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, February 05, 2005

At last some critical climate-change reporting in a serious British magazine.....

It is good to see this piece in the highly-influential The Economist magazine: 'Hotting up: the debate over global warming is getting rancorous' (The Economist, February 4):
"The debate over the economics of warming is, if such a thing were possible, even more robust than the one over the science. The IPCC has come under attack for its scenarios of future growth. One chief sin is the reliance by IPCC modellers on market-based exchange rates instead of purchasing-power parity, which adjust wealth according to domestic purchasing power—which many economists believe is more accurate. That, says David Henderson, an economist at London’s Westminster Business School, leads to unrealistic projections for economic growth and therefore emissions growth. He and Ian Castles provided the IPCC with detailed critiques....."

"Despite the arrival of Kyoto, the debate and dissent of recent weeks suggests that the treaty has not produced the world of self-confident greens and smothered critics feared by Dr Crichton. In fact, the contrary seems to be true."

Philip, hoping to make the debate even more rancorous. Coffee.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Blair's political sleight of hand.....

Noting carefully the comments of Sir David King at the Exeter Conference on climate change ('Carbon burial "is climate option"', BBC Online Science/Nature News, February 3), it is increasingly obvious that Mr. Blair wants to employ fears about 'global warming' to achieve two practical political goals, namely:-

(a) the re-introduction of nuclear power, but only well after the election (it will not appear in any election manifesto), which will probably be held in May 2005; and,

(b) a shift from controlling CO2 emissions (which, unsurprisingly, is proving more intractable than he at first imagined) to sequestering emissions geologically (already, of course, done sucessfully in Norway, and strongly supported by geologists in the UK).

Blair is all too well aware that both these options are an anathama to many 'Greens', not to mention to many environmental and left-wing correspondents in newspapers like the Gloomiad and the Indy. I believe that John Vidal, for example, is an example of a correspondent especially worried about the re-introduction of nuclear power, while Polly Toynbee has expressed the view that sequestering carbon dioxide emissions just lets people off the 'moral' hook.

By combining these two practical aims with a political imperative in the UK to be seen to be bringing independent pressure on Mr. Bush, Blair very much hopes to find his way (yet again) through the political labyrinth of the 'ever-ready-to-carp' UK left.

Philip, always examining the sinister labyrinth. Coffee.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Putting a 'Block' on 'Hysteria' at the Exeter climate-change conference

I have thought long and hard how best to comment on the Exeter climate-change Conference that mercifully ends today. I have just read one personal report of the Conference that alleges it to have been a bizarre mixture of unalloyed hysteria and a witch hunt (lapped up, of course, by a totally uncritical media). Unfortunately, the Conference sounds beyond lampooning, and, if so, it is most certainly beyond my own limited powers of parody.

I have, therefore, turned for my comment to a seminal cartoon by one of the greatest of all American political cartoonists, namely the Pulitzer Prize-winning satirist, Herbert L. Block (1909 - 1991), who is above all famous for coining the term 'McCarthyism' in one of his drawings.

So here is my ultimate comment on the Exeter Conference, courtesy of that splendid man (it says everything in one wonderful, simple drawing): 'Fire' (first published in The Washington Post, March 4, 1954).

And if you would like to know more about this King of Satirists, then read on here: 'Herbert Block' (Spartacus Educational).

Philip, afraid for liberty and for science, and increasingly wary of government-engendered hysteria and the witch hunt for non-believers. There will be tears before all this nonsense is over. We are once more in 'The Crucible of the God of Global Warming'. Tea first. Gunpowder?

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

It's time to visit the 'Home Planet' again.....

The new Series of the critical environmental programme, 'Home Planet', continues today on BBC Radio 4. The Series runs for 11 more 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 week's topics include: 'sunbathing' blackbirds; night-calling redwing; the Carlisle floods; low-head hydropower systems; that giant of European engineering, the Airbus 380-800; and the seamy side of life with coal tar. Not to be missed.

Philip, always happy to mine such interesting seams. Coffee - I am very slow this morning.

Monday, January 31, 2005

Defining dangerous climates to a political agenda is indeed most dangerous.....

