Friday, 24 May 2019

I was surprised to see this in The Telegraph

I just stumbled across this, from three years ago:

Business rates are the closest thing we have in the UK to a land value tax (LVT). They're favoured by economists for their property of being "non-distortionary". They don't mess around with incentives, unlike many other forms of taxation.

A higher income tax may be a deterrent to earning more money in the UK, as are corporation tax hikes, but the supply of land is fairly fixed - people aren't going to change their production of it in response to higher taxes...

Business rates have existed for a lot longer than we’ve had evidence in support of them. They were first introduced in their current form in 1990. Their heritage can be traced back further, to the Poor Law of 1572, and later the Poor Law of 1601. They’ve had more than a few facelifts since.

Are they popular? Other than with economists? Not really. Business rates have become the business lobby’s bogeyman. The British Retail Consortium (BRC) is particularly opposed.

“Business rates bills have continued to rise when property values have fallen,” Sir Charlie Mayfield, the BRC’s president has said. “Reforming the rates system would be a welcome boost for retailers and help drive investment in training and technology.”

The opposition from businesses on the grounds of their cost is rather strange, because it's not occupiers that end up taking the financial hit. Rather, it's land owners. This is the so called "incidence" of a tax, who ends up shouldering it. 

If business rates rise or fall by a small amount businesses aren't likely to face different costs, just correspondingly higher or lower rents over time. So there would be no more money for investment [as a result of reductions in Business Rates] after all.

It's the landlords who lose out as a result of business rates. Over a period of two to three years, three quarters of the change in business rates is capitalised into rents, according to a report from Regeneris, the consultancy. This has been backed up by work from the London School of Economics which examined properties in London, and a more recent paper using data from enterprise zones, which also came to the conclusion that it is landlords who end up taking the hit.

Wednesday, 22 May 2019

Surely a ten-year old can see that this is complete and utter nonsense?

From one of my favourite Warmenist Porn sites:

Climate Myth:

Water vapour is the most important greenhouse gas. This is part of the difficulty with the public and the media in understanding that 95% of greenhouse gases are water vapour.

The public understand it, in that if you get a fall evening or spring evening and the sky is clear the heat will escape and the temperature will drop and you get frost.

If there is a cloud cover, the heat is trapped by water vapour as a greenhouse gas and the temperature stays quite warm. If you go to In Salah in southern Algeria, they recorded at one point a daytime or noon high of 52 degrees Celsius – by midnight that night it was -3.6 degree Celsius.

That was caused because there is no, or very little, water vapour in the atmosphere and it is a demonstration of water vapour as the most important greenhouse gas. (Tim Ball)

Basic rebuttal written by James Frank:

When skeptics use this argument, they are trying to imply that an increase in CO2 isn't a major problem. If CO2 isn't as powerful as water vapor, which there's already a lot of, adding a little more CO2 couldn't be that bad, right?

What this argument misses is the fact that water vapor creates what scientists call a 'positive feedback loop' in the atmosphere — making any temperature changes larger than they would be otherwise.

How does this work? The amount of water vapor in the atmosphere exists in direct relation to the temperature. If you increase the temperature, more water evaporates and becomes vapor, and vice versa.

So when something else causes a temperature increase (such as extra CO2 from fossil fuels), more water evaporates. Then, since water vapor is a greenhouse gas, this additional water vapor causes the temperature to go up even further—a positive feedback.

How much does water vapor amplify CO2 warming? Studies show that water vapor feedback roughly doubles the amount of warming caused by CO2. So if there is a 1°C change caused by CO2, the water vapor will cause the temperature to go up another 1°C. When other feedback loops are included, the total warming from a potential 1°C change caused by CO2 is, in reality, as much as 3°C.

Has he not heard of the concept of an equilibrium?

There are two ways of interpreting the rebuttal:

1. There is no equilibrium. So a CO2 induced increase of 1C leads to an overall 3C increase. Which in turn would lead to another 9C increase. Which would lead to a further 27C increase. And then we'd all be boiled alive. Clearly not true.

