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, December 03, 2005

Most hubristic name of the moment.....

The organisers of today's 'global warming' marches (see blog below) call themselves, most hubristically some unkind people might say, the 'Campaign Against Climate Change'. Oh me! Oh my!

SunspotsI await eager volunteers to cap volcanoes, to wrestle with the Earth's axis, to dampen down sunspots, to adjust the cosmic ray flux, to divert ocean currents, to MOP (in joke) up water vapour, to re-model the Tibetan High Plateau, to intercept asteroids, to dust the world, and to manage chaos.... among other Herculean tasks.

[Upper right: urgently required: superpersons to control sunspots. Image: NASA, not copyrighted. From Wikipedia.]

Willing Herculean types (or Don Quixotes) please visit here.

But again, the Bard has got it right (this time Henry IV, Part One: Act III, Scene 1):
"Glendower: 'I can call spirits from the vasty deep.'

Hotspur: 'Why, so can I, or so can any man; But will they come when you do call for them?'"

Come back King Canute; all is forgiven.

Philip, enough of this for today. "False consciousness all round", say I. "I can call dinner from the kitchen" - "And it has come!" Brava for superwoman! "Pour the Pomerol '96!"
Vital statistics..... and the 'X' factor?

Likely attendance on the London 'Climate Change March' today [organised by the Campaign Against Climate Change - see blog above re the name], kick off around 12.00 noon: <15,000 [Not even in the top three BBC News 24 items at 14.00];


Attendance at football legend George Best's funeral in Northern Ireland, kick off 11.00 am: "tens of thousands". They are lining the streets in droves... [Top BBC News 24 item at 14.00]

Likely attendance at Chelsea v. Middlesborough, kick off 15.00: >40,000;

Average weekly attendance at English and Scottish football matches: 1.6 million.

And you want to know why 'global warming' is such a damp squib? Here is a wonderfully caustic BBC analysis of the mad, mad world that is climate-change politics:
"The... challenge will be to find any of the 8,000 or so participants who can explain to the rest of the world what on earth has been going on."

Just so! It really is an embarrassing nonsense from beginning to end.

And in Sydney, Oz, the marchers numbered - oops! - "hundreds" [Hat Tip: Barry Hearn]

Meanwhile, The Independent shows today that it really has flipped (unlike climate): 'The 'X' factor?' (scroll down):
"What's predicted is terrible enough. But it is what's not even on the radar that some scientists fear most of all - the possibility that global warming might bring about some sudden, extreme and devastating climatic phenomenon that we cannot yet even imagine..."

Is The Independent striving to be the very worst newspaper in the UK? Can it even be classified as a 'newspaper' any more? It is dreadful... and full of dread.

And the Bard is better at doom in any case, he lears:
"Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! rage! blow!
You cataracts and hurricanoes, spout
Till you have drench'd our steeples, drown'd the cocks!
You sulphurous and thought-executing fires,
Vaunt-couriers to oak-cleaving thunderbolts,
Singe my white head! And thou, all-shaking thunder,
Smite flat the thick rotundity o' the world!
Crack nature's moulds, and germens spill at once,
That make ingrateful man!"

Philip, "Support Agenda Item Six Now!" Er? "Come on the 'Latics!" Afternoon tea, while I try to forget the two Gorgeous Georges, Zac 'the Tory', not to mention the evergreen Ms Lucas. "A placard sandwich board?" "Organic?" "Na! A Doomburger will do nicely, thanks!"

Thursday, December 01, 2005

"My goodness! Climate changes! And dump those sandwiches.....

One just despairs at the lunacy of it all. Have the Greens gone entirely loopy? The nadir came this morning - before breakfast too - when a claim was made on the increasingly lugubrious Today programme that eating sandwiches is devastating for the environment (you know all those potted shrimps and pastrami 'curlers' destroying the mangrove swamps and tropical rain forests of the world). Lord Sandwich would have been turning in his Wellington Boots and rending his Cardigan.

The Red Queen and AliceWe are all living with Alice Through the Looking Glass:
"'I can't believe that!' said Alice.

'Can't you?' the Queen said in a pitying tone. 'Try again: draw a long breath, and shut your eyes.'

Alice laughed. 'There's no use trying,' she said: 'one can't believe impossible things.'

'I daresay you haven't had much practice,' said the Queen. 'When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.'"

[Upper Right: Tenniel's classic drawing of Alice and the Red Queen: image seems to be in the public domain.]

