Letters: Global warming

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The Independent Online

Must we fight global warming or adapt to it? Both

Sir: Ben Stewart of Greenpeace (letter, 6 September) seems to have misread Frances Cairncross's article, which nowhere says anything about not regulating CO2 emissions.

Her article points out the obvious need for adaptation to a warming world, as we simply do not have the luxury of choosing either/or - either we "solve" the climate problem or we adapt to its effects. Because of the predicted lag time of 30-40 years between any significant reduction of emissions and the resulting benefits showing up in the climate, adaptation is going to be necessary for that period irrespective of the success or otherwise of climate programmes.

Refusing to plan adaptation during this period would be to ensure at least 30 years of that very climate stress around the world that we are trying to avoid.

Al Gore, speaking in Helsinki this week, also mistook the need for adaptation as "an excuse for not solving the climate crisis". Nobody I know follows this line: the need to adapt, both in developed countries and crucially in developing countries, should be brutally obvious to anyone.

Developed countries should plan for migration in a poleward direction, the development of higher sea-defences (already under way) and installation of flood-control dams on our larger rivers, to name a few. Similar measures will be needed in the developing countries, and we must direct significant aid to them so that they are not overtaken by disasters during the lag period. This will demand considerable financial aid and expertise from all of us.



After Blair, we need a genuine new start

Sir: The sense of electoral panic within the parliamentary Labour Party may be well founded, but their canvassed solution (replacing Mr Blair) misses the point.

Mr Blair is now vehemently disliked by a significant proportion of both Labour's natural and pragmatic supporters, but this is not just due to his unfortunate manner, by turns preaching and hectoring, interspersed with brief interludes of toe-curling "mateyness". It is because of his policies. His perplexing inability to see that the interests of the USA and the UK, whilst overlapping, are not coterminous. His professed desire for "what works" coupled with his commercial naivety, resulting in increasing private profit from public resources and diminishing returns for the citizen. His contempt for international law and his careless domestic authoritarianism. Supine, yet exuding petulant authority, he has lost our respect even as he seeks to impose it, and above all he has made this nation less safe a place in which to live.

He has not done this alone however, and, primus inter pares, he has been helped by those in the Cabinet and wider Parliamentary Labour Party who have placed their duty to their party over their duty to their electorate, and who have for too long given him permission to do as he pleases in return for some scraps of social justice.

Now faced with the loss of their seats or ministerial positions they want a scapegoat. But to simply replace Tony Blair, without also replacing his policies with ones that are more intelligent, just, and effective, will be pointless. The Labour Party, both within Parliament and in the country at large, must show the electorate it means to change direction if it is to stand a chance of retaining power.



Sir: Silence gives assent. Mr Brown has remained culpably silent on the issues of political principle and personal trust which are the key reasons the British people want rid of Mr Blair.

It is inconceivable that he did not know of the deception of Parliament and the people about the rationale and legality of the invasion of Iraq. Yet he said and did nothing.

We need to replace Mr Blair with a leader who will respect our democratic system enough to trust the electorate with the truth. We need a leader of principle willing to stand up for what he believes, whenever that is required, not just when his own political ambitions are not threatened. We need a prime minister with a passion for something more than just being Prime Minister.

Much of the above criticism applies equally to other candidates for Prime Minster. A Brown-led cabinet achieved through incestuous party political machination would possess constitutional correctness but not a shred of genuine democratic legitimacy. The people want rid of the man who lied to them and will not meekly accept his replacement by a man, or men, who knew the truth and would not stand up for it.



Sir: The New Labour project, posited upon being "servants of the people", was undermined at birth by the centrality of interventionism to its political philosophy.

This philosophy was based upon the notions that "something must be done" and that as that something was well-intentioned the results would be positive. This controlling approach has been counterproductive in domestic affairs and disastrous in foreign policy.

Failure has been justified in terms of a circular argument which ultimately depends upon the profession of "acting in good faith", and a cognitive dissonance which invalidates any evidence which questions the effectiveness and moral validity of any intervention.



Sir: We would be spared the sight of Tony Blair's clinging on to power if a prime minister could stay in power only for two terms, as presidents do in the USA. In fact it might be sensible if a time limit was applied to most jobs, as after eight years most people have done all that they can do and would benefit from a new challenge.



Sir: Witty headline this morning ("Et tu, Brute?", 6 September) but do you really think Tony Blair will hang on until the Ides of March ?



Blaming the victims of car accidents

Sir: The victim-blaming approach of Sean O'Grady's article "Cyclists don't own the road" (5 September) is breathtaking. No activity is utterly safe, but even taking risks into account, cycling is beneficial to health. In the rare event of an incident, in the vast majority of cases it isn't the fault of the cyclist, but of the errant motorist.

And what is this "road fund licence" O'Grady refers to? I own a car and I don't pay "road fund licence" because there is no such thing. There is no specific tax or licence revenue ring-fenced to pay for roads. In the UK, roads are funded out of general and local taxation and as such, are just as much paid for by non-motoring taxpayers as by motoring ones.

As for insurance, the fact that cyclists don't have to have specific insurance reflects the low risk they pose to other road users. Indeed, many a cyclist does have third-party insurance, as it's often included as part of home insurance. As the real risk caused by cyclists is so low, the insurance is effectively a "freebie" contained in other policies.



