Wednesday, August 02, 2006


Ray of Sunshine Shines on UK-US Relations

It's easy to despair at the way Blair kow-tows to Bush and how every statement by related government ministers from Foreign Secretary to junior environment minister falls obediently into line. But the story by Patrick Wintour yesterday seemed to me like a minor ray of sunshine at least. Bush, as we know, refuses to accept the scientific arguments for climate change- he maintains it's all part of the ebb and flow which has changed the climate from ice age to warm periods and back again.

This ignores the fact that no period of warming- the last twenty years have included the warmest ever 18 years recorded- has ever been so rapid and that all but a handful of climate scientists subscribe to the 'human agency' explanation. So he refuses to sign the Kyoto agreement on limiting emissions. Blair has greater respect for science, it would seem, but he has been timorously careful not to contradict his senior partner in the so-called 'special relationship' in any way. But now we hear he has broken free of this does- nothing -for- us alliance at least on the issue of climate change. And in cahoots with the oddest ally: Arnold Schwarzenegger, the gung ho Republican Governor of California. His state- the 12th biggest carbon producer- has now signed up in principle to a trans-atlantic market in CO2 emissions.

Blair is keen to round up those several US states willing to join such a scheme initiated by the EU to enable those who have beaten their quota to trade savings with those who have not. We have not heard of any comeback from an irate Bush as yet; my suspicion is that very soon Bush will belatedly join the consensus incidentally. No doubt my optimism will prove fruitless but I was pleased our PM has at last shown some independence of thought and action and dragged himself away from his security balnket reliance on the man in the White House. Speak for Britain Tony!

It's an important and interesting issue, but why concentrate on the Blair-Bush angle, surely a guarantee that people will either groan, or just wheel out their stereotypes about "stupid" Bush (no mention of his desire to protect the US economy, to include developing countries in the deal, or his belief that a scientific solution is the best way out), and a grovelling Blair?

I'd be happy if the USA ratified Kyoto (though unhappy if that was considered sufficient), but it's wrong to imply that the USA doesn't recognise the reality and potential of climate change. Too many people already single the USA out - and turn a blind eye to others - because it comfortably fits in with their world-view.
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Agree too many people stereotype Bush on climate change but whilst Bush bangs on about how much Kyoto would damage US economy:
i) US produces one quarter of CO2 emissions with 5% of the population.
ii) we can scarcely expect developing nations to toe a self restraint line when we are living it large on CO2 emissions.
iii) Bush really is a 'climate change denier' as criminally blind to reality as any holocaust denier in my view.
Couple of points. Firstly it is ever so slightly offensive and just ridiculous to compare Bush's views on climate change with holocaust denial. The murder of six million people is beyond reasonable debate. Climate change is a theory, and as yet unproven. Bush's position is very simple. Until there is more proof(and one would expect their to be firmer evidence with the technical establishment and virtually all world Governments investing huge sums of money in research), he refuses to damage his nation's competitiveness. A very responsible position. Perhaps worth remembering that nothing of the so-called "climate change" is historically unprecedented. Climate works in cycles. More proof please. The comparison is even more irresponsible when the people of Israel are facing such a mortal threat. To mention the President in the same sentence as the holocaust, when 40 rockets have been launched at Israel in the last 24hrs is slightly irresponsible. Kyoto is a nonsense, and the sooner environmentalists stop going on about America not ratifying it, and start getting real about what is possible, the better.

The other point. I think you misjudge Arnie. The only gun-ho thing he does is in the movies. He has proven himself to be a very sharp operator, in a state that is more Democratic than any other. He has played the liberal line on same-sex relationship, stem cells, abortion and now the environmentalist argument.
Michael O
I'm not trying to connect Bush with the holocaust in any direct way. My argument is that climate change, if we allow it to get hotter and hotter will cause sea level rises of over 20 feet which will inundate lowlying areas worldwide causing death and extreme hardship. The reduction of food production and spread of disease will also cause deaths. Why else did David King, our Chief Scientific Adviser say climate change was more of a threat to mankind than terrorism? Global warming could spell the end of all human life full stop. People who deny the huge evidence behind global warming are just denying reality- hence my comparison with those why deny the holocaust.
I tend to think you might be right about Arnie being a shrewd cookie but, while he's not been as bad as I expected him to be, he hasn't exactly transformed his state's finances or politics has he?
All very reasonable. I agree with you about the importance of climate change. If the suggested theory is correct, then it is more important than any other single issue. But that is a huge IF. I simply dispute the evidence, and I am slightly suspicious that any scientist who questions the theory is purged from sight. I just doubt the wisdom of making what are huge economic sacrifices for "possibilities" and "maybes". The scientific community needs to provide more evidence, for it is unreasonable to expect the world's responsible leaders to sacrifice economic growth for the current evidence. And that is why I find the Holocaust denial comparison is just not apt. Even sceptics like David Irvine accept that there was a systematic mass slaughter of the Jews. There is an argument about the scale, but anyone claiming less than 4.5 to 5m Jews died at the hands of the Nazis is just not credible. Climate change is NOT fact in this way. It may not exist. There is just no comparison. I think we are just destined to disagree about this one.

