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, November 03, 2005

Our Ship of Fools.....

This morning I was reminded inexorably of Hieronymus Bosch's symbolic masterpiece, The Ship of Fools, painted around 1490-1500. Humanity sails through the ocean of life in a riot of madness, symbolized by an inverted funnel, beneath an owl of heresy.

Bosch's The Ship of FoolsWhat has changed? We have never been modern. Today, Margaret Beckett and a science correspondent, Heaven forefend, talk merrily of achieving "a stable climate". What foolish hubris! Climate has never been stable for a moment - it is the maddest of oxymora. Elsewhere, the Westminster Village feeds gluttonously on the carcass, butchered and barbecued on College Green, of a Northern lad made good - Bl(a)unket(t) coverage, filled with self-righteous pieties (as if journalists never make fools of themselves). And a missing red panda is re-discovered "safe in a tree" in Birmingham. What Pandamonium!

Of course, it is all a Gunpowder Plot to get King Blair. [Above Right: The Ship of Fools (1490-1500) by Hieronymus Bosch: part of a triptych, oil on wood, measuring 58 x 33 cm, on display in the Musée du Louvre, Paris. Image: public domain, from Wikipedia.]

Meanwhile, back at The Ranch, a chap who often wears a kilt, and a bloke who has been spotted sporting a cowboy hat, tuck into:
Watercress soup with applewood-smoked bacon
Espellette cream
Lemon sole with herb crust
Chicory, petite asparagus, and black cherry tomatoes
Salad of butter lettuce, white cucumbers, and golden pea tendrils
Champagne dressing
Lady apple sorbet
Brandy snap basket
Spiced Autumn fruit compote.

What can one say, save:
"..... Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow; a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing."
[Macbeth (V, v, 19)]

Philip, dead parrots all round.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

The Guardian at last catches up with Mr. Blair.....

How to read The GuardianSee what happens when you abandon careful news reporting and analysis for hype. The Guardian (next in the hype stakes to the disgraceful Independent, which remains, nevertheless, in a league of its own) has been so obsessed with propagating its own brand of ecodoom on 'global warming' that it has failed to notice that the rest of the world has moved on politically, including Mr. Blair. It is certainly always wise to read The Groaniad with a peg on your nose.

Today, however, the light finally seems to have dawned in the dismal corridors of The Gloomiad: Blair signals shift over climate change' (The Guardian, November 2):
"Tony Blair appeared last night to undermine more than 15 years of climate change negotiations when he signaled a shift away from a target-based approach to cutting greenhouse emissions. Speaking at the end of the first day of a summit in London of environment and energy ministers, the prime minister said that legally binding targets to reduce pollution made people 'very nervous and very worried'.

He said when the Kyoto protocol expires in 2012, the world would need a more sensitive framework for tackling global warming..."

Precisely (though please, of course, ignore The Guardian's perjorative "undermine"). Where have the Gloomsters been? Blair has been saying this obliquely for the last two years (witness this blog) and quite openly for the last six months. For Blair, Kyoto is dead; long live dynamic technology. This has been the nuclear core of his argument for some time now.

Where climate change is concerned, Tony Blair exhibits a Baldrick-like cunning. He has no intention of either sacrificing economic growth or taking unilateral, hairshirt action. He has long recognised that the only way forward is to employ the threat of 'global warming' to promote international technological entrepreneurship, including carbon capture and nuclear power. He is well aware that countries like China will never accept Old European, 'socialistic', Kyoto-style emission targets and caps. Moreover, under the umbrella of 'global warming', he can manage the re-emergence of nuclear power in the UK, despite a hangover 1960's Pinteresque generation and a nuclear industry with a poor track record. His progress on these issues has been a consummate example of realpolitik. By contrast, David Cameron (Conservative leadership pretender) and the Lib Dems are lamentably naive (and potentially dangerous for the British economy).

Of course, in their concomitant Leading Article, the Guardianistas can't resist leaping onto their high horse (while completely missing the vault): 'Leading by example' (The Guardian, November 2).

