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, April 01, 2006

Comment of the week: more, indeed Moore, on religion and 'global warming'.....
"If I am right, the politics of climate change are bad. They attract the self-righteous and the self-flagellating, the controlling, the life-denying, the people who don't like people, the people who, like Private Fraser in Dad's Army, think we're 'all DOOMED'. And when I listen to many of the scientists who join in the argument, I often hear in what they say not the voice of science itself, but of the bad politics, thinly disguised by a white coat."

As on EnviroSpin on Thursday, the theme of religion and climate change appears to be in the air. Today, however, it is brilliantly expounded and exposed in a magisterial piece from Charles Moore for his Saturday column [from which the above quotation is taken]: 'What you get when you mix Red and Green - a bad political climate' (The Daily Telegraph, April 1 - and it's no joke!).

Here are some further selected quotations for your immediate delectation (but please do take time to read the complete article):
"It seems to me an almost precise description of the mental attitudes of large parts of the Green movement. Tremendous rage is combined with tremendous lack of inquiry: Green ideas do indeed sleep furiously."

"In the Eighties, it was Margaret Thatcher, of all people, who was attracted to the theory of global warming. She saw it as a justification for the development of nuclear power. Her experience with the oil crises of the 1970s and the coal strikes of the 1970s and 1980s made her keen to get away from fossil fuels.

But with the end of the Cold War, and therefore the collapse of heavy-industry-for-socialism, the Left began to find in Green issues a new unifying theme. If the workers were not going to get their hands on the means of production, the theory had to shift. Now those means themselves were wicked. Capitalist greed, especially American greed, was destroying the planet, they decided."

"To those who like the idea that the state can control everything, it must have been a constant source of irritation that the weather could not be subject to five-year plans and government targets. If you accept climate change theories, it can be, indeed it must be. Without global governmental action, the doctrine teaches, we shall all perish."

"At this point, the religious impulse forms an unholy - or rather, a holier-than-thou - alliance with the political. In every age, religions have tended to relate extremes of climate to sin."

Noahs Ark by Edward Hicks"The modern equivalent of the Ark is the Kyoto Conference." [Opposite: painting by Edward Hicks (1780–1849), showing the animals boarding Noah's Ark, two-by-two. Image public domain, from Wikipedia]

"If you do not accept this, you cannot be part of what in Genesis is called the covenant of the rainbow. You are Bad."

"Under this huge moral blackmail, the prudent politician, particularly the politician who does not have to make actual decisions, bows the knee. David Cameron sticks a solar panel on his roof, just as a New York mayoral candidate wears a shamrock on St Patrick's Day. It is presumably only because Mr Blair knows that he is leaving his job that he dares to point out that China, India and Brazil, which are not bound by the Kyoto targets, are committing sins of emission beside which our modest transgressions hardly trouble the scorer."

I just love that neat side comment on Cameron - a solar panel and/or wind turbine on the roof is just like wearing a little coloured ribbon for this or that cause.

Interestingly, this excoriating analysis is mirrored by another leading commentator, Matthew Parris, writing in today's The Times [no hyperlink in this case for copyright reasons - go to The Times Online]. Although perhaps less trenchant than Moore (Parris' comment is, as ever, too long), it likewise contains some splendid passages, like:
"Buttonhole a passionate eco-apocalypticist and tell him a way has been found for us to cut carbon emissions perfectly painlessly, and carry on living as we do. Observe the involuntary anger cross his face."

'Global warming' has unquestionably morphed into the grand narrative of the day. It has replaced Marxism as the driving force of much of the Left. I am absolutely delighted that the Barthesian myth is, at last, starting to be exposed for what it is: a deep and bitter anger that the world, and its people, cannot be controlled by those who think they know best. The sin of Saruman is ever with us.

Thus: beware the knock on the door. The Green evangelists are abroad, and they are after your free and living soul.

Philip, "Sorry mate, can't talk now, even if the watch towers are going to be flooded. Haven't had breakfast yet. By the way, have you heard of the geological sequestration of carbon? No, no! Please don't bother to come back. Thanks." Gee! Strong coffee!

Thursday, March 30, 2006

'The Druid' and 'global warming'.....

Since the abject failure of Marxism, the collapse of the socialist model following the end of the Cold War, and the steep decline in the relevance of most Christian denominations, 'environmentalism' in the West has increasingly become a refuge for those who yearn to intervene in society for other people's good. Such ecochondriac neophytes want to 'command-and-control' every aspect of our lives. Their main weapons are rampant millenarianism - the world is forever ending - and an appeal to our deep feelings of guilt, both general and personal. Their 'New English Bible' is The Independent, the front page of which tends to resemble hell fire.

