Letters: On the brink of climate crisis


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The Independent Online

As your report and leader clearly indicate, the relentless loss of sea-ice from the Arctic represents a grave threat to the future of the planet (28 August). For others however this represents an opportunity, as it allows oil companies to drill in the Arctic.

In other words, global warming, stoked by their own commercial activities, is opening up new markets. In business this is known as a virtuous circle. By contrast citizens of planet Earth see nothing but dangers. Imagine for a moment what would happen if a Deepwater Horizon oil spill were to contaminate this pristine environment with its fragile ecosystems.

However the oil companies seems to perceive environmental groups as the main problem. Shell, for example, have invested $4.5bn already in Arctic exploration. Earlier this year they obtained an injunction in the US Federal District Court in Anchorage Alaska, that "prohibits Greenpeace from taking unlawful action against vessels owned or contracted to Shell in support of Arctic Ocean exploration".

Shareholders should realise that this is not a far-sighted policy. These are the spasms of a dying industry.

Dr Robin Russell-Jones

Chair, Planetary SOS,

Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire

I admire the enthusiasm of some of your correspondents for wind-farms, but the battle is lost. Our finely balanced ecosystem has tipped beyond the point of no return. We are hurtling towards a nightmare of our own making.

The Arctic ice-cap will be gone within 10 years. This, and other climate-change mechanisms will inflict massive damage. They include colossal methane release from frozen tundra, widespread flooding, plummeting fish stocks due to rising ocean acidity, crop failures, weather storms and pandemic infections immune to antibiotics. A massive decline in the world population is unavoidable. A wind-farm here or there won't make one iota of difference to the fate of most of us.

Politicians have now squandered nearly all of the time they had in short-term populism and staying friends with the multi-nationals. There is a slim chance that they and their influential friends will abandon self-interest in time to make a modest difference.

Huge solar power generation plants in the sunny, desert regions of our planet could provide more than enough energy to displace the use of fossil fuels completely within 20 years. We need international infrastructure projects financed by public funding now. The returns on public investment in solar energy would be immense.

Unless we accept the truth of the situation, we will stay in a state of denial until nothing is salvageable. The world will shake us off and rearrange itself without our presence sooner than we think.

Mike Joslin


Amid praise for Paralympics, cuts hit disabled

As a disabled woman, I'm appalled at the Prime Minister's hypocrisy in announcing how proud he is of the Paralympic Games.

Members of his Cabinet continue to cut ruthlessly welfare services and benefits for disabled people. Iain Duncan Smith is currently closing down large numbers of Remploy factories. Atos, the French firm the Government is paying to cut 20 per cent from the Disability Living Allowance bill, are among the big sponsors of the Games. Yet fraudulent DLA claims are less than 0.5 per cent, the smallest percentage for any benefit.

The right-wing press conducts a "scroungers" campaign which assists government cuts and substantially increases discrimination against us. Disability hate crime is higher than ever before. These are just some of the attacks we are facing thanks to the Coalition Government.

Jan Pollock

London N4

I hope that these Paralympic Games are truly the last such games ever. It must now be time to integrate the Olympics and Paralympics into one global festival of sporting endeavour. Obviously the various individual events would be segregated into different classes, just as boxing, wrestling, sailing etc are at present, but I think it would make a powerful statement of togetherness if the world could celebrate sporting achievement in a fully integrated games.

Mike Watson


As a pensioner I watch a lot of telly. This long wet miserable summer has been one of the worst I can remember.

First there was a month of wall-to-wall Euro football. No sooner had that gone away than there was the usual two-week blanket coverage of tennis from Wimbledon. After Wimbledon came what seems like months of the Olympics. Somewhere in the middle of all this ghastliness was the vulgar spectacle of the Queen's jubilee. This morning I switched on my TV and it's still here: the Paralympics, or some such!

No more, please, no more! The sports junkies should have had their fill by now.

Chris Payne


Why we need shareholders

Whatever the rights and wrongs of rail fare rises, they would be more expensive without shareholders, not cheaper (letter, 28 August). Rail improvements need billions of pounds up-front and borrowing from shareholders is the cheapest way to create this funding.

