Letters: Climate change

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The tough decisions on climate change need to be made now

Sir: All the signs are that climate warming is happening much faster than was predicted even five years ago. We may have only a critical four years before the changes become irreversible. Therefore, the Government should be making every effort to reduce the causes - now. It is no good talking about nuclear power stations and similar schemes which will come on line in (say) 20 years' time: we have just four years in which to make a major impact. It is not, of course just up the the UK - all nations need to play their part - but someone has got to start, and the need is immediate.

So what has the Government done that can make an immediate impact? I can think of nothing. Why are public buildings (and others) still lit up at night? Why are long stretches of non-urban roads still well lit throughout the night? If these lights were turned off, it would show that the Government is taking climate change seriously. There are, of course, many other small changes which could be made - and should be to get us all to realise that this is an emergency. However, small gestures such as these will not be nearly enough.

The Government needs to bring in as a matter of urgency fines for major polluters - or at least warn them that they have (say) six months in which to sort it out. The Government could indicate that it will introduce a 20 per cent tax on all fuels in (say) January, and then further 20 per cent increases at six- monthly intervals. We can all plan ahead: look for alternative transport; car sharing; work from home; reconsider how goods are distributed. And, of course, tax should be put on fuel for aircraft immediately. The money would need to go into public transport, particularly for the rural areas. These changes will need cross-party agreement as Peter Winnal indicated in his letter (16 September) and such discussions need to start immediately .

This is the most important issue facing the planet - of far greater importance than terrorism, the NHS and education. Small gestures will not be enough. Real hard decisions need to be made today.



Sir: Thank you for your interesting leader on climate change (15 September) and suggestions as to how to avoid meltdown. May I suggest that the Government finances research in cargo-carrying airships.

Airships would produce mush less CO2 per ton of cargo than aeroplanes. Airships would be much quieter than aeroplanes. Airships do not need long runways or airports. Airships would relieve congestion on roads, because they would be able to deliver closer to point of use. Much of the cargo now carried by aeroplanes would not suffer from an extra hour or two in transit.



Hunters hope for better times

Sir: The anti-hunting organisations which campaigned for a hunting ban often claimed that an alternative to live-quarry hunting was to follow an artificial trail.

Sadly the Labour government pushed a hunting ban through. Those of us involved in running packs of hounds have faced difficult decisions. We could have dispersed our hounds (which would have inevitably resulted in the destruction of some well before their worthwhile lives were over) and laid off the men and women who look after them and the horses associated with our sport; or we could "tread water" and struggle on in the hope that some more sensible administration would one day legislate for wildlife management rather than class war reasons and allow hunting once more.

Many of us have decided on the latter course and decided to get by draghunting until that happy day. Our hounds have hunted the scent of a fox in some cases for over eight years. It seems sensible therefore to continue to do so using a fox-derived scent and it appears to work. For Helen Weeks (letter, 13 September) to suggest that such a scent laid no more than a few hours before hounds follow it somehow draws every fox in the area to it is ridiculous.

We are draghunting; that is what the antihunting movement have campaigned for. To object to it now gives credence to what we have long suspected: that their antipathy owes more to their dislike of us as a section of society rather than a desire to advance humane wildlife management.

In the meantime, of course, foxes may be snared, shot or dug out of their earths at any time of year perfectly legally.



Tragedy of Israel's expansionist dreams

Sir: Daniel Naftalin takes an extraordinary view of your paper (letter, 20 September). He regrets your "one-sided Israel-bashing" which, he says, refers to "Israel killing children, a subject used throughout the years to marginalise and dehumanise Jews".

A simply solution is at his hand. The Israelis only need to stop killing children. The world outside is appalled at Israeli seizure of Palestinian land; it is appalled at the savagery of the attack on Lebanon; it is appalled at the disaster-provoking blockade of Gaza. Israel's behaviour, whatever the provocation, has not been, and is not, that of a nation seeking peace with its neighbours; it is that of an ambitious, greedy and spiteful state, deliberately provoking its neighbours until they provide excuse for its expansionist dreams.

This is truly tragic. I was brought up during the 1939-45 war among Jews in north-west London, most of them refugees or children of refugees. I rejoiced that it was possible to give Jews a proper homeland as a symbolic international gesture of sympathy for those who had suffered and died in the Holocaust. I know them to be among the kindliest, most loyal, and often the most generous people. I did not expect to see the grasping territorial ambitions of successive Israeli governments. Still more do I fear the backlash that Israel's Zionism is inevitably bringing on all Jews everywhere.

The logical conclusion from Mr Naftalin's remarks is that you should allow the Israelis to kill children without criticism, in order to secure Israeli co-operation in promoting peace in the Middle East. I trust you will not succumb to such nonsense.



Sir: It is heartbreaking that children are killed by war anywhere in the world ("Gaza: The children killed in a war the world doesn't want to know about", 19 September) but your readers should be reminded that, tragic and terrible as the situation is in Gaza, the Palestinian Authority should take the blame for what happens to its citizens.

Hamas has always supported terrorist attacks on Israeli civilians, and when it was voted to power instead of bettering the lot of the Palestinians it continued in its aim to destroy Israel and murder Israelis.

Hamas teaches Palestinian children to aspire to suicide martyrdom. Why is Israel blamed for trying to protect its own children from such suicide murders and rocket attacks, and expected not to defend itself against this terrible aggression?