Quite! And what about the mad, mad world of the 'global warmers'? Has it dawned on you that, for the UK, 'global warming', during the last year alone, has been predicted to lead to:

(1) wetter winters;
(2) drier winters;
(3) another Ice Age, with Arctic temperatures all round;
(4) blazing hot Mediterranean summers with deadly droughts, killing thousands;
(5) more species;
(6) fewer species.

So there - six impossible things to believe before breakfast.

May I humbly suggest that everybody just shuts up and gets on with their lives, acknowledging that:

(a) We haven't a fog what will happen with short-term climate change, never mind long-term;
(b) The only truth is that climate will change - as ever; and,
(c) We shall have to adapt to whatever changes come - as ever.

Meanwhile, I hope you all go out this lunchtime and buy some sandwiches. Big, fat ones!

Philip, encouraged, however, by some youthful common sense. Yesterday, I was speaking to 200 sixth formers who seemed far more balanced and sensible in their comments and questions than all the adult Red Queens put together. "A pawn sandwich, Your Majesty?" "No, I'll have a coffee, mate!"

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Kyoto fetishisation and other topical charivari.....

Yesterday evening, I was given a 2 minute slot on the ever-stimulating BBC World Service to explain, in the simplest of terms, why I thought Kyoto-like attempts to control climate change were fundamentally flawed. This is what I said:
"Humans have always feared climate change and developed myths that our sinfulness is its cause. Accordingly, we always want to be able "to do something" about climate, to sacrifice to the Earth to bring about a golden age of climate stability. Unfortunately, both geology and history show us that the idea of a stable climate is untenable; there has never been, and never will be, a stable climate under human control. All we can do is adapt to constant change.

Our current obsession with the single factor of carbon dioxide emissions is little different. In a system as complex and chaotic as climate, actions with just one factor out of the thousands involved may even trigger unexpected consequences. It is vital to remember that, for such a coupled, non-linear, chaotic system, not doing something (i.e., not emitting gases) is as unpredictable as doing something (i.e., emitting gases). Even if we closed down every factory, crushed every car and aeroplane, turned off all energy production, and threw 4 billion people worldwide out of work, climate would still change, and often dramatically. Unfortunately, we would all be too poor to do anything about it.

Basing policies on worries about 'global warming' is a serious threat to us all, but especially to the 1.6 billion people in the less-developed world who have no access to any modern form of energy. The twin curses of water poverty and energy poverty remain the true scandals. By contrast, the political imposition on the rest of the world of our Northern, self-indulgent ecochondria about 'global warming' could prove to be a neo-colonialism too far."

The resultant 'phone-in discussion was excellent, and, whilst demonstrating a wide range of opinion, showed how cautious and thoughtful people were about the issue of climate change. The hysteria-ridden Independent should take note. A most encouraging broadcast.

In the meantime, the Kyoto Protocol is simply descending into widespread ridicule. Here is an excoriating example from The Big Bruiser himself (for it is he), Mark Steyn: 'Wake up and listen to the muezzin' (The Daily Telegraph, November 29):
"... Signing Kyoto is nothing to do with reducing 'global warming' so much as advertising one's transnational moral virtue. America could reduce its greenhouse-gas emissions by 87 per cent and Canada could increase them by 673 per cent and the latter would still be a 'good citizen of the world' (in the Prime Minister's phrase) while 'Polluter Bush' would still be in the dog house, albeit a solar-powered one.

Likewise, those public sector union workers determined to keep their right to retire at 60. I've had many conversations with New Labour types in which my belief in low - if not undetectable - levels of taxation has been cited as evidence of my selfishness. But what's more selfish than spending the last 20 years of your life on holiday and insisting that the fellows who can't afford to retire at 60 should pay for it?

Forget Kyoto and the problem of 'unsustainable growth'; the crisis that Britain and most of Europe faces is unsustainable sloth...

... The Kyoto fetishisation is the definitive act of post-modern politics, in which our leaders are grave and responsible but only when it comes to issuing wake-up calls for stuff that isn't worth getting out of bed for..."

Kyoto fetishisation - what a glorious phrase! I wish I had thought up that one. Well done The Steyn.

But even this acidly witty piece is eclipsed by Bronwen Maddox's superb, if serious, analysis in today's The Times [apologies: no link for copyright reasons - go to The Times Online], and by this discussion of nuclear power in the US from the WSJ Opinion Journal (November 28): 'Power to the People. Washington policy makers stand in the way of sensible energy policies':
"... If members of Congress are afraid to challenge the orthodoxies of the green lobby, they can't be too surprised if President Bush exercises national leadership in a dramatic way to make sure the lights stay on while Washington fiddles. Some of them may privately even be thankful someone is willing to break a small part of the energy gridlock."

