cruel offer of false hope" to those living in flood-prone communities according to a new report.
The document is the work of an independent body of experts from the Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM).
It says that solely relying on dredging could make some areas more vulnerable to rising waters.
The CIWEM says working with nature to slow down the rate that landscapes drain water is a more practical option.

From New Scientist:
The trouble is, the recent deluge has been so sustained that nothing could have prevented all the flooding, says Cloke. "I've just been down to the Thames, and it's really full. It would be unrealistic to think you can control these enormous floods with any measures."
"The solution for residents and communities is to adapt to living with it," Cloke says. "They shouldn't expect the government or the Environment Agency to protect them from a flood that's impossible to protect against."

From the Guardian:
The Somerset Levels sit near sea level, such that the river-to-sea gradient is very shallow. This means that even if they are dredged, rivers will only drain during low tide. And widening the channels will actually allow more of the high tide to enter.

Land and waterways can be managed to reduce the damage caused by heavy rains and flooding and undoubtedly these latest floods will result in changes.  However, it won't stop rain or storms or floods from ever happening again.

Eventually, as sea levels rise and if the recent trend to flooding continues, the UK might have to adopt similar strategies to the Netherlands for low-lying areas like the Levels.


  1. So even Watt's realises when he's gone too far in his crackpottery. Obviously not seeking to appeal to the extremely gullible nutcase, he's toned down his message so that it now sounds somewhat plausible to the everyday garden variety nutcase. His main target audience. What a shame. I reckon he could of picked up some audience share from the 'alien got me pregnant' crowd.

  2. NEWS FLASH http://reneweconomy.com.au/2014/australia-chooses-climate-change-denier-to-head-renewables-review-65883

    1. Oh shit! Thanks, John.

      That deserves an article at the very least, but I won't be able to do it justice for a couple of days to come. It's another straw on a weighed down camel - will it be the last straw for Tony Abbott? Surely there are some honest, decent people in the LNP who'll say enough is enough and turf him.

    2. coalition denial wall to wall, uknowispeaksense research out soon sou, you will weep,

    3. Yes, uknowispeaksense is excellent at this research. I won't waste effort weeping, I'll get motivated! And hopefully other people will too.

    4. I can't keep up with the sheer insane genocidal stupidity of this government, and the nonsense coming from the so-called environment minister is beyond atrocious. He is a disgrace to the position, and an embarrassment to his decendants...

      Anyway, I was only vaguely surprised that Abbott recruited yet another denier to the team, but I was disconcerted at the sheer brazen temerity that they displayed by the chatter that accompanied it - one of the illogical memes that many of the Coalition front bench were spouting yesterday was that we have too much renewable energy, which is affecting the price of electricity along with the Great Big Tax. Ignore for the moment that the carbon tax is NOT actually responsible for the hike in electricity prices, surely if we have a surfeit of electricity the cost would decrease - you know, supply and demand and that sort of thing?

      Of course, the cost of fossil electrcity might be increasing (from infrastructure overcapacity and profit-taking, and not from the Tax), but that's a different story.

      It was interesting to hear so many on the Coalition side comment that we can't go too far in meeting our renewable energy target. Apparently they only want to reduce emissions by the barest minimum, which might actually be "nothing at all" beyond what has been gained as a consequence of improved efficiency (no thanks to the Coalition) and from a faltering global economy. Direct Action is and will always be, after all, just a mirage.

      There will be many books written on what will be the worst government in Australian history, but the fact that many volumes could be written just on their destruction of the environment is beyond rational comprehension.

      I hope that they are never allowed to forget the roles that they are playing in the downfall of our society end biosphere, and that they are held accountable for such in every way possible. Sadly, going by the commentary from Eric Abetz on Q and A last night, the meme about the "broken promise" is already being trotted out for the next election, and I suspect that they will win it on the basis of that alone - short of a catastrophic drought or similar before 2015.

      One bright spark in an otherwise grim day - Heather Ridout is showing herself to be a far more rational person that she previously appeared, now that she has a new job. It's a bit sad that in the past she was obviously influenced by her previous connections, but she's now looking forward and being very frank about the economic consequences of getting climate response wrong. I hope that others in business listen to her and eskew the seductive nonsense of Rob 'Em Good Tony and his Band of Greedy Men.





