Sunday, March 04, 2007


It won't have made up for seeing the Presidency of the United States snatched away in a late flurry of Floridian hanging chads, but at least Al Gore now has the satisfaction of seeing his climate change manifesto An Inconvenient Truth elected best documentary film by the American Academy of Motion Pictures in that peculiarly self-regarding ballot known as "the Oscars".

As Gore beatifically absorbed the standing ovation from all those who had cruised via private jet and stretch-limo to the ceremony in Los Angeles, he could also smile in the knowledge of another piece of good news: the British Government had agreed to send An Inconvenient Truth to every secondary school in the country. Announcing this unexpected bit of promotion, the Environment Secretary, David Miliband, declared: "I was struck by the visual evidence the film provides, making it clear that the changing climate is already having an impact on our world today, from Mt Kilimanjaro to the Himalayan mountains."

I shall be fascinated to learn what accolades Mr Miliband will bestow on another film about climate change, which is to be shown on Channel 4 next Thursday. This one is different, very different. The Great Global Warming Swindle claims to be nothing less than: "The morality tale of the decade." The film's director is Martin Durkin. That name might mean nothing to you, but among many British environmentalists it is more hated than that of any multinational oil company chairman.

In 1997, Channel 4 broadcast an earlier film of Durkin's - Against Nature. This was a three-hour long polemic which tore into organisations such as Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth for the way in which they sought to deny the Third World the benefits of industrialisation which have given us lives of hygiene and plenty. Durkin examined the Green campaigns against hydroelectric dams which would have brought clean water to parts of the subcontinent ravaged by water-borne disease, but which were opposed as "damaging to local biodiversity" - the same sort of argument, in fact, which caused countless millions of African children to die of malaria unnecessarily because the Green lobby successfully blocked the use of DDT.

Immediately after it was broadcast there was a concerted howl of rage from the eco-warriors interviewed by Durkin. Channel 4 felt obliged to broadcast an apology, confessing that some interviewees had been misled as to the ultimate content of the programme. Still, as Simon Hoggart wrote at the time: "The Greens have pulled the same dishonest stunts many, many times. It will do them tremendous good to get a taste of their own medicine." The then environment editor of the Guardian immediately accused the programme makers of being in league with the far right, describing them, bafflingly, as "overtly racist".

If there had been any extreme political input, it was from quite another direction. Durkin and a number of others involved in the film had in fact been closely connected to the Revolutionary Communist Party. They felt passionately that the Green Movement was a deeply reactionary form of Western imperialism, which put improvement through science and industry of the welfare of people in Africa and the Asian subcontinent below its own decadent obsessions with biodiversity and so-called "sustainable development".

A similar theme pervades The Great Global Warming Swindle. We are taken to those vast tracts of Africa where there is no electricity, and see families huddled round a fire in their mud hut. Then we are told that "five million children under five die every year as a result of respiratory diseases from indoor smoke". Remember that, the next time you read about the ecological purity of heating derived from "biomass".

Next we are taken to some godforsaken health centre in the Kenyan hinterland, struggling to get by with electricity from a dilapidated but undeniably politically correct solar panel. It just about manages to keep alive the fridge with the medicine inside. Despite such scenes, Durkin's latest effort is not a manipulative tear-jerker - there's none of Gore's politically practised treaclyness ("Our children will say: what were our parents thinkin' about?"). Most of the advocacy is handed across to a series of eminent scientists, a number of whom have been involved in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). They all believe that man's responsibility for the slight warming (of 0.6C) over the past century is much less than the "consensus" view - and ridicule the more alarmist predictions of future "man-made" climate change.

One, Professor Paul Reiter of the Pasteur Institute in Paris, fulminates that "consensus is the stuff of politics, not of science" and says that it wasn't until he threatened legal action that the IPCC reluctantly removed his name from an assessment with which he profoundly disagreed: "That's how they make it seem that all the top scientists are agreed. It's not true."

At this point you will probably want to know: if these people claim that man isn't responsible for such global warming as has undoubtedly occurred in the past 30 years, then who or what is? The brief answer is: the Sun. Durkin gives most airtime to the theory recently advanced by Doctors Friis-Christensen and Svensmark of the Danish Meteorological Institute. It goes (I think) like this: C02 is a very small element among greenhouse gases; far and away the most significant element is water vapour - which forms clouds. When the sun is very active it emits more intense bursts of cosmic rays which, inter alia, have the effect of dissipating clouds on Earth, and therefore increasing temperatures.

