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, August 13, 2004

The dark side of Our Polly.....

In one way, I am delighted that Polly Toynbee has written such a dire and disgraceful piece in today's The Guardian: 'Countryside alliance' (The Guardian, August 13).

I am delighted because this is a comment of such pure hatred and unsupported ranting that it reveals the secular religion of the left-wing 'global warmer' in all its twisted bitterness. One hardly need comment. Please, just read the diatribe for what it is. The article is brimming with old-fashioned class hatreds, with an urbanite's and metropolitan loathing for the countryside and for its people, and with false dichotomies and non sequiturs.

I say that I am "delighted", and, indeed, I am that such bile has been exposed. But, of course, coming from the left politically myself, I despair that we are reading yet again the redundant rhetoric of class hatred, acrid wells from which I thought we had drawn our last draughts some time ago (except, perhaps, in 'You-know-where!').

A few brief observations will suffice to deconstruct this ugly and tawdry piece:

(a) "Behind the rural nimbyism of the protests against wind farms is the sinister presence of the nuclear lobby."

The nuclear lobby isn't 'sinister'. It is open and fighting its corner like every other form of energy. And what about Enron, which supported wind farms? Moreover, a large number of wind-farm protesters are equally strongly opposed to nuclear power or are neutral/pragmatic about its potential role. This is gratuitous nonsense;

(b) "The weather should be making more news as searing heat, torrential storms and floods make strange changes all over Europe."

The weather this year is normal in the changes that affect climate year-on-year. Indeed, recent research has shown that we have not been experiencing extreme weather events;

(c) "That word 'cataclysm' will have pencils sharpening among the usual handful of professional climate-change deniers, either flat-earthers or paid agents of various energy interests, with their plausible myths and factoids at the ready."

First, what precisely are 'professional' climate-change deniers, Polly? Secondly, I know of nobody who denies climate change. Indeed, the so-called 'climate-change deniers' accept climate change as the norm. And how, for example, would yours truly fit into this paean of spleen? I believe passionately in climate change; I am not paid to hold my views by any professional body (though I have written, on occasion, for The Guardian, etc.); I have no links whatsoever with any energy industry, financial or otherwise; I am entirely independent in my assessment of the science and of the economics; I believe humans are having a complex influence on climate, but I also think that 'global warming', as presented by you, Polly, is a classic Barthesian myth; and what is wrong with facts, or factoids? Some of the most recent facts have brought the idea of 'global warming' into serious question. Where are Polly's 'factoids', for that matter?

(d) "Meanwhile, the anti-wind farm campaign pours out torrents of falsehood about the ineffectiveness of wind energy."

The criticisms concerning the effectiveness of wind farms come from some of the finest engineers and scientists in the country!

(e) "The wind farm objectors are a microcosm of the Conservative party - small, selfish and short-sighted, but noisily influential through the unrepresentative Tory press, commanding attention disproportionate to their support. So it is no surprise to read the breathless Sunday Telegraph front page: 'The Telegraph can reveal that Prince Charles has told senior aides that he wants no links with events or groups that promise onshore windfarms.' He calls them 'a horrendous blot on the landscape' and is considering coming out against them in public."

Well, I'm Labour for one, Polly, and I know a lot of others who are also. I am further no country toff, I can assure you - "Ah wer' born reet in Owdham, lass!" This is class hatred of the cheapest kind. And how about the "unrepresentative" ranting Guardian, the sales of which have been falling dramatically over the last two years? Between April 2003 and April 2004, the daily sales of The Guardian fell by 17,357, or -4.35%. The average daily sale in April was only 381,449, which is but 14.32% of the quality national daily newspaper market, or a minuscule 3.14% of the total daily national newspaper market. Yes, highly representative, Polly!

(f) "If only there were space here to give the full heartrending succession of Telegraph wind-farm sob stories, such as Anne Hassan-Hicks, who fears her 18th-century house in Tennyson country may lose £100,000 in value as it looks on to farmland due to sprout wind turbines."

No comment needed. This is just pathetic. Many protesters are doing us all a favour by opposing the desecration of some of our last remaining wilderness and sensitive ecological habitat.

(g) "Carbon sequestration is the other option - burying carbon gases in the empty caverns left by North Sea oil and gas extraction - but that risks encouraging short-term complacency about developing alternatives to fossil fuel burning."

Now this little passage is a real giveaway; notice that the last thing Polly wants is a solution to 'global warming' that might allow growth and development to go on as usual. That just won't do for the hairshirt brigade and for the puritan pontificators. What they really, really want is for YOU to change your evil ways.

(h) "But for now, the politics of climate change has settled on the wind-power dispute. Yesterday the Environment Agency warned extreme weather would worsen unless more action is taken. Seeing off Prince Charles and the rest is just round one: future political decisions will be far harder."

Does Polly really think that UK wind farms will affect climate change one jot? Please read the telling calculations of Dr. John Etherington (a fine independent ecologist and scientist, Polly) below (blog, August 1).

