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, May 01, 2004

Will it get the retch grade for science.....?

Further to my Thursday blog (below - 'Frosty comment on 'The Day after Tommorrow''), Anthony Cox over at the ever-stimulating Black Triangle blog has likewise put up a splendidly contingent comment on 'The Day after Tomorrow' (April 30), enmeshing the about-to-be-released film within the long-history of disaster movies (in more senses than one):

"Which brings me on to the most recent Hollywood offering, 'The Day after Tomorrow' produced by the people who brought us 'Independence Day. As I remember it, 'Independence Day' was not outstandingly strong on science. In fact, at 'Insultingly Stupid Movie Physics', it gets a retch grade for its science."

"'The Day After Tomorrow' looks set to surpass this grade."

I don't doubt it. Insultingly Stupid Movie Physics is just the antidote, and I await with eager anticipation the Site's eventual grading of 'The Day after Tomorrow'. The grades it adopts are as follows: GP = good physics in general; PGP = pretty good physics (just enough flaws to be fun); PGP-13 = children under 13 might be tricked into thinking the physics were pretty good - parental guidance is suggested; RP = retch; XP = obviously physics from an unknown universe; and NR = unrated (when a movie is obviously a parody, fantasy, cartoon, or is clearly based on a comic book, it can't be rated but may still have some interesting physics worth discussing).

These are great, and I may just have to put up a poll when the film is released on May 28. In the meantime, perhaps I should devise an ecohype scale for media reports. What do you think?

Hat tip to Anthony Cox.

Philip, very dull after being woken at 5.30 am by our mad May Day Dancers prancing about on the hill nearby. I'm not up to cracking Morris sticks when the dew is still fresh!

Friday, April 30, 2004

I'm goin' down to 'South Park'..... [audio on, if you dare to click.....]

Hat tip to the The Edge of England's Sword blog for reminding me of 'South Park' environmentalism.

Quite amazingly, a large proportion of the original 'South Park' scripts are posted at The South Park Scriptorium. Do not miss the famous episode from the Third Series entitled: 'Rainforest Schmainforest' [you will need Adobe Acrobat Reader]. I am still ill from laughing out loud. It is so un-PC that it is 100 per cent necessary.

The ending of the episode is priceless:-

"Each year, the Rainforest is responsible for over three thousand deaths from accidents, attacks or illnesses."

"There are over seven hundred things in the Rainforest that cause cancer."

"Join the fight now and help stop the Rainforest before its too late."

Moreover, the scene where the Rainforest guide is killed by the snake is surreal:

"In seconds it's over, and the guide lies on the ground dead. The snake bites him a few more times just to be more evil."

While who can forget:

"Bueno! Bueno! Pongan el arco iris al lado tortugas muertas"


"KYLE'S MOTHER: Be safe, Kyle. Bring me something back from the rainforest.
CHOIR TEACHER: Oh, no, no,no. The Rainforest is very fragile. We must only take pictures and leave only footprints."

Go read - but be ready to ache and ache!

Philip, needing a strong cup of those Old Rainforest Coffee Beans.
The Republic of Letters.....

"Citizens! The Good Guardian hath permitted the shuttlingcock of debate to grace its Republic of Letters. We are right glad for this treatment so fair, and offer hearty thanks....."

See here, posted on this virtual wall, the three broadsides of Citizens Stott, Phillips (M.), and Dron: 'Heed this global warning' (The Guardian, April 30). Such climates of opinion shall be heard.

Philip, about to break his fast.

Thursday, April 29, 2004

Frosty comment on 'The Day after Tommorrow'.....

I am looking forward to 'The Day after Tommorrow'. This £70 million film is launched by 20th Century Fox on May 28 and it is from the makers of the 1996 'sci-fi' blockbuster, 'Independence Day', in which, of course, the Earth (i.e. Washington DC and New York) was threatened by aliens.

This time we have the world in the throws of a mighty celluloid evironmental disaster - an Ice Age (Brrrrr!), no less. The trailer, which is available on the internet [Macromedia Flash required], so originally depicts the Statue of Liberty swamped by a tidal wave [spot the British irony?]. How did they come up with that image, I wonder? While tornadoes blast the open-planned Getty at Los Angeles [have you ever been there in the February rain?], and snow storms freeze New Delhi chapattis, our brave climatologist and hero, Dennis Quaid, finds himself battling to prevent the Ice Age gripping (inevitably!) the east coast of the US [anyone who has visited Boston in winter knows the feeling all too well. Those poor little ducklings].

