Friday, May 01, 2009


Can we solve climate change? No we can't, according to a leading climate change professor. Mike Hulme professor of Climate Change at East Anglia University reckons we are heading up a "dead end" by putting climate change science at the top of the political agenda. In fact he thinks we are pretty arrogant to think we can control the climate.

Mike, who has spent the last 25 years researching climate change, has just written a book Why we disagree about climate change where he questions why climate change has become "the mother of all issues." "Why is it that climate change has taken this premier position as the issue that humanity's future is at stake if we don't attend to climate change?"

Mike reckons "climate change" is unsolvable. People round the world are too different, with different needs, to come together. Since the "landmark" Kyoto agreement ten years ago emissions have accelerated. Instead we should treat climate change as an idea like democracy or justice motivating us to live better so that we can act locally and regionally to get cleaner air, or power or eradicate poverty.

"We shouldn't be framing climate change as the problem that we have to solve above all others. If we do that we have constructed an unsolvable dilemma because of the multiple reasons why we disagree about climate change. We will never converge on a set of solutions.

"Rather than putting climate change at the pinnacle and if we fail on climate change everything else fails. Humanity is doomed, we've only got seven more years, the clock is ticking... what I'm suggesting is that we turn this whole thing around and think of climate change as an imaginative idea like democracy or nationality or justice. It's an idea that can be used but you cannot solve an idea. You can use an idea you can manipulate it, you can exploit it but you can't solve it.

"Let's be very clear about this I'm not denying climate change. I'm not questioning the fundamental science here. Humans are altering the climate around the world in my mind there's no doubt about that. And climate has an effect on eco systems around the world. "What I am questioning is that we can solve it in the way that we have it currently framed. We have reached this paralysis mode"

Mike says the way we are tackling climate change could even lead to reactionary and authoritarian policies such as sending mirrors into space or spraying aerosols in the atmosphere. "My basic thesis is that we should turn climate change around. It's localising issues. "We don't have to get global agreements to attend to fuel poverty in Britain or air pollution in China's cities.

"If by 2050 we have managed to limit global warming to 2 degrees will that world actually be a better world? Will it have attended to these other issues, nationally and globally? I'm not sure it will. "Physical climate is being changed by human societies. Human societies are having to grapple with what that means and just trying to deal with this in terms of science is a dead end, I think." "A more powerful way into these issues to localise them. We can improve the local environment in our cities by changing our transport systems we can buy local food. "They don't all have to tick the climate change box to be morally or ethically desirable. There are more games in town than simply climate change.

"I am not saying we don't want radical change. I am saying we should take the spotlight away from climate change at the top of the pile. "It is rather hubristic to think we can actually control climate. Climate change is the new human condition we have to live with. Let's accept this is the new reality. "Don't construct the problem in a way which means we cannot have a solution which is the way I think we have got it constructed at the moment."



Prince Charles, the heir to the British throne who is most famous for talking to plants, has signed a deal to make a movie and write a book about climate change. The project will be called "Harmony," because, in Charles's words, humankind must "rediscover that sense of harmony, that sense of being a part of, rather apart from, nature." His film will educate the unruly masses - with their fast cars, fridges, and other planet-destroying luxuries - that human beings "have a sacred duty of stewardship of the natural order of things."

The thought of being lectured about living more meekly by a taxpayer-subsidized prince who has never done a proper day's work in his life - and who is currently flying around Europe on a private jet with a master suite and plush bathroom that will spew a whopping 53 tons of CO2 into the atmosphere over the course of his five-day, $116,000 charter - is of course eye-swivellingly irritating. But this is something we're getting used to in Britain - because here, environmentalism looks very much like the Revenge of the Aristocrats. The British green lobby is stuffed with the sons and daughters of privilege, for whom environmentalism provides a perfect, scientifically tinged gloss for expressing in a new way their old foul prejudices against mass, modern society.

Many of the major players in British environmentalism are posh, rich, and hectoring. One of Charles's top advisers is Jonathon Porritt, a former director of Friends of the Earth and a patron of the creepy Malthusian outfit, the Optimum Population Trust (OPT). Porritt is a graduate of Eton, Britain's school of choice for the rich and well-connected, and is the son of Lord Porritt, the 11th Governor General of New Zealand. The increasingly influential OPT also counts Sir Crispin Tickell (who is as posh as his name suggests) and Lady Kulukundis, the wife of a Greek shipping magnate, among its patrons.



One of the oldest and most efficient wind farm in Britain is to be dismantled and replaced by a nuclear power station under plans drawn up by the German-owned power group RWE.

