Letters: Climate change

Good intentions will not prevent climate disaster
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Global temperatures set to rise by an average of 6C by the end of the century (report, 18 November). The UN climate talks in Copenhagen likely to fail. World leaders and politicians who only care about big business, today's economy and holding on to power. An electorate captivated by the big parties. The Greens just a blip in the opinion polls.

Despite the good intentions of many people across the world, despite all the campaigns and petitions and marches and carbon-cutting campaigns, we're finished, aren't we?

Jeff Fergusson

Dunblane, Stirlingshire

How will our "world leaders" explain to our children, in a decade, what on Earth they were thinking of at Copenhagen in December 2009? If they opt to fail us, history will trace climate Armageddon back to that moment. If they can't or won't lead, then they must make way for someone who will, and who will do right by the children of the world.

If they (again) "put off" sealing a binding global deal, they will be putting millions to death, by dither and delay. If on the other hand, they succeed, against the odds, and pull off a real deal, history will remember them for eternity, for the bold leadership they found, out of the blue, when planet Earth needed it most.

Dave Hampton

Marlow, Buckinghamshire

It seems unreal to turn from reading about calamitous changes due to global warming that might extinguish human life to an article predicting that China's economy will overtake America's in the next 10-15 years. It's unfortunate that economists don't include finite resources in their exponential models of growth.

Dr Peter W H Smith

Senior Lecturer in Computer Science

City University London

I was sad and worried that such an important gathering as Copenhagen has been watered down to just a meeting to agree to have other meetings. For mankind's sake, our politicians must act together and make the decisions that are needed now and take the time to explain to us why the sacrifices and changes are needed.

We cannot afford another five years to change governments.

Roger Gerke-Bonet

Banbury, Oxfordshire

As governments seek to manage down the world's expectations of the Copenhagen meeting, an appropriate motto for that crucial event would be Winston Churchill's stern wartime admonition: "It is not always enough to do one's best; sometimes one has to do what is necessary."

Roger Morgan

Epsom, Surrey

Finding origins of Islamic extremism

Johann Hari's article on followers of extremist Islam who have seen the error of their ways (16 November) should be required reading for all decision-makers in the West.

The damage done by western governments, particularly those of the US and UK, in not understanding what drives the more militant Islamic followers onward, even when they live among liberal-minded folk in British towns and cities, has rarely been so well articulated as in this gripping piece.

There is hope in the article, hope that we might still now see that if we stop trying to impose our western values on people who have no use or respect for them, we might find that the blind faith which brings them to commit, and support others who commit, atrocious acts against innocents might soon fade, as followers of Islam acknowledge that the West has a right to its values provided it does not seek to impose them on everyone else.

Mike Forster

East Horsley, Surrey

I believe that US Attorney General Eric Holder is making a mistake in calling for the death penalty for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his alleged 9/11 co-conspirators.

Terrorists will not see a death sentence as punishment; they will see it as a victory. Furthermore, rather than serve as a deterrent, it could backfire and serve as another recruiting tool for al-Qa'ida. After all, isn't the promise of lavish heavenly rewards what motivates so many terrorists to fight to the death for their cause in the first place?

If convicted, these defendants deserve true punishment, not a glorious death. And the prospect of serving a life sentence without parole in an American supermax prison would surely be a much more effective deterrent.

Mary Shaw

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

A former British soldier admitted he and comrades beat and tortured Iraqi prisoners "to avenge our fallen comrades" (report, 17 November).

That soldier and his comrades were not alone with that desire: Bush and Blair went into Iraq for no concrete reason except to take revenge for the most heinous crime of 11 September 2001. I had the idea that democratically elected leaders, unlike dictators, don't start criminally stupid wars. I was very much mistaken.

Mohamed Shehab Ahmed

Kings Lynn, Norfolk

More people, more creativity

Christopher Maume (Tales of the City, 17 November) claims that the country is filling up and Alan Johnson should be worried at the possibility of the UK population reaching 70 million. Since Malthus we have heard prophets claiming that population growth was unsustainable, and they have been proved wrong.

Population growth brings the economies of scale, resulting in innovation, creativity and a competitive edge. This can come from the native population or from immigrants. History has shown the benefits from each wave of compulsory or voluntary immigration. The invasions by the Romans and the Normans along with migration by Huguenots, Jews and Commonwealth citizens has created a major power.

But his main gripe is that London is overcrowded and unbearable. Yet people flock to live in London and what's more, to the overcrowded centre, where a one-bedroom flat commands a price of £400,000. High-density living allows easy access to attractions such as the museums and theatres. Living in overcrowded cities is rewarding financially – in 2007 GDP per head in London was £30,385 compared with the national average of £19,956 – but also as a way of life. Humans need interesting lives and yes we need stress. London, with all its different people gives you that; be thankful.