If Hamas would cease to sponsor violence, and rein in Palestinian terrorists, Palestinian children would not be killed.



Sir: There are no demarcations between "civilians" and "combatants" in the war against terror. It has been widely reported that one day a Hizbollah terrorist is fighting and the next day he returns to "civilian" life, so how can anyone judge whether Israel used weapons of whatever sort against "civilians".



A lucky, not a selfish, generation

Sir: Virginia Ironside asks (Extra 19 September) if her generation of over-60s is the luckiest generation in history. Yes, yes, yes! When young, we enjoyed free education, full employment, sexual liberation, great music, cheap housing and energy and a safe world for travelling, with no wars to fight. Now, we lead longer and more active lives, our houses are worth more than our incomes justify and we are the demographic majority, so governments have to take care of us.

While I am very conscious of our good fortune, it seems our children may inherit the reverse of these benefits unless we do more in the time left to us to avoid the charge of being selfish, rather than just lucky.



Restaurant tax off the menu

Sir: At no time has the Association of London Government supported a proposal for a local tax on meals in restaurants or from takeaways (Janet Street-Porter, 14 September).

We commissioned research into the feasibility of a range of new taxes for local authorities, which included a restaurant tax. However, the research concluded it would be difficult to make a tax of this kind work. This is due to the weak link between the service provided by a restaurant and any knock-on costs to local authorities through additional street cleaning. It also identified the positive effects that restaurants have on their local area. This research was submitted to the Lyons inquiry in April 2005.

As far as all London councils are concerned a restaurant tax is not on the menu.



Muslims speak out about Darfur

Sir: Yasmin Alibhai-Brown (18 September) is right that more has to be done to protect the people of Darfur and that many Arab governments have been silent on the issue. But she is wrong to say that all Muslims have remained silent.

I was lucky enough to attend a prayer vigil outside Downing Street on Sunday organised by World Jewish Aid, Christian Aid and Muslim Aid. Three senior Muslim faith leaders took part in the prayers standing shoulder to shoulder with Cardinal Cormack Murphy O'Connor, head of the Catholic Church and Rabbi Barry Marcus representing the Chief Rabbi.

Prayers were read from Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the Chief Rabbi, Sir Jonathan Sacks, and Sheikh Ibrahim Mogra, one of the leading Islamic scholars in the country and faith adviser to the Muslim Council of Britain. Muslims could hardly have been more involved.



Sir: I must take up the challenge of Father Julian Shurgold (letter, 18 September) to name a Muslim country enjoying religious tolerance.

I, a Christian, lived and worked for some years in the Malaysian State of Sarawak, a Muslim state in a Muslim country. Muslims, Christians, Buddhists and members of other religions live and work together in good harmony, celebrate each other's festivals and have genuine friendships across all the religious divides.

Some scholars get preferential treatment, but this is based not upon religion but upon whether one is considered a member of a race native to Malaysia, some of whom are Christian or animist as well as Muslim.



World Bank's water policy

Sir: Contrary to what Johann Hari alleges (Opinion, 18 September), the World Bank does not promote a universal model and does not make privatisation a pre-condition for lending.

We favour whatever solutions work best, as long as they provide efficient, affordable, and sustainable water services for the poor. In some countries or in some communities, this may mean privately supplied water; in other areas, it will be provided publicly while in others it will be a public-private partnership or community owned.

In other words, we engage along the entire spectrum of service provision, in consultation with government, civil society organisations and other development agencies.



Blair branded

Sir: I would have thought it was obvious what the "W" formed by the creases on Tony Blairs brow stand for (Politics, 18 September) - "Warmonger", of course.



When a leader lies

Sir: "We lied, we screwed up not a little but a lot", said the prime minister, who continued: "No European country has done something as bone-headed as we did." No, this was not Tony Blair reflecting on the invasion of Iraq, but his Hungarian counterpart Ferenc Gyurcsany. On learning that their prime minister "lied morning, noon and night", the citizens of Budapest went on the rampage. How un-British.



Historic cars

Sir: I take great exception to the description of the Bond MkC minicar as "naff" (Motoring, 19 September). The Bond family of minicars were brilliant in their concept and great fun to drive. The ability to turn in their own diagonal length was a source of wonder to many and a boon for getting out of tight parking areas. The simplicity of the design made maintenance easy (I could remove, dismantle, decoke and reassemble the engine in three hours).



Romantic writers

Sir: Philip Hensher is right to contradict Daisy Godwin's assertion that "you can't have a seriously written romantic book written by a man" with two words: Anna Karenina (Opinion, 19 September). But what about three: D H Lawrence? Surely, Lady Chatterley, who is allowed both to love and to live, beats them all.



Toxic adulthood

Sir: Sorry Naomi Shaw (letters, 19 September) but one of the reasons for encouraging mothers back to work is that a modest improvement in outcomes is seen in children of intact families where both parents work, which extends to a huge advantage when a single parent gets back to work. The roots of toxic childhood are in our selfish, materialistic age where people are judged on possessions and appearance rather than anything worthwhile, where property is too expensive and a long-hours culture exists at work. Tackle these adult toxins and the children will be fine.



Marmite for men

Sir: Marmite should travel from the jar to the mouth via a spoon. When you can do this, you'll be a man, my son.