Climate Change Deniers – why am I wrong?

For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction,Newtontold us. With climate change writingNewton’s law does not invariably apply. I know that sometimes when I post some ideas about climate change, someone else posts on this blog some ideas which are opposite, but not necessarily equal. That is the fine thing about climate change writing. The opposite views are not necessarily equal. Continue reading

Record Carbon Dioxide Emissions from Energy in 2010

The big news of the month of May came at its very end. The International Energy Agency estimates that carbon dioxide emissions due to energy – heat and electricity – rose to a record level in 2010. In 2009 emissions from these sources fell, due to the financial crisis, but since the recovery emissions are on the rise and were 5% higher than the previous record year in 2008. These are records of shame, recording the first steps of our descent into self destruction. Continue reading

Control Orders – why we do not need them

The highest court in the United Kingdom is the Judicial Committee of the House of Lords and it has ruled that people suspected of terrorism and who have control orders placed on them have a right to know and to challenge the evidence against them. Control orders force a suspect to wear electronic tags, stay at home and prevent them from meeting people. People subject to them have their meetings monitored and their communications restricted. It is effectively the same as keeping someone in prison at home.

Control orders are made because the government suspects that someone may be plotting some kind of terrorism, but there is not enough evidence to bring these people to trial, or if there is, the government claims that the evidence that should not be published in the “national interest”. There are seventeen people subject to such control orders.

Those who govern us claim that they are acting to protect that most valuable liberty and right – the right to life. Protecting this gives them, they argue, the right to oppress others. Every tyrant has argued that a restriction on liberty is “for your own good”.

I am very glad that the present Ministers were not in Government between 1939 and 1945 when the nation faced a threat that was far greater than the threats that any terrorist poses today. The British are not by nature cowards, and have bravely faced up to all sorts of dangers for many years. I am very glad that this government were not around when the nation needed to be brave and courageous to be free.  I am very glad that people of the elk of the government this did not frame the American Constitution.

Many people (including, for example, the Jews in the Warsaw ghetto in the Second World War), have valued freedom and liberty above the right to live.  Our right to life is precious but less so than our right to liberty.

I heard Lord Carlile, the government’s independent reviewer of terrorism legislation on the radio, before the House of Lords’ ruling was announced. He said “Nobody particularly likes these control orders but I have to tell you as an independent reviewer there is a solid intelligence case for a control order against the 17 people subject to them.”

I do not accept Lord Carlile’s assurance about there being a solid intelligence case against the people who are subject to control orders. I ought not to have to accept the assurance of an unelected politician who has practised law on this point, however eminent Lord Carlile is or others claim him to be. His review of terrorism legislation is, like the evidence upon which control orders are made, shrouded in secrecy, and incapable of being tested.

He also indicated that there was no alternative to control orders and that those who oppose them are unable to suggest another means of controlling terrorism. He has lost the plot on this point. People have either committed a crime, in which case they should be tried and punished, or they have not committed a crime, in which case the state has no right to detain them or infringe their freedom. The alternative to control orders in a democracy governed by the rule of law and not the rule of politicians is…no control orders.

The fact that we suspect someone of plotting against us is not grounds to lock them up, at least not in a free society, whether that suspect’s case is reviewed by the likes of Lord Carlile or not. There is no vacuum or description of activity between “guilty” and “not guilty”. We cannot punish people who are not guilty.

I for one am prepared to risk the odd bomb or terrorist plot, if it means retaining the liberties for which my parents and millions of others have fought.