"What larks, Pip!" But, far from plunging the world into fear and fomentation over climate change, I think this Godzilla-of-a-movie will have most of us rolling in the aisles. Moreover, I shall much enjoy the spectacle of the 'global warmers' earnestly explaining to every media outlet possible that, while the film is [serious and concerned face] most certainly a warning, it has got it all wrong and, in reality, we are going to fry. Unfortunately for the Frying Squad, our less then subtle popcorn-munching public might just start demanding the immediate emission of more CO2 and methane to keep us all snug.

Anyway, I'm going to let Robert Frost (1874 - 1963) have the first word on the film (he is, of course, dead lucky to be out of it). Thus, from his bitter little poem, 'Fire and Ice':

"Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.

To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice."

So, will 'The Day after Tommorrow' be a mammoth success at the box office? I do hope so; after all, the more cartoon-like we can make the doomsters, the better.

Talking of which, I hope it is half-as-witty as The Ice Age, a film in which, much more realistically, the cartoon stars are a sloth, a mammoth and a sabre-toothed tiger. Now that's what I call fun.

Finally, here is a neat little comment on 'The Day after Tomorrow' from SciFi.com (April 28) 'Tomorrow Stirs Debate Today': "A rally featuring former vice president and environmental advocate Al Gore will take place a couple of blocks away from the film's May 24 premiere in New York....." [Hat Tip Barry Hearn].

"Holy icebergs, Batman!"

Philip, bidding for a new role as film critic of The Gloomiad. "Usher! Could you ask them to turn down that air conditioning? It's freezing in here! Thanks! Nachos, love?"
Carbon storage creeps into the UK under the hype.....

To date, carbon storage has received somewhat short shrift in the UK (except from some forward-looking geologists) - it might mean you don't have to change your lifestyle! This was nowhere near puritanical enough for many! Now, as economic realism shrugs a cold shoulder over more utopian 'green' dreams, folk are starting to take a proper look. As ever, a sound report from Alex K.: 'World "must have carbon stores"' (BBC Science/Nature News Online, April 29).

A timely example of BBC reporting illustrating the more rounded approach seemingly so decried by some commentators.

Philip, Jules Vern(e)ing for the Centre of the Earth and for deep, deep holes.
No crumbs of comfort for George M......

Wonderful comment at that excellent blog, Crumb Trail, on our very own George Monbiot: 'Nannies needed' (April 29):

"Climate management is much more complex than politicians and journalists realize. It isn't a simple matter of being more frugal in some activity such as burning fuels. The worst thing we could do is to squander our wealth and energy on a large and ineffective program.

A better argument can be made for publicly denouncing the Moonbats of the world than for denouncing skeptics. By whipping up populist authoritarian fervor about the wrong problems and the wrong solutions, wealth, energy and attention has been squandered that could have been more productively applied to useful research into causes and possible management techniques."

Well worth the full read.

Philip, on the prowl for moonbats. But first, coffee!

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

The Labour Party at its very best.....

Genuine congratulations to David Bowe MEP, Labour's environment spokesman in the European Parliament. This is brave stuff. Labour will have my vote in the forthcoming MEP elections:

'Labour MEP calls on Commission to approve GM corn' (News, The European Parliamentary Labour Party, April 27):

"Too many anti-GM campaigners indulge in tactics which should have gone out of fashion at the end of 17th century witch hunts. They merge new age mysticism with anti-scientific mumbo jumbo and hope that if they scream loud enough and long enough it will drown out rational argument."

"The answer to them is to improve Britain's dismal record of scientific education, not to cave into their pseudo-logic. That way more people will be able to make their own well-informed judgements on the science without having the wits frightened out of them by a rag bag alliance of the reactionary and the science-phobic."


Philip, after that, quite looking forward to lunch. Now where is that GM corn.....?
Behind the UK warming waffle, the energy realities.....