Meanwhile, back in poor-old Canada, and at the Montreal climate charivari, it's not just the Kyoto Protocol that is being buried. As predicted yesterday, the Liberal Government, and Mr. Paul Martin, the Prime Minister, fell in parliament to a vote of no confidence (171 to 133) and elections have been set for freezing January: 'Canada's government is thrown out' (BBC News Online/Americas, November 29):
"Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin's government has been ousted in a no-confidence vote.

Canada's three opposition parties united against his Liberal Party, which has been mired in a corruption scandal.

Mr Martin will seek the dissolution of parliament on Tuesday, and a date for a general election - thought likely to be 16 or 23 January..."

Ah well! Unlike the Kyoto Protocol, Mr. Martin will live to fight another day.

Philip, waiting eagerly for the final stake to be thrust into the heart of the economic vampire that is Kyoto. "Thou shalt not rise again!" "Time for a cuppa? Rum and maple syrup in your coffee?"

Monday, November 28, 2005

Montreal and Kyoto: more work for the undertaker.....

Today marks the start of yet another climate-change conference (deepest of yawns), the ludicrously-named '11th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP11 and COP/MOP1)'. This time the Kyoto Protocol caravanserai has descended on the city of Montreal, with some 10,000 delegates and officials, not to mention a host of motley demonstrators, weary journalists, and camp followers. You would need to complete a PhD to attempt to calculate the carbon dioxide being emitted for this jolly jamboree.

Moreover, despite its specious 'Green' credentials, Canada is probably the worst destination possible. First, most serendipitously, this is also the day on which the three main opposition parties will table a 'No-Confidence Motion' with respect to the Liberal Prime Minister of Canada, Mr. Paul Martin, who may well lose the vote, thus precipitating a Christmas, or New Year, election. The likely winner of such an election could well be the Conservative Party, which is critical of the Kyoto Protocol. In any case, some of the Canadian states, like Alberta, will not play ball over Kyoto, come what may.

Secondly, and perhaps even more risible, Canada's own record on meeting its Kyoto emission-reduction targets is lamentable, being currently 30% over target. Mind you, it is worth adding that Japan itself is eponymously 'Kyoto-heavy', with emissions at least 18% above target, despite much of its manufacturing base having been exported abroad, especially to China. And, as for the ever self-righteous and priggish EU? At least 11 EU countries are way off their own targets, some by deeply-embarrassing margins of over 30%.

Thus: "I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him."

Unfortunately, at Montreal, there will be an enormous amount of cynical hot air expended in 'praising' the long-moribund Kyoto corpse. Nevertheless, the Kyoto Protocol will be buried as surely as Caesar - "See what a rent the envious Canada [Australia, China, India, etc.] made" - and it is most unlikely that a Son of Kyoto will rise, ghost-like from the chilly grave. Indeed, the sooner we put a stone cap over this coffin, the better (now that's what I call 'capping' emissions).

Thus, despite the hysterical coverage of 'global warming' that is bound to afflict the liberal media in countries like the UK (expect this to grow more strident as the burial takes place), most of the world has, at last, grasped reality, namely that:

(a) controlling CO2 at the margins will have little predictable influence on climate change;

(b) constant adaptation to climate change, whatever its direction(s), is the only practical option;

(c) maintaining strong, flexible economies is the best way of achieving adaptability; and,

(d) technological innovation and entrepreneurship, not the hairshirt, are the best ways of coping both with energy growth and with climate adaptation, especially in the developing worlds of China, India, Brazil, Indonesia, and, indeed, most of the world.

Thus, at Montreal, expect much public hand-wringing over Kyoto, while the Protocol is quietly and quickly buried, to be replaced by practical policies well-attuned with sound economic growth. Expect also to hear a lot about the resurgence of nuclear power, the revival of clean coal, the deep geological burial of carbon, carbon trading (also needs a quick burial, mind you), and the export of technologies.

But, for the Kyoto Protocol itself, the undertakers are already decorating the hearse, and the wreath will surely read: "Dead! And never called me Mother!"

Finally, here is my 'Letter to the Editor', kindly published today by The Daily Telegraph (November 28): 'Greens are nuked'.

Philip, deeply bored by the whole international shambles on climate change. One day soon, the very idea of 'controlling climate change' will be recognized for what it is: a hubristic and puritanical nonsense. An espresso doppio is required this morning. And, of course, toast with maple syrup! And then: waffles all round. What a stampede.

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

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