Monday, May 29, 2006

The Good Earth

(BBC Online)
Recently there has been much in the news about climate change. This in itself is nothing new, I remember nearly twenty years ago the issue being of major discussion, with cars having catalytic convertors and the Greens doing very well in the local and European elections (even though in the latter, they didn't win a single seat). The Green Party even had some added respectability by having former BBC Sports Presenter, David Icke becoming a prominent member, until he went way off the radar and claimed to be the Son of God, waxed lyrical on the supposed spiritual properties of turqouise tracksuits, went into heavy new age stuff, and showed disturbing signs of anti-semitism! (For younger readers, think of that happening to Gary Lineker and you will see how Icke has fallen!)
Anyway, back to climate change. It has recently become a big issue again, with Sir David Attenborough voicing his concerns, and with the European Commission launching a campaign to convince Europeans that they can help stop the emissions of greenhouse gasses in their everyday lives. This can be as simple as making sure lights and other electrical appliances are not left switched on when they are used.
It is an issue that undoubtedly concerns us all, with the disturbing increase in the Arctic Ice Cap melting and the sense that we may well soon be reaching the point of no return. And these are people who I am more liable to listen to on these issues than, say, Jeremy Clarkson.
And throughout it all, and I am sure many of you feel the same, I feel somewhat impotent about the whole thing! "What can I do!", but I am told that by doing the little things, like not wasting electricity and being aware of the waste of energy and fuel that we use we can do much!
I still wonder if it's morally okay for me to go on a plane though, considering the amount of fuel they use! If I ever get to visit the US I am not sure I can afford to use a cruise liner!

16 comments:

Shaun (ed.) said...

Paul: "What can I do!"

Do nothing and live life to your fullest. Climate change is happening. So what I say. Climate change has always been happening and global warming stages is what has transformed the earth out of its various Ice Ages. I just love it how so many gullible people has swallowed the eco-fanatics and doom-sayers' line that climate change is man made and that we can actually do something about it.

Now this is a bloke I agree with: The orthodox view is, however, coming under increasing challenge. A substantial and growing number of reputable climatologists argue climate change is a natural process which involves more than greenhouse gases, and they question whether human activity has much effect. They point out temperatures have actually fallen slightly in recent years despite unprecedented levels of economic activity and rates of greenhouse gas emissions. They note, too, that temperatures rose in the twenty years to 1940, when industrial activity was well below present levels, and fell during the following twenty years when activity and emissions increased.

It is a matter of geological record that high temperatures occurred in previous eras before there was any industrial - or human - activity at all. More recently, temperatures were high around the 8th century and fell during the 16th century Little Ice Age, without help from industry. The arguments swing back and forth. Claims that glaciers are shrinking are countered by evidence others are growing - but then it is asserted they are growing because global warming has led to increased snowfalls!
In all the uncertainty one would have hoped British politicians might have followed the lead of other countries in encouraging the use of fuels which did not affect greenhouse gas levels and would benefit the economy: Biofuels for transport and heating; biomass for power generation. But no, they seem to have concluded only that climate change offers opportunities to raise taxes. The economic damage of their short-sightedness will catch up with us one day.
link:http://icwales.icnetwork.co.uk/farming/columnists/tm_objectid=17084608%26method=full%26siteid=50082%26headline=climate%2dchange%2dmight%2dhave%2dlittle%2dto%2ddo%2dwith%2danything%2dhumans%2dhave%2ddone-name_page.html

Shaun (ed.) said...

Oops...published before I finished. Climate change is exactly that - the changing of the climate. Even if the dubious claims that global warming is caused by mankind is true, so what? The state shouldn't preach to us what to do, because like Jeremy Clarkson says: "Environmentalism has given the world nothing" and what we do won't make a tiny bit of difference. People the third world are worried about mere survival and making ends meet. Why should they worry about petty greenery of some chattering classes in the West.