"Leading by example!" Dangerous nonsense. Thank goodness Blair knows all too well that it would be outright madness for any one country to take unilateral action, which would simply weaken the competitiveness of the home economy. Neither he, nor Gordon Brown, will contemplate this for a moment. Moreover, as I keep (somewhat wearily) having to point out, by 2020 the UK will account for less than 1.5% of world energy consumption. What we do here is largely meaningless in climate terms.

"Look East, young gloomsters." The world has left you behind in a time warp.

Nevertheless, today The Gloomiad does try to balance its climate-change coverage a tad by allowing Myron Ebell no less, Director of Global Warming Policy at the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), some space: 'Kyoto is a far greater threat to the planet than global warming' (The Guardian, November 2). But then the Guardianistas had little choice after Our Very Own George, Savonarola Monbiot, had taken a swipe at Ebell in a previous piece.

Ah! That shuttlecock of balanced debate.

Philip, sometimes amazed at the naivete of campaigning journalists. I think I deserve a banana with my coffee this morning - politics, after all, is monkey business.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

His Right Royal Hypocrite, the Prince of Wails.....

As a down-to-earth Lancashire lad from around about the moors of 'Owdham', I'm absolutely fed up to the back o' me settle at being constantly lectured by toffs and trustafarians on the 'enwiro(n)ment'. "Oh! It's all hemp this season, Tanny!" "Do you take organic 'Hypwericum', Tonya!" "And all those howible people on those howible cheap flights polluting the plwanet and spoiling Pwositano!"

But the Prince of Wales takes the oatcake.

Here is the Prince on last Sunday's CBS show, 60 Minutes, interviewed by Steve Kroft: "If you look at the latest figures on climate change and global warming, it's terrifying."

And here is the Prince's and Camilla's 'American Odyssey': a chartered Boeing 757 flying from London to New York, then to Washington, New Orleans, Marin County, San Francisco [The Guardian please note, not 'San Fransisco'], and back to London = at least 440 tonnes of CO2. And the circus troupe? Two private secretaries; a communications secretary; an Equerry ("No, you can't invest in one!"); a butler; a doctor; two valets; and for the Duchess, a make-up artist, an hairdresser, and a personal dresser; then, three luggage assistants... His Royal Motto should be: "Ad Infinitum". "Ich Dien", my.....

And then there is the Prince of Angst's cloying self-pity: "I only hope when I'm dead and gone they might appreciate it a little bit more."

Thus, in the immortal words of The Miami Herald re this American rodeo: "...a couple of middle-aged, earnest [Edwardian - my addition] eccentrics from the English countryside take an educational holiday abroad."

Now, you won't often witness me agreeing with good old George, but this is Our Very Own Monbiot on the Prince, as reported by the BBC:
"Environmental campaigner and writer George Monbiot told the BBC that the prince was the second biggest carbon user in the country, after his mother, and he should take action himself.

He said he would have given Prince Charles more credit if he had pledged to 'get rid' of his private plane and helicopter, as well as move into a smaller house 'rather than using two homes which use about the same amount of energy as a medium sized town.'"

I must do a blog sometime in the near future on the class origins of our our leading 'enwironmentalists' (including the newly-Greening David Cameron) - no wonder they want to pay more for everything.

By contrast, I have a genuine admiration for the dedication and the sense of duty of The Queen, who has most wisely spared us her personal feelings and views. But, if Charles ever gets anywhere near to the throne, then, for me, it will have to be:
"Aux armes citoyens!
Formez vos bataillons,
Marchons, marchons!
Qu'un sang impur
Abreuve nos sillons."

Philip, coffee at Le Café République?

Monday, October 31, 2005

Mr. Blair, Mr. Cameron, and climate-change politics.....

In yesterday's The Observer, Tony Blair, the British Prime Minister, outlined his climate-change and energy policies in the light of the G8 dialogue discussions which will take place this Tuesday and the UN meeting in Montreal to be held next month: 'Get real on climate change' (The Observer, October 30).

Tony Blair: image protected by British Crown CopyrightMany visitors to 'EnviroSpin' might wish to dismiss Mr. Blair's comments as yet more 'global warming' rhetoric, particularly since readers are well aware that we can do little practical to manage climate change predictably [see my Thursday blog, below: 'Back to basics: "Tackling climate change"'].

