Letters: Only way to beat climate change

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Philippe Joubert and others argue that carbon pricing could help reduce global greenhouse gas emissions (letter, 5 December). However, climate change and development expert Lord Stern pointed out this week that "even if developed countries cut their emissions to zero, that would not be enough to halt runaway climate change". Developing nations need to cut emissions too.

But in fact our emissions aren't going to fall to zero, and their emissions are not going to fall at all. India and China alone are planning 800 more coal-fired power stations, for example, and there is growing world demand for particularly damaging activities such as car use, meat consumption and air travel. Last year, carbon emissions rose by 3 per cent.

We need to stop pretending that the world is politically capable of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by enough to prevent disaster. Mercifully, there is an alternative. We need to research into and then invest in geoengineering, which uses technology to remove greenhouse gases or otherwise cool the planet. A report this year from the Royal Society concluded that "geoengineering is very likely to be technically possible" so now it is up to David Cameron and the leaders of the other major economies to provide the political leadership to make it happen.

Richard Mountford

Hildenborough, Kent

Discussion of global warming and threats of dire consequences if nothing is done to prevent it will always fall on deaf ears. Most people are too short-sighted to see beyond their own lives and too selfish to do anything that will inconvenience them.

When the inevitable happens it will be too late for those affected to do anything about it, but by then "I shall be long gone", so eat drink and be merry, the mortgage we are taking out will not fall due in my lifetime.

Bill Fletcher

Cirencester, Gloucestershire

As one of the "gentlemen" Penelope Reid refers to in her letter of 15 November, may I be permitted to respond?

The landscape where Ms Reid lives and farms has been identified by an independent study as being highly sensitive to development of wind turbines – the qualities that make it beautiful would be harmed by this kind of development. Wind turbines are essentially a form of industrial development and industrial development is discouraged in our finest landscapes.

The fact that one kind of industrial development may bring potential environmental benefits does not justify abandoning the protection society affords to beautiful places. We are only too mindful of the huge challenges climate change poses for our landscapes and wildlife. We do our best to encourage energy conservation and the kinds of small-scale renewable energy generation that the landscape can accommodate; mostly these are wood fuel and small-scale photovoltaic solar generation.

Ms Reid's frustration is understandable: she has done much to keep the North Wessex Downs beautiful, not least through the excellent job she does farming part of it. For that we salute her. But to erode the very beauty that makes this ancient landscape so special in a bid to protect it from climate change makes no sense.

Henry Oliver

Director, North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

Hungerford, Berkshire

Osborne on course – but for what?

Even people on the left must now concede that the Government is broadly on the right track with its economic policy. No one could fail to be impressed by the totally unspun, straightforward honesty of George Osborne as he delivered his Autumn Statement. Surely it will stand as the financial equivalent in rhetorical terms of Churchill's "Blood, toil, tears and sweat" oration. Compared with the Chancellor Ed Balls came over as blustering.

As a Labour Party member I would like to see the Coalition more proactive in some fields including constitutional reform and an unconditional commitment to the Leveson recommendations. However on the economy it seems churlish to pretend that the main thrust is anything other than the obvious, prudent course to follow.

Andrew McLuskey

Staines, Middlesex

Given its failure to forecast growth within even a remote degree of accuracy, what is the point of the Office of Budget Responsibility? The OBR is merely a figleaf for George Osborne's incompetence, with all indicators pointing to a third recession looming in 2013.

The next government should place the OBR on the next bonfire of the quangos and find a Chancellor capable of doing the job himself. Enough of hands-off-the-wheel government. We need a man or woman capable of rescuing our economy from free-fall into terminal stagnation.

Anthony Rodriguez

Staines, Middlesex

So, Osborne's deficit reduction target is not being met, but The Independent still thinks the Chancellor has no real option but to carry on regardless. Why?

If some substantial fiscal loosening resulted, as Keynes believed it would, in more people in work and more taxes paid and less benefits doled out, how would this not be a better state of affairs from every point of view, including the Chancellor's?

