Friday, September 27, 2013

Carrier Bag Scepticism

Cut to the haunting image of a sea turtle, thousands of miles away, struggling through the deep ocean waters as discarded plastic bags wrap themselves around its flippers and body.

These majestic animals are dying in alarming numbers because they mistake the flimsy translucent bags - which could in theory come from British supermarkets - for jellyfish, a key element of their diet.

The endangered Green Turtle provides a potent symbol of the deadly threat to wildlife and the blight on the natural world caused by throwaway plastic bags handed out free in their billions to shoppers. [Daily Mail, 27 February 2008]

Who can fail to be moved by the image conjured so vividly in those few sentences? Scourge of the oceans, destroyer of marine life and polluter of the eco-system, the carrier bag is everything that is wrong with our throwaway life styles. Only the most hard-hearted and selfish could say otherwise. Except that, as with many environmental scares and controversies, the reality is considerably more complex than these often simplistic narratives would indicate. Perhaps the case for the prosecution is not as strong, or as straightforward, as would first appear…

At first glance the case against the carrier bag seems self-evident. It is wasteful – the bags are throwaway by design. They use up resources – plastic carrier bags are made from oil and obviously use up energy in their manufacture. They pollute the environment – famously being a key ingredient of the ‘great Pacific garbage patch’, (or the Pacific Trash Vortex if your language tends to the dramatic) or the similarly described patch in the Atlantic. And finally, the great and the good have come out firmly against them – from hardened environmentalists to the BBC to the Daily Mail and Marks and Spencers. In fact, in some more environmentally conscious parts of the world, Wales for example, the carrier bag already incurs a surcharge – a guilt tax to nudge us towards greener alternatives.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Halloween Costumes Go PC

Says it all really - what a sad state of affairs we find ourselves in. For those readers not from the UK and a bit perplexed... a news item doing the rounds at the moment concerns two major supermarkets withdrawing Halloween costumes that depicted psycho mental patients because they allegedly help stigmatise those suffering from mental illness. The Guardian covers the story thus:

They even get slime-master Alistair Campbell to mount the soap box and whine that :
Those defending these costumes say they are a bit of fun and we should lighten up. They are not a bit of fun. They are offensive. They commercialise prejudice and stereotype and they reinforce stigma.
So, let me get this right. It's OK to invade Iraq and enter a conflict that leaves thousands dead and injured, but it's not OK for a supermarket to sell a tacky costume depicting cartoon-character psychos? Yep, makes perfect sense to me too.

Is there anyone in the country who's not going to be offended by something someone does somewhere? It seems that the only human right we're not allowed to glory in is the right to offend...

At least one person has got it right:

BBC and 'Well funded sceptics'

The BBC has a piece online today that looks at climate sceptics. As you'd expect from the BBC it's heavily weighted towards the IPCC side of things, but still managers to give a superficial impression of being fair. For example, there's a side bar that states:

Although there are only a small number of mainstream scientists who reject the established view on global warming, they are supported by a larger group of well resourced bloggers and citizen scientists who pore through climate literature and data looking for evidence of flaws in the hypothesis.

Aside from repeating the lie that there are only small number of 'mainstream scientists' who are in the sceptic camp, it also repeats the bigger lie about 'well resourced bloggers'. Come on, who's well resourced? Is it the sceptic camp or is it the alarmist camp funded by governments, trans-national bodies (like the UN, EU etc), big green and a host of environmentalist activist organisations. The disparity in resourcing is staggering - back in 2009 Australian blogger JoAnne Nova pegged the money spent on climate science as $79 billion ( - yet the implication in the BBC story is that well-funded sceptics are attacking plucky little climate scientists.

But let's also focus on the last bit of that quote:

well resourced bloggers and citizen scientists who pore through climate literature and data looking for evidence of flaws in the hypothesis.

Excuse me, but isn't that what scientists do? Doesn't the scientific method depend on this process?

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Militard's Record on Energy

For those with short memories, a few reminders:

  • First Secretary of State for the newly minted Department of Energy and Climate Change.
  • Committed the government to cut CO2 emissions by 80% by 2050, up from a mere 60% that had previously been announced.
  • Announced that any potential new coal-fired power stations would be unable to receive government consent unless they could demonstrate that they would be able to effectively capture and bury 25% of the emissions they produce immediately (even though, or perhaps because, no such technology exists).
  • Represented the UK at the 2009 Copenhagen Climate Summit, where he pushed hard for binding agreements to cut emissions.

All of these are policies which have cost, and continue to cost, billions and which have directly impacted our fuel bills.

That Militard Speech

So, let’s get this straight. The Labour Party were instrumental in putting into place the green subsidy gravy train that is screwing the UK consumer (and which our current leaders are in no hurry to dismantle). Having helped deliver fuel poverty the Labour Party sees no reason to do anything positive to address the problem – for example by aggressively supporting the introduction of fracking, stopping the rush to build more useless windmills, cutting down on other costly green subsidies. Instead, brave Ed Militard will take control of fuel pricing directly. Because, of course, price controls have been so phenomenally successful everywhere they’ve been tried.

