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.

Friday, December 05, 2003

One up to The Staggers.....

Well, the jolly old New Statesman published my little letter after all (see blog for December 2)! And even the editing was not too fierce. Fair enough. Can't grumble. A small candle in their miasma of gloom!

Philip the Just.
From the Russian Bear's Mouth.....

Here's The Moscow Times itself on Russia and Kyoto: 'Illarionov: Russia Won't Ratify Kyoto' (The Moscow Times, December 3): "Illarionov said Putin laid out Russia's objections to the pact in what he called a "very energetic" discussion with heads of leading European industrial concerns in an ornate Kremlin hall."

I'd bet on Illarionov getting this one right. I'd have loved to have been a samovar on the table.

Philip. Coffee time (no samovars here sadly).
And some folk worry about GM.....

As Lord May of the Royal Society has been at pains to point out on several occasions this year, while folk witter on about GM crops, which are likely to be no threat at all, biological devastation continues apace through the virtually unregulated and unmonitored introduction of non-native organisams via pet shops and garden centres. The ever-alert Alex Kirby rightly records the latest threat, 'Mystery oak killer hits UK trees' (BBC Online Science News, December 4):

"The fungus, known as Phytophthora ramorum, has killed 80% of one oak species in the western US.

It was discovered last year in viburnum plants in British garden centres, and there have been more than 300 subsequent outbreaks in plant nurseries, and in some wild rhododendrons. "

In November, the disease was found in an introduced tree, when it was identified in a southern red oak in Sussex, a species imported from the US. More worrying still, it now appears to have been recorded in a truly native British beech tree (Fagus sylvatica).

Thus, while our ever-concerned greens strain at their virtual GM gnats, the real beasties are rampant through the back door.

Philip, less than oakay!

Thursday, December 04, 2003

And now for the Russian Bear's next turn.....

'Kremlin aide confirms Putin rejection of climate change protocol' (Yahoo!News, December 4):

'"The statement I made two days ago repeated word for word what the Russian president said at his meeting with EU representatives,' Putin's top adviser on economic issues, Andrei Illarionov, told a news conference."

And I would believe Illarionov, as so brilliantly pointed out by Bronwen Maddox in today's The Times (no link for copyright reasons).

Gee! Glad I was in Oxford today examining a Ph.D. - I can't keep up!

Philip. Who can bear it? Wine!

Wednesday, December 03, 2003

Hey! It's Russian roulette.....

Note what I wrote yesterday in my blog on Russia ditching the Kyoto Protocol: "But no further comment at this stage. Let's see how this all pans out. The politics are even more complex than the science." How sage, how wise!

After all, we are dealing with The Kremlin and Russian internal politics. So no surprise at the new headline, just up, as reliable old Alex K. plays the tables as fast as the Russians spin the Kyoto Protocol: 'Russia "still open" to Kyoto pact' (BBC Online News, December 3, 16.10 GMT):

"Russia [now] says it has not yet reached a decision on whether to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, the global climate treaty.
It has effectively disowned an official who only yesterday said Russia would not ratify, and it is still in the process of coming to a decision.

The official, Andrei Illarionov, said Russia would not ratify Kyoto in its present form, citing economic reasons.

The treaty cannot acquire the force of international law unless Russia, one of the world's big polluters, ratifies it.

Mr Illarionov, President Putin's chief adviser on economic issues, said in Moscow: 'Of course, in its present form, this protocol cannot be ratified. It is impossible to undertake responsibilities that place serious limits on the country's growth.'

But Russia's deputy economy minister, Mukhamed Tsikhanov, said the country was moving towards the treaty."

Watch this space! Tomorrow, I expect it will be an entirely new pact - 'The Moscow Protocol'? It's like The Three Sisters: "Oh! When shall we go to Kyoto, Masha?"

In reality, of course, it is incredibly complex factional in-fighting, including pragmatic practical economists and those who hate any American alignment, not to mention those with vested oil and gas interests.

Philip. Nyet convinced either way!
And after Russia, Canada.....?

As I thought - when Canada changes its PM, it is likely to become decidedly lukewarm over the Kyoto Protocol: 'Ibbitson: Why he's prepared to abandon dying deal' (The Globe and Mail, December 3):

"Jean Chrétien, this week's prime minister, told reporters that Canada should live up to its Kyoto commitments, whatever happens. But Mr. Martin, next week's prime minister, made it clear -- provided one employs a Universal Political Translator -- that he continues to have grave doubts."

And here's The Toronto Sun (December 3) - 'Long way to Kyoto': "Prime minister-to-be Paul Martin said yesterday his government will fulfil its obligations under the Kyoto Accord to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but not until there's a better picture of how it can be implemented."

