Global warming, Iraq and others

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How we might shield a warming planet from the Sun's rays

How we might shield a warming planet from the Sun's rays

Sir: Following on from the pertinent articles on the crucially important issue of global warming, by Johann Hari and Niall Ferguson (15 September), I write to draw attention to two possible techniques by which it may be possible to ameliorate or even eradicate warming resulting from the burning of fossil fuels.

These were examined at a major symposium on global warming mitigation, held in Cambridge in January, where the consensus view was that they should be funded to be carried further. Both ideas involve increasing the reflectivity (albedo) of the Earth to incoming sunlight.

Obviously, if a greater fraction of the sunlight arriving at the top of the atmosphere is reflected back into space, the result is a cooling of the Earth. One idea, developed by a strong team of US scientists, is to inoculate the stratosphere with vast quantities of reflective metallic needles

The second idea, on which colleagues and I are working, is to increase the reflectivity of shallow maritime clouds - which cover a large fraction of the oceanic surface - by atomising sea-water to produce tiny droplets which enter the clouds and for well-established physical reasons cause them to become more reflective.

Tests using the Meteorological Office's Global Climate Model show that this technique could produce significant cooling. Much more work is required to establish whether technological problems can be resolved, but if so the level of cooling could be controlled. The technique has the advantage that the only raw material required is seawater, which will largely fall back into the oceans.

To date, no funding has been allocated for research into these albedo-enhancement ideas. In my view, the consequences of global warming are so devastating to the planet and its occupants, and so imminent, that adequate resources should immediately made available so that these and other possibly helpful techniques can be fully explored.

Lower Whitley, Cheshire
The writer was director of the atmospheric research group at UMIST

There will be no 'nice ending' in Iraq

Sir: I watched the antics of Tony Blair and Iyad Allawi, Iraq's interim Prime Minister, so well described in your paper (20 September) with amazement. Does Blair really believe that we will buy such a prospectus from a man with his record? "The crucible in which the future of this global terrorism will be determined" - it doesn't improve or become meaningful with repetition. Allawi desperately interjects, demanding the insurgents be called "terorists".

I cannot accept that "this fight" is a fight for civilised values. It has nothing to do with "terrorism". The bulk of the Iraqi people do not want coalition forces in Iraq and want to choose their own government. They are perfectly entitled to reject alien invaders, alien occupiers and a puppet government. That rejection, even if done with violence and heavily aimed at their own people who collaborate, is not my concept of "terrorism", or to use the more emotive Bush/Blair/Allawi word "evil".

The delay in elections is already much too long. We must face reality. We have created chaos and we will leave chaos behind but it is the Iraqi people, not puppets, who must decide when we go. There is no possibility of a "nice" ending.

Allawi's claim that "we are succeeding in Iraq" is preposterous, as is the apparent US intention to increase still further the slaughter in Fallujah.

Ashford, Kent

Sir: If I ever find myself in court accused of a crime with no plausible defence, there's only one lawyer in the world I would want to defend me - Tony Blair! No one can sell a case the way he can. His thesis that there have been two wars in Iraq, not one, is brilliant. I mean, the second one could be legal.

North Miami, Florida, USA

Sir: I fully support the brave words of Kofi Annan in stating that the invasion of Iraq by the US And UK was illegal. There was never any vote to attack Iraq passed by the Security Council, the only body with the right to make such authorisation. Resolution 1441 at no stage authorised force. The Security Council had not even decided Iraq was not co-operating with Hans Blix's inspectors, as Dr Blix himself argued.

The illegality of the war was widely believed to be the case at the time, as noted by a wide body of international lawyers, academics and indeed by legal advisors at the Foreign Office who resigned in protest over the war.

The Government claims that Lord Goldsmith gave them legal authorisation to attack. However distinguished his Lordship may be, his advice, which he has never published, is only advice, in the same sense that a solicitor gives legal advice. Many distinguished people believe he was wrong. Perhaps to decide the matter once and for all, the case should be referred to the highest court of the UN, the International Court of Justice. Perhaps as well, this court should be allowed to decide what punishment those who started the war should receive, if indeed it agrees it was illegal.


Sir: The legality of the Iraq war remains very much a contentious issue. We still need to fully understand on what grounds the Attorney General provided "legal" advice for the authorisation of the invasion to go ahead. Only the disclosure of the Attorney General's full legal advice will help towards finally resolving this issue. Why then is this information being held back from investigation if there is nothing to hide?

Orton Brimbles, Peterborough

Sir: It is hardly an act of statesmanship to clean up a "crucible of global terrorism" which you yourself created.

Newbury, Berkshire

Hunting thrill

Sir: Does Aidan Harrison (Letters, 18 September) really believe that those of us who are opposed to fox hunting feel that way purely because of the death of the "foxy woxy"? I am intelligent enough to understand that foxes sometimes need to be killed, and have no objection to this as long as it is done as humanely as possible. A fox that is hunted is first terrified out of its wits, then chased to exhaustion and finally torn to bits by a pack of dogs, the whole of which is watched by people who enjoy this killing.

People who support hunting tell me that it is the thrill of the chase, the challenge of the fences and the feel of being at one with nature. Fine, so why not go drag hunting? No one has given a complete answer - except the horsemen and women I know who have been drag hunting; they felt it was just as exciting as fox hunting.

