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Thursday 27 October 2011
Letters: Points left out of climate debate
Dominic Lawson ("Why won't Huhne celebrate our gas windfall?", 25 October) attributes the Energy Secretary's failure to draw the public's attention to the significance of the recent discovery of vast shale gas reserves to the fact that this "comes as a most inconvenient surprise to him in his capacity as Cabinet minister responsible for Climate Change policy".
Could a similar inconvenience lie behind Mr Lawson's failure to mention another very recent finding of even greater significance: the confirmation by the independent and highly respected team at the Berkeley Earth Project of the reality of global warming?
I assume your aim in giving Dominic Lawson a platform to promote his views on climate change is to try to present a balanced argument for and against anthropogenic climate change.
However, for all the misinformation spread by those who want to deny the existence of human-induced global warming, there is in fact a remarkable degree of consensus among scientists at to the effects of CO2 emissions on global temperatures. If you were to apply the same criteria of balanced argument to medicine, for example, you would need to have a columnist who regularly discussed the advantages of homeopathy over conventional medicines.
Of particular (and urgent) interest are the reasons why it is generally those on the right politically who decry any action on climate change. One can only assume it is because action to prevent climate change would require a substantial reining in of the individual freedom to consume fossil fuels. The right have promoted the individual freedom to consume into a dogma, in contrast to the original tenets of liberalism, which are that one should have the freedom to do what one wishes as long as it doesn't harm others. Our excessive emissions are harming others, and will continue to do so.
Dr Hugh Dunkerley
An error seems to have crept in to Dominic Lawson's article on climate change. In the light of the discovery of the shale gas field around Blackpool, he welcomes the predicted failure of co-ordinated action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions among the main global players.
The last sentence reads: "That is good for any person or business worried about their fuel bills, and it is wonderful news for Blackpool, Lancashire." The end of the sentence appears to be missing, and should read, "and an absolute disaster for mankind and the future of the planet."
Eurosceptics embrace a mythical Britain
Steve Richards (25 October) points out the mythical nature of the "Europe" which Eurosceptics are targeting. There is an equally valid distinction to be made between the "Britain" they imagine they are living in, and Britain in reality.
Mythical "Britain" congratulates itself for avoiding the fate of countries like Italy and Spain, because it had the foresight to see that the euro was going to be a disaster. "Britain" has a vigilant parliament which opposes transfers of sovereignty to "Brussels". "Britain" faces constant attacks on its sovereignty from "Brussels", an ill-defined but hostile entity.
While public debate centres on "Britain", the real Britain is sleepwalking its way into a constitutional crisis over Scotland, which could weaken the Union far more than anything "Brussels" can dream up. Britain has an economy burdened with enormous government and personal debt precisely because it followed policies very similar to those followed by Spain and Italy earlier in this decade. However, because Britain has retained its own currency, it has been able to use devaluation in its debt reduction policy: a de facto policy of devaluing the nation's aggregate wealth.
It is true that, in Britain, EU legislation has not been effectively monitored by Parliament but that is because the executive branch here has used its dominance of the legislature to fend off serious scrutiny. The way European legislation is implemented in Britain needs looking at, but that is an internal British issue, not a fight between "Britain" and "Brussels".
North Tamerton, Cornwall
Steve Richards' usual incisiveness escaped him in making the point that "the plight of the Eurozone is an easy scapegoat for those ministers who made the wrong call in relation to deep spending cuts".
The spending cuts last year were predicated on the basis of the nascent global recovery which was observable at the time. However, any recovery in the British – and indeed world – economy was and is heavily geared to European economic performance, which hit the wall with the crisis in the Eurozone.
Criticism can be levelled at the Coalition for failing to recognise in June 2010 that the euro, as it is currently structured, is such a fundamentally flawed concept that the current crisis was inevitable at some point. But the crisis has derailed economic policies throughout the world and cannot be glibly dismissed as a scapegoat.
The reality is that the Coalition has to engage very actively with the EU as a whole and Germany in particular for its current fiscal policy to have a realistic chance of success. This is the real conundrum that faces David Cameron in dealing with his backbenchers, who seem to believe that Britain is a metaphorical as well as a physical island.