I think our American cousins may be less than pleased to read the following facts when they recall how the UK always tries to take the high ground over any moralistic view of 'global warming':

From the latest study by the Sustainable Energy Policy Network, a cross-Whitehall body comprising representatives from 16 government departments and organisations:

+ In 2003, Britain's CO2 emissions rose by 1.4 per cent (they are meant to be declining);
+ In 2003, the proportion of electricity generated from 'green' sources fell from 3 per cent to 2.9 per cent (the aim, you may remember, is to increase this to 10% by 2010);
+ Between 1990 and Labour coming to power in 1997, CO2 emissions fell by 7.3 per cent; since when, they have fallen by just 0.2 per cent;
+ When the Energy White Paper was published a year ago, it was estimated that greater energy efficiency in the home might reduce CO2 emissions by a total of 5 million tons. This figure has now been prudently cut to 4.2 million tons.

[See for further comment: 'Government set to miss greenhouse gas targets' (The Independent, April 27)]

Hey ho! And this wondrous performance has been achieved despite a constant diatribe from government and daily hyberbolic doomsday scenarios in gloompapers like The Groaniad and The Indy, not to mention daft climate-change levies and unfair taxation! Alice-in-Blunderland.

Yet, looked at sensibly, the figures are a credit to Blair and Brown. How? Because, unlike most of the EU, they mean that we have an exciting and growing economy. Well done lads. Long may it continue. But it won't if you wreck the energy sector by trying to adopt 'green' utopias like wind power.

There is only one sane policy. Predicate energy policy on true energy needs, not on environmental myths and magic. And, even if you foolishly don't do this, ordinary folk will, because, being largely sane, they recognise intrinsically that maintaining a strong, flexible economy is the only guarantee that you can cope with change, whatever its ultimate direction, cold, hot, dry, wet, or all four at once.

As the engineer, Indur M. Goklany, has written: adaptation comprises "measures, approaches and strategies that would help cope with, take advantage of, or reduce vulnerability to the impacts of global warming." (See: Adapt or die. The science, politics and economics of climate change. London: Profile Books, 2004, Chapter 3).

Philip, about to adapt with a cup of well-earned coffee.

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Hey, George, what's wrong with retirees.....?

Well, I'm back from the real world of 'down on the farm' to the virtuality of blogland. My apologies for my untoward absence, although I hardly expect the champagne corks to be popping in and around Islington at my resuscitation.

But what a day on which to return, when 'The Savonarola' himself, George Monbiot, puts the boot in on yours truly, not to mention on some of his more fiesty journalistic colleagues: 'Beware the fossil fools' (The Guardian, April 27).

Now, I can't be bothered to refute all George's naive stuff. It's just too boring (and, as luck would have it, Melanie Phillips has done the job quite splendidly anyway: 'Do lie down in a darkened room, George' [Diary, April 27]). But, I do admit that one word did rile this old fossil - 'retired', expressed, of course, in a derogatory way. You can just see the hint of a sneer. Yet, it is so symptomatic. As many bloggers and letter writers to The Groaniad have pointed out, the Achilles heel of this otherwise 'right-on' newspaper is always ageism! If you are over 50, you are truly out! This extraordinary blemish has been pointed out by no less than the Readers Editor himself.

Still, sadly for you, George, I am more active now than when I worked full time. What is more, I still edit the leading journal in my field (biogeography - a quintessential subject for any geological perspective on climate change) and I write and speak more than I ever could when snowed under with drifts of administration. And guess what, George? I might now have time enough to pen that book on 'Climates of opinion:the great global warming myth'. You would love it!

But, why should I bother or worry? The moment poor Mr. Blair turns any pale shade of green, guess who attacks him? Of course, the green movement! They have probably the most sympathetic prime minister ever and they still can't stop their puritanical pontificating: 'Green groups dismiss climate change "tokenism"' (The Guardian, April 27): "Environmentalists and green groups have poured scorn on the prime minister's commitment today to a new climate change group backed by big business." (See also: 'Climate issue "critical" to Blair', BBC UK Online News, April 27.)

So, perhaps, I don't need to blog at all; it might be prudent to adopt an Olympian stance and let the green bunnies get it out of their system once and for all. For the more I go round the country, the less I find people convinced by their hysteria and hyperbole. Give them enough rope.....

But hang it all. I have to fill up my long, empty and decrepit retirement with something, haven't I, George?

Philip, zimmerframing for truth. Tea - and, meanwhile, here are some other inciteful blogging comments on George M's diatribe: Laban Tall's Blog.

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

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