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A Weblog monitoring coverage of environmental issues and science in the UK media. By Professor Emeritus Philip Stott. The aim is to assess whether a subject is being fairly covered by press, radio, and television. Above all, the Weblog will focus on science, but not just on poor science. It will also bring to public notice good science that is being ignored because it may be politically inconvenient.
Saturday, October 13, 2007
Please note that, officially, from Sunday, October 14, 2007, I have started a completely new blog at a new site. This has just gone live.
I do hope you will visit:
Global Warming Politics: A Hot Topic Blog
The battle against so much 'global warming' claptrap must continue.
Philip, off to his new home.
Monday, November 06, 2006
My apologies for not having commented on the Stern report - I have been immensely busy, including broadcasting and writing about the report in the press. At last, however, I have a moment, stimulated also by what must surely be the nadir of tear-stained right-on comment, inevitably by Our Madeleine of the Sorrows in today's The Guardian [Madeleine Bunting: 'It's hard to explain, Tom, why we did so little to stop global warming' (The Guardian, November 6) - my good wife just burst out laughing when she read this piece over her muesli].
I trust the following comment is a tad less tear-stained:
Stott on Stern
In approaching Sir Nicholas Stern's 700-page doorstopper on the apocalyptic economics of climate change, it is important to place his report in political context. The report was partly commissioned to counter the so-called Copenhagen Consensus of eminent economists brought together by the sceptical environmentalist, Professor Bjørn Lomborg. This group placed 'global warming' low down a list of world priorities and they argued that most actions, such as Miliband-style 'Green' taxes and carbon trading, would have only a negligible effect at the margins of climate change.
Secondly, even before last year's G8 summit in Scotland, Tony Blair had learned first hand that stirring the world on this subject would not be as easy as he first imagined. Moreover, unilateral action in the United Kingdom would resemble little more than a snowflake in a burning hell. Blair therefore wanted to persuade world leaders that not only the science was 'settled' - a dangerous conceit - but that the economics were even more crucial - not to act now would have significant negative economic repercussions for all countries, but especially for that recalcitrant backslider, the US. He further knew that, unless developing countries like China, India, Brazil, and Mexico were fully on board the Good Ship 'Global Warming', his best efforts in this sea of troubles would be torpedoed. His climate-change legacy would be truly scuppered. Hence the Stern report.
Will Stern work? Sadly, I believe it to be misguided, both in terms of practical economics and politics but also on many points of science.
We should remember that Sir Nicholas was chief economist at the World Bank and that he was heavily involved in trade issues. It is thus hardly surprising that carbon trading is presented as one of the key measures for mitigation. Unfortunately, all the evidence to date, especially from Europe, shows that carbon trading is great for capitalists, but that it does absolutely nothing effective about reducing carbon emissions. Indeed, EU emissions are now so disastrous that it is deeply embarrassing for Mr. Blair. Europe is falling woefully short of its targets for cutting greenhouse gases, so much so that the EU's original 15-member states are currently likely to achieve a miserly 0.6 per cent cut on 1990-levels (the target was 8 per cent). Even more embarrassing is the recent prediction that emissions in 2010 will be 0.3 per cent higher than they were in 2004. Moreover, setting caps for carbon emissions has been widely abused, countries merrily electing for soft, undemanding targets that can then be easily achieved without any pain to the national economy. I fear carbon trading on a world scale will become a black-market paradise, siphoning off much-needed wealth to where it is least needed.
Not going to happen
In essence, Stern is not going to happen. Countries like China will happily go along with the ideas in principle, while - and who can blame them? - developing as fast as they can, although at the moment they appear not even to have heard of Sir Nicholas! They will delight in producing all the world's solar panels for a gullible West, while still opening a coal mine per week (they have 30,000 already). Like it or not, carbon dioxide is a proxy measure of economic growth, and that is not going to alter for a long time.
We urgently need some sense of realism in the UK about all this. Cameron's windmill on his roof and (proposed), rather complacently, at No. 10, 'Ming' Campbell's puppet-like animation over 'the need to do something', and Tony Blair's earnest exhortations will do nothing but encourage a 'Little Britain' mentality. Yet, the more we act unilaterally, the more we will undermine our competitive edge. It is thus vital to remember that the UK accounts for a mere 2 per cent of world energy demand, and, because of exponential growth in the developing world, that this will fall to less than 1.5 percent by 2020.
Untoward faith in models
Yet, even more worrying is the fundamental idea behind Stern, namely that, by enforcing such drastic economic measures, we will be able to control climate predictably. Climate is the most complex, coupled, non-linear, chaotic system known, and it is intrinsically unlikely that climate change can be predicated on a single variable, or factor, however politically convenient. Moreover, what climates are Tony Blair and Sir Nicholas hoping to produce? Will they be better? And when we get there, won't they too change?
Therein rests the real inconvenient truth. Climate is like Glasgow on a Saturday night – a wee bit chaotic. We cannot manage it predictably by fiddling at the margins, however well-meaning Sir Nicholas' efforts.
I believe Stern sets the wrong agendas, in that he mistreats uncertainty, so that the absence of knowledge justifies alarm, and he places an untoward faith in computer-generated prognostications rather than in real-world data and history. For the last 10 years, there has been no statistically-significant change in global mean temperature. Moreover, doubling carbon dioxide in the atmosphere would, if all other factors remained constant, lead to only 1 degree C of warming. It is thus vital to remember that Stern's panics reside with Lara Croft and the virtual world of the computer, and that climate models have overestimated the real-world warming by a factor of three. The models seem unable to cope with the key factors of water vapour and clouds.