I guess it might not be too long before the Canadian Bear surreptitiously follows the Russian Bear. It's beginning to look like Sweden and the UK are out there on their own! Margot and Tony dancing the PC waltz! Can I bear it?

Philip. Upun my word, yes! Lunch (Pooh Bear).
UK public sceptical of Kyoto Protocol - new poll, just out......

EnviroSpin is honoured to be one of the first outlets permitted to report this important new poll on attitudes to the Kyoto Protocol in the UK:

57% believe UK should not implement Kyoto if it will harm Britain's economy

70% believe that Britain should pursue alternative, less costly strategies

The poll, commissioned by International Policy Network, a London-based charity*, and conducted by Populus, a UK-based polling firm**, shows that 57% of the British public believe that the UK should not implement the Kyoto Protocol if it causes economic harm and job losses.

For young people, the figure is higher: 68% do not want to sacrifice British jobs and economic growth to the Kyoto Protocol.

The Kyoto Protocol has been widely touted as the world's solution to 'global warming'. However, studies show that. as Kyoto is implemented during 2008-2010, it is likely to harm Britain's economy by increasing the price of electricity, fuel and consumer goods, leading to slower economic growth and higher operating costs for employers, and causing job losses.***

The poll also reveals that the UK government should consider alternative, less costly approaches to 'global warming'. 70% of people polled - and 75% of women polled - believe that, if more cost-effective alternatives to Kyoto exist, Britain should pursue those strategies.

In light of this data, and decisions by the US, the Australian and (now) the Russian governments (see blog for December 2 below) not to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, it is incumbent upon environment ministers meeting next week in Milan, Italy, (during the high-level ministerial section of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change COP-9), to propose more cost-effective strategies to address climate change.

Kendra Okonski, Editor of Adapt or Die: the science, politics and economics of climate change (Profile Books, December 2003 - see blogs for Monday, December 1 below), comments: "By constraining our ability to grow and adapt, Kyoto will cause more harm to future generations than the global warming ever would. Britain's leaders should focus on policies that promote adaptation, rather than climate control."

Strategies to encourage adaptation, rather than climate control, could include:

+ Encouraging British investment in transferring more energy-efficient technologies to those countries whose economies produce the most carbon emissions, such as India and China;

+ Tax breaks for businesses on R&D of blue-skies research for new energy technologies;

+ Removing tariffs on less energy-intensive goods and services;

+ Specific measures to address any negative impacts of climate change, such as extreme weather or sea-level changes.

# # # Notes ###

*International Policy Network is a London-based charity which co-ordinates policy activities on the environment, health, trade and technology.

**Populus interviewed a random sample of 1,001 adults aged 18+ by telephone between November 28th-30th, 2003. Interviews were conducted across the country and the results have been weighted to be representative of all adults.

*** See: 'Kyoto Protocol and beyond: the economic cost to four European countries' (includes the UK), DRI-WEFA study commissioned in 2002 by International Center for Capital Formation. Study available here (.pdf).

I'm afraid the Kyoto Protocol has never made any economic sense to me whatsoever. Above all, its failure to deal with the real implications of economic growth and development has been palpable. The only way to survive climate change, whatever its ultimate direction(s), is to maintain and grow strong, flexible economies, not to hobble them by utopian 'command-and-control' economics. It now appears that I am not alone in holding such a view. Interesting poll. I wonder what the media will make of it.

Philip. A latter-day King Canute in Kent.

Tuesday, December 02, 2003

Russia ditches the Kyoto Protocol "in its present form"......

Just announed at the Milan Climate Conference (12.56 GMT - recently updated): 'Russia pulls away from Kyoto pact' (BBC Online Science News, December 2):

"Russia says it will not ratify in its present form the Kyoto Protocol designed to mitigate global warming.

'The Kyoto Protocol places significant limitations on the economic growth of Russia,' presidential aide Andrei Illarionov told a conference in Milan.

The landmark environmental pact cannot now enter into legal force, especially since the US has also repudiated it."

This is surely a pivotal moment. But can anyone be surprised when confronted by European hypocrisy on this scale - 'Cars risk Europe's climate cuts' (BBC Online Science News, earlier in the day):

"Total emissions from transport are projected to be 34% above 1990 levels in 2010 [my emphasis]. This does not include rapidly increasing emissions from international air travel, which is not covered by Kyoto.

The Kyoto Protocol has not yet entered into force, and cannot do so unless and until one of the biggest polluters, Russia, ratifies it.

