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, July 17, 2004

The Sudan and Chad: please support Oxfam.....

While the world has been otherwise engaged, more than one million people are suffering in the Sudan and in Chad from a disaster that is entirely a product of human greed and hatred.  As ever, dirty water and sanitation are core problems. Please help Oxfam, if you can, to supply clean drinking water and much-needed latrines.
The task is enormous, and the problem could last for months, if not years. 
Here are the Oxfam websites:
Oxfam UK;
Oxfam International.
Philip, remember clean water is one of the greatest needs throughout the world.  Thank you.
Weathering the 'global warming' hysteria.....

Oh! I do like this grey, cold, damp summer we're having in the UK. It reminds me of the 1950s and of my childhood holidays, huddled behind striped canvas screens on Cornish beaches, the men sporting cloth caps or knotted handkies, the women paddling gingerly in the chill, dark sea, enveloped in plastic macs and hairnets, and the children wrapt in swaddling clothes and lying in a soggy sandcastle. It was just like those 'naughty' seaside postcards, ruddy-faced holiday-makers with gritted teeth determined to enjoy themselves despite the elements and the vapid English ice cream.

I feel with a Proustian frisson being drenched, frozen, and stoic.

So, of course, I knew the English weather wouldn't let me down after our hot summer of last year, which, inevitably, plunged the 'global warming' faithful into bouts of millenarianism. Now, by contrast, they lie in sulky silence, desperate for the steamy days to re-appear. It's all a sun screen, of course.

But here is a splendid comparison of the two years ("It's the jet stream, stupid!") from one of the BBC's finest weathermen, Michael Fish: 'Jet stream to blame for poor summer' (BBC Science/Nature News):
"This week in Cardiff we expected the mercury to only reach about 19°C (66°F). But as depressing as it sounds, 19°C is just one degree below the average daily maximum for Cardiff in July..... The polar jet stream naturally wavers around in the upper atmosphere and so it is not uncommon for it to be passing over our latitudes. We are therefore not in a 'freak' weather pattern, it's just average [my emphasis]. Our cause is not helped by the fact that we Brits appear to have short memories. Think back far enough and you may recall that most of the UK had beautifully settled weather for much of May and the first half of June. Since then summer has taken a holiday. Northern Europe is suffering the gloom the same as us. So when will it be back? Well, there is no immediate return to summer as this weekend promises more rain or showers for most. The Met Office seasonal forecast perhaps can offer a little glimmer of hope however -'through the middle of the month as the Azores high extends gradually towards the UK, the weather will become more settled, with temperatures gradually rising.'"

Philip, deeply grateful to Mr. Weather! No more need to get over-heated by the nonsensical hype. Plastic mac, anyone?

Friday, July 16, 2004

Blondes really are more stupid?.....
Well, it is Friday!
'Dumb blonde gags "self fulfilling''' (Ananova, July 15):

New psychological research in Germany (where else, one might add?) has demonstrated that blondes are more stupid after hearing 'dumb blonde' jokes.....

"Psychologists at Bremen University found that blonde jokes were self-fulfilling as they appeared to make blonde people perform poorly in tests. Jens Foerster said: 'We found people tended to perform poorly when less was expected of them and that jokes about stupid blondes were therefore self-fulfilling.
'The researchers submitted 80 students at Bremen University to a test of speed and accuracy, with 40 of the students blonde......" (read on)

Well, Gentlemen! Is this why you all prefer blondes, after all? So let's put it to the test with a few blonde jokes:

Q: Why did the blonde die in a helicopter crash?
A: She got cold and turned off the fan.

Q: What's the difference between a blonde and solar-powered calculator?
A: The blonde works in the dark!

Q: Why did God create blondes?
A: Because sheep can't bring beer from the fridge.
Q: Why did God create brunettes?
A: Neither could the blondes.

Q: How do blonde brain cells die?
A: Alone.

Q: What's the difference between a blonde and a supermarket trolley?
A: The supermarket trolley has a mind of its own.

Q: How do you get a blonde's eyes to twinkle?
A: Shine a torch in their ears.

Boom! Boom! And so on, and so on.....

So it's 'Blonde on Blonde', as Norm G. would say.

Philip, wincing at EnviroSpin's precipitate plunge into tabloidism! Luncheon!

Thursday, July 15, 2004

Janus at The Guardian.....