First in our priorities must be dealing with poverty, dirty water, and disease. And then we must establish a world order that can support all, but especially the poor, to cope with, and to adapt to, inexorable change whatever its causes or directions. The rest, I fear, as with Madeleine's tear stains for Tom, is the dangerous and misguided ecochondria of a rich North.
Stern has built a mighty economic edifice on shifting and unmanageable sands.
I predict that Stern will sink quite quickly to join the now-forgotten Population Bomb and Limits to Growth, and many other such doomsday tracts.
Philip, lovely chilly day. Calls for a sunny disposition rather than a stern outlook. Tea anyone?
Thursday, October 05, 2006
"The greenhouse effect must play some role. But those who are absolutely certain that the rise in temperatures is due solely to carbon dioxide have no scientific justification. It's pure guesswork." [Henrik Svensmark, Director of the Centre for Sun-Climate Research, Danish National Space Center, joint author of the new research, as quoted in The Copenhagen Post (October 4)]
Yesterday, some extremely important new research on climate change was quietly released. Few newspapers picked it up, The Daily Telegraph (October 4) and the Copenhagen Post (October 4) being but slight exceptions, both carrying only brief reports.
This key research, long in gestation, and embargoed until October 4, appears in the Proceedings of the Royal Society A (October 3). Here is the press release:
"'Do electrons help to make the clouds?'
By H. Svensmark, J.O.P. Pedersen, et al. (doi:10.1098/rspa.2006.1773)*
Using a box of air in a Copenhagen lab, physicists trace the growth of clusters of molecules of the kind that build cloud condensation nuclei. These are specks of sulphuric acid on which cloud droplets form. High-energy particles driven through the laboratory ceiling by exploded stars far away in the Galaxy - the cosmic rays - liberate electrons in the air, which help the molecular clusters to form much faster than atmospheric scientists have predicted. That may explain the link proposed by members of the Danish team, between cosmic rays, cloudiness and climate change."
And here is the link to the report from the Danish National Space Center: 'Getting closer to the cosmic connection to climate' (October 4).
One especially eminent science writer has already declared: "The implications for climate physics, solar-terrestrial physics and terrestrial-galactic physics are pretty gob-smacking....."
I say, watch this space. Slowly, but surely, this revelation could well open a can of wormholes in climate-change science.
The reason is simple. The experiment ties in beautifully with the brilliant work of geochemist, Professor Ján Veizer of the Ruhr University at Bochum, Germany, and the University of Ottawa in Canada, and Dr. Nir Shaviv, an astrophysicist at the Racah Institute of Physics in the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, who for some time have been implicating cosmic rays and water vapour, rather than carbon dioxide, as the main drivers of climate change. Indeed, they have put down 75% of climate change to these drivers.
Cosmic rays are known to boost cloud formation - and, in turn, reduce temperatures on Earth - by creating ions that cause water droplets to condense. Ján Veizer and Nir Shaviv calculated temperature changes at the Earth's surface by studying oxygen isotopes trapped in rocks formed by ancient marine fossils. They then compared these with variations in cosmic-ray activity, determined by looking at how cosmic rays have affected iron isotopes in meteorites.
Their results suggest that temperature fluctuations over the past 550 million years are more likely to relate to cosmic-ray activity than to CO2. By contrast, they found no correlation between temperature variation and the changing patterns of CO2 in the atmosphere.
But the mechanism remained far from understood.....until now. For it seems that the Danish team may well have discovered that mechanism.
Do I detect the first deep and quiet rumblings of a long-term paradigm-shifting piece of work?
Indeed, I sense the first minute bounce in a new Kuhnian curve. Of course, for the moment, the work will be drowned out by the clamour of the Great Grand Global Warming Narrative. After all, it is the last thing the committed - and politicians like Cameron, Campbell, and Gore - want to hear.
May I thus encourage all readers of EnviroSpin to work especially hard to bring the significance of this vital research to as many journalists and politicians as possible?
Thank you. It is time to begin to change the paradigm.
Philip, nice to be back. And just in time for tea!
[*Here are the complete details of the new research paper: Proceedings of the Royal Society A, October 3rd, 2006. Full title: ‘Experimental evidence for the role of ions in particle nucleation under atmospheric conditions’. Authors: Henrik Svensmark, Jens Olaf Pepke Pedersen, Nigel Marsh, Martin Enghoff & Ulrik Uggerhøj]
Tuesday, July 18, 2006
Our 11th Series of the critical environment programme, 'Home Planet', begins today on BBC Radio 4 at 15.02 pm BST. The Series then runs for 12 more Tuesdays into October, and, as with the last Series, it will include some Gardeners' Question Time-type 'out-and-about' slots (the first in Swansea). These are great fun, and most rewarding.
If you are in the UK, the programme is broadcast on BBC Radio 4 every Tuesday afternoon at 15.02 BST, directly after the brief news summary. If you are outside the UK, you may listen to it, online, via the BBC 'Home Planet' Web Page:
(a) on the day in question at 15.02 BST, choose the 'Listen Live' button; or, (b) for one week after the first broadcast, choose the 'Listen Again' button; or, (c) after one whole week, select the relevant date under 'Previous Programmes'.
This first week's topics include: the Government's recent energy review; "What's wrong with our horse chestnuts?"; salt water toilet flushes; the voracious Nile perch and Lake Victoria; and, differential harvest times on light soils. As ever, a fascinating pot pourri - I do hope you can drop by for a listen.
Philip, glad to be back wittering away with his great colleagues. Coffee to clear the mind.
Tuesday, July 11, 2006
At last, we are to get a reasonable UK Government energy policy, and one that includes a new generation of nuclear power plants and a strategy for clean coal, exactly what 'EnviroSpin' has been proposing over the last two years [see: 'Nuclear plants set for go-ahead' (BBC Online Politics News, July 11)]:
"Number 10 says 'wishful thinking will not keep the lights on', as ministers look set to give the go-ahead to a new generation of nuclear power stations.