Jim Bowman

South Harrow, Middlesex

Starbucks and tax morality

I have never been on the side of large companies such as Starbucks, but I must defend them in this instance of supposed immorality. If there is a moral duty placed on a company and its directors it is the duty of maximising profit for its shareholders. It would be wrong for a company board not to take every opportunity legally to reduce its taxation.

If there is any immorality it lies in the hands of the government and Parliament. Loopholes do not appear by magic – they are crafted by highly-paid lobbyists and passed by compliant politicians. If they are there "by mistake" they can just as easily be removed.

The worst nonsense is the supposed necessity of having a "competitive" tax system to attract "inward investment". Do we really want to encourage large corporations to buy British businesses and then export the profits overseas while contributing next to nothing to the public purse? If it would be so difficult for Starbucks to make a profit if they paid taxes in Britain, then they could sell their coffee-shops to the local entrepreneurs who are being wiped out by the unfair competition. This would keep the money in Britain.

John Day

Port Solent, Hampshire

Anyone who has experienced a tax investigation knows that HMRC is tough and ruthless., and exploits its considerable powers to impose the maximum inconvenience on tax avoiders. However, HMRC carefully picks its battles and chooses to spend the taxpayer's money only on cases that it has a realistic prospect of winning.

To do otherwise would be madness, and yet this is what Labour MP Margaret Hodge suggested on Radio 4 this week, in proposing that it should spend taxpayers' money challenging more tax cases to demonstrate a ruthless streak. The cost of litigation is immense and, if there is one good way to demonstrate wasteful public spending, it would be to litigate on lost causes.

If MPs are unhappy, then they should change the law to make the corporations pay more tax. HMRC employees have a thankless job to do, but they do it well.

Richard Jordan

Partner, Thomas Eggar LLP, Chichester

No career for a woman

Why did you give a platform to a former madam to promote aspects of the sex trade (including straightforward prostitution), which she alleges are wholesome and "empowering" (4 December). Apart from a brief exposé of an actual scam, there is about one column inch devoted to the counter-argument.

Women have always been bought and sold, and sold themselves, for sex; however we have yet to hear anyone recommend it as a career choice for their daughters or show us how the power of women has been advanced by getting their tits out for the lads.

Julie Harrison


Warming to the Chancellor

This morning, as I cycled to work in sub-zero temperatures, I passed a car parked at the bottom of my street. Inside were two chaps in shirtsleeves reading tabloid newspapers. The car windows were rolled down and the engine was still running, allowing a blast of heated air to warm up the street.

Doubtless these two chaps are pleased as the tabloids are that the Chancellor has decided not to bring in the extra duty on fuel.

Nick Wray


Cinematic opera

While I agree with Alexandra Coghlan (Arts, 4 December) that opera at the cinema does not match live performance, these live streamings do give me the opportunity to enjoy world-class singers and productions at a price I can afford and at a location near home. I would love to visit the New York Met, but there is no chance of that. It may be second best but that is better than nothing.

Jo Greer


Work for Ukip

In her letter of 29 November, Janice Atkinson of Ukip says her party believes in grammar schools to give a "leg-up to kids from down-trodden housing estates". She does not tell us what will happen to "kids" not selected for a grammar school. Will they be expected to be happy as helots working to redeem the damage done to our economy by Ukip's withdrawal from Europe.

Peter Metcalfe

Stevenage, Hertfordshire

Not interested

Grace Dent thinks we should not take an interest in the royal pregnancy (5 December). Some of us are also not interested in articles about not being interested. As this is a letter about not being interested in articles about not being interested I advise you not to publish it, and bring this nonsense to an end.

Charles Leedham-Green

Woodford Green, Essex


Steve Connor (5 December) describes Nyasasaurus Partingtoni as "a Labrador-sized dinosaur... between two and three metres long with a metre-long tail." Try coaxing that into the back of the Volvo.

Grant Baynham

Disley, Cheshire