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, January 21, 2005

Details of critical climate-change Conference in London.....

Apocalypse No - Assessing catastrophic climate change
A Scientific Alliance Conference

Thursday, 27th January, 2005: 9.00 until 13.00, followed by lunch until 14.00. Central London Venue.

There are still a limited number of places available at this half-day Conference, although, due to high levels of interest, prompt registration is now advisable. To secure a place, please e-mail, as below:

Speakers include:
o Professor David Bellamy;
o Professor S. Fred Singer, President, SEPP;
o Professor Richard S. Lindzen, Massachusetts Institute of Technology;
o Professor Nils-Axel Morner, Stockholm University;
o Dr Benny Peiser, Liverpool John Moores University;
o Conference Chair: Professor Sir Colin Berry, Queen Mary, University of London.

The Conference, featuring leading experts on climate-change issues, will raise awareness about the scientific uncertainties surrounding climate-change theory. It will also address a number of questions concerning scenarios of catastrophic climate change, including:

o Are extreme weather events on the increase due to global warming?
o Are the world's glaciers melting?
o Is Europe facing a new Ice Age due to global warming?
o Will rising sea-levels flood parts of Britain?
o Will global agriculture suffer because of global warming?

Apocalypse No will be taking place in advance of the Met Office’s Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research Conference, Avoiding Dangerous Climate Change: a Scientific Symposium on Stabilisation of Greenhouse Gases, from 1-3 February. Tony Blair has promised that the Met Office Conference: "... will address the big questions on which we need to pool the answers available from the science." It is hoped that this prior Conference will help to ensure that no questions or answers are overlooked, or unwisely assumed.

If you would like to register for this Conference, please apply to the Scientific Alliance at: info@scientific-alliance.org, stating:

§ Your Name;
§ Your Position and Organisation (if applicable);
§ Whether you wish to stay for lunch (if so, please state any special dietary requirements).

A confirmation e-mail will be sent to you before the event, with full details including the final agenda and directions to the venue.

Here is the Scientific Alliance's most recent (January 2005) policy statement on climate change: 'Our view'.

Philip, a Conference to confront the Blair-King ecohype. Coffee.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Indian Ocean tsunami alert system.....

A proposed Indian Ocean tsunami alert system is under discussion at the U.N. Kobe meeting: 'Asian tsunami alert system backed' [BBC World (Asia/Pacific) Online News, January 20]:

"Donor countries and nations affected by the Asian tsunami disaster have agreed the UN should begin work on an early warning system in the Indian Ocean.

UN agencies said they were ready to start work immediately and that a basic system could be ready in 12-18 months.

The agreement came at a conference on disaster prevention in the Japanese city of Kobe."

Although the graphical description of the scientific warning system is helpful and the agreement to support such a system most welcome, it is important to remember that the science is the easy bit. The three big questions are: (i) How will this play in the 'failed' states and political zones of the Indian Ocean region, such as Burma, northern Sri Lanka, and even stricken, but contested, Aceh? (ii) How effective will be the infrastructure for delivering the warning to coastal authorities and to hotels in each of the countries concerned? Will officials, for example, have the political clout to issue warnings without fear of legal redress from, say, the tourist authorities? (iii) How effective will the local tsunami education programmes be in scattered villages and hotels? Will there, for example, be regular tsunami drills like fire drills and information notices and posters?

Philip, thinking of the practical politics of such alert systems.
Palaeontological quacks.....

Don't you just love palaeontological squabbles? You get one enigmatic find and it can keep scientists bickering for (a)eons! Archaeology can be much the same. Now there is no ducking the latest cock fight. Is newly-described Vegavis iaai a bird, or not a bird, a duck or not a duck? That is the quackstion. One scientist quite gloriously shoots the poor thing down with the sharpest of barbs: "This is basically an unidentifiable bundle of bones." On the other hand: "Until now the fossil record has been ambiguous... But [here] we have a fossil which indicates that at least part of the diversification of living birds had begun before the extinction of non-avian dinosaurs." Hm! I love ambiguity; yet, more likely, granted, than Raquel Welch battling those terrible lizards. Here is the full duck pond for you to dabble in (uptails all): 'Cretaceous duck ruffles feathers' (BBC Science/Nature Online News, January 20):

"Ducks may have been paddling about in primeval swamps when Tyrannosaurus rex was king of the dinosaurs, scientists report in the journal Nature.

Fossil remains of a bird that lived 70 million years ago appear to belong to a relative of modern ducks and geese.

The partial skeleton, discovered on Vega island, western Antarctica, is likely to stir up controversy.

Many scientists believe modern bird lineages did not evolve until the end of the dinosaurs' reign....."

Wish I'd been a palaeontologist or archaeologist - you can make a whole career with just one bone of contention. Very humerus, Stotty.

Philip, that old Archaeopteryx himself. "Iaai, iaai, lunch! Dinosaur peckaroos."

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Up-beet research on GM in the UK.....

A nice report from Alex Kirby on the new scientific study just published: 'Management of GM herbicide-tolerant sugar beet for spring and autumn environmental benefit' - 'GM beet "can benefit environment"' (BBC Science/Nature News, January 19):

"Some genetically-modified crops can be managed in a way that is beneficial to wildlife, a UK research team believes.

Their work, published by the Royal Society, says there is 'conclusive evidence' of benefits to wildlife from GM sugar beet crops.

They say their findings mean everyone involved in the debate about GM crops should rethink where they now stand."

Some hope. The luddites do not wish to hear evidenced-based research findings. Oh for a more positive world.

Now, I really like the picture of the dormouse - looks just like the good Alex K. himself!

Philip, thinking, like the dormouse, of lunch and a snooze.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Scientist resigns from IPCC over alleged politicization.....

'An open letter to the community from Chris Landsea' (Report from the University of Colorado at Boulder, January 17):

"Dear colleagues, After some prolonged deliberation, I have decided to withdraw from participating in the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). I am withdrawing because I have come to view the part of the IPCC to which my expertise is relevant as having become politicized. In addition, when I have raised my concerns to the IPCC leadership, their response was simply to dismiss my concerns.....

..... I personally cannot in good faith continue to contribute to a process that I view as both being motivated by pre-conceived agendas and being scientifically unsound." (Read the whole letter.)

Christopher W. Landsea is in the Hurricane Research Division, Atlantic Oceanographic & Meteorological Laboratory, NOAA. Here are Dr. Landsea's details: Home Page.

If what is reported is correct, then it is deeply worrying.

Philip, profoundly concerned in general by the current politicization of science in so many fields, but especially with respect to climate change.
Home Sweet 'Home Planet' again.....

Our new Series of the critical environmental programme, 'Home Planet', starts this Tuesday (January 18) on BBC Radio 4. The Series will run for 13 Tuesdays.

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

This first week's topics include the geology of the Indian Ocean tsunami, 'How do we measure average world temperature change?', isostatic rebounding, and (a classic HP question): 'Can slugs smell?' As ever, Stotty will be there slugging it out with the other guests, and never at a snail's pace.

Philip, as ever happy to be back on the 'Home Planet' after wandering far and wide.

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

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