Tony Blair says the UK needs a mixture of energy sources to lessen reliance on imports and to address climate change....."
Of course, it won't do anything predictable about climate change; but, never mind, this policy is on the right tracks, although it does remain a tad over-optimistic about the possible contributions of so-called 'renewables'.
Nevertheless, lots of Green bunnies, the Liberal Democrats, and the usual suspects in the Labour Party will, like automata, "go nuclear", many of them marooned in the hippy, anti-nuclear world of the late-60s. Expect to hear lots of nonsense about Chernobyl, a plant which would never have seen the light of day in the West, even at that time.
This is surely the moment to ignore such knee-jerk responses from a past age. The new generation of nuclear reactors is in a different world, and they represent the safest, and, I might add, the least environmentally-damaging, forms of energy production. "Well done Mr. Blair for spotting this. Now, don't lose your nerve."
The only real debate is over which system should be adopted for the UK. We will need at least 20% of our power from nuclear reactors, although, personally, I should like to see an energy mix more like: 30% coal; 30% gas; 25% nuclear; 15% other.
First, a summary of the safety, costs, and speed of construction of the new Generation 3+ reactors:
(a) the new plants are modular in construction, and they are incredibly simple in relation to older designs. For example, the Westinghouse AP 1000 employs 50% fewer valves, 35% fewer pumps, and 70% less cabling. The whole plant can be contained in a building half-the-size of current plants;
(b) this means that the plants express a very small environmental footprint (just compare this limited footprint to an extensive wind farm) and they are much safer, employing 'passive' systems of control, not 'active' human management. In the event of a problem, the safety systems rely on 'natural' forces, including gravity, circulation, and evaporation, not on human-controlled, and potentially unreliable, pumps and valves. Indeed, human action is required to keep the system going, not to shut it down;
(c) inevitably this makes the plants cheaper (c. £400 - 500m), and they can be constructed in 36 to 42 months, with a productive life of 60 years;
(d) they are also highly efficient, and they will produce only 10% of the nuclear waste of the past.
Secondly, with regards to the major manufacturing options, my own personal choice would be the Areva/Framatome Pressurised Water Reactor (PWR) (the Areva EPR), with a generation capacity of 1,600 MW. One is already under construction at Olkiluoto in Finland, and this type will be the choice for France's next generation of nuclear reactors. The UK should make immediate plans to work with France over both expertise and maintenance. Other alternatives are the Westinghouse AP 1000 PWR (1,117 MW), which will probably become standard in China, and the CANDU ACR 1000, which is a Pressurised Heavy Water Reactor (PHWR) (1,200 MW) being built in Canada. [Above right: computer simulation of an EPR Generation 3 nuclear power plant. Image: under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2. From: Wikipedia.]
But, whatever happens now, let's ignore the usual whingers and whiners and just get on with the job, ensuring that we choose one system that can be serviced and maintained easily throughout the whole country. I believe the European Areva EPR makes particular sense because we can share expertise with other countries on this, like Finland and France. Ten would do the trick nicely.
[For further information: BBC News provides a good summary of the various options here.]
Philip, excited by the prospect of a new generation of safe and sound nuclear plants. Let's go for it. Time for more fission & chips. With tea, of course.
Sunday, July 09, 2006
Recently, there have been a spate of alpine flower-tinted articles on old-fashioned European farming by middle-class journalists just home from their continental holidays, as well exemplified by Magnus Linklater writing in The Times ('Picturesque little farms, delicious local produce ... Obvious clue: not Britain' - apologies, no link for copyright reasons: see The Times, July 5).
The themes are common: small, quaint farmsteads; hosts of meadow blossoms; delightful anti-industrial rural inefficiency; delicious slow meals of regional fare, washed down with local wines; hardy hands-of-the-soil defining 'La France profonde' and the true spirit of Europe; and, all under a glowing, cloud-free sky, redolent of summers long past.
And the plea is basically the same too: let's keep these landscapes free from the taint of horrid 'capitalism' and of the nasty, real world.
Unfortunately, we have heard such tropes before, and the context was extremely nasty. Although one must never tar with an unfair brush, and one must be careful of drawing crass historical parallels, the romanticisation of European 'peasantry' recalls too dangerously for my liking the language of Richard-Walther Darré (1895 - 1953), SS-Obergruppenführer, and the leading Nazi 'blood and soil' theoretician, who was Reich Minister of Food and Agriculture between 1933 to 1942 and Reichsbauernführer, National Farmers' Leader, for some twelve years [Opposite: Darré, Berlin, 1940(?)].
In his many publications, including, for example, Das Bauerntum als Lebensquell der Nordischen Rasse (1928), Um Blut und Boden (1929), and Der Schweinemord (1937), Darré argued that it was the European farmer who had been the creator of European culture, and he proposed the formation of a Germanic 'aristocracy of the soil', rooted in the old agrarian community, which would be protected from, and be a bulwark against, the 'capitalist' (for which, read 'wandering Jewish') world, the "chaos of the market", and industrialisation. The movement was to be 'völkisch' (nearly impossible to translate), with a romantic focus on folklore, the 'organic', and purity. Provocatively, he even placed the pig at the heart of this cult, a celebration of German peasant life, coupled with unsophisticated racism, and, above all, anti-Semitism. The process was to be progressed through Erbhofgesetz, entail farm legislation, which would tie the peasant to the land. Moreover, the Reich would seek autarchy - self-sufficiency.
