Tuesday, October 14, 2008

A look at climate skepticism from Britain's "Greenest" newspaper:

Global warming is happening and we're to blame, right? That's certainly the view of almost every expert in the field. But a die-hard band of naysayers continues to rail against the consensus. Are they completely mad? Judge for yourself...

The caption calls him the "high priest of deceit and global destruction". The picture has him belching fire like a dragon. And who is the subject of this highly personal attack? None other than Al Gore, who last year won the Nobel Peace Prize, along with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), for their success in bringing the climate-change crisis to global public attention.

Not everybody likes Gore and his beliefs about the future of our planet - and especially not Hans Schreuder, the 62-year-old former chemist who runs the Gore-baiting website Ilovemycarbondioxide.com (see page 29). Schreuder is one of the climate-change sceptics who continue to make their case despite the mounting evidence of climate change that we, the public, are presented with every day; despite the unanimous endorsement of climate-change theory by every national academy of science in the industrialised world.

Even President Bush, who stalled developments for so long, has conceded that climate change is real, and caused by man-made carbon emissions. And even Bush has tried, however half-heartedly, to do something about it in the last days of his administration. (Though the big challenge remains to persuade the new major emitters - China and India - to sign any agreement on reductions.)

The sceptics declare that the central evidence for carbon-driven climate change in the reports of the IPCC are nonsense. Specifically, the "hockey stick" graph, which correlates the steep rise in world temperatures to the steep rise in carbon emissions, and which Gore demonstrates, with the help of a hydraulic crane, in his film An Inconvenient Truth. Gore's opponents say there's evidence that world temperatures have, in fact, begun to fall since 2000.

In 2005, the House of Lords Economics Committee voiced "concerns" about the objectivity of the IPCC, suggesting some of the agency's emissions projections were "influenced by political considerations". The committee's claims were subsequently rejected by the Government and the Stern Review on the economics of climate change, but the vested-interests argument unites sceptics, and mirrors the accusations often levelled at them in turn, that they are in the pockets of big oil, big gas, or the US Republican Party.

The sceptics come from the worlds of politics, economics, television and, crucially, science. David Bellamy (opposite), a professor of botany who was formerly the televisual face of eco-evangelism, has been compared with a Holocaust denier because he doesn't believe carbon emissions cause climate change. Climatologist Piers Corbyn (page 25) is convinced climate change is caused by solar activity, not CO2. Economist Ruth Lea (page 25) warns of the IPCC's political and business interests. Martin Durkin (page 28), maker of the documentary The Great Global Warming Swindle, says the green industry is in too deep to afford to acknowledge scientific law. And the former Chancellor, Nigel Lawson (page 27), maintains that though the science of climate change could be broadly correct, its consequences have been exaggerated.

Should we give their opinions the time of day? Whether you agree or not (and chances are you won't), the climate-change sceptics have no intention of shutting up.

The conservationist: David Bellamy

David Bellamy is an environmental campaigner and former television presenter. He was senior lecturer in Botany at Durham University until 1982, where he is now an honorary professor

"Global warming is the biggest scam since the church sold indulgences back in the Middle Ages. If our Government actually believes that all those people are going to die, why did it build Terminal Five?

"I've been doing research on the stability of ecosystems, which is all tied up with human activity, for 22 years. That's why I became a leading greenie in the early days. I have probably stood on more picket lines than anyone to stop forest-clearing, wind farms and the overfishing of the sea. But when the scientific arguments don't add up, one starts to question them: CO2 levels have risen in the atmosphere, but why don't all the other bits of science fall in around that?

"The speed of retreat of glaciers worldwide has not changed. The latest data shows that both the northern and southern ice caps are actually growing. The recent studies of the ice core show that rises in temperature are followed by a release of carbon dioxide, not the other way around. I'll be in New Zealand soon, and two of the major glaciers there are growing like the clappers. And from 1998 there has been no rise at all in the temperature of the earth. Indeed, all the sunspot data tells us we're headed for 15 very cold years.

"Many peer-reviewed papers show that as CO2 goes up, many plants and forests grow up to 40 per cent faster. The New Scientist has reported that 300,000 square kilometres of former desert are now covered with trees. Why don't we have all those good points publicised?

"Global temperature has risen at a natural rate that began 300 years ago. That slope of change has not changed since then, so how can we say that carbon is the driver? The sun has more correlations with temperature change than carbon. "The whole world is hooked on a fear of carbon, and there really is nothing to fear.