  3. This is the bloke doing the review http://quadrant.org.au/magazine/2011/03/the-intelligent-voter-s-guide-to-global-warming/

    1. Dick's an old-style corporate honcho whose time is past. I'm surprised he's still around, frankly. He's not just a deniosaur he's a dinosaur. Jobs for the boys. Maybe Tony's busy shoring up favours in case he gets turfed sooner rather than later.

      What with hiding the facts about asylum seekers, almost starting a war with Indonesia on multiple fronts, chopping the heart out of Australia's manufacturing sector, denying drought-stricken farmers the courtesy of recognising climate change - and all in his first few months in office. Now he's setting on a path to burn more fossil fuels faster. With luck the "review" will be a toothless tiger and a delaying tactic rather than a turnaround.

    2. Sou I am retired. I was once a person who worked for CSIRO.

      I have many failings.

      But I have some successes. My group invented was is now known as 'intelligent drug design'.

      We invented the anti Flu drug Relenza ab initio.

      I thought that climate science was a doddle. I was totally wrong.

      I am still learning.

      I must be slow as I cannot keep up! Bert

    3. That article should be called 'The gullible and ideological guide to logical fallacies - how to fool the other half with misrepresentations'

      The first paragraph was a 'quote' from here.

      "David Viner, a senior research scientist at the climatic research unit (CRU) of the University of East Anglia,within a few years winter snowfall will become "a very rare and exciting event".
      "Children just aren't going to know what snow is," he said."

      but then this qualifier quote was left off.

      "Heavy snow will return occasionally, says Dr Viner, but when it does we will be unprepared. "We're really going to get caught out. Snow will probably cause chaos in 20 years time," he said."

      Funny how the last quote actually turns out to be true, but all the deniersphere focus on is the first. Also note that 'within a few years', the 'prediction' that is scorned, isn't even in quotes. That means it was likely a journalist's artistic licence, and not an real quote.

      This is the typical MO for the denier. How many times have we seen the same disgraceful technique of misrepresentation used against Gore or Flannery. It's an obsession.

      The rest of the quadrant article is a litany of misrepresentations and outright deception. A little background checking on some of the 'claims', and the deception is revealed. But of course your typical denier doesn't bother with checking the claims. So long as it conforms to their preconceived ideology, they're happy. It really just goes to show how gullible and weak minded your run of the mill denier is. It's just a shame that the government is headed by an especially insane one and is now stacking all the reviews with other deranged 'like-minded' ideologues.

    4. Bert, wow! That's impressive. If you say climate science takes a bit to learn I don't have to feel quite as inadequate. It's taken years for me to learn the little I do know and, as each day passes, I learn more about all that I don't :)

    5. Sou I was only the experimentalist that collected all the data. It would not be difficult to work out who I am. A Van Donkelaar.

      Just do a search to see my tiny contribution.

      Sou you are suffering from the Dunning Kruger effect. Bert

    6. Sou you are suffering from the Dunning Kruger effect. Bert

      You may be right. As you can see from the references I link to, I do my best to stick to well-documented science, but I expect I stray every now and then and possibly over-interpret, despite my best intentions :(

      There is usually someone willing and able to set me straight, thanks to HW readership.

    7. Sou, the mere fact that you are aware of this means you do not suffer from the Dunning Kruger.

    8. There are two parts to the Dunning Kruger Effect...

      Ignorant people over-estimate their competence in areas in which they have no experience.

      Educated people under-estimate their competence in areas in which they have some experience.

      I'd heard about the first part of the DKE many years ago, but it was John Mashey who pointed out the second part to me around 2006, when on Deltoid I mentioned speculating about that very thing with colleagues.

      The DKE is very much a coin in that it has these two sides...

    9. Both sides of the DK coin have been made quite transparent - without mention of the effect itself - in 'Thinking, Fast & Slow' by Daniel Kahneman (et al).
      The utter arrogance of system I thinking, say, vs the careful, doubting thinking of system II.