I find sir Ming's sacrificial tokenism in giving up his Jag for the sake of green credentials hilarious, but Cameron's dabbling with greenery is worrying me, because the Tories are supposed to be the last defenders against state interference.

Paul Burgin said...

Well climate change seems to have acclerated in the past 100 years and, to be fair, I would rather take Sir David Attenborugh's word for it than yours.
As for the quote you made, the nub about taxes is at the end. Which is a more comfortable way of thinking, to realise that we are in danger and that we have to have a radical overhall of our resources and lifestyle, or to believe that it is all a mistake and not do a thing to make a difference!

Paul Burgin said...

"Even if the dubious claims that global warming is caused by mankind is true, so what? The state shouldn't preach to us what to do"
------------
Thankyou, you have just reminded me why I have such a low view of the Conservative Party, ethics and morals being seen as secondary to the "freedom of the individual". That almost sounds to me like "So what if someone drinks and drives, and smashes into another car and kills two passengers, one being a small child! The state shouldn't preach on how much alcohol people should have!" To me it is not a question of state intervention, it is a question of ethics and responsibility for one's actions!

Shaun (ed.) said...

I would rather take Sir David Attenborugh's word for it than yours

Of course, sir David Attenborugh is part of that great leftist bastion, the BBC, that swallows the liberal elite's way of thinking and then distribute it to every television and radio set as fact.

Thankyou, you have just reminded me why I have such a low view of the Conservative Party, ethics and morals being seen as secondary to the "freedom of the individual".

No, there you miss the point - the cultivation of personal responsbility that comes from freedom is what should promote an ethical and moral way of life. Not the nannystate that believes it is the final arbitrator of what is ethical and moral. People do stupid and wrong things even when they know that such things are illegal, because they lack morals and because they can get away with it.
Only the cultivation of personal responsibility and self-discipline can solve society's ills. As you can see, the nannystate is clearly failing. It was Plato who said: "Good people do not need laws to tell them to act responsibly, while bad people will find a way around the laws"

Paul Burgin said...

Thats a very sweeping view of the BBC, esp when you consider that several of it's staff and journalistic team are/have been,Conservative Party members and some of those have stood for Parliament, and in one or two of those cases, became MP's.

"No, there you miss the point - the cultivation of personal responsbility that comes from freedom is what should promote an ethical and moral way of life. Not the nannystate that believes it is the final arbitrator of what is ethical and moral. People do stupid and wrong things even when they know that such things are illegal, because they lack morals and because they can get away with it."

I think you and I are probably looking at different ends of the telescope here. I have a cynical view of human nature and I don't believe that when you make sure there is no state intervention whatsoever, people will change and a Utopian society will emerge! Equally I think full state intervention, e.g. communism, is corrosive. My philosophy is centreism, where there is a mixture of both and both work as checks and balances. If you let people have the oppurtunity to commit various disreputatble acts, then people will do it because they know they can! It's like society at the moment, when you arrest a criminal and they "Know their rights!" Such problems that have lasted decades and will take a long time to remove.
I agree that government should not run every part of people's lives, but I equally don't want to see what is tantamount to a lawless society

Shaun (ed.) said...

Thats a very sweeping view of the BBC, esp when you consider that several of it's staff and journalistic team are/have been,Conservative Party members and some of those have stood for Parliament, and in one or two of those cases, became MP's

Undoubtedly there are some conservatives in the BBC's ranks, but they must be very rare species. The BBC's news and current affairs output generally reflects a leftist-liberal worldview, which they try to sell as moderate and impartial (unsuprising really, when one sees that most of its personell comes from the metropolitan and liberal elite).

