Tuesday, October 16, 2007

A test for British schools

THE tormentors of Al Gore, who last week won a legal victory against his film, An Inconvenient Truth, are to step up their battle by sending British secondary schools a documentary attacking the science of global warming. Channel 4's The Great Global Warming Swindle has become one of the most notorious documentaries of the year, attracting complaints from dozens of scientists and viewers. This weekend, however, the campaigners behind the High Court case said they planned to send copies to 3,400 secondary schools "to counter Gore's flagrant propaganda". Gore is a joint winner of the Nobel peace prize for his efforts to educate the world about climate change. An Inconvenient Truth has also won two Oscars.

The distribution of The Great Global Warming Swindle is being funded by Viscount Monckton, who is part of a counter-campaign to undermine the scientific consensus on climate change. Monckton was one of the backers of Stewart Dimmock, the Kent lorry driver and school governor who took the government to court for sending copies of Gore's film to schools. The two are connected through the New party, a right-wing group whose manifesto was written by Monckton and of which Dimmock is a member.

Last week Mr Justice Burton ruled that, although it was broadly correct, An Inconvenient Truth contained at least nine scientific errors and said ministers must send new guidance to teachers before it was screened. The judge said, for example, that Gore was wrong to suggest polar bears were already drowning due to ice melting when this was just a prediction. "That ruling was a fantastic victory," said Monckton, a former Downing Street adviser to Baroness Thatcher. "What we want to do now is send schools material reflecting an alternative point of view so that pupils can make their own minds up."

Dimmock was awarded only two-thirds of his costs and is understood to have a bill of more than œ60,000. Monckton confirmed that he was among his "backers" but refused to confirm if he had financed the case. Monckton has obtained funding from a right-wing Washington think tank, the Science and Public Policy Institute (SPPI), to create a second film that will also be sent to schools. Entitled Apocalypse No, it parodies Gore, showing Monckton presenting a slide show in a vitriolic attack on climate change science.

Bob Ferguson, president of the SPPI, said: "We have filmed Christopher [Monckton] making a presentation to the Cambridge University Union . . . It could be sent out quite soon. We want to inform the public and policy makers that there are different views on climate change." Monckton has also won support from the maker of The Great Global Warming Swindle. Martin Durkin, managing director of WAG TV, said he would be delighted for his film to go to schools. "I have become a proselytiser against the so-called consensus on climate change . . . people can decide for themselves," he said.

Environmentalists say many questions remain about Durkin's film. Channel 4 said that two of the scientists who took part have complained that the editing gave a misleading impression of critical data and their own viewpoints. Ofcom, which regulates broadcast media, is examining other complaints from scientists.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which shared the Nobel prize with Gore, is preparing a Synthesis Report. Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the IPCC, said the report would show that the earth faced a catastrophic temperature rise within the next century.

George Monbiot, an environmentalist and critic of Monckton, said: "He is trying to take on the global scientific establishment on the strength of a classics degree from Cambridge."


A down to earth British naturalist

This sort of thing never used to happen on Gardeners' World. There was Alan Titchmarsh, strolling though the Shetland Islands while chatting to camera about the Arctic Skua, when whoosh - one of those very birds shot down out of the sky, smacked him across the top of the head then shot off again. Then another did it. And another. Titchmarsh was filming an episode of his new eight-part series for BBC1, The Nature of Britain - and it was turning out to be less cosy than that title suggests ....

One subject gets Titchmarsh more worked up than accusations of blandness, though. Perhaps, coming from a man who loves nature, it's a slightly surprising one: our obsession with global warming.

`I wish we could grow up about it,' he says. `I'm sure we are contributing to global warming, and we must do all we can to reduce that, but our climate has always changed. The Romans had vineyards in Yorkshire. We're all on this bandwagon of `Ban the 4x4 in Fulham'. Why didn't we have global warming during the Industrial Revolution? In those days you couldn't have seen across the street for all the carbon emissions and the crap coming out of the chimneys.' He pauses for breath, then smiles. `Sorry, bit of a tirade there.'

Surely he worries that global warming may threaten some of the species in his series. But this doesn't seem to bother him too much. `We'll lose some, we'll gain others,' he says. `Wildlife is remarkably tenacious. Nature always copes.'

He gives the example of otters, whose numbers in Britain are on the rise. `When I was a lad, you had to go to the Otter Trust in Suffolk to see them. For the series, I went to the river near where I grew up, where I used to fish for tiddlers. And on the banks were otter footprints. If I'd seen those when I was a lad, I'd have died and gone to heaven.'


Malaria Atonement and Forgiveness

Environmentalists and foundations that support them have much to atone for

During the Days of Repentance, Jews ponder their sins of the past year. Yom Kippur is their final opportunity to make amends and alter the judgment that God will enter in his books, as the sun sets. However, this Day of Atonement (observed September 22 this year) can assure forgiveness only for sins between people and God. To atone for sins against other persons, we must first seek reconciliation with those we have wronged, demonstrate repentance, and right the wrongs or make restitution.