The US has said it will not ratify the treaty, leaving the EU as its most enthusiastic advocate among the industrialised countries.

If Europe, together and severally, does not make good its promises to cut emissions, the protocol's critics will understandably have a field day. "

You bet! But no further comment at this stage. Let's see how this all pans out. The politics are even more complex than the science! Philip needing coffee.
Apologies - a little about me, but for a reason.....

If you want to feel the Savonarola-like force of 'global warming' gloom in full spate then you can do no better than read the Cover Story of this week's the New Statesman (what a dire weekly this has become!): 'Why we don't give a damn' (New Statesman, December 1).

You may be wryly amused at the description of yours truly as "Britain's leading climate-change denier" which appends the foot of this morbid masterpiece. Here, for the record, is a copy of the little letter I have sent to the Editor:

"Dear Editor,

I must protest! I am not a 'climate-change denier'. I believe passionately in climate change. Climate change is the norm, not the exception. Indeed, if climate were not changing that would be really newsworthy. However, I do not believe that we can manage climate change predictably by fiddling at the margins with just a couple of politically-selected factors out of the millions that drive climate - I trust a somewhat more nuanced position. This is why I make a clear distinction between the construct of 'global warming' and the complex science of 'climate change'. Oh! And by the way, I am purely pragmatic about nuclear energy and I just love organic yoghourt. A little more subtlety would be welcome in 'New Statesman' ad personam attacks. And before anyone says otherwise, I am passionately anti-tobacco. Thanks. Philip."

It will be interesting to see if the jolly old Staggers publishes this. I would also add that I am Britain's leading nothing. The tone of the piece, however, depresses me. The all-too-apparent eagerness of folk in the green movement to turn to ad personam, and normally ill-informed, attacks (usually damning by association) on every occasion when critics do not accept their entire environmentalist credo is one of the most unappetising aspects of the whole current debate on the environment. I care about the environment (only a fool wouldn't), but I am not a paid-up 'environmentalist', because, in my opinion, much of the environmentalist agenda is both scientifically wrong and ultimately dangerous for the environment itself, for people, and especially for the poor and for the developing world. I therefore make up my own mind on each issue and topic, as and when it arises, and I try not to temporise what I believe to be right for political reasons. Bad and uncertain science makes bad public policy.

Unfortunately, you are not allowed to make up your own mind on each issue. If you dare to disagree, even a smidgen, you just have to be: (a) a lackey of big business (I receive various green ink letters to this effect); (b) in the pay of the evil multinationals (I noticed rather sadly that this tack even cropped up in some of the posts about me in the usually more rational blog, Crooked Timber - e.g. "As for Prof. Stott’s site, something smelt wrong when I read it - having read the comments here I think I now know what it was - the smell of undercover corporate funding."); (c) aiding and abetting the evil Bush Empire; (d) an extreme right wing libertarian from Montana; (e) a supporter of big tobacco; (f) a Denier! It's pathetic.

I happen to be none of these (sorry!). I am just a curmudgeonly, fiercely independent, mildly left-wing academic, who, for over twenty five years now (help!), has been studying (deconstructing) the political and philosophical construction of environmental knowledges. I am funded by nobody for speaking my views (my wife thinks that this is a pity!) and my judgments, for good or ill, are entirely mine. I also hope that I am constantly open to new evidence and ideas, including from some of the great blogs that are now out there. Thank you guys - you are helping to create a truly democratic and quality virtual world.

So, if you ever read anything which says other than the above, please let me know and discount it at once. Let's always focus on the discourse and on the arguments, and forget the cheap and distorted ad personam comment. Such unsubtle jibes are nearly always shorthand for lack of careful thought and argument. It may come as a surprise to some that folk can arrive at different conclusions entirely honestly and for themselves.

Philip. I wish I could get this cold off my chest just as easily.......! Hacking on.

Monday, December 01, 2003

Adapt or die hits the press.....

The Daily Telegraph commits a whole opinion piece to Adapt or die (see previous post today for full details of this new book which takes apart the poor old Kyoto Protocol): 'Prescott, a major cause of hot air' (The Daily Telegraph, December 1).

And here (perhaps surprisingly) is a good little review at Green Consumer Guide: 'Kyoto benefits will be "negligible" - book' (Green Consumer Guide, December 1).

Finally, here is The Financial Times on US climate-change policy: 'US defends its climate change policies' (The Financial Times, December 1).

Philip. I need my breakfast - too much hot air before coffee is not good for my hacking cough! Hack! Hack!
Adaptation - not the Kyoto Protocol - is the solution to 'global warming'.....

..... say 13 experts in a new book. This 'Press Release', posted here with permission, is from the International Policy Network, London (IPN).

