Sunday, December 09, 2007


An email below to Benny Peiser from David Whitehouse []

With just a few weeks to go it's looking like 2007 will be the coolest year this century and possibly the coolest since 1995. If so then one more year like this and we will begin to have enough statistical information to speculate about a downward trend, though a few more years will be better. With this in mind may I remind readers what the UK Met Office predicted on 4th January 2007:

"2007 is likely to be the warmest year on record globally, beating the current record set in 1998, say climate-change experts at the Met Office. Global temperature for 2007 is expected to be 0.54 øC above the long-term (1961-1990) average of 14.0 øC; There is a 60% probability that 2007 will be as warm or warmer than the current warmest year (1998 was +0.52 øC above the long-term 1961-1990 average)."

But the most amazing sentence in their prediction is this:

Katie Hopkins from Met Office Consulting said: "This new information represents another warning that climate change is happening around the world. Our work in the climate change consultancy team applies Met Office research to help businesses mitigate against risk and adapt at a strategic level for success in the new environment."

I wasn't aware that a "prediction" represents "new information." Well, perhaps it does to a certain breed of consultant. I wonder if the Met Office's clients will ask for their money back if the Met Office's prediction proved way off the mark?

My article in the independent about the forthcoming solar cycle 24 has attracted much comment and I'm glad it's a talking point. However, I am rather disappointed by the quality of the letter complaining about it in today's Independent:

Sir: Contrary to the claim by David Whitehouse (Extra, 5 December) that the sun could save us from global warming, the sun would have to go through an unprecedented decline in activity to significantly mitigate the warming that is projected from the continuing emissions of greenhouse gases.

While the sun has likely played a role, together with other natural influences, the recent assessment by the IPCC concluded that the increase in global surface temperatures over the past 50 years has been predominantly associated with increases in greenhouse gases, partially offset by other pollutants from human activities.

Solar activity, as measured by sunspots, peaked in the late 1950s, and has been fairly stable over the past 30 years. In addition, recent research suggests that volcanic eruptions may have as big or bigger influence on cooler periods, such as the so called "Little Ice Age", than solar activity.

Over the next century, warming from human-induced greenhouse gases is likely to dwarf any cooling from changes in the sun, even assuming that solar activity reduces to levels not seen for 400 years.

Dr Gareth S Jones
Dr Peter A Stott
Met Office Hadley Centre Exeter

They quote the IPPC's view although one of the points of my article was that the IPCC has ignored the sun in this regard. They are wrong about the sun's activity peaking in the 1950's and has been fairly static over the past 30 years. They are predictably picky about the research they quote. But note that they also talk of the warming that is "projected" - again, being the Met Office, their argument is based on future data not actual data. One can't argue against "data" that hasn't yet been measured!


Computer servers are at least as great a threat to the climate as SUVs or the global aviation industry, warns a new report. Global Action Plan, a UK-based environmental organisation, publishes a report today drawing attention to the carbon footprint of the IT industry in the UK. "Computers are seen as quite benign things sitting on your desk," says Trewin Restorick, director of the group. "But, for instance, in our charity we have one server. That server has same carbon footprint as your average SUV doing 15 miles to the gallon. Yet, whereas the SUV is seen as a villain from the environmental perspective, the server is not."

The report, An Inefficient Truth states that with more than 1 billion computers on the planet, the global IT sector is responsible for about 2% of human carbon dioxide emissions each year - a similar figure to the global airline industry.

The energy consumption is driven largely by vast amounts of customer and user data that are stored on the computer servers in most businesses. The rate at which data storage is growing surpasses the growth in the airline industry: in 2006, 48% more data storage capacity was sold in the UK than in 2005, while the number of plane passengers grew by 3%.


Freedom to believe

Post below lifted from Jammie Wearer. See the original for links

I have to agree with the Bishop of Rochester, Dr Michael Nazir-Ali, who suggests that "freedom to believe" is under threat in Britain because of Islamic hostility to conversion. Consider the example of a British imam's daughter who is now living in fear of her life under police protection after she received death threats from her family for converting to Christianity.