Terry Pugh

Baildon, West Yorkshire

First-class service to the taxpayer

Like, I imagine, thousands of your readers, I am suffering from an advanced case of appalledness fatigue and open my daily Independent determined to find the silver lining in every cloud of corruption.

So, mollycoddled education officials clock up millions in first-class rail fares (report, 16 November). Hurrah! They have probably helped to slow global warming by not using their cars.

Come to think of it, they may even be providing important data for research on transport policy.

If money were of as little concern for the common man or woman as it apparently is for public employees, perhaps we would all scrap our cars and take to the buses and trains. And money would be no object if public transport were affordable. How much would that do to lighten our carbon footprint?

Claudia Cotton

London N7

Shouldn't those of us who travel at our own expense by rail be grateful for the first-class fares paid by the Government for educational officials? After all, 60,000 of them could mean an extra £60m to the rail industry and is almost certainly at least £6m, a useful extra subsidy in these days when government is otherwise trying to cut back its subsidy and make ordinary fare-paying passengers pay more.

H Trevor Jones

Guildford, surrey

Children 'rescued' by migration

Kevin Rudd has apologised to Australian child migrants. The British position is more complicated. Some 100,000 children were migrated from Britain to various destinations between the 1850s and 1960s, mainly to Canada. Only a few were sent by public authorities. Most were sent by religious philanthropic societies, especially Barnardo's.

Emigration to Canada virtually ceased in the 1920s, partly because of criticisms by a government-appointed delegation. However the government failed to regulate the Australian migration, perhaps because it was reluctant to question the practices of such apparently virtuous associations.

Should they also apologise? Or does it matter that many fervently believed they were saving the children from depraved parents and spiritual and physical degradation in England, one advocate describing migration as the "chief glory of the work of rescue"?

John Eekelaar


Myth of the Dome disaster

I was disappointed to see The Independent perpetuating the myth that London's Millennium Dome was "one of the Labour Party's biggest disasters" (report, 14 November).

The Dome was originally a Conservative scheme. Labour considered ending it, but thought it would seem vindictive. A group of self-important journalists were kept waiting in the cold for admittance, and gave it a bad press from then on. Renamed the O2, it is now a successful venue for concerts.

You imply that Labour has had many disasters, when in fact their only truly big disaster (apart from the Iraq war) was brought about by bankers.

David Foster


Czech leaders past and present

Your otherwise excellent article on the Czechoslovak Velvet Revolution (17 November) contained an unfortunate slip. It was the current Czech President, Vaclav Klaus, not former President Vaclav Havel, who wrote a discredited book sponsored by a Russian oil company that denies global warming.

While Havel is an intellectual and playwright who has brought nothing but credit to his country, Klaus is a stooge of right-wing free-market views and a prominent climate change denier. He has achieved derision both inside and outside the Czech Republic.

Simon Sweeney

Sheffield Hallam University


Wandering river

I suggest basic geography in schools to assist future journalists. According to your article "Snapped – rare battle of hippos vs crocodile" (17 November), the River Nile has moved a long way south into the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania. As far as I know only the Grumeti and Mara rivers are in this area.

Elke Smith

Wimborne, Dorset

Invisible cyclists

Last week while driving through south London I narrowly avoided a cyclist, carrying a box in one hand, with no lights on, heading towards me on the wrong side of the road. This evening a teenager had a similarly fortunate escape: hoodie, no lights, torrent of abuse. When cyclists are compelled to use lights at night and the law is enforced, we might indeed consider adopting the French practice of blaming the driver of the motor vehicle for every accident (letter, 12 November). Until then, they should shoulder some responsibility for their stupidity.

M McDougall

Tunbridge Wells, kent

Change of name

Jedi Martian – sorry, my finger slipped – Judi Martin doesn't need therapy (letter, 17 November). She just needs to enjoy the mis-spellings. My former married name gave me a lot of entertainment, my favourite turning Jan Eland into Jenny Gland. Laugh; you'll live longer.

Jan Cook

South Nutfield, Surrey

Small agriculture

I would like to reassure Shouvik Datta (letter, 17 November) about the World Bank Group's support for small-scale agriculture. Our current Agriculture Action Plan outlines five priority areas: raising agricultural productivity, linking farmers to markets and strengthening value addition, reducing risk and vulnerability, facilitating agricultural entry and exit and rural non-farm income, and enhancing environmental services and sustainability. The first area of focus, increasing agricultural productivity, is based on the clear recognition that smallholder productivity is central to rural poverty alleviation.

Juergen Voegele

Director, Agriculture and Rural Development, The World Bank, London SW1

Afghan hopes

According to a headline in The Indepencent on 18 November, "Ordinary Afghans long for a government that will keep its promises". They are not the only ones.

Will Pridie