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.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

The Kyoto Karnival, or 'Coyote Charivari'.....

Yesterday proved to be one of wry amusement as all sorts of worthy souls tried to spin their way out of the fact that the 'coming-of-age' of the Kyoto Protocol was no 'Rose Adagio', but much more a Swan Song. Indeed, Kyoto fell off point a long time before its suitors arrived with their single roses.

But, before the fun, an excellent piece from the Foreign Editor of The Times, Bronwen Maddox, on the politics of Kyoto: 'Dire warnings on global warming are just hot air' (The Times, February 17, p. 36). Do not miss this thoughtful briefing.

But now for the charivari:

* First, a farmer pal e-mailed me with the following: "My local radio station spent most of the morning proclaiming the new dawn of the 'Coyote Protocol'. I laughed so much I've now got wobbly lines in the barley I was sowing." Howls indeed! It is, perhaps, worth pointing out that the Wily Coyote never caught the Road Runner - so you SUV drivers remain safe.

* Secondly, Greenpeace truly got its come-uppence at the International Petroleum Exchange (IPE), where some 35 protesters fell foul of what The Times (ever on the ball today) called, "the post-prandial aggression" of oil traders, who kicked and punched them back onto the pavement. One trader, with pint in hand, was heard to yell: "Sod off, Swampy!" Now, the idea of taking on the 'Rogue Traders' following lunch, when they are returning from the 'Slug and Barrow Boy' after a couple of jars, was surely not Greenpeace's wisest of moves. I gather that at least 27 of the Greenpeace protesters have been arrested and that two are (and, for once, I can genuinely sympathise with them) in hospital. Not their finest hour. One comment, however, was priceless - and quite untradeable: "I've never seen anyone less amenable to listening to our point of view." What a surprise! Case of the Bulls and the Bears, I think.

* One or two media broadcasts were also highly revealing. First, I thought Sir David King looked a tad uneasy when cleverly questioned on BBC News 24's 'Hard Talk' about the subtle changes in Mr. Blair's language on climate change analysed from his recent speeches on the subject (Blair even acknowledged us sceptics at Davos) and then, again, when asked about the UK's debacle on trying to increase its emissions allowance for the European Emissions Trading Scheme. It was also fun listening to the knockabout between the ever-feisty Melanie Phillips and George 'Savonarola' Monbiot on BBC Radio 4's 'The Moral Maze' (sadly, a most unbalanced show, for once - poor Melanie seemed to be pitched against three other panellists and a stand-in Chair. You can listen to the programme here). But best of all, on ITV 'News', I think, was witnessing an earnest young soul from FoE lecturing some poor benighted householders on how they could save the planet by spending a great deal of money on their houses. It was a seminal example of the self-righteous puritanism that can be let loose by Kyoto.

* But, in the end, the prize for the daftest comment must, of course, go to Klaus Toepfer, head of the UN's Environment Programme: climate change could lead, he declared, to the Earth "spinning out of control". All that's "spinning out of control", mate, is human hubris and political spin.

"What larks, Pip!" And, for those of you who don't know what a 'charivari' is: it's "a discordant mock serenade to newly weds", or "a confused noise; din".

Says it all.

Philip, toodle-pip. Coffee.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

The Kyoto Protocol: put the champagne back in the fridge.....

Today, the Kyoto Protocol comes into 'force', though 'farce' would be a much more appropriate word. And here is why:

(a) Japan: this is the only international treaty named after a Japanese city. You would thus think that Japan might wish to be seen to be leading the way. You would be lamentably wrong. The reality?

* Japan's Kyoto target: a 6% cut in CO2 emissions on 1990-levels by 2008-12;

* Japan's performance to date: CO2 emissions have risen by 8% on 1990-levels (and some authorities put this even higher at 12.1%).

(b) But what about the ever-moralistic and tub-thumping Europe? Complete embarrassment all round:

* Portugal is projected to be emitting a staggering 53.1% more CO2 on 1990-levels by 2010;

* Spain is projected to be emitting a massive 48.3% more CO2 on 1990-levels by 2010;

* Greece is projected to be emitting an Olympian 38.6% more CO2 on 1990-levels by 2010;

* Ireland is projected to be emitting an enormous 29.4% more CO2 on 1990-levels by 2010.....

* And so on, and so on, with even Germany, despite being rewarded with large carbon credits for taking on the former East Germany, failing.

* And, as for the ever self-righteous UK - Margaret Beckett, seemingly with Mr. Blair's full support, has just requested the EU to permit an increase in carbon dioxide allowances by 2.7% above the initial emissions-trading plan submitted last July.

(c) But what of 'ever-so-Green' Canada? Its emissions have risen by a whopping 20% on 1990-levels and it has proved impossible to devise any coherent Kyoto policies. Maple 'fig leaves' all round - just ask Alberta what it thinks of Kyoto.

(d) Then, who isn't in Kyoto, or who has no targets at all? Australia and the US (how very sensible of them), not to mention the new players on the world economic stage, above all China (now the second biggest user of energy in the world), India, and Brazil;

(e) Finally, emissions trading: it is at last dawning on the naif faithful that this spawn of Kyoto will actually increase overall CO2 emissions.

The Kyoto Protocol is a shambles and one utter waste of political effort. It will do absolutely nothing about climate change, although it will cost us all dear in energy prices, taxes, and jobs. Even its few remaining supporters should be putting the champagne back in the fridge. The sooner we stop playing this farcical charade, the better for everyone.

