Letters: Climate catastrophe

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Heading for climate catastrophe while the oil supplies run dry

Sir: Johann Hari says that we should stop talking about "climate change" and start thinking in terms of "climate chaos" (15 November). However, since the sequelae of anthropogenic global warming are likely to shatter the comfortable assumptions upon which global commerce and social cohesion are based, perhaps "climate catastrophe" would be a better phrase.

The denialists of climate change will, of course, leap upon this as further proof of the use of hyperbole by the environmentalists who watch the unfolding signs of irreversible change to global climate with considerable alarm. The oil lobby, and organisations supported by it, are desperate to poo-poo any such worries. The cosy profit train must not be disturbed.

But surely this is daft, when we have reached, or else will shortly, so-called "peak oil". As China, India, Brazil and others grow, their demand for energy and oil products can only increase, providing increased competition for a dwindling resource. At which point the price of oil climbs inexorably to a point where it becomes too expensive to enable us to carry on as we are in any case. That day is not so far away.

So why on earth aren't we investing heavily in alternatives now to head off this potential eonomic crisis? It doesn't matter if you don't believe in global warming, a low-carbon economy is the only possible solution for the future anyway.



Sir: The Independent is to be congratulated on the breadth and scale of its coverage on climate change but is seriously wide of the mark in suggesting the Prime Minister's commitment to action has weakened ("Heading off in the wrong direction", 15 November).

He made clear his commitment on Monday night. In his Mansion House speech - curiously unreported - he said "we urgently need a framework, with the necessary targets, sensitively and intelligently applied over the right timeframe, that takes us beyond 2012". The Prime Minister has never suggested targets should be dropped.

But this new framework needs to include the developing countries, including China and India, who are not obliged to accept targets but have a key role to play; also the United States, the world's largest economy. At the meeting of energy ministers in London earlier this month, actions were agreed which will help the required investment in low-carbon technologies.

The UK is well on track to more than meet its Kyoto obligation to cut greenhouse gas emissions and will soon publish its proposals for getting back on track to meet its domestic target to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 20 per cent by 2010. We don't underestimate the challenge presented by our own voluntary domestic CO 2 reduction targets but no other country has set itself such targets or given such a clear international lead on the need for global action.



US envoy's denial of phosphorus attack

Sir: Never was the aphorism that an ambassador is an honest man sent to lie abroad for the good of his country more starkly highlighted than by the unfortunate timing of the American ambassador's letter (15 November) to you on the use of white phosphorus at Fallujah. He may also wish to ponder on why thousands of US soldiers died so that a new Iraqi government could carry out the same old methods of torture of prisoners.



Sir: Ambassador Tuttle, in his letter of 15 November, took you to task as follows: "Had your correspondents acted responsibly by checking these assertions [that the US had used white phosphorus as a weapon] with either the US Embassy or with the Department of Defense, they would have learned the truth." Can the ambassador confirm that he checked his letter with the Department of Defense before putting pen to paper? If yes, can we assume that he has asked for an apology?



Sir: The US ambassador claims in his letter that "US forces do not use napalm or white phosphorus as weapons". However the Pentagon has confirmed that white phosphorus was indeed used as a weapon.

Will the ambassador now issue a formal correction, and also clarify whether he knowingly included a falsehood in his letter or whether he himself was deceived by the Pentagon? Either way, one wonders if future pronouncements from the ambassador can be trusted.



Sir: "There is no evidence that the US forces deliberately targeted civilians with any munitions. Indeed, the assault on Fallujah was signalled well in advance, and women, children and old men were allowed to leave the city." This, according to Tim Hammond (letter, 16 November), makes everything the US forces did to Fallujah and its inhabitants legitimate.

For a start, what about young men, a category excluded from this gracious offer? All insurgents? When the demolition and killing began, whatever munitions were used, it was criminally disingenuous of the US forces to act as if only insurgents remained in the city. In this country it would be the logistical equivalent to an occupying force ordering the inhabitants of say Ipswich to leave everything at a moment's notice, on foot and re-establish their lives under the stars. It is possible that not everyone would be prepared to leave - witness New Orleans.

It seems that anyone killed by the US in Iraq is, by definition, an "insurgent"



Sir: The US ambassador denies the illegal use of white phosphorus. Obscuring the issue with semantics and legalese does not diminish the crux of the matter, a matter which should be worrying those in Washington. If the US can use such tactics against its enemies, then its enemies are entirely justified in using the very same tactics against the US.

This is why we have treaties - they are bilateral or multilateral and their aim is to protect your own interests, not just your opponents'.



Sir: Saddam Hussein, who is facing a possible death sentence, is accused of mass murder, torture, false imprisonment and the use of chemical weapons. As one who campaigned against him since he first used chemical weapons against the Kurds, I believe him to be guilty on all counts.

It now seems that those who overthrew him are guilty of all these crimes too. Apart from condemning the pointless waste of human life and resources in the invasion and occupation of Iraq, I must now, in conscience, campaign against them until they too are seized and brought to trial. If that classifies me as "anti-American", then so be it.



Sir: So, Donald Rumsfeld was right: there were chemical weapons in Iraq. I can't wait to see Ms Rice showing us, at the UN, the terrible side-effects of the white phosphorus dropped on civilians by the US Army during the battle of Fallujah.