Shareholders get about 1 to 3 pence from every pound of your rail fare, which in my view is not a big deal. If the lending was via bank loans, much more would have to be paid. Some people think the taxpayer will lend much more via the Treasury, but this is probably unrealistic for a variety of reasons.

Shareholders are mostly institutions like banks and insurance companies who lend our money to businesses to expand services, exports and jobs. We usually get our all money back and more, with very much less of it wasted than when the Treasury lends money on our behalf.

Our transport and energy industries need absolutely massive amounts of capital investment and this money can only realistically come from institutional shareholders investing ordinary people's savings.

We ought to be pleased when we read that a company's profits are going up; it means people's savings are safe, the company's jobs are more secure, and the company will have more money to invest in improvements.

The system is not perfect but it is the best one so far invented and generally much better than state-run investments.

Ray Wilkes

Shipley, West Yorkshire

No honours for the other ranks

Ian Mckenzie is absolutely correct; the British Empire Medal (BEM) was awarded to those "not of officer or professional grade in military or civilian life" (letters 28 August).

It was Prime Minister John Major's review in 1992 of the honours and awards system which attempted to do away with this "class system" in the awards, and his ideas were well intentioned. But they failed in that it left huge gaps at the lower end of the scale particularly regarding the British Empire Medal, which they ceased awarding in 1992.

The idea was that those who would have normally got a BEM, would now become a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE), a previous officer/professional grade award. However, since the change-over, all the Warrant Officers and Senior NCOs from the forces, or lollipop ladies etc in civilian life who would have got the BEM, all now seem to be missing from the lists when the MBEs are awarded and they now end up with nothing.

Michael W Cook

Soulbury, Buckinghamshire

In Whitehall I was once told that giving a gong to senior Civil Servants and Service Officers was a lot cheaper than paying the rate for the job.

Peter Saundby

Llangynidr, Powys

Hitler and Christianity

I'm tired of reading that old canard about Hitler really being a Christian. Alistair McBay of the National Secular Society (letter, 28. August) says that if Hitler used the phrase "doing the Lord's work", he must be a Christian.

His true outlook can be identified when he confided to a small number of his closest friends: "The last and greatest enemy that I must face is Christianity."

Len Hollingsworth

Bexley, Kent

Alistair McBay hopes to be told what a "hardline atheist fundamentalist" is. I suggest that it is the mirror image of a "hardline Christian fundamentalist". Neither will entertain the notion that their philosophy could be flawed, and both tend to denigrate those with the temerity to suggest that it might be.

Peter Smith

Halifax, West Yorkshire

Comic versus commentator

So Fiona Sturges (Arts, 29 August) thought Russell Brand did "a delicious takedown of Peter Hitchens on Newsnight". It seemed to me that all Brand did was to provide proof positive, if any were needed, that innuendo and insult will never be enough to "take down" a reasoned argument no matter how flawed such argument may be.

Peter Bunker

Burnham, Buckinghamshire

Engineer on the Moon

Your obituary of Neil Armstrong (27 August) made it very clear that he was a brilliant engineer – applying his engineering knowledge in the most demanding circumstances. Why do you then refer to him as an "astronaut and scientist" and not an "astronaut and engineer"?

Engineers put the discoveries of scientists to work. Armstrong was clearly expert in this field. Please, give the engineering professions the recognition that they deserve; after all, the wellbeing of our nation depends upon them.

Clive Pollard


Winner takes all

Conservative MP Brian Binley's complaint that the Government's policy programme is not simply a list of Conservative policies, but instead includes Liberal Democrat ones too (report, 30 August), misses the point that the Conservatives did not win an overall majority on their own at the last election. If Brian Binley and colleagues think they should get their way all the time, the answer is to win an election, not to demand full power in the absence of victory.

Mark Pack

London N19

Science for kids

In regards to the recent condemnation of secondary school education – a subject that is rekindled every August – I must add that upon arrival to sixth form, students are told to forget everything they've learned in GCSE science, as the course is so over-simplified and much of it is false and contradicts the A-level curriculum.

Tommy D Hadley

Burwell, Cambridge

Claws out

Pedantry I know, but surely Samuel Muston in his piece on food on 27 August means metonymy and not synecdoche in his reference to people eating lobster.

Joan Pennycook

Truro, Cornwall