On its own, this is just a theory - and not an entirely new one, but Friis-Christensen and Svensmark have accompanied it with a very detailed multi-era superimposition of global temperatures against solar activity (measured by sunspots). The correlation turns out to be striking, to put it mildly. As I said, the idea itself is not breathtakingly new: a long-dead British astronomer, E W Maunder, noted that the coldest part of the "Little Ice Age" (1645 to 1715) coincided with a period of very few detectable solar eruptions - now gratifyingly referred to in the textbooks as "the Maunder Minimum".

Even if you don't buy that, you should definitely watch the programme, if only to see the head of the International Arctic Research Centre, Syun-Ichi Akasofu, describe how "the Arctic has always been expanding and contracting ... the press come here all the time and ask us: will you say something about the Greenhouse disaster? And I say: there is none." Then Dr Akasofu emits a tiny laugh - the laugh of a true scientist at the idiocy and hysteria of the world's media and politicians



Nowadays, shopping ethically is such a mindf*ck. Once upon a time, you knew to plump for the backstreet shop that stank of hemp and was stocked with African sackcloth, but now every boutique on the high street promises to sell you something that's super-moral for the new, ethical you. It's not a question of what's hot this season; it's a case of what's right this season.

On London's Brick Lane, French boutique, Miame, sells belts made out of old bicycle tyres, instantly branding your hips with proof of your commitment to the green routine of `reduce, reuse, recycle'. If you happen to have a toddler available you can mark out its green credentials with outfits made out of discarded cord and worn-out workshirts from (a snip at just 32.99 plus postage and packaging).

Oasis and Topshop are at the vanguard of the high street green crusaders. Topshop has teamed up with People Tree to produce a range of nine fair trade tops just in time for Fairtrade Fortnight. Marks and Spencer, meanwhile, is proud of the fact that it is `the first major high street retailer' to support fair trade clothing, and it also enacts a double whammy on your conscience by promising organic fair trade cotton, using adverts to promote the range in-house, like `Bless our organic cotton socks'. It's a great way to make things difficult for Marks and Spencer's `thousands of fair trade farmers in India and West Africa': cotton is the world's most sprayed crop, using a quarter of the world's insecticides each year - for a reason.

But then there are the air miles, that indelible carbon footprint. Restitch, the small, ethical company for toddlers, has got this covered. Justin Freeman, a spokesperson for the brand, highlights that their material is all `sourced in the UK and handmade by locally based seamstresses. Moving along the line of production from raw material to shop window involves each item travelling on average less than nine miles.'

He poured scorn on other companies who make ethical clothing abroad and ship it to the UK. The concept of a product being `carbon neutral', he argued, is not one that `has been properly worked out', and lack of debate on what can be done to cancel out a garment's carbon footprint might leave `the average punter disillusioned, despondent and resigned to the status quo - still buying [children's clothes] from a supermarket for an unbelievably low price.... Someone somewhere is paying for the fact that a school uniform can be bought for œ20. You're very unlikely to meet them and planting a tree in Ross-on-Wye isn't going to effectively compensate them.'

So when you're in the city centre this Saturday, jostled by bargain hunters, red-faced and huffing in the changing rooms or queuing at the slowest till, the message is to look down at your assorted purchases and think, is it fair trade, is it organic, is it reused, is it recycled, is it sourced from the UK or shipped from abroad, how many trees have been planted for it, was it made in an ethical workplace, what are its `toxins' and what, ultimately, will its impact be on the planet? Am I purchasing a handbag or pushing the climate into apocalypse?

The irony of ethical fashion is that it demonstrates not that fashion can become ethical, but that `being ethical' is a fashion statement. Being `seen to be green' - whether it's with your hybrid car, your roof turbine or your fair trade threads - is all the rage. And if buying a recycled workshirt does, in reality, bugger all for the planet, it certainly does wonders for the mental well-being of `me, me, me'.



'Enviro-crimes' such as fly tipping, letting your dog foul the footpath and dropping litter are being dealt with in new and quite authoritarian ways. For instance, council street wardens in Gloucester, England, have taken to walking around with video cameras strapped to their heads. Anyone caught dropping litter can be videoed and a still image put on the council's website, which looks like a poor man's version of the FBI's Most Wanted List

The photo accompanying this article shows Gloucester council's latest alleged offender. (spiked has blacked out the woman's identity, on the basis that we're not really interested in doing Gloucester council's dirty work for it.) This young woman was filmed on Valentine's Day, by street wardens who were clearly not interested in spreading love. She is `suspected' of `littering offences in the city'.

Now you may not like litterbugs. However, in this woman's defence, she has not even been proven guilty of littering offences. The council wardens taking photos of those they observe dropping litter - and thus whom they suspect of committing littering offences - are overturning a fundamental principle of justice: that individuals are innocent until proven guilty. It is unclear from the council website exactly what the woman is supposed to have done, and what evidence there is to prove that she did it. Besides, why should a case of littering give the council the right to display an individual's image, as if she's a known murderer or in some other way a danger to society?