Blunkett looks for a new home

Sir: I am writing to complain about your report "Blunkett still living in Belgravia residence" (16 November). It is misleading to suggest that I have "been allowed to stay on in the luxurious grace-and-favour Belgravia home" and that "Tony Blair has taken the same view" as last December.

You do quote a spokesman pointing out that this is untrue, but you also quote Chris Grayling reinforcing your distortion that I am living there indefinitely. This is not the case, and I have made substantial efforts over the last two weeks to find new accommodation as soon as possible.

I have had to put up with distortion about my private life for the past six months - I did not expect a respected newspaper to continue in this vein.




Crime novels in translation

Sir: It's unfair of the Literator (11 November) to castigate the Crime Writers' Association for xenophobia, given that Arnaldur Indriadson's excellent novel is the third novel in translation to win in the past five years. However, a serious point does arise from this year's translation-heavy shortlist. Given how seriously Harvill in particular takes the literary quality of its translations, it is impossible fairly to gauge the quality of the original. For example, if the judges had been faced with the American translation of Peter Hoeg's Miss Smilla's Feeling for Snow rather than the British, I seriously doubt whether it would even have made the shortlist for the Gold Dagger.

In the past, the idea of having a separate award for novels in translation would have been laughable, given how few foreign crime novels were published in the UK. However, that situation has changed dramatically in the past few years as publishers have finally woken up to what we writers have been telling them for a long time, namely that there is a lot of great foreign crime fiction out there. Perhaps the best way to create a genuinely level playing field is to have two separate awards - one for the best novel written in English and a second for the best novel in translation.



Internet founders have prior claim

Sir: Your leader bemoans the unilateral control of the US over the internet (16 November), but signally fails to mention that this is because of the pioneering historical role of the US in creating the internet in the first place.

The initial standards were invented by researchers at the US Defense Department, Stanford, and UCL; the first link was between Los Angeles and Boston; and almost all internet software used today derives from programs written at the University of California at Berkeley. US scientists have successfully shepherded the development of the Internet for 30 years, but now bureaucrats from China and Iran want to seize control of it?



Sir: Your article on internet censorship (16 November) makes depressing reading, but neglects to mention the massive and elaborate development of surveillance techniques. While surveillance in pre-internet times - in democracies, at least - meant judicially approved targeting of a particular postal address or telephone number, all of us are now vulnerable to covert scrutiny. Curbs on such activity are vital if the internet is to remain, in the vision of its godfather, Tim Berners-Lee, a "decentralised and respectful organisation with a higher purpose". Incidentally, he describes his Unitarian faith in the same way.



French resistance to admitting racism

Sir: Liberté, égalité, fraternité - a lofty principle - is not all it is cracked up to be. For the non-white citizens of France it is not a reality (as the recent disturbances have suggested).

When I was employed as a Principal Race Equality Officer with the London Borough of Waltham Forest I worked on a project to have a "Joint Declaration against Racism and Xenophobia" signed with our twinned towns in Europe. The leader of the council in Wandsbek, Germany, was enthusiastic and signed the declaration on 24 April 1993. A formal ceremony took place on 18 May 1993 attended by a senior official from the German embassy.

With regard to our other twinned town, Saint Mandé, located on the suburbs of Paris, it was a very different story. It took almost two years to encourage the Mayor, Robert André Vivien, to sign, which he seemed to do with hostile resignation by printing his surname. A couple of days later he dropped dead. Perhaps, pressing some French officials to admit the possibility of racial inequality in the Republic is bad for their health.



Cold remedy

Sir: Surely the time-honoured cold cure, a hot rum and lemon, sweetened with honey, will keep the nose warm if you feel a cold coming on ("How not to get a cold", 15 November).



Environmental map?

Sir: The Independent Environmental Map of the World, which came with the paper (16 November), is a great resource and a sober reminder of the challenges ahead that we all face in creating a sustainable planet. However, it's ironic that there was no mention on the poster of how it was produced - recycled or chlorine free paper etc - and that it's billed as a glossy poster, which is not usually known for its green credentials.



The sky at night

Sir: I read with interest the article about light pollution ("Starry, starry night?", 14 November). I was recently in Cuba and when visiting friends in the countryside - no street lights, towns or industry - I looked up and saw the night sky as I last saw it as a child during the Second World War when I lived in the countryside. I could have lain on a sun-bed and spent the night just looking up at the sky: such a wonderful sight, a beautiful thing that we have lost here.



Roads to ruin

Sir: Guy Keleny's defence of your motoring correspondents just won't wash (Errors & Omissions, 12 November). He says that the paper has to serve people with varying interests - so, how often do you have sections comparing different makes of fags for those readers who smoke 40 a day, or comparing sources of coke for the benefit of your snorters? If readers of The Independent are the kinds of people he (and I) think they are, few are interested in gas-guzzlers or Chelsea tractors; it is your motoring correspondents who love to get their hands on them, not your readers!



Faith healing

Sir: Faith schools being such obviously good things, I wonder why the Government's NHS reforms don't include plans to deliver us over to faith hospitals. These would re-introduce cleanliness, since that is next to several varieties of godliness. They would cut spending on opiates for the terminally ill. And the triage of admissions interviews would keep the riff-raff off one's own ward.