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, October 07, 2005

Further rusty nails in the coffin lid of the Kyoto Protocol.....

The burial of the Kyoto Protocol continues apace, whether in Italy, in the UK, or in Russia, while expanding glaciers in both Norway and New Zealand demonstrate the hard-science complexities of climate change:

First, comments from Italy's Defence Minister, Antonio Martino, taken from his article, 'Kyoto? Mamma Mia!' (The Wall Street Journal, October 7):
"... the U.S. is not the only country that did not ratify the Kyoto Protocol. Both China and India, major and growing producers of so-called 'greenhouse-gas emissions', are not required to abide by its terms. The EU countries, including my own, ratified Kyoto. That the EU would still insist on implementing the protocol must be seen as an institutional form of collective self-flagellation. Kyoto will severely penalize the European economy without bringing any real progress toward the noble aims proclaimed by the EU...

...What's more, the limitations imposed by Kyoto will make our current energy problems worse. The relative slowing of oil prices after the steep rise of the last weeks must not deceive us - the world's energy demand is bound to grow in lockstep with the breathtaking economic growth of China and India. Those countries, such as Italy, that for decades steered clear of building new power plants and gave up on nuclear power - the cleanest, safest and cheapest energy source available today - will need to face up to a harsh reality: Compliance with the Kyoto Protocol will punish even the existing energy-producing capacity by capping emissions. The cost of energy in Italy, already higher than the European average, let alone that in the U.S., will go up even more. Given the country's lack of competitiveness, that can only be described as a self-inflicted wound..."

Then re the UK, as reported in Germany: 'London rückt vom Kyoto-Prinzip ab' (Handelsblatt, October 7):
"In der britischen Regierung wächst die Skepsis gegenüber einem Kyoto-Nachfolgeabkommen, das Emissionsbeschränkungen verbindlich festschreibt. Nachdem Premier Tony Blair jüngst Hoffnungen auf ein Nachfolgeabkommen dämpfte, äußerte sich Umweltministerin Margaret Beckett jetzt skeptisch: „Ich gehöre nicht zu denen, die sagen, dass es ein zweites Kyotoabkommen exakt wie das erste geben wird“, sagte sie am Rand einer Klimakonferenz in London."

[Translation courtesy of Dr. Benny Peiser: "Opposition is growing within the British Government to a new Kyoto follow-up treaty that would put obligatorily limits on greenhouse gas emissions. After Prime Minister Tony Blair recently dashed hopes for a follow-up agreement, Secretary of the Environment Margaret Beckett herself now expressed scepticism: 'I do not belong to those who say that there will be a second Kyoto Treaty exactly like the first', she said during a climate conference in London."]

And then, Russian caveats (if no caviar) in 'Russian minister criticizes Russia's pledges under Kyoto protocol' (ITAR-TASS, October 7):
"Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in a BBC interview Thursday Russia's pledges under the Kyoto Protocol on emissions of greenhouse gases were not quite fair."

And lastly, let's move from the politics of the myth to the complexities of reality in: Chinn, T., S. Winkler, M.J. Salinger, and N. Haakensen, 2005. 'Recent glacier advances in Norway and New Zealand: a comparison of their glaciological and meteorological causes.' Geografiska Annaler, Series A, Vol. 87, No 1, pp. 141-157, March 2005:
"Norway and New Zealand both experienced recent glacial advances, commencing in the early 1980s and ceasing around 2000, which were more extensive than any other since the end of the Little Ice Age. Common to both countries, the positive glacier balances are associated with an increase in the strength of westerly atmospheric circulation which brought increased precipitation. In Norway, the changes are also associated with lower ablation season temperatures. In New Zealand, where the positive balances were distributed uniformly throughout the Southern Alps, the period of increased mass balance was coincident with a change in the Interdecadal Pacific Oscillation and an associated increase in El Niño/Southern Oscillation events. In Norway, the positive balances occurred across a strong west-east gradient with no balance increases to the continental glaciers of Scandinavia. The Norwegian advances are linked to strongly positive North Atlantic Oscillation events which caused an overall increase of precipitation in the winter accumulation season and a general shift of maximum precipitation from autumn towards winter. These cases both show the influence of atmospheric circulation on maritime glaciers."