2. There is an equilibrium, and 3C warmer is the 'new normal'. OK. But the Warmenists insist, with calculations, that the entire 1C increase since the Little Ice Age is down to increases in CO2, with water playing little or no role.

In which case, why isn't it already 3C warmer? That's clearly not true.

If they insisted that of the 1C increase, 0.3C was due directly to CO2 (this is in fact just about plausible) and the rest was due to water vapour "and other feedback loops" (as yet unspecified), well fine, but none of them has ever said that.
Finally, he does not give a starting point for the CO2 level at which such positive water/CO2 feedback kicks in.

Let's change his wording slightly: "So when something else causes a temperature increase (such as extra CO2 from fossil fuels bright sunlight or atmospheric pressure), more water evaporates. Then, since water vapor is a greenhouse gas, this additional water vapor causes the temperature to go up even further—a positive feedback."

That's clearly nonsense.

Should we assume that up to 'pre-industrial levels' of 280 ppm of CO2, there is no positive feedback, and it starts at 281 ppm? Or current levels of 420 ppm (and rising)? Or does the positive feedback start at 1 ppm?

Classic bit of BBC spitefulness

In their article headed European elections 2019: Where the parties stand on Brexit, the BBC lists parties alphabetically, so first is Change UK, then Conservatives, then Green Party and so on.

"But wait!" shouts the crowd, "Haven't they forgotten The Brexit Party?"

Nope, they are listed second to last, as their name officially begins with the letter "T".

A classic beginner's mistake by whoever registered The Brexit Party with El Comm. Sort of serves them right.
Funny story: UKIP's official name used to be "UK Independence Party UK I P" with spaces between "UK" and "I" and "P", to get within El Comm's six-word limit. That was my fine work (he said proudly). El Comm didn't follow their own stupid rules and used to write to us without the spaces, which I took great glee in correcting each time. Twats.

Tuesday, 21 May 2019

I am now a Climate Science Believer!

I haven't been posting much over the last few days because I was busy reading lots of articles about Climate Science and watching YouTube videos, most were from Warmenists and a few from Deniers, for balance. No links, for the time being as I have dozens.

The Warmenist articles/videos look to be about 90% correct, but they all contain a couple of logical/mathematical errors, inherent contradictions or  over-simplifications, not to mention that they contradict each other. Most of the Denier articles and videos have similar inconsistencies.

What their explanation boils down to, having stripped away the errors and taking the rest at face value, is this:

1. The two main Greenhouse Gases are:
a) water vapour (not to be confused with condensed water droplets, which cool the atmosphere) at an average of 20,000 parts per million (within a wide range between zero and 40,000, that's the assumed average).
b) Carbon dioxide at an average of 420 ppm, up from 280 ppm in pre-industrial era.

Molecule-for-molecule, these have a very similar effect (AFAIAA). Water is self-regulating, as once it hits saturation point, it condenses and falls as rain or snow, removing itself from the atmosphere and cooling things down.

Carbon dioxide is not self-regulating, rain washes some of it out of the atmosphere, but it then most of it re-evaporates and only some goes into the oceans (which is where limestone cliffs come from) or into plants (which eventually die and rot again).

(The Warmenists shift the goal posts here a bit. Up to current CO2 levels, they accept that H20 is self-regulating and can be ignored (most of them do), but magically, if C02 increases, then H20 and C02 will interact and temperature increases due to the H20 element will somehow become self-reinforcing. This seems highly unlikely to me.)

2. The entire additional 33C average temperature of the earth's surface compared to what you'd expect from sunlight alone is down to greenhouses gases.

Apparently nitrogen and oxygen would have no such effect, we'd still get the steady fall in temperature with decreasing pressure/increasing altitude. This is the 'adiabatic lapse rate'. This gradient is much the same for all planets in the solar system, regardless of what kind of gas makes up their atmosphere.