"The scientific consensus is not strong, but every time I turn on the television or read a newspaper, I hear that it is. The BBC constantly tells us the lakes in Africa are drying up because of global warming. The lakes are drying up because of the dams around them, and the fact that we are using that local water to produce cut flowers for the European market. Why aren't we told these things?

"If you go through the peer-reviewed literature on our side of the argument, it's near-unanimous in not predicting climate catastrophe. But it has got to a state of McCarthyism within science. As a university don, I used to try to get every tenth paper of mine into [the weekly science journal] Nature. But Nature will not touch any papers which are anti the global-warming ethic. I have been called a Holocaust denier. If they weren't really frightened they were losing the argument, they wouldn't write those things." '

The economist: Ruth Lea

Ruth Lea is economic adviser to the Arbuthnot Banking Group, and formerly held positions including director of the Centre for Policy Studies, head of the Policy Unit at the Institute of Directors, and economics editor of ITN

"The foundation of our climate-change policy is the projections made by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). We've signed up to the IPCC, as an agency of the UN, and it's portrayed as an impartial, independent scientific organisation. In fact, it's highly political, most of its members are governmental appointees, and it contains a strong element of evangelical environmentalism. But whatever you think about it politically, you have to look at its projections, as they are core to the whole debate.

"The IPCC makes assumptions on economic growth, assumptions on fuel prices and demographics, then it puts all these assumptions into a model, which produces a forecast for carbon-dioxide emissions. Then it puts those results into a climate model, which predicts temperature change for the next century.

"I wouldn't claim to be qualified to speak about the climate models, but as an economist and statistician, I look at its predictions for economic growth, fuel consumption, demographics and so on, and I ask myself how it can possibly know what these will be by the end of the century.

"I made some economic forecasts about six weeks ago, and then we were hit by a financial crisis, so who knows where fuel costs are going? Yet the IPCC says it knows what'll be happening in 100 years' time.

"Climate-change policy is predicated on the IPCC stuff being taken as gospel. When I started to study the economics, I was shocked. Like many people, I assumed the IPCC findings were rock- solid and unquestionable. But when I looked at how it made its projections, I was horrified. I don't think people realise the vast uncertainties. When you hear people saying the temperature is going to rise by four degrees this century, do you hear anyone explaining that there's only a 0.001 probability that will happen? No.

"I wrote a sceptical letter to the FT in 2006, and there was a very dismissive, patronising, curt response from the Royal Society as if to say, 'How dare you question any of this?' I was amazed at its tone. And the writer and environmentalist George Monbiot has accused me of being financed by the oil companies. If only!

"Anybody who disputes the IPCC's projections is branded a Holocaust denier. I find that offensive. If I had relatives who'd been murdered in the Holocaust, I'd be beside myself with anger.

"When I started to utter my views, I discovered there were quite a few vested interests in green industry, not least in carbon-trading. And boy, they didn't like it. Questioning this stuff rips away the foundations of their business.

"There are probably more economists in a position to speak freely than there are scientists - we can afford to. The problem for scientists is that they have to go along with government policy, which currently states that we're all going to be fried alive in the next 50 years."

The climatologist: Piers Corbyn

Piers Corbyn is the maverick weather forecaster and owner of Weather Action, which makes forecasts up to a year in advance based on Corbyn's theory of the 'Solar Weather Technique'

"There's no evidence that carbon dioxide drives world temperatures or climate change. The 'hockey stick' is fraud, Al Gore's film is fraud, and schemes to remove CO2 from the atmosphere by machines are a scam.

"Temperatures rose since about 1915, but if you look in more detail, estimates show that they've declined since 2002. As it grew, the global-warming empire set about trying to find data to prove its case, but the data it found actually disproves its case. That's why the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment Project doesn't highlight the results that negate the theory.

"The idea that climate change causes extreme weather is preposterous. The average number of landfall storms per decade in the US was higher between 1900 and 1960 than in the past 30 or so years. I've met scientists who've said I'm probably right, but if you're in a university funded to research global warming, you're not going to speak up.

"People say that I oppose climate-change theory because I want my way of forecasting to be proved right. But the reason I think the CO2 theory is wrong is that the CO2 theory is wrong." '

The politician: Nigel Lawson

Now Lord Lawson of Blaby, the former Chancellor of the Exchequer this year published 'An Appeal to Reason: A Cool Look at Global Warming', in which he was critical of climate-change policy, including the Kyoto Protocol and the Stern Review

"There has been no global warming this century, and that is apparent from figures produced by the Hadley Centre, the branch of the UK Met Office that monitors world temperatures.