Perhaps it would do well for Lord Carlile and the Government to consider words of those who are wiser than they in these matters:-

“The secret of happiness is freedom.  And the secret of freedom is courage.” (Thucydides)

“There is one safeguard known generally to the wise, which is an advantage and security to all, but especially to democracies as against despots. What is it? Distrust.”  (Demosthenes)

“Liberty is one of the most precious gifts heaven has bestowed upon Man.  No treasures the earth contains or the sea conceals can be compared to it. For liberty one can rightfully risk one’s life.” (Cervantes)

“In the end, more than they wanted freedom, they wanted security.  They wanted a comfortable life, and they lost it all — security, comfort, and freedom.  When … the freedom they wished for was freedom from responsibility, then Athens ceased to be free.”  (Gibbon)

“They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” (Benjamin Franklin)

 “If ye love wealth greater than liberty, the tranquillity of servitude greater than the animating contest for freedom, go home from us in peace. We seek not your counsel, nor your arms. Crouch down and lick the hand that feeds you; and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen.” (Samuel Adams)

  “The government is merely a servant – merely a temporary servant; it cannot be its prerogative to determine what is right and what is wrong, and decide who is a patriot and who isn’t. Its function is to obey orders, not originate them.” (Mark Twain)

 “If a nation values anything more than freedom, it will lose its freedom; and the irony of it is that if it is comfort or money that it values more, it will lose that too.” (Somerset Maugham)

   “I believe that liberty is the only genuinely valuable thing that men have invented, at least in the field of government, in a thousand years.  I believe that it is better to be free than to be not free, even when the former is dangerous and the latter safe. I believe that the finest qualities of man can flourish only in free air – that progress made under the shadow of the policeman’s club is false progress, and of no permanent value.  I believe that any man who takes the liberty of another into his keeping is bound to become a tyrant, and that any man who yields up his liberty, in however slight the measure, is bound to become a slave.” (H. L. Mencken)

“Still, if you will not fight for the right when you can easily win without bloodshed, if you will not fight when your victory will be sure and not so costly, you may come to the moment when you will have to fight with all the odds against you and only a precarious chance for survival. There may be a worse case. You may have to fight when there is no chance of victory, because it is better to perish than to live as slaves.” (Winston Churchill)

 “The trade-off between freedom and security, so often proposed so seductively, very often leads to the loss of both.” (Christopher Hitchens)

 The House of Lords has followed the tradition of fairness and justice that has been a noble feature on the face of British justice, which the present system of control orders serves to blemish and corrupt. It ruled that those subject to a control order were entitled to know (and thereby be able to refute) the evidence against them. To my mind they should have gone further and consigned control orders to the dustbin of history along with Guantanomo, imprisonment with trial and the other cancers that threaten our freedom.

Enconomic boom causes environmental bust

It has been hard not to think about the economic crisis now gripping the world. After many years of high growth and plenty of boom, but only for the select few, we are now finding that the boom has been unsustainable. The economics of greedy unsustainable growth catches up in the end and we find ourselves having done many things which we can no longer do and buying many things that we can no longer buy. That seems to be the lesson of basic economics; but there is an economics of the environment and its ecology which works in precisely the same way. Continue reading

Poisoning the Niger Delta and Shell’s Corporate Responsibilty

While millions of people in the Balkans and Eastern Europe have to cope in the bitter cold of a European winter without being able to burn natural gas for fuel gas, due to a dispute between Russia and the Ukraine, natural gas is being wasted thousands of miles away in Africa in the Niger Delta. Just as the cold weather is causing hardship and exacerbating ill health in Eastern Europe, so the wasteful burning of natural gas in Nigeria is damaging the health of many Nigerians. Continue reading

Air pollution causes deep vein thrombosis and other problems

Particulate air pollution seems to be even worse for you than we previously thought. I have already written in these posts about the problems that biomass pollution can cause and I have also written about the link between increased carbon dioxide levels and poor health and cancers.

Now I have to add to this somewhat miserable and depressing list by warning that researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health led by Dr Andrea Baccarelli have found evidence that deep vein thrombosis is linked to air pollution – yes air pollution, not just air travel. Continue reading

Biomass, wood smoke, particulates and cancers

When we breathe in we inhale not only air but dust, and very small particles of stuff that we humans have put in the atmosphere. We know that these can be harmful – coal dust and asbestos dust spring immediately to mind.

