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Wednesday 14 December 2011
Letters: Climate sceptics? Bigots more like
Last week saw two vitally important conferences; one in Brussels which was trying to save Europe from the backwash of the global banking fiasco; and one in Durban which was trying to save the future of humanity from runaway climate change. In both cases the stakes could scarcely be higher.
Deliberately trying to ruin the outcome of both were the eurosceptics and the climate-sceptics. Are both groups actually the same people? Are there any eurosceptics who are not climate-sceptics, and vice versa?
The next question must be whether the gentle, worthy label of "sceptic" is appropriate. With their vicious, aggressive and often misleading campaigns and excessive media influence they work to undermine measures which thousands of responsible, highly intelligent and competent people are trying to implement to save our European economy for ourselves and our children and the entire planet for our grandchildren.
We need a more honest label: "wrecker", "bigot", "hater" are all fair descriptions of these wealthy, elderly deniers whose blinkered ideological obsessions undermine both science and democracy in their shameful attacks on those who want to make this a fairer world with a future for coming generations.
Your editorial "Durban delivered hope in the end" (12 December) missed the point. The climate-change problem will not be solved through the politics of cutting carbon emissions. The right diagnosis can be found in the September 2009 Royal Society report Geoengineering the Climate: "...CDR..., by reducing CO2 concentrations..., deal[s] with the root cause of climate change."
CDR – carbon dioxide removal – is the direct extraction of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. But current methods of CDR are clumsy. We need better, faster, CDR technologies. That's what Durban should have been talking about – how best to harness the collective brain power of the world's scientists and engineers to make CDR happen effectively at the required scale.
In the 1970s, the Capital Radio DJ Roger Scott hosted Three O'Clock Thrill, a daily show featuring hit records and news clips from the past. One of my recordings of this programme includes Roger's playing of an "oldie" track performed by a group who had mismanaged their career after initial success. Roger's comment as the track faded out: "They had it all; they threw it all away". An epitaph for the human race?
Sir Fred Goodwin is not the villain he's painted
It is generally recognised that what ultimately brought disaster to RBS was the ABN Amro takeover (report, 13 December). Why was no proper due diligence done? The obvious reason was that it was a hostile bid and Barclays Bank, who were proposing a friendly merger with the whole of ABN Amro (RBS only wishing to acquire a proportion of it), had had ample time to satisfy themselves it was sound.
Why was the RBS bid successful? Because the institutions, knowing of RBS's success in the previous NatWest takeover, had far more confidence in RBS's ability to carry it out successfully than they had in Barclays.
Who are today two of the most respected figures in British banking? John Varley and Bob Diamond, who engineered the Barclays bid. Who is the most reviled? Sir Fred Goodwin.
Who are the greatest hypocrites in this matter? The entire establishment: the then prime minister, the FSA, the Bank of England, the financial press and the institutions, all of which are happy to throw Sir Fred Goodwin to the wolves and blame him for everything, thus diverting attention away from their own appalling misjudgements and, in some cases, dereliction of duty.
Norman F Douglas
Stockton on Tees
For the Financial Services Authority to say that the woes of Royal Bank of Scotland were caused by poor decisions is rather stating the obvious. As a retired footsoldier of this bank, whose shares were meant to enhance my pension in retirement as of those of thousands of others, the situation is a damning indictment of our supposed system of checks and balances.
Last week's BBC documentary RBS: Inside the Bank That Ran Out of Money showed extracts from successive annual and interim shareholders' meetings where not only the bank's highly paid non-executive directors, but also the representatives from the big investment pension trusts, acted like nodding donkeys to the waffle that was spoken by members of the board regarding the bank's progress and outlook. One can readily surmise that the whole group operated like a private members' club watching out for each other.
Simply for the decision to pay cash – without proper due diligence – for the purchase of ABM Amro, loaded as it was with toxic sub-prime debt, is surely on its own a case for Fred Goodwin to answer a charge of financial negligence. Instead he sailed off into the sunset with a magnificent gold-plated pension.