Charles Moore puts it best: "The BBC's mental assumptions are those of the fairly soft Left. They are that American power is a bad thing, whereas the UN is good, that the Palestinians are in the right and Israel isn't, that the war in Iraq was wrong, that the European Union is a good thing and that people who criticise it are "xenophobic", that racism is the worst of all sins, that abortion is good and capital punishment is bad, that too many people are in prison, that a preference for heterosexual marriage over other arrangements is "judgmental", that environmentalists are public-spirited and "big business" is not, that Gerry Adams is better than Ian Paisley, that government should spend more on social programmes, that the Pope is out of touch except when he criticises the West, that gun control is the answer to gun crime, that... well, you can add hundreds more articles to the creed without my help. Now, none of the above beliefs is indefensible. The problem is that all of them are open to challenge and that that challenge never comes from the BBC. Fine, for example, to make a documentary about the sufferings of people on death row in the United States, but why is there never a documentary made by someone who believes that the death penalty cuts crime?

If the BBC puts on a play about GM foods, you just know that it will be against them (the recent offering in question was by Ronan Bennett, a supporter of Sinn Fein/IRA, and Alan Rusbridger, the editor of the Guardian).

During the first Countryside March, the Archers managed not to mention it at all, but mentioned the Gay Pride March instead. It is a question of who is being put on the spot, of where the BBC stands in relation to its chosen subject.

Turn on at any time and you'll see what I mean, particularly where foreign affairs are concerned. Yesterday, just after Yasser Arafat had torn up the road map by ousting his prime minister, I heard James Naughtie asking an Israeli spokesman why his country wouldn't give the Palestinians more concessions.

On the same programme (the famed Today), I heard an interviewer asking an Islamist, virtually unchallenged, to expound his belief that the men who killed thousands in the World Trade Centre were doing the will of Allah. Imagine such respectful treatment for some white fascist who thinks God wants black people dead.

A few days earlier, I heard a strange Radio 3 drama in which a crazed huntsman tried to have his "dogs" (the author meant hounds) tear the hero apart because he was urban and opposed to foxhunting. I heard a trailer for a programme about how the Attlee government built the New Jerusalem.

I listened to an item on Today where a businessman from the North was castigated by a Green because he had agreed to take from America some old ships that needed breaking up: no one challenged the Green's facts, or whether she might not be damaging British jobs.

When I took part in Any Questions on the first day of the war with Iraq, more than 60 per cent of the studio audience opposed the war (the opposite of the proportion in the opinion polls), and all the questioners who were called opposed it. The jury, or rather, Lord Hutton, is still out on precisely what Andrew Gilligan did with the words of Dr Kelly, but there is no doubt of Gilligan's view of the attack on Iraq. He said that now Baghdad "is more deadly than under Saddam".

And here is the much-respected BBC world affairs editor, John Simpson, analysing American policy towards Libya last week as moves to end sanctions approached culmination:

John Humphrys: "Has there been a real fear in Libya that the Americans would attack them?"

John Simpson: "Very strong indeed. You see, they really suit the pattern that George W Bush has established - it's a weak country with a bad reputation. Now, most people don't realise it's weak; it's a bit like Iraq in that sense, [an] easy target to hit if you know what's really going on, but it looks big if you just watch the morning television programmes in the United States: built up as something terrible, whereas in fact it's small, weak, and it can't do anything very much to defend itself. That's why President Reagan hit it so hard in 1986, because he knew he could get away with it, and I don't believe that even the Americans thought that it was a major sponsor of state terrorism..."

Note a) the assumption of the stupidity of the American public; b) the assumption of the dishonesty of US Republican administrations; c) the instrusion of an extraneous point about Iraq; d) the condescension of the phrase "even the Americans"; e) the failure to spend time on the behaviour of Libya itself, the country responsible for the Lockerbie bombing. In short, a locus classicus of BBC bias. You can find one virtually every day."


The BBC is exceptionally one-sided in what its employees believe to be a moderate/centristic view, instead of providing us with both sides of every argument as it should. The only time an alternative view is heard on the BBC is when very few conservatives are being interviewed or participating on panel shows, but even then one can sense the BBC people's subtle hostility or mockery toward them. The Today programme is the most crude example of this. The sycophantism toward Brownites and other leftists are amazing in comparison to the open hostility they show towards anyone having a pro-US, anti-EU, pro-religious, pro-Isreali worldview.

