Letters: Global warming

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Global warming: a lost chance and a new challenge

Sir: Frances Cairncross wrote in The Independent on 28 March 1995 that the costs of action to arrest climate change would be greater than the benefits, so it would be better to delay action (that is, continue burning ever increasing quantities of fossil fuels) until the countries of the world were so rich they could ameliorate the effects of global warming.

Now, 11 years later, she returns to these pages (Opinion, 5 September) to tell us the threat has become so serious we must now begin to adapt, while still not regulating CO2 emissions. I wonder, are we now rich enough to hold back the West Antarctic ice sheet, which scientists tell us has become so unstable that the financial capitals of the world could be swamped by rising sea levels? Of course not, we were never going to be.

The 1990s represented our greatest chance of pushing through the international regulations that would have spurred the growth of low-carbon electricity generation technologies, but commentators such as Ms Cairncross worked hard to scupper that opportunity. And now she's back with the same message, this time presenting us with a busted flush. A mea culpa would have been more appropriate.



Sir: It is good to see Frances Cairncross calling for greater emphasis on adaptation to climate change. We must mitigate the effects of increased CO2 emissions as a matter of priority but even if we could stop them tomorrow, climatic changes are already inevitable and under way. So we must also focus urgent attention on the development of resilient natural systems that can absorb and respond to change.

The Woodland Trust has no doubt that there is now an immediate need to implement adaptation strategies to conserve and create wooded landscapes that will be welcoming to wildlife in a time of rapid climate change. This urgency is driven by the scale of action required (whole landscapes not just individual sites) and the timescale needed for new habitats to develop to maturity.

By making natural systems more resilient, not only will wildlife benefit, but so will human society, which depends on healthy natural systems to deliver services such as flood relief, protection of soils, carbon sinks, water quality and renewable natural resources. Woodland is uniquely placed to provide many of these services.

Taking adaptive action isn't for the faint-hearted. It requires vision, integrated thinking, planning, adequate resources and decisive action. But it will give both people and wildlife a better future if we start now.



'Bin Laden is right: they have to die'

Sir: I read with growing despair the casualty list described in Patrick Cockburn's article "Another fatal day in the 'war on terror'" (5 September).

I travel extensively in the Middle East. A very westernised, educated, professionally employed wife and mother recently told me, "Osama Bin Laden is right. They [Westerners] have to be killed. There is no other way." What shocked me was not that she thought it, but that she was prepared to say this openly to me, a Western woman that she did not know very well.

In the Middle East, the same tactics of brutal suppression and not listening to genuine Arab grievances have been extensively used by Arab, Israeli, and Western governments over many decades. Yet still, despite using economic and military superiority in an attempt to suppress the Arab masses, opinion has hardened, resistance has grown, and "our" methods have "won" absolutely nothing. Even the impoverished and unsupported Palestinians haven't signed away one centimetre of their land.

Isn't it about time world leaders tried another way - say, listening and negotiating with an even hand?



Sir: Currently the five-year War on Terrorism is dwarfed by the three civil wars, between the Taliban and less extreme Muslims in Afghanistan, between the Sunni and Shia in Iraq and between the Palestinians and Israelis in the Middle East.

All those regions have a long history of tribal dissent. All have been the subject of Western meddling for a variety of reasons. The most voiced reason for the current meddling of the West is the "war on terrorism" though to date the violence inflicted on the West has been a minute fraction of the violence inflicted within the borders of those countries. It is also safe to say that what violence has been inflicted on the West has been prompted in the first place by our meddling.

What should the West do? If our concern is to stop terrorism then we should just stop meddling and let them get on with killing each other, making sure we are not identified with any particular faction. If our concern is one of economic interest then we should stick to our traditional policy of arming the strongest to subjugate the weaker. If our concern is one of human rights then we need to understand what is driving each faction and work out what might motivate them to act differently. We will not do this by taking sides, by thinking we know what is best for them or by thinking our concept of democracy has all the answers, especially when it is modelled on religions being subservient to the rule of law, which is alien in a region where laws are derived from religion.

We would do better to withdraw all military support from all factions and instead give them, impartially and without conditions, the infrastructure needed for economic prosperity.



Sir: Impossible to disagree with Bruce Anderson about Afghan-istan being a disaster in the making (4 September). But Mr Anderson goes on to defend the role of Nato protecting the government in Kabul as if this would avoid the country sliding back into Taliban hands. There may be a government in Kabul, but of what value when it has no control outside the capital?

Mr Anderson has correctly turned his ear to history, where there is much to learn about the Middle East and the actions of UK governments. There is much to learn from the 19th century, from the Russian experience in the 1980s, and not least from the period of victory over the Russians with USA help and the takeover by the Taliban. But then does the present UK government ever listen to advisers in the Foreign Office?

Despite this experience Mr Anderson appears to believe that the right equipment would make the difference. If you wish to control Afghanistan you need a conquering and colonising army, followed by administrators and civil servants endowed with a strict sense of justice and plentiful funds.

So, despite "Afghanistan being a disaster in the making" Mr Anderson concludes that we should stay there. Does he really recommend that we turn Afghanistan into a UK colony? And does he believe that we have the will or the power to control the Taliban?