3. If you increase greenhouse gas concentrations from average 20,280 ppm (average H20 plus pre-industrial C02) to 20,420 ppm (average H20 plus current CO2), that's a 0.7% increase in Watts being reflected back to each square metre of the earth's surface. Existing greenhouse effect is 33C, increase that by 0.7% = 33.23 = an extra 0.2C* compared to what it would be at 280 ppm C02, everything else being equal.

* The increase in surface temperature relative to increases in Watts/m2 is logarithmic not linear = 0.1C, so let's round that 0.23C down to 0.2C for sake of argument.

4. It appears to be accepted by both sides that global average temperatures go in lots of overlapping and fairly regular cycles. The most relevant one as at today is a roughly thousand-year cycle i.e. Roman Warm Period, Mediaeval Warm Period and Modern Warm Period.

That explains the rest of any increase since a randomly chosen starting point. Let's not  bicker about what a sensible starting point is.

Looking at the increase since the pre-industrial era means you are looking at the increase since the Little Ice Age, however defined, when temperatures were 1 or 2C lower than the very long run average, so of course we're 1C warmer than then.

Monday, 20 May 2019

Cargo Cult Improvement

From The Guardian

Just over a decade ago, Mulhouse, a town of 110,000 people near the German and Swiss borders, was a symbol of the death of the European high street. One of the poorest towns of its size in France, this former hub of the textile industry had long ago been clobbered by factory closures and industrial decline.
Today, Mulhouse is known for the staggering transformation of its thriving centre, bucking the national trend for high street closures.

The article goes into all the normal Guardian favourites like independent shops and god help me, f**king trams. These people think that gentrification is all about putting the independent shops there and that makes everyone richer and they spend money. In reality this is a by-product. You get the fancy, overpriced shops when you get the richer people.

What's really happened in the past decade is that a new shiny high speed LGV line was built linking Mulhouse to Dijon, cutting the time from something like 2:30 to more like 1:00, and onwards, Mulhouse to Lyon is down from 4:30 to 3:00. There's also a plan to have a branch going around Dijon to join up with a TGV to Paris, and to extend the line down to Lyon.

Friday, 17 May 2019

Voices in my head

TV advert: "Adopt a snow leopard to save the species from extinction."

Voice: "What's the point? It's going to know straight away I'm not it's real Dad."

Little Ice Age never happened - shock.

From here:

Global mean warming [has] reached 1°C above preindustrial for the first time.

It is a signal from the climate system that time is running out if we are to be able to reduce emissions fast enough so as to hold warming below 2°C, and ultimately below 1.5°C by 2100.

This is illustrated with the following chart:

According to that chart, the Mediaeval Warm Period was barely a blip, and the Little Ice Age was only 0.3C cooler than the MWP.

That's is not how everybody else remembers it, is it?

From here:

Little Ice Age's Worldwide Effects

Ice cores, cores of lake sediment and coral, and annual growth rings in trees showed that Greenland, Scandinavia, the British Isles, Europe, and North America all experienced cold, with temperatures dropping 1 to 2 °C (1.8 to 3.6 °F) below the average for 1000 to 2000 CE.

During the LIA, mountain glaciers expanded in the European Alps, New Zealand, Alaska, and the southern Andes. In Switzerland and France, the advance of alpine glaciers wiped out farms and villages. Cold winters and cool, wet summers caused crops to fail, and this leads to famines in much of northern and central Europe.

To the west, sea ice expanded around Iceland, cutting off its harbors and access to imported food. Iceland's population fell by half. Icelandic sea ice went from zero average coverage before the year 1200, to eight weeks during the 13th century, and to 40 weeks during the 19th century.

Follow up question, do the Warmenists have an explanation for why it was so warm between six and ten thousand years ago? No, thought not.

