Letters: The politics that drive climate-change denial

These letters appear in the Tuesday 18th February edition of the Independent

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Yasmin Alibhai-Brown is spot on that conservative climate-change deniers are in trouble (17 February). However they won’t go away. She omits the politics of denial.

I am sure many people have wondered why most or all of the prominent deniers are right-wing and rich. There are several reasons.

Most rich people get their wealth from the mass consumer market, of which oil and gas are major parts. If environmentalists say that this mass consumption is leading to catastrophe, then short-sighted, profit-driven politics will deny it.

All businessmen want freedom to make their money how they want. They want no restrictions – or constraints on business as they call them. Environmental concerns or indeed health-and-safety issues can be seen as a constraint on business, and so must be rubbished.

Ideology is vital for the rich. They have to justify a world where they have what they want but most people don’t. In Britain today  5 per cent of the population own over half the wealth. Arguments that place human need (or animal need) over their wish to make as much money as they want are poison  to them.

Of course many deniers are not rich and may not vote for right-wing parties. However no one who wants to have their place in the mass consumer market wants to be told that it’s fool’s gold, that we all lose out in the end. In addition, many environmentalists or left-wingers are seen as weird or trouble-makers. You can then add in the effect of the right-wing media.

The only way that deniers like Lord Lawson will change is when the world ends.

Mark Dougal, Manchester

The climate change debate grinds on. Those with heads in the sand (probably wet by now) might consider this: the reason given for the current spate of floods and heavy snow is that the Arctic is melting quite fast, thus altering the flow of the jetstream, and more moisture is being sucked up from the Atlantic.

We were told today that the Antarctic is not melting anything like as fast. We in the southern hemisphere are yet to suffer the same climate changes. It is a fact that 90 per cent of the population of the planet live in the northern hemisphere and hand in hand with that goes pollution and greenhouse gasses.

Sounds like a no-brainer to me.

Barbara Ingram-Monk, Nelson,  New Zealand

The revelation of a right-wing bias at the BBC (15 February) possibly explains the decision by David Jordan, the BBC director of editorial policy and standards, to treat climate science as not settled. Refusal to accept the evidence for man-made climate change is, for whatever reason, a disease of the political right. 

The sad outcome of this false balance is that ill-informed “sceptics” like Lord Lawson and their political campaign for inaction continue to be given undeserved airtime on BBC shows such as the Today programme.

Dr Richard Milne, Edinburgh

 

Flood defences better value than HS2

The Government proposes to spend £42.6bn on HS2, the high-speed railway from London to Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds, and seeks to justify this on a cost-benefit ratio of 2.3:1, that is that the projected benefit is £2.30 for every £1 spent.

This controversial project will involve cutting a swathe through our countryside and the demolition of many properties, including listed buildings. However, for flood defence – protecting our existing land and properties – the Treasury has imposed an 8:1 cost-benefit ratio: there must be £8 of benefit for every £1 spent.

How can this difference be justified and does the Prime Minister’s recent “money no object” announcement mean that the 8:1 benefit requirement has been abandoned?

Rather than reducing our overseas aid expenditure and diverting the money to flood relief, as some are now urging (have we already forgotten the Philippines typhoon disaster?), I suggest we should cancel HS2 and spend the £42bn on maintaining our existing infrastructure, including flood defences, protecting and strengthening the present rail network, and repairing all the many potholes in our roads.

David Lamming, Boxford, Suffolk

It was only a matter of time before someone in a city wrote to remind us that people living on floodplains were “gambling” and decrying the amount the urbanites had to spend to support these profligates (letter, 17 February).

As a country-dweller who lived within five miles of Muchelney and now lives close to Tewkesbury and Upton-on-Severn, can I point out to your correspondent, who apparently lives in the E15 postal area, that we could make yet further tax savings, for instance by switching off the power to the Thames Barrier?

Jo Mumford, Willersey, Gloucestershire

 

Finney shames today’s football

The tributes paid to Tom Finney before the football matches on Saturday were thoroughly deserved. I had the pleasure of watching this great footballer and gentleman on several occasions and I doubt that he was ever booked.

I then watched the game between Manchester City and Chelsea, which totally devalued all that had gone before. The petty and dangerous fouls never abated and the officials played their part in not controlling the mayhem.

I am sick and tired of seeing the attacking players at corner kicks either being hugged or actually wrestled to the ground by defenders who more often than not go unpunished by (in my opinion) the least competent officials since the Second World War.

A single sporting gesture in a game draws applause from, mainly, the older spectators. In professional football the Corinthian spirit is stone dead.  

Mike Wells, London SW19

 

State school teachers can actually teach

Tom Holland comments on the teaching standards in private and state schools (The Big Questions, 8 February). Having attended a boarding school courtesy of the taxpayer, as my father was in the Royal Navy, I decided after my GCSE to switch to my local state comprehensive for A-levels.

I noticed two big differences, the more obvious being the discipline, what with state schools unable to compel students to stay behind for detention out of classroom hours, let alone for an entire Saturday afternoon!

However the biggest difference was the quality of the teaching. At boarding school the teachers all had BScs and similar degrees and were masters of their subjects, but most couldn’t teach for toffee. Pupils who didn’t immediately grasp a topic were simply marked down as a bit thick and sent down a stream. I spent many of my free hours teaching friends in lower streams the things they couldn’t understand after being “taught” in class.

The BEds at state school, whose in-depth subject knowledge was not as far-reaching, could explain any topic in myriad ways until every student able to understand it did so in an at least rudimentary fashion. These teachers did not need degree-level knowledge of their subjects because GCSE and A-level syllabuses do not include such material.

Dave Goodwin, Okehampton, Devon

 

Londoners priced out of London

The boom in the London housing market has been happening for 40 years or more to my knowledge, giving successive governments plenty of time to have come up with an answer (“Foreign buyers put housing out of Bank’s control”, 17 February).

When my partner and I first purchased a property together in the late 1970s we were “forced” to look outside central London, and found a seven-room mansion flat overlooking Battersea Park. My partner was mortified at living south of the river. Nowadays any ordinary buyer affording such a property would think they had died and gone to heaven.

It’s about time ministers and bank governors stopped making platitudinous statements and actually did something. Central London is now a no-go area for Brits, and those of us already here are having to live among short-term renters or the largely non-resident foreign rich. All this has a deleterious effect on neighbourhoods, making many formerly charming areas such as Chelsea “chi-chi” deserts, devoid of “Londoners”.

Mark Carney is keeping interest rates artificially low indefinitely because any hike in the rate is going to blow this ridiculous housing bubble apart.

Robert Senecal, London WC1

 

The elephant’s biggest enemy

Although I applaud your appreciation of the elephant and your attempt to save it from its marauding exploiters, there has of course always been a very large elephant in the room. Namely, China. “Global leaders” may well gather to “declare that enough is enough”, but until the main actor in this ongoing saga is brought to book, elephants will continue to die, and so will tigers.

Ray J Howes

Weymouth, Dorset

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