'Adapt or die', Ed. Okonski, Profile Books, 2003. Click image to buy.Press Release

"Climate change is considered a major environmental issue. Conventional wisdom suggests that it will be devastating for the environment and humanity, and that ‘climate control’, through agreements such as the Kyoto Protocol, is the only way to address it.

But a new book, Adapt or die: the Science, Politics and Economics of Climate Change (published soon by Profile Books), challenges the view that climate change will be catastrophic, and that “climate control” is necessary.

13 expert contributors argue that policymakers should focus on strategies to enhance society’s ability to adapt to climate change. As world leaders gather for the COP-9 meeting of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Milan, Italy (1-12 December, 2003), Adapt or die proposes constructive alternatives to climate control which would enable humanity to cope with negative impacts of climate change without excessive costs.

'Attempts to control the climate through restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions would have little effect on the earth’s climate, but would harm our ability to adapt to climate change by slowing economic growth and diverting resources into inappropriate uses,' says the book’s editor, Kendra Okonski, Director of the Sustainable Development Project at International Policy Network, a London-based NGO.

'To deal with climate change, we should adopt policies that promote human well-being both today and in the future,' explains Okonski. 'We could do this today by eliminating disease and poverty, developing new technologies, and reducing humanity’s vulnerability to climate change. In contrast, the Kyoto Protocol requires huge expenditures today for negligible benefits in the far future.'

Under the Kyoto Protocol, parties would restrict emissions of carbon dioxide in the hope that this might mitigate global warming. Yet it is increasingly clear that Kyoto has costs with no benefits, and it is unlikely ever to come into force. Signatories are therefore searching for alternatives that will achieve the goals of the UNFCCC, without burdening the world with unnecessary costs.

The book’s 13 experts include, amongst others, Dr. Benny Peiser of Liverpool John Moores University (UK), Dr. Paul Reiter of the Pasteur Institut (France), and Julian Morris, Visiting Professor at the University of Buckingham. They tackle the science, politics and economics of global warming, showing that:

• The Kyoto Protocol and other attempts at climate control will not achieve the desired end of mitigating climate change or preventing negative consequences from global warming;

• The victims of such policies would be European consumers and taxpayers, and people in poor countries;

• Such policies are extremely expensive, and the desired ends could be achieved in a more just and cost effective manner;

• To reduce the effects of global warming for people everywhere, we should focus on reducing vulnerability to climate change today. This means eliminating disease and poverty, enhancing access to existing and new technologies, and improving infrastructure;

• Adaptation to climate change is fostered by policies that promote certainty, flexibility, and decentralised responsibility;

• The benefits of an adaptation strategy for climate change would spill over to other, as yet unknown future problems that will be encountered by humanity."

Book Details

Adapt or die: the science, politics and economics of climate change;
Publisher: Profile Books;
£ 14.99.

How to buy Adapt or die early and at a discount (£10 plus P&P): go here, or click the book image above right.

The book launch for Adapt or die will take place on Monday, 1 December, 2003, London SW1.
RSVP: Stephanie Drnasin, Stephanie-at-policynetwork.net (replace -at- with @), +4420 7231 2132

For a review copy of the book, to interview the editor, or one of the contributors, or for more information, please contact Damian Nixon, International Policy Network, +4420 7231 2132, damian-at-policynetwork.net (replace -at- with @).

Up-dated information about the book will also be made available at www.adaptordie.info.


Nice to have the alternative viewpoint published in the UK for a change. As the Good Ship 'Kyoto Protocol' sinks below the rising tides, this is surely the way to go - trying to 'manage' climate itself predictably was always going to be a policy all at sea! Philip, with nasty cold and cough. Time for more medicine!

Sunday, November 30, 2003

The reality behind the Kyoto Protocol rhetoric.....

Alex Kirby reports on the reality behind the Kyoto Protocol rhetoric: 'Poor world "cuts climate gases"' (BBC Online Science News, November 29) - of course they want to, for, as Alex says: "Countries like India, China and Cuba are all waiting for the protocol's clean development mechanism to start working - that will let richer countries invest in projects to cut greenhouse gases in the developing world."

But here is the rub:

"The Milan meeting, much of which is highly technical, will also receive a report on emission trends and projections.

Whatever voluntary efforts the poorer countries are making, this shows the combined emissions of Europe, Japan, the US and other highly industrialised countries could grow by 8% between 2000 and 2010.

This would take them to 17% above their 1990 levels, in stark contrast with the rich countries' Kyoto commitment to achieve significant cuts."

I make no comment! Philip.

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