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, December 11, 2004

Let's make it cool to question media and government ecohype over 'global warming'.....

I was fascinated to watch another interview with Michael Crichton about State of Fear on the BBC's leading television art's show, 'Newsnight Review' (BBC 2, Friday, December 10), and especially by the thoughtful responses of the participants in the ensuing discussion, particularly those of one my own heroines, Deborah Bull, the ballet dancer. Deborah's comments made me understand what an important role Michael Crichton, and his latest blockbuster, will play in beginning to make it cool (no pun intended) in the UK to question the increasingly-nonsensical media and government hype on this topic. Indeed, I wonder if the best way to redress the balance in Britain is to make it newly-fashionable to debunk 'global warming'. Even the media types might be swung a tad by such a ploy.

And this may not be quite so far-fetched a policy as it might seem. We are, at the moment, a pretty shallow society and to achieve some common-sense on this issue it might be necessary to employ the language and tactics of such a society. Of course, Michael Crichton's book, while undoubtedly an airport, page-turning thriller, is seriously researched (it was wonderful, for example, to hear the arts' buffs marvelling at a novel actually containing graphs! How jolly spiffing it all sounded....) But Crichton is also, and justly, 'popular'. This is where the red tops, the tabloids, popular radio and TV might prove distinctly more valuable than bothering to attack the dread rantings of the usual suspects in the Gloomiad (what utter twaddle from Robin Cook yesterday!).

Moreover, all recent Barthesian myths have their sell-by-dates, and I suspect that quite a lot of people are starting to be bored to tears (I know my wife is) by the 'global warming' gloomsters. Overplaying a hand can ultimately lose the game. Somebody told me the other day that, when they now hear the phrases 'global warming' and 'climate change' on air, they just switch off, or over to Radio 3 where they pray for some calming Bach. How wise. In addition, the more the government supports a position, the more the media will be tempted to criticise.

I think, therefore, that we should unrepentently demonstrate that 'global warming' ideas are ever-so 'old hat' and that we need a new, much more fun set of myths to help us to mould a post-fear society. Thanks so much to Michael Crichton for pointing the way.

Philip, enjoying the cold winter sun. What fun indeed. Lunch.

Friday, December 10, 2004

The Admirable Crichton.....

At last, 'global warming' is really taken as fiction in Michael Crichton's new blockbuster, State of Fear (out November, 2004). We should all send a copy to Tony B. for his Christmas stocking.

Here is the great Homo jurassicus himself talking about his doubts over 'global warming' theory and about his new thriller on yesterday evening's BBC flagship arts programme: 'Front Row' (BBC Radio 4, December 9) [N.B. today, click on 'Listen to this programme', where it is the first main item; after this evening, however, it will be under 'Previously on Front Row'].

This is going to make finding Christmas prezzies jolly easy this year. Here is the book at Amazon, UK; and at Amazon, US. Go buy, and send to everyone you know! This is the best riposte ever to a certain notorious movie, and it is out there now, not the day after tomorrow.

[Hat tip to the splendid Ophelia Benson over at the equally-admirable 'Butterflies and Wheels' for letting me know about the 'Front Row' interview with Mark Lawson.]

Philip, looking forward to the howls of horror as Crichton's mythbuster hits the book shops. Seasonal toasts all round!

Thursday, December 09, 2004

There's no news like our news.....

EnviroSpin is proud to present its all singin', all dancin' Bravenet Science News Service - just to the right and updated regularly. Five stories are listed at a time, and all the links are clickable for the full story, which will come up in a new window.

I hope you will find this new EnviroSpin service of real value.

Philip, living on the edge. Gunpowder tea, anyone?
Climatic chutzpah.....

European chutzpah over climate change and 'global warming' knows no bounds. On the very day that Mr. Blair had to admit that the UK is falling lamentably behind in its own efforts to curb so-called 'greenhouse-gas' emissions [levels are embarrassingly identical to those when New Labour came to power in 1997: see 'UK "failing on greenhouse gases"' (BBC Politics News, December 8)], we learn that he has a 'secret plan' to secure George Bush's backing for a new form of international climate treaty, a kind of 'Kyoto-lite', in which there will be no set targets but merely statements of agreement on the 'science' of climate change and on the need for carbon-reducing technologies. When will the man stop trying to save the world?

This will not, however, make Mr. Blair popular with either the fanatical 'Greens', who regard such a ploy as letting 'the demon' Bush off the hook, or with the ever-arrogant France, whose representatives have been confidently, if quite stupidly, saying that Bush will rejoin the original Kyoto treaty. France also loathes the whiff of an Anglo-Saxon stich-up over anything, never mind climate change.