[Hat tip to Dr. Benny Peiser for the above information].

Philip, just wondering how long it will be before certain British journalists turn up at the funeral. "You'll have had your tea, then?"
Critique of Kyoto science wins award for best science journalism.....

British journalists please note. While so many journalists in the UK have entirely abandoned their critical heritage where 'global warming' and the Kyoto Protocol are concerned, this is not so elsewhere.

It is thus encouraging to be able to report that the Free University of Amsterdam (with the VU Medical Center) and Hogeschool Hindesheim have awarded Marcel Crok a prestigious prize for the best science journalism with respect to his detailed article arguing that science underlying the Kyoto Protocol was based on flawed statistics.

Here are two news reports of the award: in Dutch: 'Marcel Crok winnaar Glazen Griffioen 2005' (Nieuwsbank, October 5); and in English: 'Article on M & M wins Dutch science journalism award' (Climate Audit, October 6).

The original article was published in the Dutch magazine, Natuur Wetenschap & Techniek (February 1, 2005).

'Global warming' a bit of a Crok, then? As Bertie Wooster would intone: "Knock me down with an F!"

See also: 'Breaking the hockey stick' (Financial Post, January 27, 2005).

Philip, going Dutch. Cheap at the price. Coffee?

Thursday, October 06, 2005

"The daft, hairshirt policy" that is the Kyoto Protocol.....

Here is a splendidly uncompromising piece first published in the Sydney Morning Herald (September 29): 'Mother-earthism infects climate change debate' (On Line Opinion, Australia's e-journal of social and political debate, October 6 - hat tip to my downunder pal, Barry Hearn):
"To crucify the world's industrialised economies by spending trillions of dollars for a possible temperature drop of 0.2C simply defies comprehension. The daft, hairshirt policy exemplified by the Kyoto Accord is, in fact, a classic non-solution to a non-problem...." (read on)

No beating about the Bush there, I'm glad to say.

Philip, just loving the bit re the Australian citizen moving from Hobart to Darwin... I'm off to the 'hot house' of our kitchen to concoct a Thai Red Chicken Curry. Chillies all round. Yum, yum!

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Not a grey area.....

A friend of mine has this morning e-mailed me with some very bad news. The introduced American grey squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) has just arrived on his estate, which, up to now, has been a refuge for our native red squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris). I remember with enormous pleasure watching the red squirrels there chuntering away rather crossly, in true Squirrel Nutkin fashion, as we dared to walk by their trees - "And to this day if you meet Nutkin up a tree and ask him a riddle, he will throw sticks at you and stamp his feet and scold, and shout - 'C u c k - cuck-cuck-cur-r-r cuck-k-k!'"

The spread of the introduced grey squirrel in Britain is a national disaster. It carries the deadly squirrel pox virus, which mercilessly kills the native red in the most horrible fashion. In some habitats, the grey also outcompetes the smaller native red, and it destroys both trees, as in the Forest of Dean, and gardens.

The failure of national and local authorities to face up to this ecological calamity reflects political cowardice in the face of popular sentimentality and the 'Happy Bunny' lobby. While it is probably no longer an option to control the grey squirrel in our urban parks, it is now vital that the last refuges of our native reds are defended vigorously by the targeted removal of the grey.

Where is the kindness in exposing our native red squirrels to skin ulcers, lesions and scabs, with swelling and discharge around the eyes, mouth, feet and genitals?

Ecology often demands hard political decisions and action.

See also my little essay: 'The Tale of the Hebridean Hedgehogs', at A Parliament of Things (scroll down to Essay 3).