The public must be told the reality, not the political spin. We need a dramatic change of climate.

Now look at this (hat tip Barry Hearn): 'The seemingly interminable Kyoto countdown is over - now we begin to count UP (the cost).'

Philip, not celebrating the ratifying of the Kyoto Protocol. I'll get the champagne out when it is deeply and eternally sequestered underground. "I'll drink to that!"

Monday, February 14, 2005

Do not miss this wonderful vote.....

The ever-splendid Oz-blogger, Tim Blair, has the most hilarious vote on the Kyoto Protocol. Do not miss such a democratic opportunity:

'How will you celebrate ratification of the Kyoto Protocol?' (vote on the left-hand side of the screen). Here are the options the appropriately-named Blair thoughtfully provides so that you can cogitate before you vote:
* Sacrifice first-born to appease furious Gaia;

* Big 'THANK YOU NICE PEOPLE' in lead-based paint on local Greenpeace office;

* Honour first Australians by incinerating 100 hectares of old-growth forest;

* Invent the "Bob Brown", a cocktail made with vodka, lime, and soil;

* Grill huge clam steaks carved from the flanks of genetically-interbred mollusc cows that rove the ocean floor feasting on delicious coral;

* Continue to work towards ratification of crucial Takayama, Kurashiki, and Hyogo Prefecture Protocols;

* Write dull opinion piece about 'urgent need for US and Australia to join rest of world.'

Philip, "What larks, Pip." I'm off for a mollusc-cow steak (medium rare) to eat under my patio heater. How rib-tickling.
Trading carbon claptrap.....

A prime example of the farcical outcome of the nonsense that is the Kyoto Protocol is unquestionably the European Emissions Trading Scheme. The idea that this will have a predictable impact on climate change is just carbon claptrap, a political sleight of hand that must be exposed at all costs.

Currently, only two countries have managed to cobble together a working scheme, namely The Netherlands and Denmark. No fewer than 17 EU countries have failed totally to agree any sort of plan with Brussels. And the star recalcitrant in all this? You've guessed it: Mr. Blair's 'We-will-take-a-world-lead-on-global-warming' UK.

Indeed, Margaret Beckett, the ever pragmatic Environment Secretary, is now to produce new emission allowances that are even more generous to intensive energy users and power generators, declaring (of course, quite correctly in my opinion): "Projections suggested that if we stuck with the original formula, it would have had a devastating effect on our industry." Quite so.

The cock-a-doodle doo that is the Kyoto Protocol is coming home to roost. There is no way that its 'command-and-control' approach will ever work, even within a capitalist trading framework, in the face of much needed growth in the world economy. The costs are impossible, with significant rises in energy costs (emission trading alone is predicted to account for a 30% rise in UK energy costs during 2005), increased uncompetitiveness (with China, India et al., who have no such hair-shirt constraints), and, of course, job losses.

But the real irony is this: if the scheme were working properly, it would still encourage an overall increase in European carbon emissions. What a political con! I nearly feel sorry for the Greens. They have been taken for a Blackpool big dipper of a joy-ride.

And, what a mess we have got ourselves into with this foolish notion that we can manage climate predictably by fiddling at the margins with just one factor out of the millions involved. It is going to end in tears. Unfortunately, the vested interests in peddling the myth are today so entrenched that it will require spades of common sense and effort to dig ourselves out of the utopian mire.

Energy policy should always be predicated on energy needs, not on ridiculous notions about controlling the uncontrollable.

Philip, feeling more like Heracleitus daily, observing such patent carbon claptrap from his little cave. Coffee?

Sunday, February 13, 2005

The Kyoto Protocol comes into farce.....

Oh dear! I never thought I might one day feel some pity for the dwindling band of bedraggled souls who persist in naively believing that the Kyoto Protocol will: (a) do something about climate change; and (b) be adhered to by its signatory countries. But yesterday afternoon - just four days before the Protocol formally limps into life (February 16) - 'Kyoto' suffered a deep humiliation. It was supposed to have been a day of mass protest against the failure of certain countries ("Er! You mean the evil U.S. of A!") to sign up, but instead we got this:
"In Edinburgh, campaigners held a 'climate carnival' to highlight the effects of global warming."

"Police said about 25 protesters turned out." [Sounds quite a party! I'm so sad to have missed it.....]

"Some were dressed as mosquitoes, which they say are being found further north as climate change takes effect." [I wonder what the 'McMosquito Tartan' looks like? Lots of blood red, I should guess. Watch out for those dirks.] (See: BBC Online UK News, February 12).

They would have done better supporting Scotland, who lost ignominiously to Ireland at rugby.

Yet, more embarrassingly, only 500 (The Sunday Times puts it at even fewer - 350) Green bunnies managed to emerge from their burrows to nibble around the juniper for the main event in London. Mind you, it was predicted to get a touch wintry over the weekend. Brrr.

But now for the final blow: that paragon of 'Big Warming', The Observer, which normally doesn't miss a ecohype, however bizarre, hasn't today bothered to report the marches - not one obligatory press photo of a pretty girl dressed up as a mosquito. It must have been too gutting for words...or pictures.

Thus, on Wednesday, I'm afraid that the poor old Kyoto Protocol will come into full farce, with even many of its former advocates now regarding it as a party pooper.

Philip, where is that tangy, seaweedy single malt? We can but drink to its passing. I suppose you all know: "Should auld Kyoto.....!"

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

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