On panel shows, participants from the right are always in the minority and the host will always go out of his way to introduce them as a 'right-wing' commentator, while not doing the same for those from the left, as if they are moderate or centrist which they are not.

Some people claimed that the BBC showed its non-partisan credentials when they were clearly anti-war and attacking the Blair government for the Iraq mess. But the BBC was attacking the Blair government (which was not consistent with their duty to be neutral) from a leftist perspective and they were always giving a platform to xenophobic anti-American loonies like Galloway and his likes.

I could go on and on, but the BBC's bias is well documented by many sources among the internet, media and published books. The point is that if we are all forced to pay for the BBC, they has a duty to be impartial, fair and unbiased.

Paul Burgin said...

Tory you have produced something of a rant, so I will try to get to the nub of the point.
The BBC is a state-run industry, so No 1, that is going to cause a lot of prejudice from a lot of right-wing people who will have taken a hostile view towards the BBC from the word go. In some cases, some within the corporation are probably being defensive.

No 2. The BBC, as defined in it's charter, has to be impartial. They are acutely aware that many watch them like hawks, delighting in the possibility they might break that, so they try and act sensibly and carefully and moderatley. Being human they don't always succeed, but they do try!

No 3. The BBC in being neutral, will inveitably end up holding what could be percived to be a centreist position, taking both sides of the argument. It is interesting that the BBC's two biggest ideological baiters are the those on the left of the Labour Party and those on the right of the Conservative Party.

I also recommend you read a blog entry I made on the BBC some months ago

http://paulburgin.blogspot.com/2005/09/bbc.html

As we are going somewhat off-topic I suggest we discuss this some other time!

Andrew said...

Hate to stick my nose in here, but I can't let m&m get away with:

"People the third world are worried about mere survival and making ends meet. Why should they worry about petty greenery of some chattering classes in the West."

This statement invalidates the rest of your argument, I'm afraid. Global warming will cause the very places in which people are starving to become even less hospitable. It may displace half a billion people in the next century. Pretty greenery of the West? Get real.

Incidentally, the last three years have brought vast amounts of evidence directly linking global warming to humanity. Read around New Scientist's dedicated pages for more info on this.

I appreciate it may be nice to say 'it's not our fault and there's nothing that can be done', but it is and there's damage limitation and contingency. I'd consider this a moral imperative irrespective of whether it's the state or the individual making the decisions.

Paul Burgin said...

Thanks Andrew, much appreciated!

Shaun (ed.) said...

As we are going somewhat off-topic I suggest we discuss this some other time!

Ok, Paul, I'll respond to your notion that my genuine concern about the BBC not fulfilling its charter contract in being balanced, fair and impartial is just another one of those 'Tory reactionaries can't get what they want - so they rant' by commenting on the http://paulburgin.blogspot.com/2005/09/bbc.html thread later on.

Ok, back to the topic of global warming alarmism.
Andrew states that it "may be nice to say 'it's not our fault and there's nothing that can be done', but it is and there's damage limitation and contingency. I'd consider this a moral imperative irrespective of whether it's the state or the individual making the decisions".

It is rather unfortunate that the 'global warming is caused by humanity' line is so widely accepted in the British commentariat without any skepticism. You see in this country of ours, anyone who does not hold the 'politically correct' views and dissent against views that seems to have such good intentions are vilified and painted as 'reactionaries of the worst kind'.
It is rather indicative of the fact that our universities are indocrinated by the liberal-left and that the BBC has been very successful in its one-sided and unchallenging efforts to make everyone swallow the enviro-alarmists's line.
Why do I say this? Because everyone seems to think that are very few, if any, scientists out there who disgree with the view that global warming is caused by humanity and that it does not just form part of a natural climatical cycle.