Ed’s speech was supposed to impress us with his strategy and vision. Well, it’s impressed me with something, but it’s not strategy, vision or intelligence. What it has done, though, is show once again the nasty statist bent of Militard and the Labour Party. And, should he fail, it sets up his credentials for a cushy little number in the EU Commission...

Sadly, bashing energy companies and promising to make better the problems you’ve caused seems likely to be a more popular bet than being honest and helping to put right the wrong policies that you helped put into practice in the first place.

Monday, September 23, 2013

GWPF Call For Review of UK Climate Model

Today's email post bag includes a Press Release from the Global Warming Policy Foundation calling for an independent review of the UK's Official Climate Predictions from the Met Office. To quote from the release:

Nic Lewis, an independent climate scientist, has published research that shows that because of the way the predictions are prepared using the Met Office's computer climate model, they are bound to predict fairly high warming in the UK whatever observational data are fed into the process.

The UK climate predictions programme informs decisions to invest billions of pounds in climate change adaptation measures across the public and private sectors. The inherent warm bias in the predictions means that much of this spending is probably unnecessary.

Andrew Montford, the author of the GWPF briefing paper, said:

“There are potentially billions of pounds being misspent on the basis of these predictions. The government has little choice but to withdraw them pending a review of the way they are put together”.

GWPF chairman Lord Lawson is calling for an independent panel of climate scientists and statisticians to review the UKCP09 predictions.

The full briefing paper, which is well worth a read can be downloaded here:

And for those interested in the detail of the science behind the call for the review, it's available from Nic Lewis here:

Saturday, September 21, 2013

UKIP - Bloomed Again

At the time of Godfrey Bloom's 'bongo bongo land' outburst I wrote:

Let's be clear, if UKIP is a serious political party and not the vehicle of a handful of leaders safely esconced in Brussels, it needs to appeal to a wider range of the electorate. It needs to appeal across racial and class barriers, it needs to appeal to those who look for signs of intelligent policy as well as wanting to have a go at our ruling elites. And it won't do that with people like Godfrey Bloom slurring racist comments to the party faithful.
Now, we get a re-run and the effect on the wavering voter are pretty clear to see: 
What I do care about is that he’s sounding like the boring bloke in the pub who drones on in a loud voice and vents his bigotted bloody spleen all the time. And that Nigel Farage doesn’t seem to be much better. He sounds like another charmless twat who’s got no brains and no ideas apart from how to make good for himself.

Friday, September 20, 2013

David Attenborough Should STFU

David Attenborough should just STFU. The misanthropic old git has been much in the news again spouting off his usual doom-laden drivel about over-population. Just as an exercise he should just take a look out of the window at the real world around him. In the 87 years that he's been around the planet the population has shut up from 2 billion to around 7 billion. A huge jump, we're all agreed. But at the same time global life expectancy at birth have doubled according to some statistics - and while I'll admit the actual numbers may be dubious the trend is there in every set of numbers you look at. Poverty levels have been dropping in percentage and absolute terms. Wealth has increased massively. Pollution has decreased in the developed world and is starting to drop in other parts of the world too.

By any conceivable metric the human race has prospered even as the population has increased. What about the 'natural' world (as though somehow humans are not part of the natural world)? Well, deforestation is no longer seen as the problem it once was - though it's clear that some of the policies inflicted on us by greens like David Attenborough are making things worse as forests are cleared for bio-fuel crops. Global warming never was a problem and it's becoming clearer by the day that this scare is dying on its feet.

Of course we're not living in utopia and there are real economic, political and environmental problems in the world. But by any objective measure the doom and gloom propagated by Attenborough, and those who have preceded him (Paul Ehrlich being the most obvious example) is not warranted.

National treasure? Possibly. But he'd be more of a treasure if he just STFU or else dared to look beyond his fixed ideological position and see how the real world has changed in his life-time.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Read it and weep

Climateer Tim Flannery sacked in Oz

Now we know why they call Australia 'the lucky country'. From here in the UK we can only look on jealously as the new Aussie administration starts to dismantle the climate alarmist gravy train. In the UK, across Europe and the US, the alarmist establishment continues to soak up our money even as the 'consensus' withers and turns to dust. Alarmism is so firmly embedded in the DNA of our political masters (regardless of what party label they attach to themselves) that there is little chance of us learning from the Aussie example. The only thing we can hope is that there are enough second-rank leaders looking and learning so that when the time comes and they step up to leading positions they can be as ruthless in cutting out the rot in the heart of the establishment.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

HS2 - Huge Subsidy Too

The recent report from KPMG that suggested that by 2037 the HS2 rail scheme could be benefiting the economy by £15bn a year was pretty much wishful thinking paid for by the quango behind the scheme. The made up numbers were meant to impress, but they've been treated sceptically by pretty much everyone who's commented, aside from the government of course. Interestingly the made up numbers are not based on decreased travel times but by an increase in the number of journeys and an increase in economic activities that this is supposed to magically lead to.