Alex Kirby provides us with a neat introduction to the forthcoming Exeter meeting on 'Avoiding Dangerous Climate Change' sponsored by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and announced last September by the UK Prime Minister, Tony Blair: 'Scientists assess climate dangers' (BBC Online Science/Nature News, January 30):

"One of the most highly charged topics preoccupying the governments of the world is to be thrashed out at a UK conference starting on Tuesday.

But 'Avoiding Dangerous Climate Change', a three-day meeting at the Met Office in Exeter, is mainly about the science.

The participants, more than 200 in all, will try to agree how to define what is a danger level, and what it should be.

This, they hope, will lead to a better understanding of methods the world can employ to avoid catastrophic warming."

Hm! How on earth (or in atmosphere) can one define "what [a danger level] should [my italic] be?" This is not encouraging stuff. It is vital to remember three things about the so-called 'dangers' of climate change:

(a) 'Dangerous' for whom? And for where? Climate change is always advantageous for some economies and areas of the world, but not for others. So who chooses what is 'dangerous'?
(b) And what about 'cooling'? Will this be discussed? How 'dangerous' is 'cooling'? What about, say, minus 3 degrees Celsius then?
(c) Yet, most importantly, the idea that you can establish and maintain a given world climate by fiddling about at the margins with just one variable out of the millions that govern climate change is sheer folly. It is breath-taking in its hubris - stratospheric PC-ness gone utterly bonkers. Only a megalamaniac of a 'James-Bond-film-level' of madness could be convinced that one may fine tune the world's climates to precisely one's own ends. Gee! We live in a mad, mad world.

Luckily, there are good scientists at the Conference and I do hope that these can bring some sanity into the debate. It is also encouraging to hear Dr. Geoff Jenkins, the Secretary of the Steering Committee, commenting: "The more you understand..., the more you realise how much you don't understand. In some areas our ignorance is woeful."

Absolutely. Let's not try to reduce things to absurdity in order to please our political masters.

Philip, after coffee, off to broadcast.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

If you want to know about the Arctic climate, then ask an Arctic scientist.....

Here is a piece reporting the comments of long-standing Arctic scientists:
'Arctic cooling' (Sitnews, Ketchican, Alaska, January 29):
"Johnson believes the warming of the Arctic over the past 30 years has been largely the work of...natural ocean-atmosphere cycles. What's more, he predicts the Arctic climate will become somewhat cooler over the next decade. It's a trend he says will lead to more sea ice in the Arctic Ocean than has been seen in recent years.

Johnson said, 'I personally think we are part of a cycle here. While there is a long-term trend of sea ice decline, I think there is going to be more ice. By 2010, I think we are going to be back into colder conditions.'"

Mark Johnson is an oceanographer at the University of Alaska Fairbanks School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences. He has studied the Arctic for more than 20 years, and he is one of the leading scientists who say that the Arctic is warming, but that natural cycles are the major reason why.

I wonder if this viewpoint will be well-aired by our media reporting the Met Office Conference in Exeter next week?

Philip, always fighting for excluded voices. Earl Grey tea?
The Sunday Telegraph 3, The Observer 0, and please write to The Observer.....

In today's climate-change challenge cup match between two Sunday heavyweight newspapers (try lifting them off the doorstep!), for once The Sunday Telegraph wins hands down against the The Observer. And this is not just because The Observer report is often just plain wrong - for example, it totally misrepresents my own (I hope nuanced) position on climate change but even more so that of poor Professor Lomborg (it can't even spell his name correctly). Yet, more worryingly, The Observer rises little above the hype and even seems to be seeking to censor certain commentators, whereas The Sunday Telegraph addresses seriously and thoughtfully economic and political realities. Here then are both articles for you to read, to compare and to contrast:

'The danger is hot air, not global warming' (The Sunday Telegraph, January 30);

'How we put the heat on nature' (The Observer, January 30).

If you have a moment, and feel moved to do so, I should be most grateful if you could send a 'Letter to the Editor' of The Observer to correct points in their article. Your e-mail letter should be short, it must include a full name and postal address, and it should be sent to the following e-mail address by 5pm on Thursday at the latest, with 'Letter to the Editor' in the subject field: letters@observer.co.uk [You should also mention the name of the article, its date, and the fact that it appears on p.18 of the newspaper.]

Philip, thank you for any assistance you can give. Coffee time.

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

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