Inevitably, it didn't work, even in the ugly 'Fairy Tale' that was Nazi Germany, and Darré was soon in conflict with the Reichsbank, with the free market economics of people like Hjalmar Schacht, with the progressive, industrial side of Nazism, but, more importantly, with 'the peasants' themselves, many of whom were more than happy to turn 'capitalist', or who fled the land altogether. By 1939, Darré had lost Hitler's confidence, and he was sidelined under Himmler, but not before he had ordered Jews to be cut off from German food supplies, a crime for which he was given a five-year prison sentence at Nuremberg.
Of course, there is no direct parallel today. Nevertheless, there are resonances in the protection of patently-inefficient 'peasant' agriculture from 'capitalism' by extremely heavy and costly EU subsidies at the expense both of the urban poor in Europe and of developing-world farmers - a problem which could yet derail vital current world trade talks at the WTO. I also think we must be ever-wary of the 'organic' concepts of purity and of the persistent cry that farmers are a special 'aristocracy', a defence against the evils of a globalising world. It is further worth noting that threatening political figures, like Jean-Marie Le Pen, draw much of their support from 'La France profonde' and its ilk. And one must even be cautious about the incipient autarchy behind such concepts as 'the local' and 'food miles'.
I thus think it wise to distrust over-romantic views about European farmers and peasants, even from well-meaning journalists.
And, as Zola reminded us: agriculture is "dur" - damned hard work! You only romanticise it when you don't have to do it for subsistence.
[Suggested further reading: Blood and Soil: Richard Walther Darré and Hitler's "Green Party" by Anna Bramwell (Kensal Press, 1985, ISBN 0946041334)]
Philip, ever on the look out for Spode and his ilk. "Tea, sir?" "Tickety-boo, Jeeves!"
Friday, July 07, 2006
You should believe in 'global warming' when.....
(1) apocalyptic academics stop flying round the world to conferences and for their extended summer holidays - er, sorry - 'field research';
(2) The Guardian and The Independent stop advertising cheap flights and holidays;
(3) the Cameroonian middle classes give up their holiday villas in Provence, Tuscany, the Caribbean, etc.;
(4) the BBC stops flying hundreds of duplicate reporters and staff round the world for each separate programme and channel;
(5) the European Parliament stops 'toing-and-froing' between two parliament buildings of equal glassiness, and the French drop agricultural subsidies;
(6) Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Spain, et al.; Japan; Canada; and all the rest come anywhere near to meeting their Kyoto targets;
(7) Canadians turn off the lights and switch off the heating/air conditioning when not in a room, China gives up coal, and everybody agrees to cut the 'wine miles' to zero;
(8) politicians stop canvassing by helicopter, plane, and battle bus, and Al Gore finds it "inconvenient" to travel about lecturing on 'global warming';
(9) Prince Charles travels about in a G-WIZ with just one member of staff - and squeezes his own toothpaste. Also, John 'Two-Jags' Prescott can fit into a G-WIZ;
(10) the glitterati, the popocracy, the metro elite, and all the politicians really do believe that it all applies just as much to them as to the world's bedint.
There you have it: 'global warming' doesn't exist. QED.
Philip, "Well, that's settled that, then!" "Patio heaters and plonk all round, chaps!"
If some latter-day Nikolaus Pevsner were to arise with a penchant for recording the Victorian and Edwardian terraced house and villa, every book in the series would, sadly, have to contain the following entry: "Anytown: Victoria Street - a road of humble, but honest, terraced houses, once with noteworthy polychromic brickwork and sash windows, now defaced by inappropriate cement renderings, ill-fitting uPVC windows with flat, lifeless glass, ill-constructed breeze-block walls, satellite dishes, DIY monstrosities, and 'Green' garbage." The uncontrolled destruction of this precious, if simple, heritage is one of the most depressing failures of postwar Britain, a scar on the urban landscape that should bring shame to government and to local councils alike.
From the 1830s onwards, with industrialization, urbanisation and the advent of the railway, Britain witnessed the mass expansion of the small villa and the terraced house. Some of these were inevitably jerry-built, and, particularly in the notorious 'courts', created slums of nauseous squalor that have been rightly cleared. Most, however, constituted good, sound, solid, housing stock, often characterised by surprising detailing in the brick and stone. In the North and the Midlands, houses of red-pressed Accrington brick were enhanced with lintels and window sills of Runcorn sandstone or millstone grit, while their leaded windows mirrored the stained glass of the 'steeplehouse' and the chapel. In the South, late-Georgian plaster yielded to polychromic yellow-orange London stock brick, with darker-red window and door arches and two strings of red brick, one below the upper windows, the other below the eaves. Elsewhere, dwellings were built of regional stone, as in Yorkshire, or highly-localised brick, as in Cambridge.
Some terraces bore plaques proudly declaring the date of their construction, while others would carry pretensions just that little bit further with names, like 'Rathvale' and 'Lindisfarne', carved in funereal sandstone above the front door. And then there were the tiny front gardens, tended with loving care, their 'hostas' and roses peeping around and over a deep-red corniced wall, or through smalt blue or dark green metal railings (not shiny black and tarnished gold, councils please note).
At the top end of the market, there was 'The Laurels', Brickfield Terrace, Holloway (1892), home of George and Weedon Grossmith's unforgettable Mr. Charles Pooter, and his dear wife, Carrie. At the lower end, there were the 'ungardened' terraces of Salford and Oldham, and of L. S. Lowry's 'matchstick' people [Above right: Lowry's Coming out of School (1927, oil on canvas, 34.7 cm x 53.9 cm: photo Wikipedia, public domain)].