In this politicized age, many people have their own lists of folks who "ought to be seeking forgiveness." I'm on several - including Greenpeace's roster of "climate criminals" (for not believing that people are causing a climate Armageddon).

At the top of my own list are the radical environmentalists - and foundations and others who give them the money and political clout to perpetrate mischief worldwide.

Back when I helped organize the very first Earth Day on my college campus, the nascent environmental movement offered hope for a cleaner, better future. Indeed, thanks to the awareness we helped generate, the river I grew up on was revitalized, air pollution was reduced, and our overall quality of life improved. But over the years, the movement became a huge, multi-national, multi-billion-dollar crisis creation and perpetuation industry. Using junk science, over-hyped fears and unrelenting campaigns against companies, technology and development, Greenpeace, Rainforest Action, Environmental Defense, Sierra Club, Natural Resource Defense Council and other groups thwart progress and help prolong poverty, misery and premature death.

Its leaders and government, corporate and foundation mother lodes have much to atone for, if they are to escape harsh judgment in the eyes of God and history. By opposing fossil-fuel, hydroelectric and nuclear power, radical greens help keep a third of the world reliant on wood and animal dung - or if they're lucky, little solar panels on their huts. Deprived of energy for lights, refrigeration, hospitals, schools, offices, factories and safe water, they remain impoverished, plagued by disease and despondent about their future.

Intense environmentalist opposition to biotechnology prevents Third World farmers from planting crops that resist disease and drought, require fewer pesticides, and yield bumper harvests that would reduce malnutrition and put cash in the pockets of destitute families.

The worst cabal of pressure groups remains virulently opposed to spraying tiny amounts of DDT on walls to keep mosquitoes out of houses, and using other insecticides to kill blood-sucking insects that carry malaria, dengue and yellow fever, and a host of other killer diseases.

A year ago, the World Health Organization, U.S. Agency for International Development, President's Malaria Initiative and other agencies again recognized the vital role of these chemicals - and reintroduced them in their comprehensive, integrated disease control programs. But Pesticide Action Network, Beyond Pesticides and Physicians for Social Responsibility demand that the agencies return to the disastrous policies of recent years, when disease and death rates were rising every year.

The activists and foundations had watched the tolls mount, but did nothing. They knew the approach they advocated didn't work, but did nothing. They could have supported research into alternatives to DDT, or even bought bednets to protect children, but didn't spend a dime on that. They spend millions to attack insecticides, and truly comprehensive solutions, but nothing to protect parents and children.

Pesticides, they shout, are "poisonous bandaids." Some researchers, they assert, have found "possible links" between high levels of DDT and low birth weights in babies, reduced breastmilk production in mothers, and slightly impaired mental abilities in children. One day, they insist, we will have a vaccine. It's all pure speculation, but they have the money and PR savvy to garner extensive press - hyping minor hypothetical risks of using pesticides, and ignoring the real, life-threatening dangers that those pesticides would prevent.

Meanwhile, an African child dies from malaria every 30 seconds - a million a year. Countless more perish from other insect-borne diseases. Two billion people are at risk, and 500 million get malaria every year, notes Fiona Kobusingye-Boynes, coordinator of Congress of Racial Equality Uganda.

Malaria victims are wracked by fevers, chills, convulsions and vomiting. They can't work, cultivate crops, or attend school. Families must stay home to care for the sick, and spend up to a fourth of their meager incomes on drugs and medical care. Many who don't die suffer severe brain damage.

Fiona knows this all too well. She has endured repeated bouts with malaria, lost many family members to the disease, and almost died again last month from malaria complicated by pneumonia and intestinal illness that are also prevalent across Africa.

Chloroquine and other treatments are potent drugs that have adverse side effects and don't always help. Bednets are themselves impregnated with insecticides, and are only a partial solution. (Rich countries fight cancer with chemotherapy drugs that have nasty, proven side effects. Should we ban them, too - along with the insecticides that keep mosquitoes and West Nile virus at bay?)

And yet, the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Foundation, Cedar Tree Foundation, California Endowment and other callous, shortsighted donors continue to lavish hundreds of thousands of dollars annually on these radical groups - enabling them to continue their lethal lies, tirades, pressure tactics and mayhem. Goldman is headed by a wealthy San Francisco insurance magnate. Cedar Tree was begun by a Boston pediatrician. The California Endowment is headed by an African-American physician. All support good causes. But the millions they have given Pesticide Action, Beyond Pesticides and Physicians for Social Responsibility have exacted an unconscionable toll across Sub-Saharan Africa.

Good deeds simply don't offset this carnage. And while for-profit corporations are prosecuted and penalized for every accident - these toxic groups and their bankrollers are not held liable or accountable even for this horrendous disease and death toll. Their actions violate basic medical, humanitarian and human rights principles. They violate the ethical and social responsibility standards that "progressive" activists say for-profit companies must follow. They ignore the Hippocratic Oath, and the need to help families insure their children against killer diseases, with comprehensive strategies that include DDT and other insecticides - and actually work.