Broadstone, Dorset

Sir: I am going to break the law in 2006. I will put on my red skiing jacket, get on my horse and go out with my three pet dogs afoot. We will see a rabbit or two and my dogs will naturally give chase and almost certainly kill. I will promptly telephone the local constabulary to own up, and produce the mangled carcass as evidence of the illegal action of hunting with more than two dogs. The Hunting Ban was passed by the House of Fools.

Kings Lynn, Norfolk

Sir: I support hunting with dogs and indeed hunt with my Jack Russell terriers. I was also part of the "howling mob" in Parliament Square on Wednesday, exercising my democratic right to protest against what I consider illiberal and unjust legislation.

I am not wealthy. I did not go to public school, and I am certainly not a landowner but live in central London and consider myself working class. At the last two general elections I voted Labour and I fully support Britain having closer links with Europe.

Î get confused when I read that those who support hunting are all from the social elite and political right?

National Committee Member of the Jack Russell Terrier Club of GB
London W14

Sir: In all the words written about the hunting ban demonstration in Parliament Square there has been little mention of the behaviour of the police. The scenes of baton-wielding policemen to which we were treated on television were truly appalling. The ferocity and enthusiasm displayed and the matching expressions on the faces of the officers were such as I had never thought to see in this country.

True, the TV commentators assured us that these scenes took part in only a small sector of the demonstration but even that is too much and was reminiscent of crowd control in totalitarian states. It was clear that the police concerned had lost self-control and that those in charge had lost control of their men. It is too much to hope that the culprits will be identified and, at very least, be given a rigorous course in anger management?

Ludlow, Shropshire

Fish as parents

Sir: I take exception (as do millions of fishes) to a statement in the article "Fossil find proves dinosaurs looked after their babies" (9 September): "Until recently only birds and mammals were thought to exhibit true parental care".

I suggest you wander down to a local pet store and take a look at any of the thousands of species of cichlid fishes that provide extensive care for their offspring. Many defend their offspring, sometimes for months on end or longer, and a few even feed their offspring from secretions from their bodies. In fact, in that respect, mammals have a bit of a ways to go before they reach the level of "true" parental care.

And we mustn't get hung up on the whole pregnancy and giving-birth thing. Some livebearing fishes carry their young much longer than we do, in terms of the developmental stage of the babies at birth. The young of some surfperches are born pretty much ready to reproduce - your female readers can ponder the thought of carrying a baby that long ("Yes, we're in the 180th month now, just a few more to go ... my back is getting really sore ...").

Plus, seahorse males are the ones that get pregnant and feed the offspring via a placenta. I don't see that happening any day soon for mammals.

Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences
California State University, Sacramento

Broadband packages

Sir: Charles Arthur is right to highlight the confusion that broadband packages with capacity limits are creating among UK consumers ("Why the cap doesn't always fit", 15 September), but there is an additional, potentially costly, issue.

Due to the substantial up-front charges made by BT to broadband internet service providers (ISPs) for access to its local network, ISPs have 12-month contracts in order to cover their costs. Consumers picking capped services are therefore taking a gamble based on current usage, when it is a virtual certainty that online usage will continue to soar.

In nine months' time, they may find themselves paying substantial surcharges as they dip into exciting new services such as Video on Demand and internet telephony, but remain tied by their 12-month contract to what are in effect metered products.

There is nothing wrong with choice of course, but the lack of clarity of these products and limited understanding of what a "1Gb monthly cap" means, risks undermining consumer confidence and constraining broadband growth.

Mr Arthur was on a quest to find out current usage - our broadband customers are on average already exceeding 1Gb usage each month without even realising it, which is why we offer unlimited broadband services so consumers can avoid uncertainty.

Vice President for Broadband
London W14

In a huff

Sir: John Walsh ought to read his OED - or get out of London more.

In his column (18 September) he talks of Cherie Blair bending the English language by using the phrase "takes a huff". The OED defines it (as an adjective) as "offended or out of temper". We in or from the North-west use it frequently in phrases such as "go off in a huff".

Warrington, Cheshire


Sir: Robert Morgan (Letters, 14 September) regards the bloody cull and skinning of young seals that takes place in Canada each spring as wildlife management. Many of the seals are skinned in front of their mothers and whilst still alive. Anybody who wishes to wear a dead animal's skin should first be made to watch a film showing how that skin was obtained.

Worthing, West Sussex

Biblical cakes

Sir: Guy Keleny (Errors and Omissions, 18 September) is looking for "cakes" in English literature. There are at least 12 references in the Old Testament, including Judges 7:13 "and lo, a cake tumbled into the host of Midian". 1 Kings 17:13 Elijah asked the widow, "Make me a little cake first", and Jeremiah 7:18 denounced "women making cakes for the queen of heaven". Don't miss the 200 figgy cakes which Abigail brought to David 1 Samuel 25:18 - Christmas preparations began really early then.


Driven to distraction

Sir: We should welcome the EU directive that the lower motor insurance premiums offered to women should be withdrawn. Presumably this benefit afforded to women drivers was predicated on the fact that they have fewer accidents than men. What has been ignored is that women cause more accidents than their male counterparts, through their general indecision, unpredictability, poor anticipation and slow reactions.

Paddock Wood, Kent