The site at Kirksanton in Cumbria - home to the Haverigg turbines - has just been approved by the government for potential atomic newbuild in a move that has infuriated the wind power industry.

Colin Palmer, founder of the Windcluster company, which owns part of the Haverigg wind farm, said he was horrified that such a plan could be considered at a time when Britain risks missing its green energy targets and after reassurance from ministers that nuclear and renewables were not incompatible.



So much for "Green jobs"

One of the biggest renewable energy manufacturers in Britain announced on Tuesday it is to cut more than half its UK jobs - blaming the government for failing to support the sector.

In a grave blow to the government's ambitions to create a "green" export industry, Vestas, the world's biggest maker of wind turbines, will axe about 600 of its 1,100 UK employees, probably closing its factory in the Isle of Wight and cutting jobs elsewhere in the UK.

Ditlev Engel, chief executive of Vestas, told the Financial Times: "We had been planning additional investment in the UK [because of government targets to increase renewables]. But the UK is probably one of the most difficult places in the world to get permission [for wind projects]. We can't afford to keep on this capacity."

The blow comes less than a week after Alistair Darling trumpeted the role of low-carbon industries in job creation, announcing new funding for renewables in his Budget.


Labour Party rebellion over Britain's treatment of retired Gurkhas

A growing Labour rebellion against the Government's treatment of the Gurkhas has put intense pressure on ministers to allow more Nepalese veterans to retire in the UK.

Dozens of Labour backbenchers are expected to vote against the Government's treatment of the Gurkhas. The revolt comes after the Labour-dominated Home Affairs Committee told the Government to do more for the Gurkhas and summoned Phil Woolas, the immigration minister, to explain its stance.

The Government has been accused of betraying thousands of Nepalese men who fought for Britain in conflicts including the Falklands after setting new immigration rules that stop short of allowing all former Gurkhas to come to Britain. Under the new rules, only Gurkhas with at least 10 years' service are eligible to come to Britain. Other foreign nationals serving with the British Armed Forces can apply after only four years.

The High Court last year declared that preventing Gurkhas who had served in the British Army before 1997 from living in this country was unlawful. In response, the Home Office last week issued fresh criteria for allowing Gurhkas into the UK, but set the bar for entry so high that campaigners say that only a few hundred veterans will ever qualify.

Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat leader, has called for all former Gurkhas to be admitted to Britain [Hear, Hear!] and will today trigger a Commons vote on the issue. Forty-five Labour backbenchers have signed a Commons motion calling for Gurkhas who retired before 1997 to have the same immigration status as those who retired after that time. In all, 109 MPs have backed the motion.

Martin Salter, a Labour backbencher, said: "This completely disgraceful decision does a great disservice to the brave Gurkha soldiers who have willingly risked their lives for this country."

Mr Clegg appealed to Labour MPs to vote against the Government's "insulting decision to turn its back on these brave soldiers." He said: "People who are prepared to fight and die for our country should be entitled to live here. Yet even this basic principle is broken by this out of touch and morally bankrupt Government." The Lib Dem motion in the Commons will also be publicly supported at Westminster rally by the actress Joanna Lumley, whose father served in a Gurkha regiment.

Mr Woolas has claimed that giving free access to all former Gurkhas and their families could mean as many as 100,000 people moving to Britain. Advocates of the Gurkha cause say that is an overestimate, and the Home Affairs Committee has summoned Mr Woolas to explain the Government's treatment of the Gurkhas.

Keith Vaz, the Labour chairman of the committee said ministers should "do the honourable thing" and admit the Gurkhas. He said: "The Committee was tremendously impressed by the merits of the Gurkha argument and the dignity with which they have attempted to redress a great injustice. "It is indisputable that the UK owes an historic debt of gratitude to the Gurkhas for their brave, loyal and distinguished service in the defence of this country. Natural justice as well as moral rectitude dictate that we should treat them equally as any other individual prepared to fight and die for this country." [I never thought I would applaud Keith Vaz but I do on this occasion -- JR]


Daily aspirin in your forties 'can cut risk of cancer later in life'

Looks like aspirin is back in the good books too. We were told recently that it must not be given to teenagers! Odd that it's good for one age-group but not another!

Taking an aspirin a day in your forties can cut the chances of developing cancer later in life, according to experts. Those who take the cheap painkiller for 10 years can reduce the risks of suffering from breast and bowel cancer, two of the most common forms of the disease. Prof Jack Cuzick, from Cancer Research UK, said that taking the drugs in middle age would "maximise" the benefits when patients were in their sixties, when many cancers develop.