Sir: Sean O'Grady quite rightly emphasises the vulnerability of cyclists on busy roads; as a motorist I am acutely aware that I could collide with one as he or she jumps a red light or makes a sudden right turn with no indication other than a swift glance over the shoulder. The fact that it may not be my fault would not help me to sleep at night if I killed or maimed someone.

As a pedestrian walking dogs, I find that it is I giving glances over my shoulder for cyclists who overtake on the footpath with no regard for my safety, or more importantly that of my dogs! Any protest is usually met with the common four-letter words.

I think that a lack of any mandatory training has given many cyclists the impression that they are not an integral part of the traffic problem as a whole. I am wholly in favour of bikes, which are ecologically friendly, if ridden in a safe and courteous manner. I agree with the idea of licensing, which hopefully would involve some form of testing for knowledge of the Highway Code. I also wonder if indicators and wing mirrors could be fitted to cycles so that we might be given warning of intention to turn.



Sir: The ranting of motoring journalists against cyclists reminds me of lost causes such as slavery and apartheid that were defended by blaming the oppressed. Cars, not bicycles, are the source of pollution, congestion and road casualties. Our addiction to motor cars is the problem. Cycling is part of the solution.



Violent porn: a matter of taste

Sir: Michael Bor (letter, 5 September) is right in only one respect: that he "felt abjection" at viewing violent pornography. But his personal feelings are neither here nor there.

The vast majority of violent porn is totally consensual, even that which appears not to be. That any person may not enjoy or even understand it is no reason to ban its possession. The BBFC gave Baise Moi an 18 certificate, although many would find the violent sexual imagery - which appears non-consensual - distasteful. Actors are paid to make things look real. Some people wish to view it. Matters of taste are no basis for legislation.



Direct marketing is a big success

Sir: The direct marketing industry tries to strike a responsible path between the rights of consumers and the rights of companies using legitimate direct marketing methods ("The junk mountain", 2 September). It's a big and successful part of the UK economy employing over 800,000 and contributing to 9 per cent of all sales.

The Mailing Preference Service was set up by the industry because we have always acknowledged the consumer's right to make a choice. It is entirely industry-funded. Research shows that it is an effective method to stem cold contact via addressed post. The Direct Marketing Association runs activity to help consumers exercise control over what comes through their letterbox - go to www.mydm.co.uk for more details.

The industry is very aware of the environmental issues. That is why the DMA entered the voluntary agreement on recycling with Defra. We have succeeded in raising the level of recycling to nearly 30 per cent and we continue to aim for a higher target. The responsible use of paper products from managed resources (a strategy long used by newspapers) is one part of the equation. The responsibility to ensure that the end product is recycled lies with the consumer - as it always does.

The Direct Marketing Association works with councils and recycling groups whenever possible to ensure that this significant economic contributor keeps moving with the environmental requirements of modern society. That we do all this whilst funded solely by the direct marketing industry is to be applauded and not pilloried.



Britain undermined in Arab eyes

Sir: Patrick Cockburn mounts a savage indictment of British Middle East policy (5 September).

British interests have now become specific targets for Islamist militants. The immoral, incompetent and ill-judged hotchpotch of Blairite positions has seriously undermined British interests in the Arab world, embarrassed our friends and boosted our enemies. The British Prime Minister is no longer trusted, and increasingly is viewed with the same open hatred and contempt as George Bush. He is frequently seen as responsible for the destruction of Iraq, Lebanon and Palestine, for the loss of lives of hundreds of thousands of Arabs and Muslims, and for fuelling the extremism that is blighting so many Middle Eastern states.

It is difficult to see where Blair has advanced British interests in the region at any level.



Prison suicides

Sir: If someone serving "life" attempts, in despair, to end it, why should they not be allowed to do so? A determination to keep such a prisoner alive at all costs begins to look like a particularly unsavoury form of sadism.



End of the brewer's dray

Sir: Within a few weeks Tetley's, Young's and Adnam's breweries have announced the closure of their stables and the end of deliveries by heavy-horse-drawn dray. I expect they are justified in terms of finance and road safety, and such breweries deserve our thanks for saving heavy horses in the 1950s when the type nearly disappeared, but please give room for a lament at the passing of one of the few remaining examples of a useful and genuine partnership of man and the gentlest of working animals.



Initial failure

Sir: Years ago I was asked by an up-and-coming university to act as external examiner of a doctoral dissertation ("Named by degrees", 4 September). It was necessary to display my full academic qualifications. Ever afterwards letters from the university came addressed to "Professor Maphdfsa". I once had the temerity to reply to the Vice-Chancellor in a similar manner, but his great parade of degrees and honours clearly defeated the university's sorting machinery, and my letter disappeared into oblivion.



Drax protest

Sir: Your report "Green revolution" (1 September) states that the Campaign against Climate Change is the "umbrella group" behind the camp and actions at Drax. The Campaign against Climate Change organises peaceful protest marches of a more traditional kind. As an organisation we have not so far been involved in direct action. When interviewed by your reporter at Drax I stated that in my opinion the action was a great symbolic success - but neither I nor the Campaign against Climate Change can take credit for that success, which belongs to others.



Learn from hens

Sir: Terence Blacker (5 September) is absolutely correct about hens knowing how to live. We should indeed follow their example. They also adore Marmite.