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, May 05, 2006

Those council election results.....

The English council election results are extremely fascinating, and they have a bearing on the relevance of David Cameron's 'Green' posturings as discussed frequently here on 'EnviroSpin'. The Conservatives have gained 11 councils, while Labour has lost 18, some to NOC (No Overall Control). But it is far from all good news for Cameron, and nothing like the disaster that Labour might have expected following the Prescott affair, the Home Office debacle, and the NHS brouhaha. Indeed, it was not impossible that Labour might have been nursing the loss of over 450 councillors, whereas, in reality, they have had only 300 or so amputated.

The detailed story lies in the demographics of the results. Virtually all Cameron's advances have been made in London and in the South East, precisely those areas where his sledding with huskies and the windmill on his roof might be expected to play among the bien pensant, the yuppies, and the well-heeled. In stark contrast, with minor exceptions in the West Midlands, the further you move north, the Cameron factor declines spectacularly, with the Conservatives wiped off the map in the great cities of Manchester, Liverpool, and Newcastle. The Manchester situation is especially embarrassing because Cameron deliberately held his Party's Spring Conference in the city to reinforce the Conservative come-back, yet not one Conservative councillor has been elected out of 96, and, in some of the satellite towns, like Oldham, they have even lost councillors. Moreover, in Manchester, Labour managed to take four seats from the Liberal Democrats, demonstrating yet further how little 'Green' politics resonate beyond the media-saturated metropolitan South.

Interestingly, aspects of such voter demographics are also hidden within the generality of the London results. The classic case is probably Islington, which is now under NOC. Staggeringly, the Conservatives have no member at all on Islington Council, while Labour took 12 seats from the Liberal Democrats. 'Islington' has often been (lazily) employed as an icon to represent the quintessential bien pensant cafe culture, whereas this is just a small press gang of journalists who are coralled within their Georgian houses by a swath of deprived and poor areas. Islington is actually 'the North' in London, and, accordingly, the huskies didn't play there, as in Manchester. Mind you the ciabatta-munching hacks put it all down to the Lib Dems' illiberal parking ticket scheme. Typical liberals.

If I were Cameron, I should not be smiling too much about these results. Unless the Conservatives can make headway beyond the M25 beltway, they will not return to government, and, given the last two dreadful weeks for Mr. Blair, they should really have been taking 400 to 450 council seats, or more. As The Times put it so well, winning between 200 and 300 seats is only just beyond the "no more husky rides for you, Dave" level.

Perhaps the more significant failure on the night, however, was that of the Liberal Democrats, who, with their statesman-like new leader, Sir Menzies Campbell, in place, and with Labour in such trouble, should have forged ahead. Yet they stood stock still, gaining overall only 2 councillors, and we may have seen the move to three-party politics stopped in its tracks. In this sense, Cameron's tactics may have worked for the Conservatives, in that, in those areas where 'Green' posturings do matter politically, he has seen off some of the natural challenge of the Lib Dems. The two exceptions to this are the university cities of Cambridge and Oxford where the Conservatives do not have a single councillor, having just lost their last Cambridge seat.

But what the demographics of these elections actually demonstrate is that, outside the wealthy South, what counts are crime, civil order, national security, schools, the NHS, and disadvantage. In this sense, Mr. Blair's priorities remain the correct ones - but Labour has to get them right, and very soon, if only to help to stem the local influence and rise of the BNP, which preys on the afflicted and deprived, and which, worryingly, gained 27 seats on the night, including 11 in Barking. The other minor parties did less well, including the Greens who only managed 14 gains, 4 in Norwich, where, I suspect, a planned incinerator may have had a role to play.

Tony is now on borrowed time, and the new rottweillers of his 'morning-of-the-long-knives' have got to perform, for all our sakes.

English - nay British - politics have become extremely nuanced and very interesting. Watch this space.

Philip, as ever fascinated by political demographics. Time for a truly middle-class Earl Grey. "Lemon, darling?"

