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, January 05, 2006

"Hear Ye! Hear Ye! Men of Monmouth win second Battle of Agincourt - French windfarm scythed down".....

King Henry VThe people of Monmouth and the Welsh longbowmen have done it again: the Battle of Agincourt (Azincourt) has been won for a second time, just as Henry V (r.1413 - 1422) did nearly 600 years ago. The Monmouth-born king famously used the devastating power of his outnumbered archers to destroy a huge French army in 1415. But instead of the French Army, the opponent this time round was a dire windfarm development near to the ancient and renowned battlefield: 'One in the eye for French developers' (The Western Mail, January 4):
"Almost six hundred years ago, Agincourt was the place where Gwent bowmen turned the tide of war against the French with their superior weaponry and skills.

Traditional longbowmen were caught up in the new Battle of Agincourt, but this time it was linked to French bureaucracy, not bloodshed....."

So, once more it was: Go lads, get 'em! "Cry 'God for Harry! NO WINDFARMS and Saint George!'"
"O for pity,--we shall much disgrace,
With four or five most vile and ragged foils,
Right ill dispos'd in brawl ridiculous,
The name of Agincourt."

The Battle of AzincourtThe first Battle of Agincourt was, of course, famously fought on St. Crispian's Day, October 25, 1415, as part of the Hundred Years' War between the small army of King Henry V of England (Hurrah!) and that of Charles VI of France (Boo!), the latter under the command of The Constable, Charles d'Albret, and French noblemen of the Armagnac party.

Before the battle, Henry V gave a soul-stirring speech to rally his troops - a speech triumphantly adapted by Shakespeare in King Henry V (and somewhat less resoundingly by nearly every battle-theatre commander since). The English prevailed against the heavily-armoured French cavalry (Hats in the air!), which floundered in the cloying mud and which was scythed down under a hail of arrows.

The battle was fought out in a little defile formed by the wood of Agincourt and that of Tramecourt.

But today, a second rash assault afflicted these quiet and noble fields. So here, with consumate apologies to the Bard, I have re-written the wondrously dark speech made on the night before that first great battle.....
"Now entertain conjecture of a time
When whirring turbines and the poring dark
Fills the wide vessel of the universe.
From pile to pile, though the foul womb of night,
The hum of bladed beating's noisy sounds,
That the fix'd sentinels almost receive
The sleepless thumping of each other's watch.
Blade answers blade, and through these, sharpened, slice
Birds, small and large, slash-slaughtered in a trice;
Turbine faces turbine, in high and boastful whines
Piercing the night's dull ear; and from the land
The despoilers, accomplishing the towers,
With busy hammers closing rivets up,
Give dreadful note of preparation."

Thus, for a second time our famed longbowmen went into the breach. And it seems that they still had "stomach for the fight" to halt these "four or five most vile and ragged foils" from ruining so famous and so evocative a landscape.

Bravo lads! Medals all round.

Wind farms are the curse of the age, the spawn of 'global warming' hysteria.

Philip, stiffening his sinews (with age, sadly). "Some wine, wench - 'Hi! Falstaff? Bardolph?' Oh dear! They're dead!" [Images in the public domain: from Wikipedia. The lovely picture of the Battle of Agincourt is a C15th miniature]
Go and debate at 'Crooked Timber'.....

Why not join in the great 'global warming' debate over at the 'Crooked Timber' blog - 90 comments already (10.20 am GMT)? Put a bit of stick about the 'global warming' faithful. The original posting is already receiving a roasting over at the 'Tim Blair' blog.

"Out of the crooked timber of humanity no straight thing was ever made" (Immanuel Kant, 1784) - in the case of 'global warming', never was a truer aphorism coined.

And here is your daily read: a great piece from Ian Plimer (Professor of Geology at the University of Adelaide and former Head of the School of Earth Sciences at the University of Melbourne): 'Global warming a damp squib' (The Australian, January 5).

Philip, already put in his pennyworth. Now for a mug of coffee - my timbers are shiveringly crooked this chill morning.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Never undercook 'global warming'.....

BarbecueThis has to be the wurst 'global warming' story ever: 'Warm weather "to boost food bugs" (BBC Online Health News, January 4):
"Britain could see a dramatic increase in food poisoning cases and waterborne disease as the warmer, wetter weather linked to climate change takes hold.

Hotter summers could lead to more salmonella cases as people opt for more barbecues but leave food out of the fridge...

Heavy rain may also lead to more cases of diarrhoea-inducing cryptosporidium..."

Thus: 'global warming' = Oz lifestyles = more barbies = more underdone sausages = Delhi belly = crap hitting the fan.

But a few weeks ago, we were all blubbering about having to chew whale meat and reindeer steaks as Britain became an Arctic tundra. Make yer minds up!

Only one thing is certain, freezing or frying, our media will never undercook a 'global warming' scare story. What a load of .....