But all had a dignity that is today ruined by the junk of modern life, not to mention by the 'Green idealism' of the council jobsworth. The old Victorian town in which I live illustrates this far too vividly. In the 1950s and 1960s, the heart of the borough was ripped out for stark modern buildings, including a town hall and a theatre of no architectural merit. Yet, the few terraces that remain are Victorian gems, and, where their wooden sash windows have not been replaced, they are 'alive' with character and style. Unfortunately, dignity has, in the main, been turned into an urban battlefield of every manner of DIY surgery, butchering the architectural body politic, with pockmarked plaster, television aerial wires hanging limp in the breeze, rough modern pointing and cement instead of softer lime mortar, satellite dishes, some rusting and defunct, but, above all, rectangular uPVC window frames forced into once distinguished, rounded, windows. uPVC was invented for underground piping; it is a great pity that it ever came out into the sun to disfigure the world. Windows are the 'eyes' of a house, and nothing destroys the innate quality of a property more than ill-chosen frames and glass. It is even important to have the right sashes, with thin glazing bars and no horns, or thicker glazing bars and horns on later buildings.
Unfortunately, the myths of 'global warming', and the drive for energy saving at all costs, are likely to vandalise some of these properties yet further. Recently, in Ipswich and Cambridge, I just despaired to observe once-lovely streets totally disfigured by overflowing, plastic wheelie bins of every hue (all in the name of 'Saving the Planet', of course). What rubbish! And now we have the threat of ill-fitted solar panels and laterally-stressed wind turbines on the roof.
In the 'Preface' to his masterpiece, Das englische Haus (1904), Hermann Muthesius wrote that to understand the English house meant to grasp: "…English domestic life, its mores and, indeed, the Englishman's whole philosophy of life." Without unravelling cause and effect, this is surely all too regretfully true of the dilapidated state of our Victorian and Edwardian terraces, where dysfunctional individualism, combined with current civic 'Green' vandalism, has been allowed to run riot at the expense of any sense of urban harmony. Unlike Prince Charles, I value modern architecture, but this does not prevent my utter despair at the brutalisation and 'uglification' of our fine domestic industrial past. Moreover, vandalism begets vandalism - even when it is labelled 'Green'.
Philip, there is so much talk of 'the rural'; but people live in the towns and cities, and increasingly so. That is where real 'conservation' is needed - and in the poorest sectors. Let's drop the twee and the romantic, and focus on the habitats where we live. Lunch.
Thursday, June 29, 2006
For 10 years, ecochondriac Europe has been lecturing and haranguing the rest of the world about 'The Great Global Warming Scare'. Its hypocrisy knows no bounds. The reality is truly shame-making:
(a) Germany, Europe's biggest emitter of so-called 'greenhouse gases', has just announced that it will permit an increase in emissions, and the German cabinet has decided to exclude the coal industry from the EU's carbon-trading programme, permitting new coal plants to opt out [see: 'New German rule could increase greenhouse gas emissions' (The New York Times, June 29: log-in usually required); 'Berlin accused of capitulating to industry in carbon emission targets' (The Financial Times, June 29); and, 'Germany gives coal opt out under CO2 emission plan' (Planet Ark, June 29)];
(b) France is to keep its extremely generous CO2 allowances to support its struggling economy [see: 'France to cut but keep generous CO2 cap in 2008-12' (Planet Ark, June 29)];
(c) Greece is going to be a marathon off its Kyoto targets (forecasting that, by 2015, CO2 emissions will have increased by 47.7% from 1990 levels, and by 58.3% in 2020). It is facing a massive fine; just watch it run the marathon - away from Brussels. Nearly all other European countries, like Ireland, Spain, and Portugal, have equally appalling records [see: 'Greece fails on Kyoto targets' (Kathimerini, June 29)].
Now, one wouldn't mind all this if Europe hadn't been so self-righteous and so 'holier-than-thou' over climate change. After all, readers of 'EnviroSpin' know too well that the Kyoto Protocol won't work, that governments will not be able to cut emissions, and that it is a nonsense in any case. Moreover, the hard economic reasons for failure have been recognised for a long time [see, for example: 'New studies reveal real cost of Kyoto Protocol' (PR Newswire, November 7, 2005)]:
(1) Kyoto targets will cause average rises of 26% in European electricity prices;
(2) Kyoto targets will cause average rises of 41% in natural gas prices by 2010;
(3) There will be significant job losses of at least 200,000 in most countries, rising to as many as 611,000 in Spain by 2010;
(4) There will be serious damage to European economies, with significant reductions in GDP below base levels by 2010: 0.8% for Germany; 3.1% Spain; 2.1% Italy; and, 1.1% the UK.
The truth is simple. There is no way that Europe can, or will, cut its emissions in any significant fashion. Why does it, therefore, try to tell us differently? It is surely time to come clean, and to throw the nauseating ecochondriac rhetoric into the Manneken Pis. There have been too many sops to the strident Green lobby, and it has to stop. In a globalising world, Europe cannot afford to lose its competitive edge. The thought of a declining France and Germany is not a "nappy one".
Philip, increasingly angry that, in Europe, we have been talking such codswallop and cant over climate. No wonder there is deep cynicism over the EU and its political pontificating. Still things are looking up - it's time for tea. [Hat tip to Dr. Benny Peiser for the above links].
The excellent John Brignell over at Number Watch has produced a wondrous list of everything that the 'global warming' industry, or mafia, has concocted as media scares (and all on 0.6 degrees C over 100 to 150 years): 'A complete list of things caused by global warming'.
If you think John has missed any of the rampant nonsense (there is so much!), he is keen to augment the list, and he provides a contact so that you can keep him up-to-date with the 'Climate Change Follies'.
John is a man who knows how to balance risks, and he is indefatiguable in rooting out the misuse of statistics. For one's sanity in this febrile world, Number Watch is thus always worth a visit.