I am thus far from surprised to find that The Most Reverend and Right Honourable Rowan Douglas Williams, FBA, the Archbishop of Canterbury, aka 'The Druid', theologian, poet, and lecturer, has joined the ecofaithful [from The Guardian, March 28]:
"... the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams described climate change as 'a huge practical problem and a huge moral problem'.

Everyone should consider the needs of future generations when making decisions about their lifestyles, he said.

Dr Williams told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: 'In the first instance, the moral responsibility lies with absolutely everybody, not only in terms of examining our own lifestyle and asking what concretely can be done, but also in sending a message to governments that this is recognised as a priority by the public.'

Asked how God would judge politicians who failed to act on warnings of environmental disaster, Dr Williams said: 'I think if you look at the language of the Bible on this, you very often come across situations where people are judged for not responding to warnings.'

'There are choices we can make, each one of us, to change things now, and I think what the Bible and the Christian tradition suggests is that those who have a challenge before them and don't respond bear a very heavy responsibility before God.'"

The spotlight on guilt is central to 'environmentalism' as a religion, and, in Britain especially, it has absorbed, as if by osmosis, many aspects of traditional Protestantism and Puritanism: "We have erred, and strayed from thy ways like lost sheep [BSE?]. We have left undone those things which we ought to have done ['You didn't recycle that plastic bottle, did you?']; And we have done those things which we ought not to have done ['You drove to the supermarket in your 4x4! Just think of the emissions.']; And there is no health in us [Not to mention all the toxic chemicals and GM food. 'Eat organic for purity', saith the Preacher]."

Yet, it goes much deeper. Since Noah was a lad, we have always wanted to blame the weather and environmental disasters, from fires to floods, on ourselves and on our "manifold sins and wickedness". Here is Johannes de Trokelowe on the dire climate and famines that heralded the start of The Little Ice Age in 1315: "We can see how the prophecy of Jeremiah is fulfilled in the English people: 'If I go forth into the fields, behold those slain with the sword, and if I enter into the city behold them that are consumed with famine.'" (Jeremiah 14.18). The 'Chronicle of Malmesbury' is equally gloomy: "Therefore is the anger of the Lord kindled against his people, and he hath stretched forth his hand against them, and hath smitten them." (Isaiah 5.25).

'The Druid' is in a long line of Christian doomsayers. This time, however, we are 'warming' and it is human-emitted carbon dioxide that is the latest witchcraft.

But the Earth is a tough old boot, and it has survived asteroid, earthquake, fire, and flood since God was stirring the primordial soup. Moreover, on nearly every measure, people are living better,longer and more fulfilling lives, except, sadly, for some regions of the world where abject poverty is a genuine reason for our guilt: farm subsidies for so-called environmental benefits and 'organic' farming in Britain - now that is something to think about.

The Eeyores of this world, like the good Archbishop, are terrified that human genius and technology are, in the phrase of Martin Heidegger, 'enframing' Nature, removing its magic. They want to fill us with post-industrial angst and the nightmares of Edvard Munch's The Scream. But I think it is time we left the Eeyores to ruminate in their boggy places. Even if we closed down every factory, shut down every power station, crushed every car, and sacked four billion workers, climate would still change and there would still be super cyclones. Yet, in our poverty, we would be unable to do anything to help.

It is perhaps a sign of the weakness of modern Christianity that it has to turn to the pre-modern/modern pagan religion of 'global warming', and its call to sacrifice to the Earth, in an attempt to re-invigorate the faith.

[And a last thought: what dire hymns one is forced to sing these days. On Mothering Sunday last, I had to blast out one with lines like: "Who put the hump upon the camel? Who put the neck on the giraffe?" Mr. Darwin, one might suggest! I see this Scottish congregation has also been putting "the tail upon the monkey" - scroll down to the first hymn.]

Philip, fascinated by the religious language of the 'global warming' myth. Hell fire and damnation all round, with illuminated manuscripts (those Indie front pages!). Luncheon first, of course. "Grilled or fried?"
Whoops! Up, up, again.....

Poor old Margaret Beckett! It just gets worse and worse. Further to my Tuesday blog (below), 'Weathering the inevitable Green storm', we now have this: 'UK carbon emissions rise again' (BBC Online Science/Nature News, March 30):
"Britain's CO2 emissions have risen for a third successive year, according to government figures...

...The government says the rise was caused by increasing energy consumption [what a surprise!] and a switch from natural gas to coal.

Earlier this week the government admitted it was unlikely to meet its 2010 target for reducing CO2 emissions..."

This means that annual carbon dioxide emissions are now only 5.3% lower than in 1990, and have risen by about 2% since Labour came to power in 1997.

