Energy Prices Start to Rise

Just in time for the winter weather Scottish and Southern Energy will be raising their prices of domestic gas and electricity by about 9% from the 15th October 2012. More than five million customers will have to pay more for gas and electricity and in these days where inflation depending on what you spend is around 3% and where wage inflation is virtually non-existent, these energy prices rises will make it hard for many people to pay their energy bills. Come 2013 the average dual fuel customer will be paying nearly £1300 a year just to keep warm, was in hot water cook and keep the lights on and the appliances in power. Continue reading

Arctic Ice Diminishes

One measure of the warming of the planet is the extent of Arctic sea ice. Parts of the plant warm at varying rates while some parts of it cool. That is the complexity of global warming and within all the data and statistics you can bring almost every interpretation that you want, and every interpretation may at first sight seem justified or accurate. However subject tom all these qualifications, I like to keep a close watch on the extent of the Arctic sea ice in summer.

The extent of the arctic summer sea ice is important because the less ice that exists in the Arctic the more warming of the region must inevitably follow. This is because radiation, which when it strikes a surface excites the molecules of that surface to rub together creating friction, which is heat. When radiation strikes a white surface much of the radiation bounces back into space. This is called the albedo effect. When radiation strikes a dark surface it is absorbed as heat, which is why at Genersys we make our solar thermal panels black (or blue black) to absorb heat, and this is why all solar thermal panels are black or blue black and none are while.

It stands to reason that the more radiation the sea absorbs the warmer that sea becomes and the warmer that sea becomes the less ice can form on it.

When the extent of sea ice is measure it is taken by convention not to be the contiguous area of the ice bound Arctic but that part of the Arctic that has more than 15% ice. This year the extent of Arctic Sea ice, as measured by radar from satellites, look like breaking the 2007 record for the lowest extent, and then by some margin.

This is highly persuasive evidence that global warming is happening and that the warming is rapid. It is not conclusive evidence. Perhaps it might be conclusive when the Arctic is ice free in summer – defined by the same 15% definition.

The ice melt will be disastrous in the long term for the planet. It will hasten global warming for two reasons; the first I have already referred to is the loss of albedo. The second reason is that as the ice melts methane trapped in ice and in the soils of the surrounding tundra and taiga will melt as the knock on effect of an ice free Arctic is felt. There is already evidence of methane bubbling under the arctic and in the surrounding land and methane will hasten global warming.

In the short term many nations will prosper as a result of the ice melt; Canada, Russia, Denmark and Norway will all be able to exploit minerals and fuel found under the Arctic. The United States is trying to claim some of the Arctic through its ownership of Alaska but without ratifying the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea does not have a place at the negotiating table. At the moment the USA is too important to ratify this convention.  Expect ratification as more ice melts. China is cosy-ing up to Iceland who may have some Arctic territorial claim.

If the Arctic becomes ice free it opens up the North West passage to shipping. Canada claims that the sea route is wholly within Canadian waters and the rest of the world claim that the sea route is an international waterway. The distinction is important because if Canada’s claims are upheld expect the ruthless exploitation of the sea way at the expense of the environment. Such exploitation would be entirely consistent with Canada’s record of failing to protect the environment and its aboriginal people where such protection gets in the way of self-enrichment.

Norway has a reasonable record on environmental protection, as does Denmark. As far as Russia is concerned its own environmental record is as poor as that of Canada.

Whatever you may think of global warming, the nations that have Arctic claims believe in it, and are positioning themselves to pluck the first fruits of global warming, before those fruits turn to ashes in our mouths.

Mental Health Advocates and Legal Privilege

I do not frequent the criminal courts very often and I frequent the criminal law even less often, but I was struck by a legal oddity when the police arrested Ms Jackie Powell, a mental health advocate on suspicion of preventing the burial of a body without lawful excuse. Ms Powell is the mental health advocate for a notorious serial killer of children, Ian Brady, but her role is not a role does not attract legal privilege, so anything that her “client” tells her is not protected, or so it is thought by the state of the law at present.

However, Continue reading

The Euro in Intensive Care

You can get used to almost anything. It may be that we get used to things because we are innately resourceful, or it may be that we get used to things because custom and time blunts the barbs of troubles, but we all of us get used to almost everything.

Sometimes an illness creeps upon you in very small steps that you confuse the disease with aging, and believe that you will always feel like this as you get older. There is a financial illness that afflicts the world today. Continue reading

It is a hot, humid sunless day in London in late August

It is a hot, humid sunless day in London in late August. Summer has almost gone and autumn beckons and then winter will cool us in London which waits, like a disappointed beneficiary, the Olympic legacy. This is really no legacy, for London has paid for what the politicians claim will be a legacy. You do not buy your own legacy; this is a debt due to the folk of the East End which Londoners have paid for, many times over. Continue reading

Nothing Really Matters

It does not matter in the long run. Nothing matters in the long run. A doctor may work hard and use great skill to save the life of a man who will inevitably sooner or later die. Is the effort wasted? It is, in the long run. The saved life may bring great benefit to humanity and to the whole world. It may bring havoc and destruction beyond our present imagination. There is no test to tell us whether a life will help humanity or destroy its virtues.  The doctor works on the basis that all life is worth saving and being alive I welcome that presumption, although it will not matter to me when I am dead, as dead I must be. Death is a matter of infinite momentum and a reality which makes much of what we do and what we are be no more than mere vanity. Ultimately, I expect to occupy two longish paces of earth, and stay there until my occupancy becomes irrelevant to what the world has become leaving the vanity of the unanswered question:

“And dusty books lie on a shelf, saying ‘can a man condemn himself?’”

King Canute of North Carolina

I have many happy memories of the Carolinas; the lowlands are magnificent with forests running to the edge of the oceans; the people are warm and friendly and very polite: this is the best of the old South in America. It is therefore odd that the state of North Carolina (I suppose if I were running for office there I would call it the Great State of North Carolina) has achieved a legislature a bit like that of King Canute’s – they have held back the sea. Continue reading