Here are the two faces of The Groaniad:

Janus Facing East: a truly delicious parody of Prince Charles and his ilk by Catherine Bennett: 'Prince Charles on the wheel and other useless inventions' (The Guardian, 'G2 Section', July 15):

"Readers who have enjoyed the Prince of Wales' contributions in the fields of health and nano-technology may be interested in these extracts from his recent speeches and articles....."

Covers: 'The internet'; 'Speech to the Royal College of Surgeons'; 'Alternative transport'; 'Technology article for the Independent on Sunday'. Here's a taster:

"I recently had the privilege of meeting members of the Wiccan community at Highgrove. As we toured the leech farm, one of these marvellously wise ladies asked if I could not help stimulate public debate about the incalculable risks posed by Mr Harvey's theory on the circulation of the blood."

Janus Facing West: by contrast, a piece in the very same 'G2 Section' that is totally beyond parody: 'Do try this at home. How to eat meat and dairy products ethically.' (The Guardian, 'G2 Section', July 15):

"· Make a real effort to cut back on the amount of meat and fish you eat.

· Visit an organic farm. For a list of those open to the public, contact the Soil Association.....

· To learn more about how to give up meat completely, contact the Vegetarian Society....., the (Vegan Society.....) and the Fresh Network website. For some stomach-churning facts and figures about meat production, visit the Compassion for World Farming website.

· Remember that eating 'cheat meats' doesn't necessarily absolve you from being responsible for damaging the environment. Many are soya-based, and soya is typically intensively produced in areas where rainforests once stood....."

This is so 'precious' that even Gollum would guffaw. One doesn't know whether to laugh or to cry!

Philip, thanking God for Ms Bennett! And remember that fruitarians only eat the fruit once it has fallen from the tree - naturally! Only in Notting Hill! Pip! Pip!

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

'Global warming' theory in serious trouble.....

One of the key tenets of 'global warming' theory is brought into question: 'Climatologist exposes cracks in global warming foundation' (Geo Community, SpatialNews.com, July 12):

"A new report from the National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA) exposes serious problems with the historical climate trends reconstruction published by the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) -- the primary evidence used by policy makers and activists who espouse the theory that human activity is causing catastrophic global warming." (read on)

Here is the full NCPA Report: 'Breaking the "Hockey Stick"' (July 12).

And yet more jolly hockey sticks - just as we get this report, we have another doom-laden rant from Sir David King, Blair's 'global warming' poodle, adorning (of course) The Gloomiad: 'Melting ice: the threat to London's future' (The Guardian, July 14). Mr. Andrei Illarionov, President Vladimir Putin's personal adviser on economics, clearly rattled his samovar during King's recent visit to Russia: 'Illarionov Attacks Britain, Vows to Bury Kyoto' (The Moscow Times, July 12).

So will this new report. The poodle will have to woof and woof.

Philip, refraining from any comment at this stage. Just read the new report for yourself. Breakfast with The Times, I think, for a little more balance.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

It's a funny old world.....

"Follies and nonsenses, whims and inconsistencies, do divert me, I own. I laugh at them whenever I can....." (Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice). And, in the immortal words of Mrs. T., it sure is a funny old world.....

(a) Now, I wonder about Ms Gwyneth Paltrow's cup size and type? See: 'What is cupping therapy?'.

Enjoy also Anthony Cox's riotous little 'Black Triangle' blog for further thoughts on Ms Paltrow's now infamous cupulous shoulders: 'Allsorted quackery' (July 10):

"Above is the back of Gwyneth Paltrow [We, of course, shun such tabloidesque pictures here, recognizing the essential high-mindedness of the 'EnviroSpin' readership, who, like Niles Crane, are above such trivia], advocate of cupping. Cupping is an ancient Chinese practice, also known as fire cupping, body vacuuming, and the horn method. In today's world, antiquity trumps science, especially if you have more money than sense. The American Cancer Society provide information about cupping. The evidence for cupping? Zero."

You will also surely enjoy, perhaps even more, his appended comments on Our Very Own Charlie, Dr. Windsor;

(b) I am further delighted to learn that Professor David Bellamy is a man of action and not just a man of words (see yesterday's blog, below) where the nonsense of 'global warming' and wind farms is concerned: 'David Bellamy chain threat' (Cumbria Online [News and Star], July 5 - again a hat tip to Anthony Cox for this):

"Conservationist and broadcaster David Bellamy has threatened to chain himself to a wind turbine in Cumbria to protest against plans for what would be the country’s biggest windfarm.