The social repercussions of naming and shaming people who litter go way beyond a potential fine of 75 pounds. Publishing these sorts of images might lead to the individual under suspicion being ridiculed, by workmates, perhaps, or strangers in the street. It could even cause them to lose their job, if their boss decides that they are a liability, someone held up publicly as being irresponsible and uncaring. This is precisely the kind of negative publicity that companies are keen to avoid, especially today, when all companies are supposed to be super green and environmentally aware.

Anyone reading the Gloucester council website - and you are forced to wonder what kind of sad individual scrolls through a council site on the lookout for misbehaving citizens he or she might recognise - is invited to provide the authorities with the alleged offender's name and address. That is, to grass people up. You can do it by email or by phone. Encouraging people to dob others in is bad enough. Encouraging them to dob others in over something as trivial as, say, a discarded Wrigley's chewing gum wrapper is bizarre.

Surely it would make more sense for council workers to walk the streets with cleaning equipment rather than helmet-video-cameras, so that they can clear up the litter rather than film people allegedly dropping it. The council puts forward a financial argument for its actions, claiming that it costs the council œ1million a year to clean the streets. Yet raising 75 pounds in fine money every time someone is spotted and convicted of littering is not going to make up such a sum of money. Rather, targeting people through the filming, naming and shaming method is about more than raising money and keeping the streets clean - it shows the extent to which environmentalism is becoming a moral crusade aimed at correcting our individual behaviour. So instead of Gloucester council collectively resolving to keep the streets spotless, it actively goes looking for `enviro-criminals' whom it can make an example of. What next? Will they bring back the stocks and encourage residents to throw gone-off vegetables (recyclable, of course) at those who have sinned against the green ethos?

This petty approach to environmental issues is not confined to littering. I spoke to an environmental health worker last week who joked that, such is her power and authority over local bin use, she is known as `Dusty Bin.' Under the 2005 Clean Neighbourhoods and Environmental Act, councils have to fulfill targets on cleaning up the environment. This means their dustbin men can now look through your recycling bin. And if you've `contaminated' it with the wrong kind of rubbish, you could be fined up to 100 pounds - never mind the privacy implications of local authorities knowing your consumption habits. There are signs of a growing opposition to this bin snooping. Someone has launched an e-petition on the British government's No.10 website to oppose `smart bins', which record what kind of rubbish is being deposited in the bin and can identify which house the said bin belongs to.

Councils should stop their fanciful hunting of `enviro criminals', and provide us instead with more bins and street cleaners.



Comment from Britain

The BBC thinks climate change is the biggest threat to mankind. Not a week passes without scary new 'revelations' about the harm being done by carbon emissions, and the inevitable admonitions that we should turn off our lights, not leave our televisions on 'stand-by' and limit our use of cars and aeroplanes. Four weeks ago, the publication of a new report by the International Panel on Climate Change was greeted by the BBC with even more hysteria than usual. The report's terrifying warnings of the effects of global warming were accorded the status of holy writ. Unless mankind quickly changes its ways, we were informed, we are many of us doomed.

Alas, the BBC evinces very few signs of reforming itself. New figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show that the Corporation spent a stupendous amount on air travel in the year to April 1, 2006. There were 41,355 journeys by air (equating to almost two flights per employee), collectively notching up 125 million miles, giving an average of 3,000 miles per journey.

Anyone who knows the ways of the BBC will hardly be surprised. The Corporation is in the habit of sending dozens of employees to cover international events while other media organisations make do with much smaller numbers. Despite its finger-wagging, the BBC is prodigal when it comes to dispatching its employees around the globe. Its own Jeremy Paxman has recently rightly taken a swipe at the BBC for adopting 'a high moral tone' over climate change while doing little to clean up its own act. In short, it is guilty of hypocrisy. Unfortunately, Paxo was recently spotted driving around London in a four-wheel drive 'all road' vehicle that belches humongous amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

He would appear to be guilty of the very charge he levels at the BBC. It is an extraordinary fact that those who moan loudest about global warming, and enjoin us to alter our lifestyles so as to minimise emissions, are very often themselves prodigious producers of carbon dioxide. This is not a case of sinners who have repented urging us in the ways of righteousness. These people are asking us to do what they refuse to do themselves.

Earlier this week, we learnt that in the past 12 months the use of cars by government ministers climbed by 20 per cent over the previous year. They bang on about global warming and threaten us with new green taxes while actually increasing their own carbon emissions.

