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, March 24, 2006

Don't be green about the budget.....

The most extraordinary thing about Gordon Brown's tenth budget is the fact that so many seemingly intelligent people believe with staggering naivety that it might do something predictable, however minuscule, about world climate change - talk about the triumph of hope. In truth, even if one argues that we can manage climate change predictably, surely a notable oxymoron, the £210 car tax on Chelsea tractors and the indexing of the so-called Climate Change Levy will make not one blind bit of difference.

Here is a brief selection of corrective realities. China has over 30,000 dirty coal mines, and car sales there are rising by over 80% per annum. Yesterday, The Times reported that Royal Dutch Shell has just paid £228 million for a package of tar (bitumen) sand leases in Canada, the highest price paid for access to these, as yet, largely untapped reserves, which are enormous, with 1.7 trillion barrels in the Athabasca tar sands of Alberta alone, another 1.8 trillion in the Orinoco tar sands of Venezuela, and yet more in the Middle East. In the UK, we are about to build a million new homes. These might be a fraction more energy efficient than those of yesteryear, but they remain new build and thus an addition to overall energy demand. And yet, the UK accounts for a mere 2% of world energy demand, a figure likely to fall to below 1.5% by 2020 because of the exponential growth in demand for energy in China, India, Brazil, Mexico, and the rest of the developing world.

But don't worry, folks! Mr. Cameron's fatuous wind mill on his roof and Mr. Brown's 'Band G' on gas guzzlers will save the planet. It is nonsense tied up in ribbon in a red box and we must not be fooled by such gesture politics.

And, of course, there remains a more fundamental question: "Can humans manipulate climate predictably?" Or, more scientifically: "Will cutting carbon dioxide emissions at the margin produce a linear, predictable change in climate?" The answer has to be a resounding "No". In so complex a coupled, non-linear, chaotic system as climate, not doing something at the margins is as unpredictable as doing something. This is the cautious science; the rest is political dogma.

Sadly, this basic question has been lost in the clamour "to do something at all costs" - hence our willful 'greenness' over a very Brown budget.

Philip, wide-eyed at the unmitigated twaddle being talked about 'Stopping Climate Change'. By contrast, tilting at windmills was just a quixotic gesture! ["Oh! Very droll, Stotty!"] A strong coffee is urgently required.....

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

WWW EnviroSpin Watch

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?