Was I the only one to find a delicious coincidence in the release of the FSA report placing the blame in part on "light-touch regulation" for the demise of RBS (and the subsequent drain on taxpayers' hard-earned cash), and the Prime Minister proudly declaiming in the House of Commons that he walked away from the table in Brussels because of fears of what might be termed the "heavy-touch regulation" of the City of London's financial institutions from those bally foreigners in Brussels?
If Ken Costa, the former chairman of Lazard (Interview, 12 December), wants to rebuild the public's relationship with the City then he could make a start by speaking to his friends at Goldman Sachs and suggesting to them that they write out a cheque and post it to HMRC to settle the dispute over the uncollected interest on their tax bill. This would be a very public demonstration of a change of attitude.
'Big pharma' saves lives
Ian Birrell may believe he has given an objective opinion of the UK's pharmaceutical industry ("Big Pharma's demise is nothing to celebrate", 3 December). However he leads us to think of Pfizer and other big pharma as a massive cartel, akin to the Corleone family, with his use of words and phrases such as the "most profitable legal business on the planet" and "behemoths". After several paragraphs of vitriol, he notes that these pharmaceutical companies do bring benefit to health, both patients' and economic, but it is too little, too late.
Birrell makes the ridiculous suggestion that new medicines should be given to patients before the completion of clinical trials and data analysis, if no other treatments are available. Until undesirable side-effects and the efficacy of a drug have been fully evaluated in comprehensive clinical trials, it may be positively dangerous for patients to be treated as Birrell suggests.
Next under fire is academia, accused of being "insular", with scientists keen to publish rather than collaborate with big pharma and "profit in commercial ventures". Having labelled pharma as "grubby" commerce, he suggests that life scientists should collaborate with them and "embrace capitalism". In reality, there are many instances of successful collaborations between pharmaceutical companies and academia and between big pharmas themselves, both within the UK and globally.
Please can I raise the notion that physicians and scientists, from pharma and academia, would like to make new, effective medicines because they make people better?
Oh, and this may require some funding.
Dr Kate Owen
Dunham Massey, Cheshire
Tsunami victims' funds not misused
"Japan uses tsunami victims' cash to shield whalers from activists" (9 December) is a deeply misleading and sensational headline that appears to suggest that donations made in support of relief and recovery efforts in the region affected by the Great East Japan earthquake and tsunami have been used to fund Japan's Scientific Whaling Research Program.
I strongly wish to emphasise that the donations made in support of relief and recovery efforts have never been used, nor will ever be used, to fund the Whaling Research Program.
The warm support that the Japanese people have received from the British people in response to the disaster is deeply appreciated, and we would like to make it crystal clear that all donations received are only ever used for the relief and reconstruction of the lives of those affected by the great disaster, and for no other purpose.
Minister (Economic), Embassy of Japan, London W1
Women at the Royal Academy
In "Royal Academy names new president" (10 December) you report "no woman member even made the shortlist".
This is a misleading statement. As one of the women academicians, I wish to inform you that the shortlist of potential candidates is self-nominating, and that no women academicians wished to stand for election as president on this occasion.
Ann Christopher RA sculptor
Royal Academy of Arts, London W1
Further to Jane Talbot's letter "Cash shunned" (13 December), a couple of weeks ago the following poster appeared in our local HSBC branch window:
"From 9th March 2012 this branch of HSBC will be closing permanently.
HSBC, your local bank."
You report "MP apologises after friends chant Nazi slogans at stag do" (12 December).
Do readers remember those articles about Hitler being "over taught" for secondary-school examinations? Clearly not the case for these young men.
David Cameron's veto looks positively euro-friendly next to such crass and insensitive attitudes.
Because of the behaviour of some of its more extreme members, the Labour Party, (or at least, part of it), often used to be called "the loony left". In view of the current triumphal, canine howling of the eurosceptic MPs, should not the Tory party now be called "the rabid right"?
Worthing, West Sussex
Not a mention of "slurping" in your voluminous correspondence on the vexed question of how soup is consumed (Letters, 5-7 December). Admittedly not the most cultured approach to the problem, but almost universal among children of my generation, if the adults of the day were to be believed.
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