"There's also uncertainty over the impact of climate change, even if it does happen. If you take the trouble to read the IPCC reports, there's a mixed bag of potential consequences, some of them beneficial.

"After the hot summer of 2003, the Department of Health looked into what might happen in the UK if the temperature by 2050 matched predictions. It found there would be an increase in deaths from dehydration of 2,000 per year, but a reduction in deaths from hypothermia of 20,000 per year.

"We're told that there has to be a global agreement to deal with global warming, to cut back drastically on carbon-dioxide emissions, but it's simply not going to happen. The Chinese and Indians have made it clear that they're not going to cut back, and with good reason. Their number-one priority is to get their people out of poverty. That means the most rapid possible rate of growth, which means using the cheapest available form of energy, which, now and for the foreseeable future, is carbon-based energy.

"If warming occurs, we should adapt, as mankind has always done. People live in a whole range of climates already. Technology will develop in ways that we can't predict. We can help poor countries to adapt with aid programmes, which will be infinitely cheaper than wrecking our own economies.

"There is a great clash going on between the developing world and the developed world over this, which is politically dangerous. People as diverse as the EU industry commissioner, President Sarkozy of France, and the Democrats in the US Congress, are saying that if China and India won't cut back emissions, then we must impose tariffs on their goods. That kind of retreat into protectionism would be very damaging economically.

"Still, I think you'll find now that both major parties are giving this issue a lot less prominence than they were a year ago, and that is all to the good. The last thing we want is foolish and damaging commitments being made."'

More here

UK government proposes speed camera network covering every A-road in the name of fighting global warming.

The UK Commission for Integrated Transport last year proposed a nationwide blanket of speed cameras as a means of fighting global warming. After a series of trials, the Home Office is now set to make this a reality by approving early next year the SPECS3 "distance over time speed measuring device" that will make it impossible to drive on any primary road in Britain without being tracked and subjected to an instant fine for exceeding the posted speed limit.

"With respect to technology, we are in a period of explosive evolution in traffic control technology," a commission report entitled Transport and Climate Change explained. "The Highways Agency already uses several technologies which are either intended to manage speed, or lend themselves to that purpose by monitoring speed and sending drivers messages about their behavior.... Reducing climate impacts of the motorway network should be a major consideration in the development of motorway control and communications technology."

The commission estimated that new SPECS3 cameras could monitor every driver on 31,136 miles of principal rural and urban roads at a cost of US $769,693,415. While the initial investment appears substantial, the commission noted that "enforcing the 70 MPH limit using SPECS would pay for itself within around two years."

The original SPECS systems, first approved in 1999, photographed vehicles when they entered a road, communicating the time of entry via a fiber optic link to a second camera positioned, say, two miles distant. After the second camera had identified the passing vehicle, the amount of time it took the car to pass between the two points was converted into an average speed. The system's limitations included an inability to ticket cars that changed lanes in between camera locations and a purchase price of US $1.4 million to deploy over a distance of just a mile and a quarter.

SPECS3 solves those limitations. It uses an ISDN connection to transmit data between any two cameras in the entire network, as well as the police headquarters, without the need for the expensive dedicated connection. This configuration slashes deployment cost over the same distance to just US $116,000. The system can also track drivers not only as they change lanes, but as they switch between different roads and highways. Pilot projects are already underway in Camden, Surrey and Northern Ireland where road trials began in April. Once established nationwide, records on all vehicle movements20will be stored for five years in a central government Automated Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) server, allowing police to keep tabs on criminals and political opponents. Work on the data center in north London began in 2005 and officials expect real-time, nationwide tracking capability to be available by January.

The original SPECS cameras were found to be quite successful. Between 2000 and 2005, a single camera in Nottinghamshire generated 76,000 tickets worth US $7.2 million. London's entire SPECS network generated as many citations in just three weeks. London camera officials did admit, however, that 5600 tickets were sent to motorists who were completely innocent.


British school pupils are banned from eating tomato ketchup as part of "healthy" eating drive

Ban: Tomato ketchup has been banned from the canteen in a string of Welsh primary schools and replaced with a sauce the cooks make. Primary schools in the Vale of Glamorgan, South Wales, have removed the sauce because it contains 'too much salt and sugar'. The move has been branded 'daft' by some parents. Last week Marmite was banned from school breakfast clubs by Ceredigion Council, in Mid Wales, because of its salt content.