Well, here's some news to you: More than 19 000 Scientists have signed the Oregon Global Warming Petition stating that "is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gasses is causing or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth's atmosphere and disruption of the Earth's climate. Moreover, there is substantial scientific evidence that increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide produce many beneficial effects upon the natural plant and animal environments of the Earth"
"17100 of these scientist signers have have technical training suitable for the evaluation of the relevant research data, and many are trained in related fields
2,660 signers are physicists, geophysicists, climatologists, meteorologists, oceanographers, and environmental scientists who are especially well qualified to evaluate the effects of carbon dioxide on the Earth's atmosphere and climate.
5,017 scientist signers whose fields of specialization in chemistry, biochemistry, biology, and other life sciences make them especially well qualified to evaluate the effects of carbon dioxide upon the Earth's plant and animal life". More here at: http://www.oism.org/pproject/

Further more, 4,000 scientists (106 countries including 72 Nobel prize winners) signed the Heidelberg Appeal calling for a rational scientific approach to environmental problems.
Many senior scientists have also supported 'The Statement by Atmospheric Scientists on Greenhouse Warming' (1992) and 'The Leipzig Declaration' (1997
Here is a link to the Heidelberg Appeal at http://www.sepp.org//heidelberg_appeal.html.
Read the 'Leipzig Declaration' here at http://www.sepp.org//leipzig.html
Here is a short extract:"we cannot subscribe to the politically inspired world view that envisages climate catastrophes and calls for hasty actions. For this reason, we consider the drastic emission control policies deriving from the Kyoto conference -- lacking credible support from the underlying science -- to be ill-advised and premature"

Read the 'The Statement by Atmospheric Scientists on Greenhouse Warming' at http://www.sepp.org//statment.html
Here is a short extract: We are disturbed that activists, anxious to stop energy and economic growth, are pushing ahead with drastic policies without taking notice of recent changes in the underlying science. We fear that the rush to impose global regulations will have catastrophic impacts on the world economy, on jobs, standards of living, and health care, with the most severe consequences falling upon developing countries and the poor.
This is very interesting, because Andrew claims that my skeptical attitude toward global warming alarmism is going to hurt the poor in the third world.

All these is despite the fact that many such dissenting scientists are continually intimidated by the global warming alarmist lobby, according to Richard Lindzen, Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Atmospheric Science at MIT (http://www.opinionjournal.com/extra/?id=110008220).

Right, now we have dealt with the fact that there is no universal consensus that global warming is caused by humanity.

Personally, I subscribe to the commonsensical view that the earth experiences warming-cooling climate cycles and that the moderate changes in average temperature are natural and in accordance to the earth’s natural periodic history . Read an analysis I agree with here: http://www.ncpa.org/pub/st/st279/st279.pdf

Environmental alarmism is so typical of today’s nannystatism where single issue fanatics amongst the chattering classes create a feeding frenzy in the media and any challenging viewpoints are ignored or distorted.

Andrew said...

1. The Oregon Global Warming Petition has been roundly debunked. The original petition was phrased differenly from the report put out on the website. Very few details of supposed signatories are available, although it is known that they include Geri Halliwell. See here for an excellent analysis of both the petition and the people behind it. The National Academy of Sciences have rejected it. Scientific American said:

[We] took a random sample of 30 of the 1,400 signatories claiming to hold a Ph.D. in a climate-related science. Of the 26 we were able to identify in various databases, 11 said they still agreed with the petition—one was an active climate researcher, two others had relevant expertise, and eight signed based on an informal evaluation. Six said they would not sign the petition today, three did not remember any such petition, one had died, and five did not answer repeated messages. Crudely extrapolating, the petition supporters include a core of about 200 climate researchers – a respectable number, though rather a small fraction of the climatological community.

2. "The Statement by Atmospheric Scientists on Greenhouse Warming" and "The Leipzig Declaration" are from 1992 and 1997, respectively. They are, simply, out of date. The evidence that has arisen since has convinced the vast majority of scientists investigating the issue.