    10. Bernard J got there first. :-)

      Blogs like WUWT seem designed to encourage the negative end of D-K. People of zero relevant competence can be helped to feel they are experts, by denigrating any such and getting agreement and often applause.

      Of course, "expert" is always a relative term, why I propose scales like this one. Someone at K0 (or maybe K(-1() If I'd done a metric for negative knowledge :-)), surrounded by such, may get support for D-K.

      On the other hand, someone at K4 (where I'd place myself on climate), might actually know a bunch of people at K8-K10 personally, and so know they are not a real expert themself, even if they might seem like it to others lower.

      People might review D-K Wikipedia page and maybe Prof. Dunning's page @ Cornell, as there is more research around this than just the original study, including some interesting cultural effects, such as Asian differences.

      Also, it helps to be immersed in an environment with a lot of experts, which tends to at least avoid some of the worst negative side of D-K. At Bell Labs when I was there (1973-1983, with about 25,000 staff), Members of technical Staff essentially had to have relevant graduate degrees and the typical MTS would have been #1 in their high school and then gotten recruited through a tough process. Any new hire with any sense rapidly realized that they may have been at the top where they'd been, but there were bound to be real experts around who knew more and it would be a good idea to figure out who they were and talk to them.

      Likewise, one rapidly got a better appreciation of one's own skills. Long ago, I once thought I was a fairly good programmer ... but my scale changed when I got to know folks like Ken Thompson, Dennis Ritchie, Brian Kernighan, etc.

    11. cRR Kampen.

      Thanks for reminding me of Kahneman's book. I heard about it when it came out but it was one that I didn't pursue - an oversight that I intend to address.

      The reviews and précis indicate that it is almost a user manual in explaining the denialist mind...

    12. Bernard J, none of us is immune, of course. But this implies we all know the DKE intimately. We got a built-in manual and are loaded with experience. Kahneman (et al) show how it all works. Obviously these insights help us combat side effects of a phenomenon that is nevertheless essential for our survival and evolution.
      J'accuse those who are unwilling to use said insights in the workings of the mind. While DKE seems unintentional on the surface, the climate revisionists we're dealing with add intent to the pathology. That is evil.

  4. The river management/dredging argument died a death in the UK as soon as the Thames (no management/dredging issues) flooded Oxfordshire.
    Note the political tone shifted very quickly from "it's the Environment Agencies fault" to "we'll do all we can to help - money is no object" within 24 hours.
    Eric Pickles now looks very, very silly.

  5. Some more links for your interest:






    1. I am extremely grateful for the existence of the Guardian. It's a shining pillar of decent reporting in a sea of News Corpse tabloid sludge.

  6. Eric Pickles now looks very, very silly.

    He always did.

    1. H ealways looked very silly. Now he looks even sillier. He's been conspicuous by his absence on TV since the 'apology' too so I'm guessing his party think so too.

      Either that or he couldn't find his wellies...

  7. Monbiot's piece today on flooding is pretty tough.

    1. George Monbiot talks about subsidies to farmers. Does anyone know what they amount to?

      It's a shame to read that because it was English farmers who developed some of the early sustainable farm techniques.

    2. Sou,

      Perhaps the best breakdown is here (though a little out of date): http://www.ukagriculture.com/farming_today/bg_support_changes.cfm

      If you're interested on the effects of the CAP on productivity there's a working paper here that may be of interest: http://eprints.mdx.ac.uk/12282/1/FM_WP37%20by%20Rizov%20et%20al%20-%20final.pdf

  8. As you say, "the real reason for the flooding in Somerset Levels is unrelenting record rain and storms."

    Working for a utility provider in the west of England, we get monthly rainfall data in a record going back to 1931. October and December both exceeded the 95th percentile for all months in that range; January had the most rainfall for that month and the most in any month since October 1960 (when there was extensive flooding in Taunton).

    With the rain are many other factors - the management of watercourses, farming practice, vegetation, urbanisation, flood defence, people’ choice of where to live, topography, the effects of high tides…even if some are beguiled by single-cause explanations e.g. whether pumping or dredging has happened or not. Then add an underlying climate change signal (as Kevin Anderson explained well on Newsnight last night) and you can see that risk is only going to go up.


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