Sir: I strongly disagree that US and UK foreign policy has triggered a wave of increased terrorist activity. I much more believe that the network of terrorism has been implemented and put into place over the last decades. Training centres for terrorists need much preparation and time.

The little evidence which surfaces suggests that this terrorist network is both strong and extensive. We might actually have to ask the question whether we have been waiting for too long letting this beast grow, rather than the question whether we created it.



Peter Pan carries on helping sick children

Sir: Terry Kirby writes: "Since the copyright bequeathed by Barrie in 1929 expires next year it [the publication of a sequel to Peter Pan] represents the last opportunity for the hospital to benefit" (Pollution hits Neverland in Peter Pan, the sequel" , 30 August).

While it is true that the copyright in Peter Pan expires at the end of 2007, it is not the last opportunity for Great Ormond Street Hospital to benefit from this work. Section 301 and Schedule 6 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 provide for the benefit of Great Ormond Street Hospital "a right to a royalty in respect of the public performance, commercial publication, broadcasting or inclusion in a cable programme service of the play Peter Pan". This right has no expiry. It has been debated whether the right is truly a copyright, or whether it is a sui generis right, but in any case it means that the hospital will benefit long after next year.

This special right applies only in the UK, so the hospital will nevertheless lose after next year foreign royalties in respect of countries with a life-plus-70 copyright term.



Variety of palaces risks offence

Sir: Given The Independent's emphasis on cultural sensitivity, we were surprised and amused to see your visual reproduction of a Chinese palace in Beijing supporting an article about the Japanese Imperial Family (4 September). Given our personal experience of endless demonstrations in both China and Japan against a range of perceived cultural insults, The Independent may well have contributed towards another diplomatic incident.

On the other hand, you may have accidentally succeeded in uniting both parties in a demonstration against a common insult. The only worse cultural error that we could think of would have been for the paper to have printed an article on the history of the Glasgow Rangers football club, accompanied by a picture of the Vatican.




One-upmanship in the music business

Sir: I couldn't agree more with David Lister's assertion that the Mercury Music Prize is an important window for high-quality new music (Independent Music, 30 August). I was there as usual, to listen and learn and to support EMI Music's Richard Hawley and Hot Chip and EMI Music Publishing's Arctic Monkeys.

I wholeheartedly concur with AIM chairman Alison Wenham's point that independent music and labels play a crucial role in the continuing health of British music. They always have and they always will.

A flourishing independent sector is good for artists and entrepreneurs, for creativity and innovation, for consumers - and for music businesses of all sizes. Some independent labels have built international infrastructures to market their talent, others maintain smaller operations. Some exploit the new opportunities of digital sales and promotion to reach fans, others tap into the marketing systems of global music companies via licence deals. The reality is there is room for all to co-exist in a healthy and symbiotic relationship.

It doesn't matter whether companies are "major" or "indie" - or perhaps it's just "large" and "small" - as long as new talent is being discovered, invested in, nurtured and brought to consumers. It is time for the music industry and its various commentators to stop engaging in pointless one-upmanship and to focus their energies instead on fulfilling the growing demand from fans for great new music.



Who were the worst appeasers?

Sir: I am sorry to see that Rupert Cornwell (Opinion, 4 September) follows the American practice of linking Neville Chamberlain, and thereby, the UK, with appeasement. For many of the older generation the Munich pact is not history but part of life.

France and Italy were also represented at that meeting. Furthermore, because of our "peacemongers" and the false promise of the League of Nations, we then lacked the military strength to go to war. Chamberlain at least gave us a year to prepare, a vital factor in the Battle of Britain.

Despite his failure, Chamberlain and the UK had tried. To people of my generation the true appeasers were, and are, the countries that stood by and did nothing of value; and the most important of these was USA itself. Weren't the Americans then part of humanity? If, with the UK, they had been strongly represented in Munich in September 1938, maybe we should all have been spared the horrors of the Second World War.



Blair at bay

Sir: Once again we see the true nature of British politicians. Do they turn on their leader because of questionable policies? No: they turn on him because their seats are at risk. Selfish to the end. No wonder fewer and fewer people want to vote for them.



The training of torturers

Sir: Lee A Rials asks (Letters, 2 September) if anyone has ever named one example of School of the Americas training that led to criminal acts. The Derechos Human Rights website carries several long lists of SOA graduates implicated in genocide and torture in each of 16 Latin American countries.



Top schools

Sir. Your article about the new inspection regime for independent schools (1 September) describes the Headmasters' (sic) Conference as the organisation for top boys' schools. Not so. For several years the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference has admitted co-educational schools. And recently, after a robust inspection process, elected three girls' schools to membership. Guildford High School, Headington School and Surbiton High School are top schools, but not for boys.



Marmite on toast

Sir: My father taught me to prepare Marmite on toast by thoroughly mixing a little Marmite with a pat of butter and spreading the softened mixture on to hot toast. This method ensures the the butter and Marmite are evenly distributed, that neither dominates and that all the ingredients are enjoyed at their best. Does this method hold a lesson for other areas of life?



No, thanks

Sir: "We all want the latest cars, the grooviest clothes and the shiniest gadgets," proclaims your headline (Extra, 4 September). Actually we don't.