Bellamy was among hundreds of people who took to the fells yesterday to protest against plans for some of the tallest turbines ever planned for England.

Opponents of the planned Whinash windfarm near Tebay claim the turbines will be clearly visible from some of the Lake District’s most popular peaks.

Cumbrian peer Lord Melvyn Bragg, mountaineer Sir Chris Bonnington are also against the proposals."

Wow! It's reet good to have our Melvyn, Northern intellectual of all time, on board too. A BBC hero;

(c) And one doesn't laugh out loud at The Groaniad too often these days, but in this morning's Gloomiad there are such wondrous examples of the environmentalist triumph of hope and optimism over reality that one is reduced to great guffaws:

First, only the poor-old Guardian (July 13) could possibly lead its special section on Gordon Brown's 'Spending Review' of yesterday with an article purporting to show that Our Gordon has done the environment a few favours! As all the other newspapers are at pains to point out, Brown (as ever) hammered the environment, The Times curtly noting that Margaret Beckett's Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (I always think the last should refer to Jilly Cooper's novels) received one of the lowest settlements going, growing by only a measly 1.2%! Indeed, one possible advantage of Mr. Brown - who is about as sentimental as Peter Rabbit's Mr. McGregor - becoming PM is that we might well be spared Our Tony's PC and gushing environmentalist 'talk-the-talk';

Then it just has to be Our George. In a truly Savonarola-like piece (largely gratuitously attacking BBC journalists and journalism!), 'Greasing up to power', George (note his Blair-like grin) tells us that he "applauded at the end" of Fahrenheit 9/11. He would, he would! Yet, in the very same newspaper, The Guardian's excellent 'Review of reviews' ('Is Moore too much?') awards the film a dire average rating of just above '2', the category for 'undesirable' films! About right, I would say. One critic is reported as saying: "I went to this fim expecting it to be unscrupulously selective and intellectually dishonest. I did not expect it to be quite so lazy, incoherent, foolish and dull", while even Will Self writes: "That this tendentious compiliation of TV clips and manipulative japes should have won the Palme d'Or at this year's Cannes festival is a sorry comment on the film industry....." And The Observer's view of Moore: "... a hectoring, self-righteous blunderbuss." Moore and The Moonbat seem to have been made for each other!

(d) Finally, who can resist yet more about that new Swedish GM beer, 'Kenth'? '"Modified" beer makes entrance in Europe' (Winston-Salem Journal, July 12). Great name, great beer!

This must be a quintessential signification of true globalisation - an earnest discussion of Swedish beer, reported from Denmark, in northwest North Carolina on the WWW! John Boy and Mary Ellen [Yes, I know they're Virginian, but it's all the same to us over here across the pond] would wonder what the world was coming to! Walton's Mountain Draught will never be the same again.

Philip, the richer and more healthy we are, the dafter we become. We will believe in anything, from 'global warming' doom to cupping and to films like Fahrenheit 9/11. Still, it makes the world go round. But thank goodness for David, Melvyn and Chris! A cuppa for breakfast, then, Gwyneth? (By the way, I once met Ms Paltrow's 'Coldplay' husband! Oh! I am so coooool.....)

Monday, July 12, 2004

You've heard of the Princess and the pea.....

Now, of course, we have the Prince and the pinhead. He just can't sleep a-night because of this nanotechnology thing lurking under his mattress. Such a sensitive chap, our Charlie. Must be truly royal.

But what is this, begad? A noble Lord, one Winston of Broadcasting House, has dared to question the Prince's tiny worries - gadzooks, never: 'Prince accused on science fears (BBC Online Science/Nature News, July 12):

"Fertility expert Lord Winston has accused Prince Charles of raising unfounded scientific 'scares' following comments he made in a newspaper."

Off to The Tower with him! The Keeper of the Silver Pinhead must be informed at once.

But, just in case HRH might like to read some more balanced stuffing on nanotechnology to send him sound asleep abed, may I Humbly recommend the following:

The Institute of Physics: 'What is nanotechnology?';

The Institute of Nanotechnology: 'Nanotechnology - What is it?' (includes a thoughtful comment on ethical and social considerations too).