Philip, furious that, while we witter on about the mythical 'dangers' of things like GM crops, introduced species are allowed to run amok with such devastating results. Time for a coffee, and a calming listen to Mozart's masterly Sinfonia concertante in E flat major, K364 (320d). That second movement Andante always does the trick. A real chill out.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

A brief personal comment.....

I don't like commenting on myself, believing strongly that it is the argument that matters and not the person. Philosophically, the truth value of a notion, or idea, is not determined by the speaker. Unfortunately, I know that there is a lot of (often deliberate) disinformation about me out there on the web, and I should just like to correct a couple of points, particularly for any journalists using such specious sources.

Please note that I am no longer a member of the Scientific Alliance; I have not been a member for some time now. Indeed, I must stress that I am not a member of any environmental- or science-related organisation. This is a deliberate decision to maintain my complete academic independence. I have accordingly no links with industry or with any 'Green' groups.

For the record: I have always voted Labour; I am mildly left-wing politically; I am strongly anti-tobacco; and, above all, I try to make independent comments based on the evidence. I also dislike ad hominem debate, and I personally try to use any ad hominem comment only lightly and, I hope, with some affection.

Finally, I must add that there are many statements about me out there on the web which are just plain wrong. On one web site, I am quoted as saying something about another scientist in a programme on which I did not even appear. C'est la vie!

Above all, I trust that people will respect the fact that I form my own opinions, as I see the evidence, and that I am totally independent.

If you really want to know my position on matters, then read the many essays on my more formal web site at: 'A Parliament of Things'.

Philip, thanks. Enough Stott, Ed.
So you think gas/petrol prices are historically high.....?

Do you grumble and gribble that current gas/petrol prices are not a barrel of laughs?

Then take a peek at this slick little graph: 'Gasoline Price History' (most recent tank, October 1; n = 1003 fill ups).

Well, pump me dry! Adjusted for inflation, today's price ($2.75, for regular) remains lower than the 1981 price ($2.86).

Crude facts are not always what they seem!

[Hat tip to BaySense for the graph link]

Philip, oiling the wheels of debate.
Perceptions of neocolonialism.....

Here is an especially illuminating article on how Brazilains view world concern about Amazonia: 'Amazonian paranoia' [Inter Press Service News Agency (Tierramérica)1, October 3]:
"Nine out of 10 Brazilians surveyed believe that a conspiracy is under way to internationalise the Amazon forests through foreign occupation or some type of international control, says Senator Jefferson Peres.

This conviction is as strong as it is unlikely, according to Peres, lawmaker of the nationalist Democratic Labour Party (PDT) from the northwestern state of Amazonas. He acknowledges that he has lost voter support for publicly disagreeing with the notion.

Fuelling the conspiracy theory was a message disseminated over the Internet beginning in 2000, which charged that school textbooks in the United States included maps of Brazil without the Amazon region, which was allegedly portrayed instead as an international forestry reserve..." (read on)

For quite a time now, there has been concern about the extent to which Northern (Western) 'Green' agendas are really a mask for a new form of neocolonialism, allowing Northern control of the developing world to continue despite post-1945 withdrawal from direct political management. Indeed, Professor Anna Bramwell has brilliantly described Western 'Green politics' as "the Northern White Empire's last burden, and may be its last crusade" (see: The fading of the Greens, p. 208, 1994)2.

Unquestionably, ecofundamentalism is potentially dangerous, in that it strives to veto the normal processes of politics and economics by establishing an eco-imperative that must be obeyed by everyone at all times. This is why so many 'environmentalists' [as distinct from those with a balanced interest in the environment] were incensed by Professor Bjørn Lomborg, who so cleverly called their bluff and who managed to bypass their control of the publishing process by being that most hated of beings, an economist.

We must never forget that 'ecofundamentalists' are the extreme Puritans of today, with a deep desire to control all our lives, not just those of people living in the developing world. For many, the 'global warming' religion is a serious threat to freedom and liberty, to human dynamism and adaptability.
1This fascinating piece is by Mario Osava, who is an IPS correspondent, and it was originally published on September 24 in Latin American newspapers that comprise the Tierramérica network, Tierramérica being a specialised news service produced by IPS with the backing of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

2Unsurprisingly, Bramwell's masterly book was described in The Guardian as a "perverse and dangerous book". Critical environmental historians are clearly not welcome in the world of the Guardianistas.

