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, February 27, 2004

Time to put the Kyoto Protocol out of its lingering misery.....

Snippets of news galore increasingly indicate that, out of sheer kindness, it is time to put down the Kyoto Protocol as humanely as possible:

(a) Even the EU is now splitting over the Protocol's follies: 'Commisson split on Kyoto Protocol' (EU Observer.com, February 26):

"The European Commission's united front on the Kyoto Protocol on climate change has once again been undermined by transport Commissioner Loyola de Palacio. Ms Palacio, well known for her strong views, told the Financial Times that the EU should look at other ways of achieving its goals of reducing greenhouse emissions."

See also 'EU energy chief challenges stance on Kyoto' (The Financial Times, February 27):

"... Ms de Palacio insisted that she had the right to speak her mind. 'I cannot shut up when confronted with a big problem, especially one that falls into my direct responsibility. Energy is my responsibility.'"

And energy is for sure the Achilles heel of the Kyoto Protocol. It just won't work.

(b) Even the ever-pious UK is failing badly on its own Kyoto targets despite all the holier-than-thou rhetoric: 'UK carbon dioxide emissions soared in 2003' (Friends of the Earth 'Press Release', February 27). Here are the official DTI statistics for 2003:

* Total inland consumption of primary fuels, which includes deliveries into consumption, was 233.1 million tonnes of oil equivalent in 2003, 2.0 per cent higher than in 2002 (they are meant to be falling);

* On a temperature corrected basis, total inland consumption of primary fuels was 1.3 per cent higher in 2003 than in 2002;

* For 2003 temperature corrected figures, compared to 2002 show that:
- consumption of oil rose by 3.0 per cent;
- consumption of coal and other solid fuels rose by 6.2 per cent;
- consumption of natural gas fell by 1.3 per cent.

(c) Yesterday evening I attended a stimulating lecture by that famous Viking warrior for environmental common sense, Bjørn Lomborg, who yet again, but with great humour, demonstrated that the Kyoto Protocol makes no economic sense whatsoever. Here is the rather poor BBC report on the lecture: '"Eco-myths are a gun to the head"' (BBC Science/Nature News Online, February 27). Bjørn argued most cogently that we must look extremely carefully at the cost-effectiveness of environmental policies and, in particular, ensure that we are prioritising global problems in the best way - a hurdle at which the Kyoto Protocol falls ignominiously.

(d) Meanwhile, Russia continues to prevaricate in Kremlinesque style: 'EU commissioner asks Russia to clarify stand on climate change treaty' (Terra.Wire, February 26):

"'My impression is that Russia has no intention of ratifying, or that it will demand a price from the EU which we cannot pay," Palacio said."

For Pete's sake ("Who was Pete?" Saint Peter, of course, originally), let's not flog this poor beast any more. It is time to move on.

Philip, cheering Bjørn all the way. Tea everyone?

Thursday, February 26, 2004

GM - a more nuanced debate.....

The still relatively new 'Life' Section of The Guardian (out each Thursday) continues to provide far more nuanced coverage of environmental issues than the rest of the Groaniad. In the latter (especially, of course, in the notorious 'Society' Section, out on Wednesdays), the idea of 'balance' appears to consist of having page after page of unmitigated and uncritical environmentalist 'propaganda' with an occasional 'letter to the editor' or comment putting entirely the opposite viewpoint.

In the 'Life' Section, by contrast, the nuancing of the debate is often found within a single article (although it remains less reliable in this respect on climate change). The approach is to be warmly welcomed, and it leads to far more rewarding comment and reading.

Here, for example, is today's interesting interview with Professor Chris Pollock, Director of the Institute of Grassland and Environmental Research, Aberystwyth, on the GM debate in the UK: 'Why it's time for GM Britain' ('Life' Section, The Guardian, February 26).

I agree with Pollock, who is "keen to move on, to think about other issues of import to the British countryside other than just GM crops." If only! And, if you think it's bad in the UK, then just try the EU: 'Brussels backs Berlin crop plan' (EUPolitix.com, February 25).

Philip, bored by a debate that has long passed its sell-by-date. A bit like myself really.

Sunday, February 22, 2004

Is The Guardian Letters' editor on her/his half-term break.....?

Wow! Three Groaniad letters against Kyoto and three pro GM. The Letters' editor must be on half-term holiday!

(a) 'The case against Kyoto';

(b) 'Planting a GM future'.

[The Guardian, February 21].

Help! I'll be out of a blog soon. (Sorry! Forget that - no worries! The Independent [February 22] is always reassuringly there to provide the pure and unalloyed sensationalist hype! Ever heard of seed-quality preservation genes, by the way?)

Now when is that Guardian Comment editor taking a much-needed break?

Philip, off to lunch. I can smell the gorgeous coriander and carrot soup Dr. S. has just concocted! Not just a famous historian, you see!

[New counter, June 19, 2006, with loss of some data]

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