I would, however, caution strongly against dismissing Mr. Blair's carefully-constructed arguments. [Upper Right: the Right Honourable Tony Blair: image protected by British Crown Copyright - from the Wikipedia article on Tony Blair.]

First, as I have pointed out many times on 'EnviroSpin', never, never underestimate Mr. Blair's political skill; he is, above all, a consummate politician, and I should remind you that, a year ago, I was noting his brilliant use of 'global warming' to try to make the re-introduction of nuclear power more palatable to the British public. Blair knows this has to happen, but he is faced with a hangover 1960's political generation and the legacy of a badly run nuclear industry.

It is thus vital to deconstruct below the face value of his comments. Behind the modest and careful climate-change rhetoric, you will discover that Blair is establishing a number of key political realities within a British political context, including:

(a) a clear recognition that no country in the world, and most certainly not a UK under Mr. Blair (nor, for that matter, one under Gordon Brown, the Chancellor of the Exchequer), will ever contemplate sacrificing economic growth. Blair knows that this is especially the case in the US, as well as in the emerging giants of China and India. What he is actually saying is: "Hey, you Greens; get real!" The recent politics and economics of Germany stand as a stark warning in this respect;

(b) a full understanding that any moves on climate-change political policy (for which read 'energy policy') must be truly international, for any unilateral action will leave an economy weak and exposed (see critical comment on David Cameron, below);

(c) the promotion of dialogue, especially with the countries of the developing world, not the neo-colonial imposition of European ecohype. For Blair, Kyoto is dead, although he has to pay lip service to it politically for the moment;

(d) a carefully-orchestrated set of moves to facilitate the inevitable re-introduction of nuclear power in the UK - "...and - yes - nuclear...", as he puts it;

(e) a balanced approach which leaves no scientific option out of consideration, from the deep geological storage of carbon to every possible alternative technological source of energy. He has no time whatsoever for the utopian brigade who demand dramatic 'back-to-nature' life-style changes. There will be no turning the clock back, despite today's date; and, accordingly,

(f) a clear rejection of the environmentalist and extreme 'Green' agendas of 'contract and converge' and hair-shirt politics.

Despite, therefore, Mr. Blair's seeming focus on climate change, the agenda is not in the least environmentalist. It is, at heart, about future energy needs. In UK political terms, Blair is proving, yet again, to be as cunning as ever, and I would ask readers from across the pond to take this on board before writing any simplistic attacks on Blair and climate change.

For, if one drops the climate-change smoke screen, you will discover that it is not too hard to agree with Mr. Blair on pretty well everything. The only phrase missing is 'clean coal', which will become a powerful force after 2010 (this hasn't dawned on British energy advisers yet), and the only misguided policy is the current support for wind farms, which are phenomenally expensive and which will deliver little, being neither 'Green' nor energy efficient.

However, I believe we will increasingly observe that I am correct about Mr. Blair - just wait for the howls from the Greens as practical energy politics take over from climate hysteria.

Further reading: 'PM pessimistic on climate treaty' (BBC Online Politics News, October 30). [Note the inevitable mantraic environmentalist quote that ends the report.]

The Conservatives and David Cameron: somewhat as an aside, I think we can now safely assume that David Cameron will become the new leader of the Conservative Party [see: 'Cameron has majority of MPs as BBC poll gives him easy victory' (The Daily Telegraph, October 31)]. Unfortunately, Cameron is wedded to a rather 'socialistic' and unilateral climate-change policy which is sheer madness for the Conservative Party. By 2020, the UK will be consuming less than 1.5% of world energy (not, of course, because of reductions in the UK, but because of the phenomenal growth in energy use in the developing world, especially in Brazil, China, India, and Indonesia). Any unilateral actions in the UK of the type being envisaged by Cameron will therefore be totally meaningless in both energy and emission terms; but worse, if they add significant costs and restrictions to industry and commerce, they could prove devastating for British competitiveness. This is not the Conservative way. As we have already seen, Blair, by contrast, is all too aware of the problems. Cameron still has much to learn and think through.

Philip, an avid Blair watcher. Like him, or loathe him, Blair is a political phenomenon, a man of remarkable Machiavellian skills. A nice Monday morning coffee?

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

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