Sharon Chapman, 47, whose eight-year-old son Rory attends Peterston-Super-Ely Primary School said: 'He came home from school and said "We can't have ketchup any more". 'He can live without it and the healthy meals at the school are fantastic, but this seems one step too far. 'Tomato ketchup contains lycopene, which is good for you, but they say it's got a high level of salt and sugar. 'While it's not something you complain about, it seems a bit daft.'

Vale of Glamorgan Council leader Gordon Kemp said: 'It's all part of the healthy-eating programme and I think our council is one of the leading authorities in Wales in this respect.' A Welsh Assembly Government spokesman said: 'We do not tell local authorities not to serve ketchup in schools. 'It is for local authorities to ensure that their school meals are as balanced and healthy as possible.'


'How I weaned my son off Ritalin and proved discipline is better then drugs'

Earlier this year, Yvonne Dixon's 14-year-old son Jake turned to his mother during the car journey home from school and said calmly: 'If I was still on Ritalin, I think I would have killed myself by now. 'I used to think about throwing myself headfirst through a window. I would sit in my bedroom and cry all the time. 'I didn't want to worry you - I didn't think I could tell anyone what I was feeling.'

Jake, who lives with Yvonne, 44, a nurse, and his stepfather John, a 44-year-old retail manager, is one of the 5 per cent of children diagnosed with ADHD - Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. What is remarkable about Jake is that he appears cured.

His mother doesn't think that is because he spent three years on Ritalin and a similar drug, dexanphetamin, but is down to old-fashioned discipline. 'I know some parents and medical experts may scoff, but I have seen a miraculous change in my son,' says Yvonne. 'It hasn't been an overnight change, just a steady and consistent improvement in his behaviour over the past six years since I took him off Ritalin.'

Yvonne, who lives in a four-bedroom house in Ingoldsby, Lincolnshire, had been told Jake would have to be educated in a special school and need support for the rest of his life. Instead, he is now a bright, articulate teenager who attends a mainstream school and has learned to curb his impulses. 'He holds up a time-out card in class when he feels himself becoming agitated and his concentration goes,' says Yvonne. 'His teacher lets him walk about outside until he feels himself calming down. He is in control of his condition, instead of the other way round.'

Once branded as 'hopelessly disruptive', Jake is taking Btec courses in advanced maths, IT, engineering and travel & tourism. He spends his spare time mending computers for friends and family. And yet he was condemned to a life of chemical dependency from the age of four.

'He was like a zombie on Ritalin,' says Yvonne. 'It was as if all the life had been taken out of him. 'He would rock himself backwards and forwards, crying. All the drug did was keep him quiet and sitting still in class - he didn't learn anything. 'Then, on the way home, tears would be sliding silently down his face. He was utterly miserable. 'I'd relied on the medical profession - of which I am a part - to give me the best advice. 'But I looked at Jake and thought: "This can't be right. You can't go on like this".'

Yvonne believes Ritalin is used to stop children making a nuisance of themselves in overcrowded classrooms. 'It's a scandal,' she says. However, she accepts Jake has problems. As her second child - she has a 19-year-old daughter - she knew there was something different about him before he was a year old. 'There was no eye contact,' she says. 'He didn't like being touched or hugged, and he developed an obsession with lightbulbs. 'He did not take any interest in toys and would never sit still.'

Jake did not speak until he was three, so Yvonne called in a speech therapist. 'She said he was OK, but he'd wake at 5am and take all of his clothes out of the drawers, peel off the wallpaper and once took all the fronts off his chest of drawers.

'His father was in the RAF and was away a lot when Jake was young. 'I do think the stress of coping with our son had a bearing on our marital problems, but it wasn't the whole story. 'It certainly made our time together more fraught because Jake constantly interrupts when you are talking - he can't read social interaction.'

The couple separated when Jake was three, but she claims this did not overly affect him because he does not become emotionally engaged with other people. However, his behavioural problems were all too apparent at nursery. 'He'd run around knocking all the cups out of the other children's hands. The staff would strap him into a chair to keep him still.

'In the past, children like Jake would have just been called naughty, but I believe there is a chemical imbalance in their brains - perhaps they have too much adrenaline. 'What I firmly do not believe is that they should be prescribed powerful drugs.'

At four, Jake was referred by his GP to a paediatrician at Grantham hospital. 'She told us he had ADHD and OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). Very convenient labels, but I still don't believe they should be controlled by drugs,' says Yvonne. Despite grave reservations, but exhausted by Jake's behaviour and lack of sleep, she agreed to have him put on dexanphetamin. 'This drug, like Ritalin, works on the chemical balance of the brain and has the effect of calming down a child immediately.