Philip, off into the garden. A lovely day, with warm sun and a gentle, cooling breeze. Coffee 'neath the laburnum, I think, with The Times crossword. "Yes dear! I'll repaint the front steps soon!"
Tuesday, June 27, 2006
As long-predicted on 'EnviroSpin', Europe's blatant hypocrisy in constantly claiming the moral high ground over climate change is being revealed for all to witness. It is not a pleasant sight.
Europe's leadership is in tatters, as economic reality catches up with the rhetoric. Let's hope that we are witnessing the beginning of the end of European hype and hubris over 'global warming': 'Germany to spark "climate crisis"' (BBC Online Science/Nature News, June 27):
"The German government is about to trigger a new crisis in Europe's flagship climate policy, the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS).
BBC News understands the German cabinet is likely to agree a deal that will reduce carbon emissions from industry by only 0.6% between 2004 and 2012.
The decision is likely to influence other EU countries, including the UK, which still have to set their own caps.
Climate analysts now fear a meltdown of EU climate leadership....." (read on)
And you know things have truly collapsed when even the Swedes turn up [I was tempted to put 'turnip' - as you see, I resisted] the heat in the sauna. Birch twigs all round.
In practice, of course, there has never been any "climate leadership", just pompous blather. It is surely time for the people of Europe to be told the round, unvarnished facts of life about the 'Great Global Warming Myth' - as in my blog below.
Philip, European countries may be doing okay in the Football World Cup, but, in the Carbon World Cup, there are more dives and histrionics than in a local squad from Napoli. Time to call foul, and to show a few Red Cards. A beaker of the warm south first, of course. "Lachrymae Christi?" "Mama mia! There goes young Vesuvio - erupting with the ball in the centre circle. He passes to Lava. Can he beat that old hand, Pliny, in goal?"
Thursday, June 22, 2006
In their political heart-of-hearts, all Governments (including those in Europe) know that there is absolutely nothing we can do predictably about climate change, and, indeed, extremely little practically to curb the rise of 'greenhouse gas' emissions. Unfortunately, through a type of tabloid-hysteria in the old broadsheet world, including the BBC, the politicians have been persuaded to adopt knee-jerk reactions and to lecture people that they can, and that they must, "do something" about climate. They are now in a bind of their own making. Whatever they do, they will be damned. They can have no predictable effect on climate, and there is no way, even, that they will manage a significant reduction in gas emissions. Yet, they must continue to speak as if they are cutting, and can cut, emissions, and to argue that they will, miraculously, control climate. At some point, a lot of little boys and girls are going to spot the deception and to cry out: "The Emperors have no clothes!"
Here are the stark political realities:
(a) First, no country is reporting its true emissions of 'greenhouse gases'. Indeed, new research shows that Britain, for example, may be emitting 92% more methane (CH4) than declared under the Kyoto Protocol; Germany 62% (Germany has now acknowledged this fact and has raised its original estimates by 70%); France 47% [see: 'Kyoto promises are nothing but hot air' (New Scientist, June 21) and 'Methane emissions twice official level - study', (The Guardian, June 22)]. Further, the New Scientist makes the following telling observations:
"The most alarming failure of greenhouse gas emissions reporting is thought to have occurred in China, the world's second largest emitter. In the late 1990s, when its economy was growing by 10 per cent a year, the Chinese government reported a dramatic fall in CO2 emissions to the UN climate change convention. It declared that, after a long period of steep increases, emissions had fallen from 911 million tonnes of carbon a year in 1996 to 757 million tonnes in 2000, a drop of 17 per cent.
China said the fall in emissions was achieved by burning less coal, an assessment it based on a decline in coal production. Some analysts praised the country for using coal more efficiently, but that picture was called into doubt when declared coal production and emissions estimates resumed their fast rise. Estimates for 2004 put China's CO2 emissions above 1200 million tonnes.
Most analysts now conclude that the drop in emissions was entirely illusory [my italic]. It coincided with major changes in the organisation of the Chinese coal industry, which replaced state targets with a market system. 'Emissions figures before 1996 were inflated because mine officials had production targets to meet, and declared they had met them when they had not,' one analyst told New Scientist. By 2000, this effect had gone, and 'subsequent figures for CO2 emissions are probably more accurate as a result.' While the Chinese government may not have intentionally misled the international community over its emissions at the time, the incident reveals how easy it could be to fiddle official figures."
(b) Secondly, all emissions continue to rise, even according to official figures. The latest statistics show that 'greenhouse gas' emissions in the EU increased by 0.4% between 2003 and 2004, and even grew in the ever-pious UK by 0.2% (and these statistics exclude emissions from aircraft and shipping). On a world scale, CO2 emissions are now predicted to augment by 75% between 2003 and 2030, mainly because of exponential growth in the developing world [see: 'World CO2 emissions to rise 75 pct by 2030' (Planet Ark, June 21)]:
"Global emissions of CO2 will hit 43.7 billion tonnes in 2030, up from 25 billion tonnes in 2003, the Energy Information Administration [US] said in its annual forecast. By 2025 global CO2 emissions could hit 40.05 billion tonnes annually, up 0.03 percent from the forecast issued last year, said the EIA, the statistics arm of the Department of Energy. Last year's report did not look as far ahead as 2030."
By 2010, developing Asian countries will surpass North American emissions by some 21%.
(c) Thirdly, most efforts to curb emissions will be gobbled up by: (i) the significant return to coal that is currently taking place; (ii) the fact that more efficient energy buildings are still new, and additional, build; (iii) the continued growth in transport and free trade; (iv) the fact that most people, underneath, remain largely unmoved by the 'global warming' hype (just look at the 'EnviroSpin' Mini Poll, opposite); and, we hope, (v) continued world economic growth.