Ken Livingstone, the Mayor of London, is another case in point. A couple of days ago, he unveiled a plan to make the capital the greenest city in the world. He wants swingeing new taxes for air travel. And yet this same Mr Livingstone and his deputy and staff have made 231 foreign trips since January 2005. The Mayor himself is a serial flyer, accounting for 15 official flights abroad during this period, few of which can have been absolutely necessary to the proper discharging of his duties.

Even the saintly American politician Al Gore, whose powerful film warned of the terrible dangers of global warming, stands accused of consuming more electricity in his magnificent 20-room Tennessee home in a single month than an average U.S. household uses in a whole year. Despite his belief that civilisation is threatened by man-made global warming, Mr Gore has been unable to summon up the will to move into more modest premises, or to live by candlelight in his existing mansion. And so it goes on. Show me a global warming zealot and I will very often show you a hypocrite.

Not long ago, the Environment Secretary David Miliband upbraided Prince Charles for flying to America to collect an award, saying 'a lot of business can be done by telephone and video link these days'. Perfectly true. Yet shortly afterwards, Mr Miliband cast aside his own video link and flew to India with a retinue of four to attend a conference on 'sustainable development and climate change'.

And, oh dear, Prince Charles himself, who has often inveighed against the dangers of global warming and made one or two minor well-publicised sacrifices, recently flew to the Gulf with an entourage of 20 in a 140-seat aircraft adapted to accommodate 29 people in some luxury. The accompanying media pack were told there was no room for them aboard the Airbus 319, and that they would have to make their own travel arrangements.

My list could go on, but the point is made. There are many powerful individuals and institutions exhorting us to change our lifestyles while doing absolutely nothing to alter their own. The rest of us - who probably account for the production of much less carbon than those who lecture us so overbearingly - are entitled to ask why we should change our ways when the global warming extremists are so often disinclined to change theirs.

What is the explanation for the startling contradiction between theory and practice on the part of these people? We could settle for the charge of hypocrisy I have already mentioned. The zealots reason with one part of their brains, and act with an another. They may think that they are so important that they should be exempt from the restrictions which they thrust at the rest of us.

There is a further possible explanation - that these zealots do not believe in global warming as unreservedly as they appear to. Even accepting the natural human tendency towards hypocrisy, it is hard to believe that so many true believers in global warming could act in total opposition to their most deeply held convictions.

Entertaining doubts about man-made global warming is hardly a crime. Though far from being a 'global warming denier', I am sceptical about the newfound absoluteness of the doom-mongers and dismayed that so many journalists, whose job it is to be questioning, should have uncritically jumped aboard the global warming bandwagon.

What is interesting, is if my analysis is right, is that some of the ayatollahs of man-made global warming should themselves harbour secret doubts which the rest of us may feel about the phenomenon. This suggests they have other motives for instructing us how to live our lives while ignoring their own exhortations. Global warming has supplied politicians and law-makers with a new lever to control and fashion our behaviour, while also offering a justification for extracting extra tax revenue.

Man-made global warming surely exists in some measure. My point is that the terror and fear which the zealots attempt to instil in us partly derive from a desire for control - and may also reflect a new puritanism. They want us to feel guilty and yet, rather amazingly, their inability to live by their proclaimed values does not induce any guilt in them.

If the zealots followed their own advice, if they showed us how it is possible to lead a full life while creating fewer carbon emissions, we would still not have the ultimate proof that global warning is man-made. But we would at least have an example to follow. No one is going to take seriously a politician who tells us to do one thing and then does another.



As Prime Minister Helen Clark was outlining the Government's goal for "carbon neutrality" at Parliament last month, her message was being drowned out by trees coming down in the central North Island and on the Canterbury plains. Increasing New Zealand's forestry plantation is one of the Government's key climate change levers. Carbon-absorbing forests are vital in offsetting pollution from agricultural, transport and industrial emissions. They also help reduce the bill, now estimated at $563 million, that the Government will have to pay for emissions during the first Kyoto protocol commitment period from 2008-12. But, ironically, large-scale conversions of forestry to farming are taking place in the central North Island and on the Canterbury plains. Smaller investors, spooked by the threat of Kyoto-related intervention in the sector, appear to be being put off forestry as an investment choice. For the first time in recent history, New Zealand cut down more trees last year than were planted.



Many people would like to be kind to others so Leftists exploit that with their nonsense about equality. Most people want a clean, green environment so Greenies exploit that by inventing all sorts of far-fetched threats to the environment. But for both, the real motive is generally to promote themselves as wiser and better than everyone else, truth regardless.

Global warming has taken the place of Communism as an absurdity that "liberals" will defend to the death regardless of the evidence showing its folly. Evidence never has mattered to real Leftists

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