In the meantime, I do wish the Prince might try to exercise the precautionary principle about so dangerous a rash of nannytechnology erupting throughout the State. This is far more frightening than any teeny little tube. Mind you, I'm sure nanny would approve most firmly of a self-cleaning window, not to mention of a self-cleaning nappy! All that goo!

Philip, getting to the bottom of so many topics.
Meanwhile, back in Russia.....

Andrei Illarionov, President Vladimir Putin's personal adviser on economics, likewise tells it as it is:

'Illarionov Attacks Britain, Vows to Bury Kyoto' (The Moscow Times, July 12):

"President Vladimir Putin's personal adviser on all things economic last week accused British Prime Minister Tony Blair's government of declaring 'all-out and total war on Russia' and using 'bribes, blackmail and murder threats' to force it to ratify the Kyoto Protocol.

In a six-hour diatribe, Andrei Illarionov accused visiting Blair adviser Sir David King, the British government's top scientist, of trying, through pressure from Blair's office and through Foreign Secretary Jack Straw personally, to hijack a two-day conference on the global environmental treaty at the Russian Academy of Sciences.

'During the past year [the British] have used bribes, blackmail and murder threats to put pressure on Russia, which shows how desperate their case is,' Illarionov said without elaborating.....

King filibustered the conference for four hours in an effort to block opponents of the protocol from presenting their findings, Illarionov said....." (read on).

Particularly noteworthy in this piece are the following:

"But late Thursday, when asked by a Japanese journalist whether his fierce opposition to Kyoto reflected the Kremlin's position, Illarionov said Putin had never said he backs the treaty. 'Putin didn't say he supports the Kyoto Protocol, he said he supports the Kyoto process,' Illarionov said."

"Illarionov accused Britain and other 'imperialist' rich nations of using Kyoto to keep poor nations from developing."

But I especially enjoyed:

"'Europe has seen the effects of the national-socialist ideology and the Marxist ideology. The imperialist philosophy behind Kyoto is nothing short of these in its scale,' he said."

Philip, reaching for the samovar. The Russian roulette is far from over. Tea anyone?
Bravo! 'Global warming' - Professor David Bellamy tells it as it is.....

At last, we have someone brave enough in the UK to stand up and tell folk that the great 'global warming' myth is just plain "poppycock". Moreover, this is none other than 'Green' guru and TV star, Professor David Bellamy. I applaud him. Indeed, I think David has done us all a favour. He has demonstrated to those of us who have been striving hard to bring some sense into the discussion of climate change that we have been too polite and too 'understanding' of those politically-promoting the myth. It is time to emulate David and to start to tell it as it is, without entering the usual gentle caveats. This is precisely what David has just done in one of the most trenchant articles ever to appear on the topic: 'Global warming? What a load of poppycock!' (The Daily Mail, July 9 - sadly, not yet on line, though it will be later, I believe).

Here is just a sample of pithy quotes from this wonderful, uncompromising piece:

"The link between the burning of fossil fuels and global warming is a myth. It is time the world's leaders, their scientific advisers and many environmental pressure groups woke up to the fact."

Whatever the weather.... "Someone, somewhere - and there is every chance it will be a politician or an environmentalist - will blame the weather on global warming. But they will be 100 per cent wrong. Global warming - at least the modern nightmare version - is a myth. I am sure of it and so are a growing number of scientists."

"As a result of their ignorance [i.e., politicians and environmentalists], the world's economy may be about to divert billions, nay trillions of pounds, dollars and roubles into solving a problem that doesn't exist. The waste of economic resources is incalculable and tragic."

"... carbon dioxide is not the dreaded killer greenhouse gas that the 1992 Earth Summit at Rio de Janeiro and the subsequent Kyoto Protocol later cracked it up to be. It is, in fact, the most important airborne fertilizer in the world...."

"The real truth is that the main greenhouse gas - the one that has the most direct effect on land temperatures - is water vapour, 99% of which is entirely natural"

"Up and down, up and down - that is how temperature and climate have always gone in the past and there is no proof that they are not doing the same now."

And so on, and so on. Every line in this excoriating, yet popular, comment rips apart the the crass nonsense that is the modern nightmare myth of 'global warming'.

Bravo, David! Expect a furious, and personally abusive, tirade against you. Yet, as I intimated above, I think you have bravely shown us that it is time to come out with all guns blazing and to blast a mighty hole in this doomladen cloud of unknowing.