The young woman, aged 32, whose father is a Muslim imam in the north of England, has moved house 45 times to escape detection by her family since she became a Christian 15 years ago. Hannah, who uses a pseudonym to hide her identity, told The Times how she became a Christian after she ran away from home at 16 to escape an arranged marriage. The threats against her became more serious a month ago, prompting police to offer her protection in case of an attempt on her life.

Islam will not countenance any form of dissent. Those who choose of their own free will to leave Islam may well also leave this Earth prematurely if the more ardent advocates of the ROP get their hands on such "apostates". The reality is that Islam appears unable to adapt to the 21st century standards of tolerance and the treatment meted out to this lady is a disgrace.

How Leftist teachers hate classical literature!

The “Jabberwocky approach” to poetry teaching in schools, which relies too heavily on “lightweight” nonsense verse and too little on the classics, risks turning an entire generation away from the art form. A report from the schools inspectorate Ofsted gives warning today that poetry teaching in England can be repetitive and dull, with the same few poems chosen time and again for study. In primary school teachers tended to chose nonsense or whimsical poems such as Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky, Edward Lear’s The Owl and the Pussycat and Spike Milligan’s On the Ning, Nang, Nong, poems that tell a strong story, such as Walter de la Mare’s The Listeners, or poems that are easy to imitate, such as Roger McGough’s The Sounds Collector.

William Blake’s Tyger was the most popular classic poem taught in primary schools. Only a minority tried poems such as Wordsworth’s Daffodils or Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. As many secondary schools also included The Listeners and Jabberwocky, it is therefore likely that some pupils study the same small number of poems.

Secondary pupils also often studied individual poems rather than poets, so their experience of poetry tended to be of single poems written by different writers. Common choices were Wilfred Owen’s Dulce et decorum est, W. H. Auden’s Funeral Blues and Dylan Thomas’s Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night.

There was widespread agreement that Shakespeare, Blake, Hughes and Heaney should be taught in secondary schools, with John Agard and Benjamin Zephaniah named as the most-popular poets from other cultures. But few teachers could give inspectors a satisfactory explanation for their choice of poetry and inspectors cited a survey by the United Kingdom Literacy Association, which found that more than half of teachers could not name more than two poets.

The National Curriculum requires primary pupils to cover both modern and classic poetry. Secondary students should read poetry from the English literary heritage and poems written for young people and adults. At both stages, pupils should also study poetry from different cultures and traditions. In primary schools teachers often knew too little about poetry to teach it properly and are unsure how to respond to pupils’ own writing, a report found. At secondary level, pupils spent too much time trying to imitate the work of popular poets, but were given too little encouragement to develop their own style. Inspectors noted with regret that at GCSE level, pupils spent large amounts of time studying poetry, but almost never composed anything of their own. One girl aged 16, told inspectors: “I can’t remember the last time I wrote a poem.”

While younger children told inspectors that they liked poetry, those in secondary school found the subject dull. In some cases, little more was required of pupils than to count the lines or list the rhymes. “The overuse of tasks like this means that pupils’ enjoyment diminishes and poetry becomes a chore rather than a pleasure,” inspectors concluded. While inspectors found that the standard of teaching poetry was good in two thirds of schools, overall it was weaker than other aspects of English teaching. Lessons were rated “outstanding” in only seven of the 86 schools inspected.

The report, Poetry in Schools, urged teachers to make sure they allow children to study a wider range of poems from classic writers and other cultures. It also suggested that schools provide more opportunities for pupils to write independently. Lord Adonis, the Schools Minister, said it was vital that poetry was taught in an engaging way. “Teachers should embrace but not be confined to the classics. There is a myth that poetry is obscure, which teachers can explode by introducing pupils to a broad range of poets.”


The value of history

We have been here before. Almost every event has a precedent, never exact, but often revealing. Politicians and the media, however, often behave as if everything is new, risking a repeat of past mistakes. Demonstrating the relevance of history is the goal of the History and Policy website, a collaboration of Cambridge University, the Institute of Historical Research and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. This involves a network of historians and 60 short briefing papers on topics such as climate change and national identity.