Goldman, Cedar Tree, the California Endowment and their compatriots must atone for their sins. How? Stop funding these heartless pressure groups. Donate to organizations like CORE and Africa Fighting Malaria that are working with the WHO, USAID and PMI to end this needless slaughter, get electricity and other modern technologies to people in the Third World - and enable them to stay healthy, work more productively, and build strong family and national economies that can afford modern homes with window screens. Buy some bed nets, and help train Africans in how to use DDT and other insecticides safely, responsibly and with minimal environmental impact, to reduce disease and save lives - now! Then they can seek forgiveness from families who have lost loved ones - and atonement would be made.



During a recent seminar organised by the German Marshall Fund in Brussels, I heard EU commission expert for biofuels Paul Hodson express his growing frustration with all the negative news about the agro-fuels in the last twelve months. "Once I was proud of what I was doing", Paul said, "but now I feel more and more like I am being looked upon as a pornographer". Knowing Paul personally I really understand his predicament.

With very ambitious EU targets (5.75% biofuels to be used for transport by 2010 and 10% by 2020), Hodson and his colleagues are trying hard to keep up the credibility of the EU's biofuels action by defining sustainability certification criteria for the use of the alternative fuels. But maybe, in view of some recent reports, they should have the courage to question the policy alltogether and propose a moratorium on further promotion of biofuels until more research has been done into its environmental and economic impacts.

Two recent reports questioned the global political fever on biofuels.

First of all, a study by Doornbosch and Steenblik ("Biofuels: is the cure worse than the disease?") for the OECD Roundtable on Sustainable Development looked at the impacts of biofuels production on the food market, the environment and biodiversity and concluded:

"The rush to energy crops threatens to cause food shortages and damage to biodiversity with limited benefits";

"Second-generation technologies hold promise but depend on technological breakthroughs";

"The economic outlook for biofuels seems fragile";

"Government policies supporting and protecting domestic production of biofuels are inefficient...(...) and not cost-effective";

"Liberalising trade in biofuels is difficult but essential for global objectives"

"Certification of biofuels is useful for promoting good practices but cannot be trusted as a safeguard".

The media reporting on this study (most media talked about "the OECD report" although this was not an officially endorsed OECD document) led to a lobbying storm with renewable energy and biofuels organisations calling on the OECD to disavow the study (see Bioenergy Pact).

The second report came from Nobel-prize winner Paul Crutzen who challenged the positive climate effects of the use of biofuels in a study published in Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics Discussions. According to Crutzen and his team, the emissions of nitrous oxide (N2O) from agro-crop production could negate the positive climate impacts of switching to biofuels and, as N2O has a bigger impact than CO2 on climate change, could even lead to higher greenhouse gas emissions overall



Melting icecaps and 'climate chaos' have put climate change at the top of the agenda for the UN General Assembly's meeting this week. The meeting is a precursor to the November meeting in Bali where leaders will try to agree on a successor to the Kyoto Protocol.

A new Institute of Physics' (IOP) report, Climate change prediction: A robust or flawed process?, published today reveals that while there is general consensus on the underlying causes of the changes in our atmosphere, there is not unanimity.

World leaders have been influenced by one very important document that drew its conclusions after wide consultation in the international science community, the IPCC Summary for Policymakers of the Scientific Assessment. Much of the IPCC report was compiled from extensive use of computer modelling systems which, governed by the laws of physics, have produced some very compelling theories on how and why the climate is changing.

Professor Alan Thorpe, Chief Executive of the Natural Environment Research Council, who spoke at a seminar debating the efficacy of climate change models on which the IOP's report is based, said: "The computer models used to predict climate change take account of the range of factors that play a role in modulating the climate, such as solar activity, atmospheric particles, and feedback factors. We have, for example, been able to measure the input of greenhouse gases against the cooling effect that aerosols have on the atmosphere in order to predict the future rate of change and, by locating the main causes, suggest ways of reducing the damage."

However, scientific understanding is constantly on the move and for every theory there is inevitably a counter argument. Professor Richard Lindzen, Professor of Atmospheric Sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology argued that a poor understanding of 'feedback factors', such as clouds and water vapour in our atmosphere, is undermining the credibility of models.

Lindzen argued that simple physical arguments led to much smaller sensitivity to increased greenhouse gases than found in current models implying that feedbacks in these models were excessively positive. He also noted that it was unlikely that current models adequately dealt with natural internal variability of climate.

Tajinder Panesor, Manager, Science Policy at the Institute of Physics, who organised the seminar, said: "The laws of physics underpin the advances we have made so far in our understanding of climate change. Even though there is evidence around us of climate change, and we need to continue to take action now; greater computing power and further debate is needed in order to make the modelling processes more robust to remove current uncertainties."



For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when blogger.com is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


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