Philip, off to join Mr. and Mrs. Blackbird, and Mr. Robin, in the garden for a coffee and a peck of something tasty.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Glimmerings of sanity in the Donner und Blitzen world of 'global warming' hype.....

Here, for your Sunday 'edification' (as my father would intone), is a suite of encouraging reports, all bringing a little sanity to bear on Global Warming Inc.:

(a) The full text of Michael Crichton's testimony to the US Senate: 'Testimony of Michael Crichton before the United States Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works' (September 28, 2005):
"...But if independent verification is the heart of science, what should policymakers do with research that is unverifiable? For example, the UN Third Assessment Report defines general circulation climate models as unverifiable. If that's true, are their predictions of any use to policymakers?

I would argue they are not. Senator Boxer has said we need more science fact. I agree-but a prediction is never a fact. In any case, if policymakers decide to weight their decisions in favor of verified research, that will provoke an effort by climate scientists to demonstrate their concerns using objectively verifiable research. I think we will all be better for it..."

(b) A video released by researchers at the University of Calgary (downloadable in 5 separate parts): 'Climate catastrophe cancelled: what you're not being told about the science of climate change':
"Carleton University Professor Tim Patterson (Paleoclimatologist) explains the crucial importance of properly evaluating the merit of Canada's climate change plans: 'It is no exaggeration to say that in the eight years since the Kyoto Protocol was introduced there has been a revolution in climate science. If, back in the mid-nineties, we knew what we know today about climate, Kyoto would not exist because we would have concluded it was not necessary.'

...Contrary to claims that the science of climate change has been settled, the causes of the past century’s modest warming is highly contested in the climate science community. The climate experts presenting in the video demonstrate that science is quickly diverging away from the hypothesis that the human release of greenhouse gases, specifically carbon dioxide, is having a significant impact on global climate. 'There is absolutely no convincing scientific evidence that human-produced greenhouse gases are driving global climate change', stated climatologist, Dr. Tim Ball..."

(c) An excellent Editorial in USA Today (September 25): 'Global warming activists turn storms into spin':
"... Science doesn't support a link between global warming and recent hurricane activity, notes Max Mayfield, director of the National Hurricane Center. Katrina and Rita are part of a natural cycle. The increase in number and intensity of storms since 1995 is hardly unprecedented, says William Gray, a leading hurricane expert based at Colorado State University. He points out that two major hurricanes hit the Gulf Coast only six weeks apart in 1915, mimicking the doubly whammy of Katrina and Rita.

• If global warming were to blame for recent storms, there should have been more typhoons in the Pacific and Indian oceans since 1995, Gray says. Instead, there has been a slight decrease — at the same time China and India have increased their industrial output and emissions of greenhouse gases.

• The impact of hurricanes might seem more severe because of the intensity of news coverage and because more people are living in hurricane alley. That means more property damage and more loss of life.

The current cycle of more and deadlier storms could last 15 to 20 more years, notes the National Hurricane Center. It's worth researching whether global warming is affecting the frequency and intensity of those storms, but there's certainly no proof at the moment..."

And there have been lots more like this in the last few weeks.

Moreover, am I detecting, in the UK at least, that the impact of climate-change scare stories - even left-adrift polar bears in the Arctic - is beginning to decline a tad? There seems to be a growing sense among a lot of sensible folk that, in the modern rap, "stuff just happens".

Philip, enjoying a fairy ring that has just appeared on the lawn. Pity it leaves a hole in the grass. Ah well! Stuff happens. Coffee in that golden Autumn sunshine - and with the fairies at the bottom of the garden. Conan Doyles all round.

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

WWW EnviroSpin Watch

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