I enjoy much of Polly's writing, especially her well-founded material on social justice. This, by contrast, is choleric cant and it is unworthy of her.

Nevertheless, I think we should be grateful to Polly - she has revealed how much 'global warming' is truly 'Pollytics'.

Philip, "Let's all have some tea!"

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Now for some Vidal facts.....

The rather Eeyore-like 'Environment' page in the 'Society Section' of the Wednesday Groaniad is very much an in-house church magazine for a tiny group of self-reverential Environmentalist Evangelicals. With somewhat heavy-handed humour, Pastors Paul Brown and John Vidal, the editors, like to parody there any poor soul or organisation that hasn't yet signed up to the 39 articles of the environmentalist faith.

Today, however, Barry Hearn over at Junkscience parodies them back with a vengeance. Here then are, first, the smirky 'Eco sounding', followed by Barry's neat riposte:

Eco sounding: 'Hot air' ((John Vidal, The Guardian, August 11) - "Two misleading statements, but where do they come from? First: "95.5% of carbon dioxide emissions come from nature ... only 3.5% come from man ... and of that only 13% of that from cars." And: "German and Swiss scientists reckon that ... global warming might have something to do with the fact that the sun is burning more brightly than it has for the last 1,000 years." The answer? The BBC's Top Gear motoring show."

Barry: "Well, we believe the figure is actually about 4% for anthropogenic CO2 emission John but, apart from such a minor figure discrepancy, what's your point? There have certainly been several announcements in recent months concerning solar irradiance, some stating explicitly that it's currently at its brightest for 1,000 years. That the source of the planet's warmth might have something to do with the sun is hardly misleading. How sad that the Beeb's motoring scribes seem so much better informed about the planet than The Guardian's environment editor."

Boom! Boom! And remember, John, it is a philosophical error to assume that the truth-value of any statement depends on where it is published - even on 'Top Gear'! Or, of course, in The Gloomiad, for that matter!

Philip, in top gear himself (new T-shirt actually). Tea?
Aggregate comment .....

The new all action Series of the critical environmental programme, 'Home Planet', continued again on BBC Radio 4 yesterday (apologies for delay - have been gardening).

This fourth week's topics included, inter alia, nano- and pico-plankton, crabbing, aggregate dredging (all sorts of scrapes), and marram grass'. As ever, fun! Don't miss Stotty enthusing about marram!

If you are in the UK, the programme is broadcast on BBC Radio 4 every Tuesday afternoon at 15.02 BST, directly after the news summary; if you are outside the UK, you may still 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'.

Philip, off to the garden to admire (his wife's) work! "Over there a little bit, dear.....!"

Sunday, August 08, 2004

Wow! Is sanity at last bursting out in the world....?

Well! Well! Signs of sanity are bursting out everywhere, and nowhere more so than at Clarence House:

(a) 'Prince Charles: wind farms are horrendous' (The Sunday Telegraph, August 8):

"The Prince of Wales believes that wind farms are a 'horrendous blot on the landscape' and that their spread must be halted before they irreparably ruin some of Britain's most beautiful countryside.

The Telegraph can reveal that Prince Charles, who has an abiding interest in environmental issues, has told senior aides that he does not want to have any links with events or groups that promote onshore wind farms.

The Prince, who believes that Britain needs to rethink its energy policy, is considering making his anti-turbine views public at a time when the issue is on the political agenda and wind farms are spreading throughout the country.

Senior aides at Clarence House, where Prince Charles has his private office, say that the heir to the throne has been firmly against wind farms for years, but that he has so far chosen not to enter the public debate on their future..... (read on)"

(b) And in the same newspaper, an outstanding piece of commonsense from Dick Taverne, who is becoming an indefatiguable fighter for sound science: 'Nuclear power is fine - radiation is good for you' (The Sunday Telegraph, August 8):

"Unfortunately, far from safeguarding our health, current safety standards will almost certainly increase the incidence of cancer. The evidence shows that the effect of radiation on human health is not a linear one, but is a J-shaped curve. Exposure starts by being beneficial at low doses and only becomes harmful at higher doses. This effect is known as hormesis..... (read on)"

(c) And then, Canadian maple leaves are whispering that the global-warming crusader, David Anderson, has been dumped from cabinet by Prime Minister Paul Martin. I wonder who will be next for the meachering.....?

Now, although I have serious qualms about the precise constitutional position of Prince Charles speaking out on wind farms, I confess that I do rather hope he does. Wind farms are one of the daftest policies in New Labour's energy coffin, and, having already been duly buried by green gurus Lovelock and Bellamy, Charles might really help to hammer the nail back into the box.

And here is a new Welsh nursery rhyme for you to read to the kids:

"Mary had a little kite;
Its feathers all rusty red.
It flew into some wind farm blades,
And now the kite is dead."

Philip, having a most pleasant Sunday indeed. Time for a gunpowder tea on the patio. Blast - it'll have to be Earl Grey. C'est la vie!

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

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