Don't get me wrong about Arnie. I am not necessarily a fan. There are serious problems in ensuring the long term stability of California(on many issues), and I am not expert enough to know about all the solutions. But he is a survivor, in the Blairite mold, and those types are to be underestimated at your peril. Arnie is the true chameleon, and he does it well.
Michael O.
OK, it is still a theory but one which 99 per cent of climate scientists endorse and only 1 per cent oppose. Of course there have been variations in the world's temperature before but they occurred over long periods, usually of centuries. The point about the present situation is that degree of increase is unprecedentedly rapid. 18 of the hottest years since records began have occurred within the last 20 years. I'm not a scientist but I've read quite a bit about the problem and am convinced the naysayers are either of the vested interest variety(e'g. Exxon Oil) or- as perhaps in your case- insist on requiring proof the building is burning down as the smoke snakes up around their ankles.

Arnie's political longevity is a side issue compared with the thrust of this argument.
The people with the greatest vested interest are the climate scientists. Oil investors can always invest in other things. If I thought this theory was true, and more importantly if I thought the US Government thought it was true, I would just switch my investments. No need for a conspiracy. Think about it. Global warming is the greatest thing that could happen for a climate scientist. It suddenly makes them in demand, respected and listened to, where previously they were none of these. Of course they believe in it! In the same way that clergymen believe in God and anti-smoking campaigners believe that smoking causes lung cancer. Only a few scientists have had the moral courage to even ask the obvious questions, and the reaction of European Governments and the scientific community suggests that they are not as confident about their theory as they should be. But the real world...the one of government, dividends, pensions and balance sheets...requires just a little more proof. You say 99%, I would say it is much lower than that. With all the other variables, and previous records(of such recent times) to go against the theory, I would suggest the chances are less than 10%. Most of the American leadership realise that the environmentalist lobby has for a long time sought reasons to put a stop to economic growth. It is to be regretted that they have found so many gullible European Governments and scientists on this occasion. But the Bush Administration, or indeed any potential American administration, is so far from falling for this nonsense that I am not worried.

The only result of this theory will be egg on the face of the Europeans and assorted lefties, and a widening of the economic gulf between us and the Americans. From my point of view, not necessarily a bad thing, but I expect the scientific community will not admit its error for a long time. After all, why would a turkey vote for Xmas?
Michael O.
Your comments about climate scientists imply they are merely self interested guys on the make. Surely you can't believe this to be true? I know a couple of climate scientists and they are genuinely appalled at what is happening to their-and our- world. But it doesn't look as if we'll persuade each other- though I feel sure the philosopher who's name you borrow would have felt the proof available was already conclusive.

Try reading Ian Flannery, The Weather Makers or, more accessible and online, Andrew Sullivan in today's ST.
I seriously doubt Oakeshott would. And don't forget he lived until 1990, so had ample time to put such a statement on the record. I am simply using your argument to show that there are interests at stake on both sides. Only the most bigoted left winger(and you obviously aren't) would claim that oil investors are necessarily dishonest, and climate scientists necessarily honest. Oakeshott would be appalled about many things happening in the world(and climate change would not be at the top I suspect), but I trust he would look for the real cause behind these problems. There is no shortage of material backing up your argument. But none of it borders on conclusive. In fact the scientific community have been very lazy here, seeming to believe that "if you throw enough mud"...
I am glad the USA wants a bit more than that, and disappointed that the ridiculous Blair wants to sacrifice so much of our prosperity(before jetting off to Barbados on a 747).
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