But the European reality on emissions is a disgrace. Last December the EU was forced to point out that Sweden and the UK were the only countries anywhere near to meeting their Kyoto Protocol targets. The situation in countries like Spain and Portugal is risible, emissions having risen by well over 30%. The gall of Europe, and especially of countries like France and Spain, in lecturing America on this issue just beggars belief.

Moreover, there is quite another spin to be put on those UK emission figures. What they really mean is that the UK economy is doing pretty well, thank you, and that it is (thank goodness) experiencing precisely the kind of economic growth that the Chancellor, Gordon Brown, requires to cover the rather large spending black hole revealed only last week in his Pre-Budget Statement. Is this another deep rift between the Chancellor and the PM, I wonder?

So, long may our economic growth continue. This, of course, is precisely why the US so wisely rejected the Kyoto Protocol in the first place, identifying all too well the nasty and unwanted curbs it could put on both the US and the world economies.

The best analysis of Blair's new little scheme is undoubtedly to be found in today's The Times - the essay on p. 36 by the Foreign Editor, Bronwen Maddox, is, as ever, seminal and this is coupled with a very sound Editorial Comment on p. 19. Unfortunately, for copyright reasons, I am unable to give direct hyperlinks to these - so please go directly to The Times to read them.

In the meantime, just raise two fingers to France and Spain. At least the effort from Blair is, I believe, genuine.

Philip, renewed to fight for climate realities. Coffee time.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

An absolute gem from The Groaniad.....

Oh! This little item brought tears to my eyes. From today's (usually tedious) 'Eco Sounding' in the 'Society Section' of The Gloomiad - 'Car wars' (The Guardian, December 8):

"The University of East Anglia, home to the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, is planning to build a £10m multistorey car park. With 16,000 staff and students, it regrets it needs more space for vehicles consuming fossil fuels, but promises better bus services and cycle parking facilities. Planning permission has been granted. Many academics, students and local residents are appalled. 'UEA should set an example for a pioneering, university-level sustainable transport solution,' complains Mike Hulme, executive director of the Tyndall centre. 'Free bus passes for first-year students!' urges Andrew Boswell, a lecturer and member of the local sustainable transport action group."

For once, I even feel some sympathy for the Tyndall Centre (not much, mind you!) Crocodile tears all round. It's quite fun when reality hits home.

Philip, off to broadcast on Sky about the UK's abject performance on emissions - and now you know why!
The 'Great Global Warming' Scam.....

Over 6,000 delegates have just polluted our skies by flying to Buenos Aires for the latest climate-change jamboree so poetically entitled COP 10. The vested interests in the 'Great Global Warming' Scam are now legion. The most eager neophytes are the carbon emission traders, a bunch of Jabba the Hutts - parasitic capitalist slugs - who would trade their grandmothers if they could. For them, carbon dioxide is the new gas, the new metal exchange, the new tin. After all, they have been trading sulphur dioxide for years. Unfortunately, virtual carbon trading is likely to increase real world emissions of carbon dioxide, especially at the lowly prices predicted. Still, it’s all good fun for the barrow boys. Isn't there pub somewhere called 'The Slug and the Barrow Boy'?

But we must call 'Time!' on these shenanigans. It is vital that no politician or pundit, most especially a grinning Mr. Blair, is allowed to get away with the Alice-in-Wonderland nonsense that the Kyoto Protocol and carbon emission trading will help to manage climate change in a nice, friendly, predictable manner. They won’t. And that is a fact which should be shouted from every smoke stack.

Climate changes: that is what it does. And humans have been affecting climate change for thousands of years through all sorts of factors, not just carbon dioxide emissions. Climate is the Christmas pudding of world systems, more chaotic than a Nigella Lawson chocolate cake and more packed with ingredients than a Delia Smith seven-cheese recipe. The idea that we can manage climate change in a predictable fashion by fiddling at the margins with a couple of ingredients out of the millions involved is fatuous and dangerous poppy seed.

This is what is so wrong with the current debate on climate change. The questions aren't: 'Is climate changing?' and 'Are humans the cause?' The only question worth asking is: 'Can we do anything predictable about climate change?' To which the answer is a resounding: 'No!' In a coupled, non-linear system as complex and as chaotic as climate, it is crucial to remember that 'not-doing-something' at the margins is as unpredictable as 'doing-something'.

Extreme global warming fanatics have come up with the fantasy idea that industries and governments might be sued over extreme weather events. I wonder if it has dawned on them that so might they. If non-emitting triggers a move to a climate that we don’t like, they will be equally culpable.

Please do let's grow up over the inexorable reality of climate change.

Philip, "If I hear the words 'Kyoto Protocol' once more, I'll reach for my patio heater!" Espresso doppios all round! Perhaps cappuccinos might be better - then we can all froth at the mouth!

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

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