What history can contribute was the theme of a lively symposium in the Churchill Museum in London on Wednesday. Professor David Reynolds argued that historians could help via case studies from the past, such as by providing a larger sense of process, beyond the short-termism of normal politics; and thinking in time. The right question, he said, was not “What’s the problem?”, but “What’s the story?” – meaning: “How did we get into this mess?” Tracing the way in may help to point the way out.

Professor Reynolds, a diplomatic historian, gave some pertinent examples: “Beware nods and winks” – Tony Blair’s sometimes self-deluding hopes after his meetings with George Bush; “Watch your stereotypes” – Baroness Thatcher’s view of the Germans; “Cultivate teamwork” – like Ronald Reagan and George Shultz; and “Play it long” – John Major and Mr Blair’s successful efforts in Northern Ireland.

Professor Pat Thane, a social historian, stressed recurring challenges and arguments: for example, debates over means testing or targeting go back well before the Beveridge report of 1942, and those on the children of single mothers to the Poor Law in the late 16th century. Both Peter Lilley, the Social Security Security in the Major years and Baroness (Patricia) Hollis, a junior minister in that department after 1997, complained about the lack of past or international experience available to them.

Professor David Cannadine argued that Whitehall departments should have historical advisers and that the Government should have a chief historical adviser. This would go well beyond safeguarding records. It would be especially valuable in areas such as constitutional reform, where debates about the Union and Home Rule have long antecedents.

The role could be like a historical conscience, akin to the Chief Scientific Adviser. But the public statements of the Chief Scientific Adviser have to be in line with government policy, though Sir David King, the outgoing adviser, has interpreted that broadly with his attacks on antiscience prejudice. Would a historical adviser be speaking truth unto power in secret? And should not historical insights be an automatic part of policymaking and done by permanent secretaries, embodying the institutional memory of departments? Hence, Professor Reynolds’s suggestion that ministers make more use of historically trained advisers.

The implicit target of many comments was Mr Blair (who knew little history before 1997) and the explicit hope was Gordon Brown (with his PhD in history). The key, however, is being willing not just to think historically but to discuss parallels and precedents openly. That is much harder for any minister.


Exercise can prevent Alzheimer's

Regular exercise can cut the risk of Alzheimer's disease by a third while a lack of physical activity can lead to depression and dementia, according to scientists. A study by the University of Bristol, based on 17 trials, found that physical activity was associated with a 30-40 per cent reduced risk of developing Alzheimer's. Separate evidence presented to the British Nutrition Foundation conference linked a lack of exercise to depression and dementia.

It is unclear why exercise has such a great effect but it could be associated with benefits to the vascular system as well as release of chemicals in the brain. Judy Buttriss, director general at the BNF, said that given people were living longer, the implications of such studies were "enormous".


Britain's MRSA clear-up target is shelved

A target to cut the number of MRSA infections in hospitals appears to have been shelved in advance of a failure to achieve it. The three-year target to halve rates of MRSA by next April is widely regarded to be unachievable, given the slow progress made in fighting the superbug. The deadline has been postponed for three years to 2010-11, the period covered by the latest Comprehensive Spending Review agreement with the Treasury. The Government has also set a new target to reduce rates of Clostridium Difficile by 30 per cent by 2011.

Alan Johnson, the Health Secretary, announced the measures last month, but they received no further publicity. The Department of Health insisted that the original MRSA target could be met by April. However, Health Protection Agency figures show that cases of bloodstream MRSA fell by only 10 per cent to 6,381 in the last financial year.


Britain: More mental illness in minority groups: "Some ethnic minority groups are three times more likely to be admitted to hospital for mental health problems than the rest of the population. The Count Me In Census 2007 revealed that 22 per cent of people on mental health wards were from minority ethnic groups, a slight rise on previous years. The census is part of the Government's five-year action plan Delivering Race Equality in Mental Health Care. Anna Walker, from the Healthcare Commission, said that they wanted to "bring together local agencies to tackle the issues that cause some black and minority ethnic groups to have higher rates of mental illness". [Mostly among blacks -- all due to "racism", of course]

1 comment:

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