Thursday, May 04, 2006

If you can't bear the nonsense about the demise of polar bears, just read this.....

In all the hysteria over climate change, there is more nonsense talked about the imminent demise of the polar bear than about pretty well anything else (though the competition is strong).

Polar bear.Time to read this excellent corrective piece from a polar bear biologist. [Opposite: Ursus maritimus, Pooh's chilly cousin. Image: public domain, from Wikipedia]

'Silly to predict their demise. Startling conclusion to say they will disappear within 25 years and surprise to many researchers' (Toronto Star, May 1):
"This complexity is why so many people find the truth less entertaining than a good story. It is entirely appropriate to be concerned about climate change, but it is just silly to predict the demise of polar bears in 25 years based on media-assisted hysteria."

Philip, three degree torture all round (International Panel of Climate Cruelty)? No, coffee in the garden. At last, some sun and warmth. By the way, current climate predictions now range from a strong cooling starting in 2011 to Armageddon through heat. Take your pick. And, why not relax to the 'Three Degrees', the new Hot Pick in a Cool World? Give me Schubert anytime.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Opposition to the so-called 'climate-change consensus' is growing rapidly.....

Following the 61 scientists who signed an 'Open Letter' to the new Canadian Prime Minister, criticism of the so-called 'global warming consensus' is growing rapidly, from scientists to business leaders to journalists and commentators. Here are just three examples taken from the media during the last few days:

(a) 'Group rejects "unfounded" global warming claims' (New Zealand Herald, May 1):
"A group of leading climate scientists has announced the formation of the New Zealand Climate Science Coalition, aimed at refuting what it believes are unfounded claims about man-made global warming.

'We believe this is a significant development in opening up the debate about the real effects of climate change and the justification for the costs and other measures prescribed in the Kyoto protocols,' said the coalition's secretary, Terry Dunleavy.

He said members of the coalition had had enough of 'over-exaggerated' claims about the effects of man-made global warming and aimed to provide a balance to "what is being fed to the people of New Zealand....." (read on);

(b) 'The idea everyone agrees on climate change is a fallacy' (The Daily Telegraph, May 1):
"I am no climatologist but the alarmism of the scientific establishment, including the Government's chief scientific adviser Sir David King who is on record as saying the only habitable continent will be Antarctica by the end of the century if climate change is not controlled, does strike me as slightly excessive.

I am, however, a trained statistician. One of the first things I read about statistics was that it was about measurement and variability. People's height varies, the number of leaves on trees varies, and so does the global average temperature over time. Climate change, therefore, strikes me as quite unexceptional. Indeed I would be amazed if it did not exist, given that solar activity varies......" (read on); and,

(c) 'Let's put a freeze on global warming hype' (The Calgary Sun, April 27):
"Exactly 31 years ago tomorrow Newsweek carried a story that predicted a rapidly cooling world that would result in a 'drastic decline in food production -- with serious political implications for just about every nation on Earth.'

Hmmmm? It's the same doom and gloom scenario we hear today except turned on its ear - now, however, it's not about devastation caused by cooling but rather by global warming.

Confused? Well, you need not be much longer....." (read on)

There have been many other examples in a similar vein. The time may be coming to call the 'global warming' bluff. Moreover, the daft antics of leaders like David Cameron may well help to pave the way for a counter strike [I did enjoy this Letter to the Editor: 'Visiting glaciers' The Daily Telegraph, May 1)] . The more the sheer madness of the 'global warming' agenda, from carbon trading to carbon taxes, becomes apparent, the more sensible folk will begin to challenge the political myth.

And, gratuitously using the myth to gain votes from the Lib Dems is one thing; inflicting the myth on the rest of us is quite another.

Philip, time to crack open that nice Cru Bourgeoise Merlot. Plummy, yet bone dry, with a long tannic finish. Just like Stotty. Cheers.

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

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