The Chilcot Inquiry rumbles on in London. Every week that passes provides evidence that the Iraq invasion was illegal and there is prima facie evidence that the illegality was such that the war constituted the war crime of waging a war of aggression, which is probably the most serious crime that can be committed. Hundreds of thousands of people have died as a result of this war. As far as I know none of the members of the American administration that did the war dance have been invited to London to give evidence to the Inquiry and if they were “summoned” they would give the summons short shrift. Those people have to account to their own governments for their actions, under the existing framework of law, not to the government of another state, even if that state was a close ally in the war. Mr Bush and the American people would regard the any such summons as impudent. Continue reading
The smallest life forms can be the most important for example bacteria can profoundly affect your health, both beneficially and adversely. In the oceans plankton are one of the smallest forms of life yet play an important part in sustaining life on earth in two ways. They provide food for aquatic life and also provide an essential role in the planet’s carbon and biochemical cycles. If the amount of plankton in the oceans decline it can have a profound effect on our planet and the bad news is that plankton do seem to be on the decline, and global warming is thought to be the culprit. Continue reading
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Invasion, conquest and occupation are features of human history. The British Empire was either acquired or held together by the force of arms. And as Britain acquired such territories as India, Pakistan, Cyprus, the islands of the West Indies it sent its people to those places to exploit the wealth, resources and industry of the people who lived there. Exploitation was on a massive scale with the people of the Empire mostly being denied the basic decencies of life – the vote, the right to learn and freedom – on account of the colour of their skins or the race to which they belonged. Continue reading
Ireland has got it seriously wrong when it comes to climate change. It has just published a report which was composed by the Department of Energy and Climate Change jointly with the department of Agriculture Forestry and Food. They want the European Union to recognise carbon dioxide absorbed by forests as part of the climate change emission reduction directive. If this happened Ireland (and other EU states) would not have to work so hard or spend so much to reduce carbon dioxide emissions because they would take into account the sequestrating effect of growing trees. Continue reading
Moscow has been experiencing its hottest weather since at least 1981 but the inhabitants cannot enjoy the hot weather. This is because Moscow has been experiencing an environmental disaster as peat fires, set off by 64 forest fires fill the lungs of the Muscovites with acrid smoke containing much higher than normal particulates, nitrogen dioxide, nitrogen monoxide, carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide. Visibility is down to 500 metres and pollution levels are nearly eight times the norm, which is a terrible state of affairs for the inhabitants.
Peat fires usually break out when people throw cigarettes or burning matches carelessly into peat bogs or forests. Very hot spells of weather the risk is extremely great and peat bog fires have broken out in Orekhovo-Zuyevo and in Shatura and the smog, for thus it is, has settled over the city and even if the fires could be put out rapidly, experts fear that the smog conditions could prevail for months.
Those who have difficulty in breathing or with long disease have been advised to stay inside. The authorities have recommended that those who venture outside, particularly in the eastern part of the region, should wear protective gauze across their mouths and noses in order to provide some filter of the toxic particles.
The peat bogs have largely been drained and the climate of the region tends to long hot dry summers. This dries the upper layer of the peat, which is easy to dry because of the drainage that has been installed. The region then has what amounts to a peat based soil, and if money were no object this would be cultivated only if a layer of sand (to act as a fire barrier) was created under the peat soil. Money of course is an object and no Russian farms have used this technique, but cultivate directly on the peat soil. If a fire starts on this soil it burns downwards and is very hard to extinguish.
The region has frequently suffered from peat fires but the present fires seem the worst. They will degrade the soil of organic material, making it much harder and more expense to farm, effectively burning the soil, typically about 100 cm deep, to its bedrock.
As the peat burns an ash is created which settles into water courses, streams and lakes significantly increasing the alkalinity and depositing water soluble elements like lead, copper and nicle to levels above their minimum safety levels and it can take several years for the concentrations of these minerals to reduce.
Of course the additional carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is something that the planet could do without. If you burn a cubic metre of peat you will release around 150 cubic metres of carbon dioxide into the air. The peat has acted as a carbon sink and has taken 300 years to accumulate. A forest after a fire takes “only” fifty years to re establish, so the extent of the Russian peat fires this year are an environmental disaster for the planet which will be much more serious and claim as many livelihoods but more lives than the Deepwater oil disaster.
When I started writing these posts nearly three years ago I resolved to spend some time every day to define my ideas and thoughts and put them in writing. It helps me think clearly and my blog is a good medium for exchanging ideas. I have leant many useful things and have had the benefit of many views from readers who have been kind enough to post their opinions. Today I post my one thousandth essay, and by way of a celebration it will be a very short one. Continue reading
If there was ever any real indication of the failure of the use of market mechanism in an attempt to reduce carbon dioxide emissions it is the news that carbon emission brokers have been laid off in large numbers by their broking firms. The recession has cut the amount of emissions being created, rather than measures, and the artificiality of carbon markets has left, in these circumstances a surfeit of carbon saving instruments on the market with very few buyers. Continue reading