Chesham Bois, Buckinghamshire
Jack Darrant (letter, 25 October) claims that because no one under the age of 54 has had a chance to vote on our being part of Europe it's time we had a referendum on the issue.
That's nothing. We in the ancient kingdom of Surrey were violently annexed by Wessex in 825 and later subsumed into England and then into Britain. Instead of whining on about being badly treated by Winchester and London we simply got on and made the best of it. I think we have done rather well out of being part of England – even though we pay Westminster far more tax than we get back.
Just as we, in Surrey, have focused our attention on making our relationship within England work, Jack Darrant and his kind would make for a stronger Britain if they focused their energies making our relationship in Europe work. Instead of all this carping, let's celebrate what is good about Europe and address the problems, of which there are many, with vim and gusto.
The EU referendum vote in Parliament shows the idiocy and the danger of the way "the people" are now given access to parliamentary debate. The 100,000 people who need to sign a petition for debate are 0.16 per cent of the population.
The idiocy is to accept that this is "representative" of anything at all. The danger is that it allows the right wing to say that "this is what the British people want". Not terribly numerate, are they?
David Cameron appears to have won an arm-wrestling contest with his own other arm.
East Boldon, Tyne & Wear
Clegg's neoliberal 'help' for Egypt
Nick Clegg (20 October) presents a warped account of the Egyptian revolution and Britain's role, casting himself as a supporter of democracy. But his reference to British investment reveals another, corporate-led, agenda. Britain's foreign energy policy primarily sees Egypt as a gas exporter and oil transit country. BP is the largest foreign investor in the country, generating obscene profits but few jobs, in Britain or Egypt.
The Egyptian revolution demanded freedom and dignity – and social justice. But when Clegg promises $38bn through the World Bank and European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, he's standing not with the Egyptian youth, but the 1 per cent of oilmen, bankers and diplomats. These loans will increase structural poverty and debt, force neo-liberal reforms down Egypt's throat and lock the country into servicing Europe's fossil-fuel demands.
Every day in Cairo I see mass protest after protest demanding a minimum wage and workers' rights. For all his rhetoric, this bottom-up vision for a more just Egypt is directly threatened and undermined by Clegg's plans.
Dow's link to the Olympics
I was appalled to read that so much publicity is being given to promote Dow Chemicals by the Olympic 2012 committee. The sheer hypocrisy, let alone a careless analysis of the overall record of Dow and its major effects on India's children through the Union Carbide disaster, beggar belief.
When you scan the background and interests of the senior team, including Lord Coe, you get a picture of caring individuals, some with personal direct experience of life-disabling traumas. So how come these people have allowed Dow to have such a major impact, visually and financially at London 2012?
I hope Keith Vaz's Early Day Motion will get maximum support in Parliament.
The rioters who were caught
Your report "Official: cabinet ministers wrong about cause of riots" (25 October) concludes that the riots are attributable to poverty rather than gang culture. However, the conclusions drawn from the Ministry of Justice statistics can be valid only if those rioters brought before the courts are representative of the whole.
However, we may suppose that those rioters who were stupid enough not to conceal their faces were more likely to be caught, and that those in gangs, who are more accustomed to crime, were more likely to cover their faces. David Cameron may be more right about the causes of the riots than you give him credit for.
Dr Vic Harris
Perhaps the Prime Minister should visit the village of Challma Chimpans in the Cusco region of Peru, which is far away from the road network and has no electricity or running water.
There, teenagers help their parents herd animals, look after younger siblings, and collect wood for the fire. Since they do not have access to either television or computers, they cannot covet goods which they cannot afford. Despite such straitened circumstances, there are always smiles on their faces and they are very welcoming and affectionate.
"Number 10 in the Pink" (photograph, 26 October) – how green is that? Charities as well as the environment would derive more benefit if it were decided to stop illuminating all our public buildings at night, and donate the money saved to them.
Could I suggest to Keith O'Neill (letter, 25 October) that he take the full offer of four packs of insulation, use what he needs and give away the rest, either to an appropriate charity, or on Freecycle?
Spotted! First poppy, adorning rebel MP Adam Holloway, Newsnight, 25 October.
Long Melford, Suffolk
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