"Any rhetorical questions, Good Reader?"

Philip, "Ah tow'd yer so, lad! Yer shun heed to me." Patio heaters all round.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

If I hear once more in the media.....

...that wind farms are carbon free, I'll turn on my patio heater!

The idea is culpable casuistry. The base of a single, near-shore wind turbine requires around 500 tonnes of cement, 550 tonnes of sand and aggregate, and 100 tonnes of steel. For the cement alone, the fuel used and the calcining of the calcium carbonate emit some 625 tonnes of CO2, and this does not include transport. If you add the emissions and environmental damage associated with chalk and limestone quarrying, the dredging of sand and aggregate, and the production of the steel, the emissions per unit of intermittent power are high. Moreover, a turbine requires regular maintenance and rebuilding. Any corrective carbonation in the concrete takes 100s of years.

Philip, despairing at the world of make-believe constructed by our media 'Greens'. We really need some concrete facts to cement our future and make aggregate sense without throwing sand in our eyes. So steel yourself..... "Time for a wee dram?"
"Open Sesame" on the limitations of wind power.....

Don't miss this excellent little article in the latest issue of the Open University magazine, Sesame (Spring 2006, Issue 229, pp. 18-19): 'Running on empty?' [.pdf: scroll down to article, and look at the second piece by Peter Bennett]:
"Can alternative sources such as windfarms supply all our future energy needs? OU student Peter Bennett, a chartered mechanical engineer, says that as a result of studying of the OU's T206 Energy for a sustainable future, he believes, reluctantly, the answer is - no."

Philip, now I always knew that the OU is one of our better Universities (and not just because 'She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed' teaches for it).

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Weathering the inevitable Green storm.....

When poor Margaret Beckett, the UK Environment Secretary, has to admit today that Britain will not achieve New Labour's ill-judged three-manifesto target of a 20% cut in carbon dioxide emissions on 1990-levels by 2010, expect a cacophony of self-righteous Green bleating and a load of nauseating pious waffle from the metro media, the Cameroons, and the Mings: 'Minister to admit failure on key climate change emissions target' (The Guardian, March 28):
"The government will admit today that it will fail to meet its much repeated manifesto commitment on cutting carbon dioxide emissions.

Labour had set a target of reducing CO2 levels by 20% by 2010, but Margaret Beckett, the environment secretary, will say it is no longer possible. The totemic policy has been an important weapon in Tony Blair's claim to be a world leader willing to go further than others on climate change, and the admission is likely to provoke fury from environmentalists..." [Well, at least, that is some compensation]

[See also: 'UK to miss CO2 emissions target', BBC Online Science/Nature News, March 28]

Of course, we aren't going to meet these preposterous targets. Rising CO2-levels are partly a proxy measure of growth, and, thank goodness, we are still growing economically, if only slowly.

Here are the necessary UK carbon-dioxide factoids (just to annoy PT, who hates 'factoids'):

(a) New Labour's self-inflicted target: 20% cut on 1990-levels by 2010;
(b) Kyoto Protocol target: an average 12.5% cut on 1990-levels by 2010;
(c) In reality: under New Labour: since 1997, emissions have risen 1.9%;
(d) UK currently behind its Kyoto target by 5.6%.

How wise of Tony B. to be abroad. I'm sure, however, that he now appreciates fully the hard realities of climate-change politics and economics. After all, there are probably only two countries in the world anywhere near to hitting their Kyoto Protocol targets (never mind any other dafter targets). In the UK, we desperately need some brave politicians who will begin to stand up to the Green lobby on climate change and to call the 'global warming' bluff.

Let's be straight: the Green hairshirt just isn't going to happen, even in post-industrial, 'we-have-never-been-Modern', Blighty, never mind, of course, in the rest of the world, and the idea that we can manage climate change predictably by fiddling (or, as it will inevitably prove, failing to fiddle) at the margins with just one politically-selected factor must be the most dangerous piece of sophistry currently wafting around Millbank and through the corridors of power at Westminster.

As I have pointed out (wearily), over and over again: at 1.5% - 2.0% of world energy-use, what we do in the UK, from stupid windmills on Cameron's roof to nuclear power, will have no predictable effect at all on climate change. Indeed, I suspect it will have no measureable effect whatsoever! Period.

It's time to grow up over climate change, and to tell it as it is. It is such a pity that Tony B. has hoisted himself on this particular petard. Now, clean water for 1.1 billion people worldwide - that really would be something.

Philip, feeling genuinely sorry for Margaret Beckett. I like Mrs B., and she has unquestionably picked the iconic short straw on this one. Lunch - and Green pontificating on the news? "No way, mate; Radio 3's lunchtime concert for me. Better for the soul."

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

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