Thursday, 16 May 2019

Fun with numbers - splitting the Remain vote at the MEP elections

The MEP elections in Great Britain, to be next held on 23 May 2019, use the d'Hondt system for allocating seats in each of eleven constituencies/regions.

Whether the Remain parties (Lib Dem, Green and Change UK) have shot themselves in the foot (feet?) by competing over the same small pool of voters is an interesting question.

Let's treat this as an unofficial In-Out Referendum and assume votes cast are in line with current opinion polls and are the same in each constituency, as follows:

Brexit Party - 31%
UKIP - 4%

Lib Dem - 10%
Green Party - 10%
Change UK - 10%

Undecided - neutral - ambivalent
Labour - 22%
Tories - 13%

The more seats there are in a constituency, the closer the result is to proportional representation; the fewer seats, the closer the results are to FPTP.

If you crunch the numbers (or use Paul Lockett's fine calculator) for the largest constituency with ten seats (South East), the end result is the same whether the Remain parties had put up a single list or not - Leave 4 seats, Remain 3 seats and Undecided 3 seats.

The difference is that with a single list and 30% of the vote, Remain would win seats 2, 5 and 9; with three competing Remain parties, they will win seats 7, 8 and 9. So they will do relatively worse in smaller constituencies and relatively worse overall.

The reverse is true for Leave, only not as markedly. If Remain had put up a single list, Leave would win seats 1, 4, 8 and 10 of a ten-seat constituency. With the Remain vote split, they will win seats 1, 3, 5 and 10.
To sum up, for various sizes of constituency with a split Remain vote, seats will be as follows:

3 seats = Leave 2, Undecided 1
4 seats = leave 2, Undecided 2
5 seats = Leave 3, Undecided 2
6 seats = Leave 3, Undecided 3
7 seats = Leave 3, Undecided 3, Remain 1
8 seats = Leave 3, Undecided 3, Remain 2
9 sweats = Leave 3, Undecided 3, Remain 3
10 seats = Leave 4, Undecided 3, Remain 3

As only five constituencies have seven or more seats, Remain have definitely messed up badly. With a single list Remain vote, seats would be as follows:

3 seats = Leave 1, Undecided 1, Remain 1
4 seats = leave 2, Undecided 1, Remain 1
5 seats = Leave 2, Undecided 1, Remain 2
6 seats = Leave 2, Undecided 2, Remain 2
7 seats = Leave 2, Undecided 3, Remain 2
8 seats = Leave 3, Undecided 3, Remain 2
9 sweats = Leave 3, Undecided 3, Remain 3
10 seats = Leave 4, Undecided 3, Remain 3

Just sayin'...

Wednesday, 15 May 2019

City AM lets another one slip into its pages...

From City AM Debate:

Is the Tesco boss right to call for slashed business rates and an online tax to save the high street?

Robert Palmer, executive director of Tax Justice UK, says YES [actually he says 'no', but hey]

Since it’s likely that an online sales tax would be passed onto shoppers, what we really need is a proper shake-up of how we tax multinationals to make them pay their fair share, including by making it much harder to stash corporate profits offshore.

Business rates are also a mess. Because the current system is based on rental values, if a landlord improves a property, the value goes up and so does the tax.

The government should replace the current system with a tax based on the underlying value of the land the property sits on.

Sam Dumitriu, research director at The Entrepreneurs Network, says NO:

Online sellers shouldn’t be punished for responding to changing consumer demand by offering goods at a lower price in a more convenient manner. E-commerce platforms such as Amazon have lowered barriers to entry and enabled small and micro-businesses to cater to every obscure taste out there.

Worst of all, the reforms will do little to help struggling bricks and mortar retailers.

The evidence suggests that commercial landlords respond to cuts [in Business Rates] by raising rents, leaving shopkeepers no better off. The only retailers that will benefit are those which own large property portfolios like, er, Tesco.

Monday, 13 May 2019

Scary ingredients!

Tonight I shall be cooking chicken pasta bake, but without the human flesh...