Because we are putting relatively speaking so much into the atmosphere scientists are trying to understand the effect of these particles on human health.There is therefore a great deal of study and experimentation involving the toxicology of particles and fibres. Continue reading

Hospital car parking and climate change – a national Health service disgrace

Climate change, almost unreported eight years ago when I established Genersys is now a subject that has become for many a marketing opportunity and for others an excuse for bad behaviour, shameful policies and practices. 

I suppose it started with BP, who was initially very active in photovoltaic cells. BP’s core business is the extraction of oil and gas from the ground and its processing and sale for fossil fuel. By its business operations BP is responsible for a huge amount of carbon emissions and setting up filling stations with a few PV panels does not offset an hour’s worth of its annual activities.  Continue reading

An unhealthy future as the climate changes

Professor Robert Maynard has chaired a panel which, under the auspices of the Department of Health and the Health Protection Agency, has done some very interesting work on how climate change is likely to affect health in the future. The good news is that the warmer weather will be likely to reduce winter deaths due to hypothermia. The bad news is much more than the good news. Continue reading

Carbon dioxide in the air, cancer and death

Professor Mark Z Jacobson of Stanford University, California has an impressive series of qualifications. He is a civil engineer, holds qualifications in economics and in environmental engineering (he holds the post of Professor of Environmental Engineering at Stanford). He is an expert on atmospheric science.He tries to understand physical, chemical, and dynamical processes in the atmosphere and he has an equally impressive number of peer reviewed papers and well received text books for someone who got his first degree in 1988.

I learnt of Professor Jacobson’s recent paper in which he looked at the effect of carbon dioxide on air pollution mortality. He wondered if there was a link between increased atmospheric carbon dioxide and human deaths. I have wondered about this but he is qualified to study it, and I am not.

He is well qualified to study this because in 1994 he developed the first gas-aerosol-radiative air-pollution model with interactive feedback to weather. In 2001, he invented the nested global-through-urban air-pollution-weather-climate model. In 2000, he discovered that black carbon, the main component of soot particles, may be the second-leading cause of global warming after carbon dioxide. He has also studied the relative effects of greenhouse gases on global climate, the effects of aerosols on ultraviolet radiation, the effects of aerosol mixing state on atmospheric heating, the effects of biomass burning on climate, the effect of hydrogen fuel cells on air pollution and the ozone layer, the effects of aerosols on winds and precipitation, the effects of ethanol and diesel vehicles on air quality as well as the effects of agriculture on air pollution.

In December 2007 Professor Jacobson published his findings which draw on many scientific sources as well as his own original research. He finds that (by modeling) increases in fossil fuel sourced carbon dioxide also increase the ozone levels on the surface of the planet. Ozone is a molecule that consists of there atoms of oxygen; high in the upper atmosphere it shields us from harmful ultraviolet light but at the surface of the earth it is generally thought to be  very harmful to human respiratory systems because it harms your breathing apparatus.

He also found that carbon dioxide from fossil fuel increases the volume of carcinogens that we are likely to meet. Burning fossil fuel also (as we know) increases particulates. All this leads to more cancers, more deaths and more people ill in hospitals. In addition if you pump more carbon dioxide in the air, the air becomes more stable, making a better home for particulates which damage health. 

He extrapolates that deaths increase with increased carbon dioxide levels and higher temperatures. It is difficult to be precise (and any headline figure will inevitably be misleading) but the effects of the carbon dioxide that we are pumping into the atmosphere are causing deaths which would not have been caused otherwise, quite apart from the deaths that are being caused by extreme climate events caused by increased temperatures. Those deaths are significant enough (every death is of course significant) in number to measure. 

Professor Jacobson also has found that carbon dioxide decreases column ozone over the United States (and I guess over other countries too) because it increases water vapour in the upper atmosphere, so we can presumably look forward to more skin cancers and cataracts. It is generally thought that some crops like rice and important food chain plankton will all decline if ozone does not filter out the ultraviolet light as effectively as it has done in the past.  

Well, if you needed another reason to stop burning fossil fuel you can find it in Professor Jacobson’s work.