There is extremely strong evidence that humanity has contributed significantly to the rise on CO2 levels. The comprehensive 2001 report from the IPCC concluded that it was extremely likely that humanity has worsened the effects of global warming, and it cannot be idly dismissed. Contrary to conspiracy theories, the entire scientific community is not in anybody's pocket. Of course everybody would like the whole thing to be a non-issue. But it's just not the case. This is a non-partisan issue and really is too important to let political bias cloud your judgement.

I used to be just as skeptical as you - for a while, in the early 90s, it seemed like the whole thing was overhyped - but my mind was changed when I actually started looking at the evidence, which there's no arguing with. Competing theories may seem commonsensical (although I'd suggest there's a fair chunk of wishful thinking in there), but they have to explain the large volumes of evidence in favour of link between humanity and global warming. They don't. Please look again.

Shaun (ed.) said...

I used to be just as skeptical as you - for a while, in the early 90s

The reverse is true of me. I used to accept it as a given that mankind was causing global warming, but I was rather naïve about a lot of things.
The fact is that unlike many other scientific theories that are universally accepted, the 'global warming is largely caused by mankind' theory has a long way to go before it can really be found convincing.
There has no doubt been an increase in carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, but (1) is this increase largely man made and (2) is it the major cause for global warming? Those who answer in the affirmative to both questions, base this on mainly correlatory relationships, but this does not prove causality and without accurate historical evidence does not explain global warming and cooling changes throughout the earth’s natural history. The world was experiencing a global cooling period from the 1940s to the 1970s and yet this period saw a rapid increase in industrialization since the end of the Second World War. Similar alarmism as to what we see now was prevalent among the chattering classes then.
‘Global warming is man-made’ proponents point out that the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Report pointed to a scientific consensus, but many scientists were criticised the report for stating its claims in rather definitive authoritative terms on wishy-washy evidence. The IPCC stated that current average temperatures are the most abnormal/unusual for the last thousand years, but this was largely based on Mann and others’ temperature ‘proxy’ reconstructions which are not highly unreliable. And why use the term abnormal even if average high temperatures are exceptionally high, for it’s not really unnatural. Through historical and archeological studies of the agriculture of pre-1000 AD, Britain was generally a lot warmer than it is now.

Andrew said...

I think we'll have to agree to disagree on this. Some have indeed criticised the IPCC report, but far from the majority. The current conclusion by most researchers is that the link between climate change and humanity is likely, but, as you say, not definitive. The IPCC's fourth assessment report is due out in February 2007, so it'll be interesting to see what that says.

I made a slight error in linking causation with moral imperative. It doesn't matter what the cause is, what's important is that it's happening. We're agreed that it really exists, right? You really think we should 'do nothing'? How is that morally justifiable?

Shaun (ed.) said...

I made a slight error in linking causation with moral imperative. It doesn't matter what the cause is, what's important is that it's happening. We're agreed that it really exists, right?

Yes, global warming is definitely happening and it will have an adverse effect on mankind. I've never really contested those facts. But what I am saying (and I'm saying this as a layman without scientific expertise) is that I am not yet convinced that global warming can be largely attributed to mankind.

But, I would be against the Kyoto Protocol and heavy environmental regulation even if it was proven to be the case that global warming is caused by mankind (Let me make a hypothetical assumption that it is the case. Why? Because long term free market solutions would be less disadvantageous and detrimental to economic growth than state interventionism, such environmental taxation and regulation. It is market forces that will pressurise businesses to become energy efficient, make technological advances that reduce energy consumption and reduce pollution without risking dramatic reductions in business growth and employment levels. The same approach should be taken to promote personal responsibility in reducing motor pollution and being energy efficient. As a libertarian, it’s obvious that I oppose state interests on the grounds that government force is economically inefficient and violates individual freedom, but also the fact that most governments will use such eco-interventionism to favour vested interests. It is not taxation and regulation that will encourage personal awareness and responsibility.

Paul Burgin said...

That of course would be the case, if it wasn't for the fact that many individuals and businesses tend to have a short term mentality on such issues!