So, what can we expect? Much more of this hot air: 'EU, US to agree "urgent" action on climate change' (Planet Ark, June 21). Which means, being deconstructed?
+ A great deal of international talk about 'new technology' solving the crisis, while allowing growth to continue unchecked;
+ Increasingly ludicrous carbon-trading schemes;
+ A sudden, and rising, interest in 'adaptation' to climate change;
+ An awful lot of gibberish about YOU doing your bit with your light bulbs and your rubbish (largely a waste of time);
+ A load of waffle from young, eager, fresh-faced political hopefuls, like David Cameron and David Miliband, not to mention from all the soppy Lib Dems (you can shoot snipe off their backs); and,
+ Increasingly angry Greens, who will, nevertheless, continue to employ the 'global warming' hype to try to change your evil ways of living;
+ Meanwhile, world emissions will continue to rise, and, as ever, climate will change - but in what directions? Who knows?
Sometimes one really does wish one lived on another planet where the only strains came from a Schubert Quartet. I don't think I can stand it. It'll have to be Radio 3 from now on in the morning.
Philip, an Old Trout skulking in the shallows, listening to Schubert. "Tea?"
Wednesday, June 21, 2006
After much testing and searching, 'EnviroSpin' has, at last, a new Mini Poll service [with Pollhost]. This carries no adverts on the blog, but only on the results pages, and I approve entirely of Pollhost's policies, which reject web sites that exhibit racism, hatred, harassment, adult content, obscene material, nudity, and pornography. I thus feel confident that the advertising on this poll will prove acceptable for a Family Friendly site like 'EnviroSpin'.
Thanks for your patience. And do please vote on our new 'EnviroSpin' poll (opposite) - tick up to three (3) boxes.
Philip, hungry after all that searching. Dinner! Hm! Good wine this evening, I think? A little treat.
Tuesday, June 20, 2006
I am delighted to say that 'EnviroSpin' can now offer a regular 'Science News' ticker (courtesy of ABC) [opposite], without the danger of any uncontrolled pesky ads. The ticker checks for stories regularly (around every 10 minutes) - just click on the 'Headline' for the full story.
Philip, so glad to have dropped those ads. A celebratory coffee is needed. I hope to provide an ad-free Mini Poll again soon. Thanks for your understanding.
Monday, June 19, 2006
I must apologise for the precipitate removal from this blog of certain services which I know were valued by visitors to 'EnviroSpin' (e.g. the daily 'Science News' and the Mini Polls). Very sadly, some of the advertisements put up by the service providers have become increasingly unacceptable for a Family Friendly Site, like 'EnviroSpin', and, in all conscience, I am unable to continue to permit such advertisements to appear on my blog. I sincerely hope that you have not been embarrassed by any of the advertisements that have been shown today (I only noticed them myself for the first time this evening). Needless to say, I was very angry indeed, and I have acted at once.
I shall now seek suitable alternative services, if these can be found. I have already changed the Site Counter to one that respects Family Friendly Sites.
Please note that I have likewise had to remove the Vote, the Guestbook, and the Counter from my essay web site, 'A Parliament of Things'. Again, my apologies.
Thank goodness no changes have been required on the new Philip Stott's Music Box. Everything on this site is under my own control - as they are now on 'EnviroSpin' and 'A Parliament of Things'.
Philip, all for an open web, but it must respect Family Friendly options at all times. Thanks for your understanding. A strong expresso is required.
Not being a medic, I have refrained from commenting on the disastrous 'yummy-mummy' panic over the MMR vaccine and its [seemingly non-existent] link with autism [see: 'Misplaced autism worries fuel measles outbreak' (The Guardian, June 16)].
As you may recall, confidence among the professional and media-type middle classes in the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) triple-vaccine collapsed following some hysterically-reported research first published in The Lancet that hypothesized a possible link between the vaccine, given at 18 months, and then at 4 years, with autism and bowel disease. Part of The Lancet paper was later retracted, and one of the authors may now face professional misconduct charges brought by the General Medical Council (GMC).
But these latter points are not what interest me, nor am I briefed enough to comment on the whole sorry tale. What I do know is that the media, and a bunch of precious, middle-class pundits, failed lamentably to assess the extremely meagre evidence for any link against the deadly serious, and fully-understood, risks of failing to achieve the necessary levels of vaccination for 'herd-level' protection in any given population. And the outcome of this folly? Unsurprisingly, as The Guardian reports, Britain is today "... experiencing its biggest measles outbreak in 20 years, fuelled by the reluctance of some parents to have their children immunised because of now-discredited claims of a link between the MMR jab and autism."
In 2006, there have been some 449 reported cases of measles; in 2005, there were 77. The first direct death from measles has been recorded. But worse: while the safe level for 'herd' immunisation rates is, according to the WHO and others, between 92 and 95%, rates in London have fallen to 71%, and in Britain as a whole to below 85%. Now that is genuinely a cause for concern.
Three factors merit comment. First, the prime withdrawers have been well-educated, middle-class mothers. Secondly, some of the media built up the hype in a truly disgraceful manner. Thirdly, there was no scientific understanding of the need to balance risks, only a foolish yearning for impossible absolutes and a flurry of febrile comment.
On all this, I recommend strongly Cristina Odone's outstanding piece in today's The Times [apologies - no direct hyperlink for copyright reasons]: 'White, middle-class, loving mums. And their stupidity could kill your child.'
Middle-class panic has become one of the self-indulgent curses of the age, and, behind much of the panic, there often lies class arrogance and loathing. Though they would never actually utter such an un-PCness, some, deep down, do believe that they are more important than everyone else, and that everything about their existence is much, much, more precious, from hemp to 'organic' Hypericum. There is a sense of horror at playing your part in a 'herd of humanity'.