'He took it twice a day and the effect was instant. He was like a zombie. 'At first, he would calm down and then, as the effects left him, he went into withdrawal and became utterly miserable. It was terrifying.' A year later, under the advice of the paediatrician, Jake was taken off this drug and put onto Ritalin. 'The effect was the same. I moved him from a big state primary into a village school, but they couldn't cope. 'He just sat there in class, drugged up and learning nothing. It was heartbreaking.'

When Jake was eight, his mother took him off Ritalin. 'I tried an additive-free diet, fish oils and other so-called cures, but nothing worked. He went back to being hyperactive and running round and round,' she says. A year after her divorce, Yvonne had met John, who became her second husband. He took a no-nonsense approach to Jake. 'We decided the way forward was good, old-fashioned discipline.

'In the past, I might have been guilty of giving in to Jake, because he was so persistent. 'I was tired and it was easier to let him race around than try to contain him.' Yvonne created a set routine for Jake: every morning, he gets up at the same time. He is expected to tidy his room and lay out the breakfast things. He has to make eye contact and reply to questions. Manners are vital. 'He has to say please and thank you. I never raise my voice to him, and the atmosphere in the house is always calm,' says Yvonne. 'Everything happens in a specified sequence of events. 'Coming home from school, he has a cup of tea, a snack and then is allowed to go to his bedroom and work on his computer. 'Bedtime is always at the same time, after a bath and reading a book.

'We operate a reward system - if he is late or becomes agitated, he is not allowed to work on his computers. He has learned to control his own behaviour. 'It sounds easy, but it has been a long, slow road. We've had lots of setbacks, because if he can't have what he wants immediately, he could get frustrated. 'But he has learned that I am not going to change my mind and give in to him. 'I have given him boundaries and discipline, and it has worked miracles on his behaviour. The time-out system works at home, too. 'If he feels he is becoming agitated, he has to sit down or go for a walk until he calms down.'

More here

UK's Largest Teachers' Union Lobbies to Legalise consensual Sex with older Students

Criminalizing otherwise legal sex because one of the parties is a teacher does seem anomalous

The largest UK teachers' union wants the government to decriminalise sex with students who are over the legal age of consent. Chris Keates, the general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT), said that teachers who have sex with pupils over the age of consent should not be placed on the sex offenders register. Keates called prosecution for statutory rape "a real anomaly in the law that we are concerned about."

NASUWT complained that media reports had misrepresented their position. "To describe the NASUWT's comments on this as 'teachers want the right to bed pupils' as one report has done, simply for pointing out an anomaly which criminalises a teacher but would leave any other adult free from prosecution for the same type of relationship, is a travesty."

Gregory Carlin, however, a child protection activist and head of the Irish Anti-Trafficking Coalition, said that such ideas were another sign of the erosion of legal protections for young people against exploitation. "If the NASUWT philosophy has its day," he said, "exploiting a 16 year old in a brothel would carry no extra penalty." Under the same logic, he said, "Jail guards would be able to take their pick from their charges and foster parents would be spared prosecution for having sex with foster children."

In an official statement dated October 6th, Keates said, "From the time the Sexual Offences legislation was first drafted in 2001 the NASUWT consistently raised the significant anomaly within its provisions. A teacher having a consensual relationship with a pupil over the age of 16 on the roll of the school in which they teach is liable under the Act to prosecution and being placed on the sex offenders register. "However, if the same teacher has a consensual relationship with a young person of the same age who attends another school they would not be prosecuted or classed as sex offenders."

Carlin told LifeSiteNews.com that Keates "knows what she was asking for," which is simply to "legalise sex crimes." List 99 is a secret register of men and women who are barred from working with children by the Department of Education and Skills. Carlin said, "Thousands of teachers are referred to List 99 each year, most of them from the NASUWT. In fact, the referrals doubled between 2003 and 2005."


Harefield (London) transplant deaths review

Heart transplants at Harefield Hospital are being reviewed after four people died within a month of surgery, its NHS trust said. They died after four consecutive operations, conducted by three different surgeons, between July and September. Fifteen transplants have been performed this year at the northwest London hospital. Four people died within 30 days, two inside 90 days and one after 90 days. Last year there were 24 transplants, with no deaths under 30 days. An independent surgeon and cardiologist will carry out the review.


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