Philip, fired up anew for the battle. Let's not pussyfoot around any longer. Let's shout it out loud and clear: "Global warming is scientific and political poppycock!" Out with the patio heater and time for coffee.

Sunday, July 11, 2004

Nuclear power slowly returning to the UK agenda.....

Thank goodness that plain commonsense about energising Britain is at last beginning to dim the lights in the Greens' utopian world. Two interesting reports in today's The Sunday Telegraph:

'Time for Blair to go nuclear?' (The Sunday Telegraph, July 11):

"As demand for power soars, even 'green' nations are building nuclear plants. Britain faces an energy crisis unless it follows suit ....."

'Nobel prize-winner's reactor offers safer, cleaner nuclear power' (The Sunday Telegraph, July 11):

"A revolutionary nuclear reactor that can recycle its own waste is being studied by the Government as a future source of energy for Britain.

The reactor, which is being developed by a Nobel prize-winning Italian scientist, is said to eliminate the risk of disasters of the type that devastated Chernobyl in 1986. It can also use radioactive waste from other reactors - as well as from its own - as a source of fuel, minimising any environmental problems and reducing the cost of generating electricity.

By offering these benefits, scientists believe that the reactor will ensure that nuclear power plays a greater role in future energy policy. Conviction is growing among governments and some environmentalists that without nuclear power the world will face an energy crisis."

It sure will, and the UK could be one of the first to suffer. So come on, Tone - no more blowing in the wind, let's get real about our energy needs.

Philip, 'fission an' chips' all round in the future. Tea first, though. And let's have more nanotechnology and less nannytechnology from Prince Charles.
That Hardy Perennial: 'Fart from the Madding Crowd'.....

Great! Over the last couple of weeks there have been 'will-o'the wisps' flaring all over our media mire indicating that folk might at last be becoming a tad bored and bogged down with carbon dioxide. It's no longer the gas du jour. As good-old Private Eye would point out gleefully: 'Methane is the new carbon dioxide'.

Today, we have a classic piece (inevitably!) in The Observer (July 11): 'Prehistoric clues put greenhouse accomplices in dock'.

Next to some splendid pictures of a wide-eyed moo-cow, a soggy rice field, and terrible termites is the egregious caption: "Are these the real enemies of the earth?"

What a load of crap!

But methane is clearly 'in' (or, should we say 'out' for belching cattle and run-down paddy fields): [I have highlighted the mythical words of doom!]

"Molecule for molecule, these gases are much more effective at trapping solar heat than carbon dioxide. So even modest elevations will produce striking temperature hikes. At the time [a bit back in the Eocene] Earth was covered in wetlands, which produce high levels of methane. This was one of the major contributors to the runaway global warming that gripped the Earth ..... Today termites, cows and other animals are major sources of the gas.

.... But our obsession with it [CO2 - my emphasis] is making us overlook the dangers posed by methane, and the others.

Methane is being produced in increasing amounts thanks to the spread of agriculture in the tropics [I just love it! Blame the wretched poor farmer!]. Rice is a particularly intense source [Clearly goes against the grain]. Car exhaust gases and nitrogen fertilisers are also increasing the other gases.

So even if we control the problem of carbon dioxide, we could still be in dire straits [Notice that we all remain: "Doomed!"] thanks to these gases, which receive much less attention from politicians and campaigners. That is the real lesson of this research."

Of course methane isn't as popular as carbon dioxide with the Greenies. Attacking New Zealand cattle, hobbits and poor rice farmers in the developing world doesn't carry quite the same frisson as lambasting American corporations, Disney and SUV drivers, now does it?

But, as The Observer report demonstrates all too predictably, the essential nonsense in relation to climate change remains unchanged, come carbon dioxide, or methane, or whatever is the next gaseous fad:

"How Earth restored its atmosphere to a cooler level is not known. But it is clear that although the planet regained climatic equilibrium [my emphasis], it endured a dramatic interval of sustained warming - which shows that greenhouse gases, other than carbon dioxide, can have very powerful effects on the climate."

When will people learn that there never was, never will be, and never can be a "climatic equilibrium"! It's an oxymoron. This is the great, great 'global warming' myth of all time!

Until we drop this stupid notion of 'equilibrium', expect many more 'Farts from the Madding Crowd'.

Philip, worried about the methane from his bogged-up bird bath. "Now, all you obese folks, it's time for those anaerobic exercises!" Coffee first, mate!

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

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