Taking aspirin in your mid-forties could be the "best time" to stop the disease progressing into full-blown cancer, he said. The drug could already be protecting hundreds of thousands of people who currently regularly take it to prevent a heart attack or stroke. Scientists believe that it works by blocking the effects of proteins in the body linked to inflammation and found in abundance in some types of cancer.

Previous studies have shown that people who take aspirin are less likely to develop breast and bowel cancer, which together affect more than 81,000 people in Britain every year. Cancer Research UK is also investigating whether the drug could be used to prevent gullet cancer.

But Prof Cuzick warned that scientists needed to identify those at high risk of suffering side effects, which can include bleeding in the stomach and ulcers, before doctors could advise regular use of aspirin to prevent cancer. Recent studies have suggested that taking the medication in combination with other drugs, called proton pump inhibitors, could help to lower the risk of stomach bleeding.

Dr Lesley Walker, Cancer Research UK's director of cancer information, said: "We need scientists to focus their efforts on how to reduce the side effects of taking aspirin so that very soon it may be possible to use the drug as a way of preventing cancer. "It's too soon to recommend that people take aspirin to try and stop cancer developing because of the side effects. But survival is low for cancers like gullet cancer so understanding how to prevent the disease is crucial."

Prof Cuzick, from the Cancer Research UK Centre for Epidemiology at Queen Mary, University of London, analysed all the available scientific evidence on the benefits of aspirin in preventing cancer for the review, published in the journal Lancet Oncology. "Taking aspirin regularly in your mid 40s could maximise the effect this drug has on preventing cancer," he said. "Taking aspirin at this age, which is about the time pre-cancerous lesions usually begin to develop, may be the best time to stop the disease from progressing to actual cancer. "And, as the risk of serious side effects of aspirin greatly increase after 60 years old, taking long-term treatment before this age will help to minimise these side effects."

Further research is also needed to uncover whether the so-called "baby aspirin" dose of 80mg a day can offer the protection or if the full standard 300mg dose is needed, he added.

Previous studies have suggested that an aspirin a day can help to prevent liver damage and could be used as a treatment for osteoporosis, or brittle bone disease. A daily aspirin is recommended to prevent heart attacks in people at high risk of suffering one.

However, doctors have warned that healthy people should not routinely take the drug. Dr Sarah Rawlings, from Breakthrough Breast Cancer, said: "The potential of anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin to prevent some forms of cancer, including breast cancer, is very interesting. However, further research is needed before we can say whether the benefits of using such drugs to prevent cancer outweigh the risks."


British regional council launches knife detectors in schools

Waltham Forest Council has become the first in the country to introduce a borough-wide weapons screening programme in schools, with knife arches in every secondary school. Council bosses said that it would be foolish to ignore the problem of knife crime as the scheme was launched at Lammas School and Sports College in Leyton, east London. Teachers, students, police and councillors all welcomed the initiative and denied that the presence of the arches in schools would criminalise young people.

Chris Robbins, council member for children and young people, said: "There's no doubt that there is an issue of knife and weapon crime in London and it would be foolish to ignore that." He said the scheme, the first in England and Wales, was in response to requests from youngsters who said they wanted to feel safe in schools. He added that the initiative would tackle the serious crime as part of a larger educational programme which involved the police talking to students in schools.

Lammas School headteacher Shona Ramsay said the programme was a good idea. "It's a preventative measure to deter our young people from carrying knives," she said. "We don't have a problem here and I want to keep it that way. We're really pressing home the message that schools are safe."

From today, the arches will be used about once a term [What good is that? Why not once a day?] in each of the borough's 22 secondary schools. Inspector Mike Hamer, head of the borough's safer schools programme, said around 12,000 pupils had been screened so far and no weapons had been found. He said: "We think that's a success. What it means is that there has been no knives in schools and the students should feel safe."

He said there had been an "overwhelmingly positive" response and denied that the arches would criminalise all young people. He added that the arches were a "response to what young people want" and helped reduce the fear of crime in schools.

Marco Santo, 12, said he was "a bit nervous before walking through the arches" but that it "wasn't that bad". Mischa Haynes, also 12, said: "It makes you feel safe in school and it's a place where you should feel safe."

The Government launched its Tackling Knives Action Programme last summer which targeted 10 knife-crime hotspots with searches, knife arches and increases in police patrols. At the time, Frances Lawrence, widow of headteacher Philip Lawrence who was stabbed outside St George's School in Maida Vale, north London, in 1995, called for more action to prevent stabbings but said knife arches amounted to "criminalisation of all young people".


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