Philip, personally going for a bit of warming - a few productive vines might make my old age vintage years. Now, that'll keep the bugs at bay. "A drop of Chataeu Stottenheimer, 2016?" Such a nose! Pink burger with a touch of charcoal and a hint of salmonella. [Image available from Wikipedia under the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2]
Energy policy? What energy policy? Britain's worst political failure (along with pension policy).....

Power station control roomWe predicted it on 'EnviroSpin'; I predicted it in The Times, last April. And on Thursday, December 29, it nearly happened - most worryingly, some two years early. Britain was on the brink of running out of energy. Between 4.30 pm and 6.30 pm, on what was a cold day, the National Grid was forced to issue an emergency order to the electricity companies to reduce demand. They were requested to cut power or to dim the lights by lowering the voltage. Our ever-diminishing energy safety margin had been depleted and it was now lower than that required. The shortfall fluctuated between 1,300 megawatts (MW) and 1,700 MW, a third-to-a-half of the safety net - the grid requires a cushion of between 2,000 MW and 4,000 MW available above peak demand. In reality, some 220,000 homes were on the brink of being cut off.

All political parties are culpable for placing Britain's energy supply at serious risk, although Labour must carry the lion's share of the blame because of its appallingly-utopian and soggy energy white paper of the last administration. Nevertheless, this particular train has been hurtling towards the buffers for some twenty or so years, and no political leader, without exception, has been brave enough to face up to the consequences. The crash is now imminent.

Energy policy in Britain has been lamentable. Just consider the following facts:

(a) Britain has planned to to retire some 40% of all power stations by 2020, especially coal-powered plants. There will be only one nuclear power station functioning by 2023;

(b) This ludicrous decision has been taken at a time when North Sea Gas is running out. North Sea production peaked in 1999-2000, after which it began to decline at 2% per annum. It is now declining at an exponential rate. Last year, Britain became a net importer of gas. By 2020, 70% of natural gas will have to be imported;

(c) As we have learned only too painfully this week, there are deep political dangers in relying so much on imported natural gas from countries like Russia. At present, only 2% of Britain's gas comes from Russia, but, as already demonstrated, we are on the edge of energy failures. Moreover, we have only one liquefied natural gas plant, on the Isle of Grain in Kent. This started contributing last year and uses Algerian frozen gas;

(d) As Britain buys more gas at 'spot' prices than most other EU countries, the price is likely to rise sharply under current market and weather conditions. Already, wholesale gas prices are 50% higher than they were last winter. Unsurprisingly, such prices have forced the shut-down of some gas-fired stations;

(e) Our new pipeline linking Britain and Norway will not be operational until at least 2007.

What can one say? The incompetence and weakness in Government demonstrated by this is staggering. Kowtowing to nonsensical EU and Green demands, while taking no radical steps to replace lost supplies, makes even ostriches-with-their-heads-in-the-sand look like perspicacious beasts.

We have no choice. To run Britain successfully for the next 50 or so years, we will require an energy mix that includes some 30% clean coal; 30% gas; and 30% nuclear. The last 10% can then (realistically, for once) come from a mix of 'renewables', including biomass willow coppice. Energy savings must, of course, be encouraged, but these will largely be eaten up by growth (assuming we still have an energy supply to fuel it), and they will be restricted primarily to additional new build.

Politicians - please drop the pusillanimous cant, get off your backsides, and, for all our sakes, energise Britain for the future - NOW! We can no longer tolerate your disastrous dithering.

And Mr. Blair: it has to be: "Energy, Energy, Energy!"

Philip, angry indeed with the bending reeds that inhabit the parliamentary swamp. An espresso doppio is much needed this morning.
[The image of a power station control room is available at Wikipedia under the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2]

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Global warming? The stuff of Hollywood, not of the lab.....

Let's herald in 2006 with a reminder - a quite superb and unexpected piece from the important German magazine, Der Spiegel (January 24, 2005): 'Exaggerated science: how global warming research is creating a climate of fear':
"Because of our short attention spans, we will experience how the prophets of doom paint the dangers of climate change in ever more lurid detail. One can already imagine the future images of horror: a breaking off of the western Antarctic ice shelf, which would cause sea levels to rise dramatically, and, after a few decades of unbridled carbon dioxide emissions, an abrupt temperature shift that would make the earth's atmosphere as incompatible with human life as that of Venus. Can such predictions, which have been known to the public for a long time, readily compete with the Hollywood images created by directors like Emmerich?

The price for provoking fear is high, because it's a practice that sacrifices the otherwise prized principle of caution. A scarce resource - public attention and confidence in the reliability of science - is being consumed without being renewed by a practice of offering positive examples."

Highly recommended: read it all.

Philip, in complete agreement. How we need to hear and heed this in the UK! I shall toast the authors with a glass of good Pomerol this evening.

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

WWW EnviroSpin Watch

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