If, for a moment, we ignore the nonsense numbers and accept that more journeys will mean more economic activity, then we have to ask are there cheaper alternatives to HS2? The answer surely has to be yes. How about more road building? How about improving the existing motorway infrastructure? And, given the long time scales involved, we might even try and take a futuristic stance. For example, Google and others are making real strides in the development of autonomous vehicles. If this continues then perhaps we can think about providing special lanes or even separate roads for these vehicles - which will be able to travel more closely together in loosely associated convoys with the ability of individual vehicles to come on/off as required. With continued improvements in control systems, enhancements to engine design for fuel efficiency and other technological advances, we can get the increased journeys, possibly improved journey times and the economic benefits that ensue without the need to pump the billions into HS2.

Better yet, if we make the new roads (or new lanes on existing roads), toll roads, then the users of these vehicles will pay for the privilege of travelling on them.

Ultimately, the problem with long-term substantial infrastructure projects like HS2 is not just the huge cost over-runs and massive tax-payer subsidies, it's that they're always out of date by the time they come on line...

Monday, September 16, 2013

Vivienne Westwood Is An Irrelevant Hag

As you can imagine, I'm not really one for fashion - whether it's politics, music or sartorial - but every so often something will grab the headlines and eventually impinge on my consciousness. Vivienne Westwood was in the news a few weeks ago when she attended the 'anti-fracking' camp at Balcombe. She was dutifully interviewed by the massed ranks of the old media where she gave us the benefit of her vast insights into energy policy, climate science and economics. To call her clueless would be kind. The degree of vacuousness was unbelievable. But still she's a celebrity and had once, for a short while, been considered incredibly radical. Now she was spouting environmentalist drivel and sounding like a doddery old granny on day release from a hospital ward.

Fast forward a couple of weeks and her latest collection is in the news. Gasp! It's so radical again. So engaged. So... Clothes with the words 'Climate' on them! Models with zombie faces to symbolise the death and destruction we've wrought on Gaia. Yawn. This at the time when the climate scare is gasping from lack of oxygen and most people have realised that the game's up. But like a French aristocrat on the eve of the revolution, she has no idea that history is about to leave her and her brand of empty climate alarmism behind.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Thank You Chris Huhne

A big thank you is due to Chris Huhne, all over the papers complaining that the media ruined his life and that being a lying, deceitful and arrogant bastard had nothing to do with it. There was a time when the Lib Dems were seen by many as the 'nice' party. Where the Tories and Labour were the nasty beasts of government - full of scheming, dishonest and conniving careerists and the power-hungry who'd do anything to get into government - the Lib Dems were portrayed as the slightly naive, idealistic and slightly eccentric party that the 'real' politician types would avoid. But thankfully Chris Huhne through his behaviour has shown that the Lib Dems can be as bad as the rest of them - part and parcel of the British political class, no different in kind to the ambitious and ruthless bastards that make their home in the other major parties.

Of course it's not just Huhne, we all know that Lib Dems policies are the epitome of big green thinking - Europhile, statist, collectivist and most of all radically environmentalist. But when it comes to the personal ethics of Lib Dem politicians, Chris Huhne has done us proud. Sadly, that won't stop him prospering from his former position in the political establishment, but we can hope that he's helped make his party unelectable in the future.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

The Living Wage

Much has been paid of the report that up to 4.8 million workers are earning below the 'living wage' (currently defined as £8.55 in London and £7.45 outside). If we take it as read that the research, from the think tank the Resolution Foundation, is accurate, and that the amounts set for the living wage are about right, the obvious question is what do we do about it?

Well, there's a simple solution and then there are various shades of complicated solutions which, no doubt, will be the ones discussed by politicians and media commentators. First the simple solution: just take people on minimum wage out of the tax and NI system. You can do this by adjusting tax thresholds appropriately and then you don't need to install new systems of bureaucracy, create new classes of benefit or even track conformance. Just stop taking money away from the people who need it the most. Hell, you don't even need to employ a single addtional civil servant to make this work.

That virtue - simplicity and no additional bureaucracy - means that it's unlikely to happen. So then we look at the other options. First is the relatively simple one of raising the minimum wage. But this has some serious down-sides, like stifling job growth and putting some people out of work. And what do you do about the living wage differential between London and the rest of the UK? Do you institute regional minimum wage scales? Now you're in the realm of additional complexity for employers and having to put new systems of inspection and control in place. The net affect is to add to the costs to the state (in reality to the tax payer, including those on minimum wage...) and to increase the costs of employment.

So, what looks like a simple solution of increasing miminum wage turns into something a bit more complex and expensive. What next? Well, you leave minimum wage where it is and put into place additional benefits. Or you get employers to increase pay then then give the employers some to make the difference. Or... You get the picture - more complexity, more costs and an increasing bureaucratic burden.

Which takes us back to the really simple solution that I first mentioned. If we really believe that people should be paid this living wage, then we can increase the tax thresholds so that people on low wages can get to keep their money. Why do it any other way?