Interestingly, a substantial element of 'global warming' panic is likewise class-driven, especially those metro-media attacks on cheap air fares. In their heart of hearts, the 'yummy mummies' and the 'dandy dads' believe that 'the great unwashed' should know their place and stay at home in Blackpool or Margate. What they want is immunisation from 'the herd'!
And, when the middle class cease flying to their Provencal and Tuscan villas, and snooty academics stop jetting off to conferences, then you should believe in 'global warming'.
In this respect, I was delighted that, in the Queen's Birthday Honours, the founder of EasyJet, and Easygroup Chairman, Stelios Haji-Ioannou, received a knighthood [see: 'Honours offer snapshot of new establishment' (The Guardian, June 17)]. This was a splendid one-in-the-eye for the Etonian Greens and their pot-porritt ilk. Stelios is indeed a jolly chap, and he has brought the destinations of the self-important within most people's reach. Folk go up to him on the street to thank him for opening up their world.
And, of course, the idea that grounding Sir Stelios, and his no-frills jets, would "save the planet" is as stupid as refusing the MMR jab. It is a carefully-contrived middle-class, media conceit and panic to undermine an increasingly democratic world - Stelios, by the way, also introduced cheap internet cafes and cheap car rental. As for balancing the risks of climate change and economic adaptation - no, they don't want to hear about that! It might mean that folk can continue driving their el-cheapo cars, clogging up the roads for the Porcheistas.
Like Pooh, I thus wonder to myself a lot. How much middle-class panic is actually about putting a cordon sanitaire around privileged existences, from Chelsea to Chiantishire, Green Belt to Golf? Increasingly, I am finding my 'Old Labour' hackles rising.
Philip, detoxing after flying back from Porto! Tea and coffee only on return. There's my punishment. "See you next year in Tuscany, Old Thing!"
I hope it is not too solipsist to let you know that the five programmes of my little radio Series, 'Sceptical Landscapes', are being repeated, one after the other, each day this week on BBC Radio 4 at 3.45 pm (BST).
You can listen in live each day here [select: 'Now on air', and click the Listen Live button].
Philip, 3.45 pm? Why not have tea in the garden with Stotty? Sceptical sandwiches all round!
Sunday, June 18, 2006
For a long time now, there has been an uneasy feeling that the grand narrative of environmentalism is morphing into the grand narrative of Marxism, but in a new guise. Of course, this is rarely admitted, or made transparent, the deep faiths of environmentalism being cleverly dressed up in pseudo-scientific gobbledygook, somewhat like Old Marxism itself.
The veracity of such observations are, however, beautifully exposed by the latest Volume [30, Issue 3, 2006] of the academic journal, Progress in Human Geography (Hodder Arnold), a frequent refuge for much plaintive Marxist, and anti-capitalist, academic rhetoric, and one showcasing writing that would sometimes do justice to Pseuds Corner in Private Eye. Try these for starters:
"In the writings of self-described neoliberal promoters... the micro- and macroscales of neoliberal rule are thus usually explained as fitting together naturally as some sort of synergistic adaptation of both personal imagination and social-regulation brought on by a global struggle for political-economic survival: a naturally selected, heteronormative, coupling, it would seem, as well as very convenient for business..." [p. 362]
"The first is to nuance rather than abandon our analyses of neoliberalism: a nuancing which... can be developed in part through the analysis of the context-contingent connections between neoliberal governance and neoliberal governmentality..." [p. 367]
Accordingly, I commend for your deconstruction two articles in the latest issue of PiHG, the first on 'Political geography: political geographies of globalization' [pp. 357 - 372], the second on 'Political ecology: where is the policy?' [pp. 382 - 395].
The latter, in particular, lauds the necessity "to expose the free market, anti-environmental agenda" attacked by one political ecologist at the Cultural and Political Ecology Specialty Group during a recent conference of the Association of American Geographers (AAG).
The article further plainly declares that the roots of political ecology lie in "Marxian political economy" [p.387] [a bizarre simplification!], and bemoans the fact that this "hardly opens doors in mainstream policy institutions". Quoting another political ecologist, the paper then admits that: "An overt Marxian analysis would make most policy makers bin the reporrt after page 2."
The article goes on to assert what readers of 'EnviroSpin' have long sensed:
"Some who have shed overt Marxian language perceive that these sorts of critiques of power can go a long way in the policy world and lead to important positive changes..."
"... The upshot of all this with respect to policy is that, while political ecologists will no doubt continue to argue among themselves about the appropriate place for Marx, the legacy of Marxian analysis on political ecology will continue to present a sometimes awkward choice" [p. 388].
You bet. Thus, the arrival of 'Neo-Marxian' political ecologists, and every flower blooming, so long as it is, of course, socialistic.
I am delighted to read such papers, because they present us with two clear warnings.
First, in the academic world, much 'environmental' and 'ecological' analysis is little more than discredited Marxist thinking dressed up as pseudo-science to look acceptable to modern policy makers (who too readily fall for its tropes). Secondly, environmentalism has become a back door for authoritarian Marxism and Socialism to sneak into, yet again, public policy-making, especially at the international level. Beware such at the UN.
These trends have to be resisted, and seen for what they are, and it is dispiriting that so many straightforward scientists are bedazzled by the Old Dictator's new clothes. For, as ever, the Emperor is bare.
I think it will all end in tears, like the demise of its parent grand narrative. 'Global warming', environmentalism's Berlin Wall, must be torn down, stone by stone. In the meantime, we must suffer the paradigm and its follies.
Philip, just returned from a most pleasant visit to Portugal, where the tripe is real, in marked contrast to much of academia. "Chilled white port, all round?" "Obrigado!"
[New counter, June 19, 2006, with loss of some data]