Letters: Arctic sea ice

Deadly peril of loss of sea ice

Saturday 12 February 2011 01:00 GMT

The area of Arctic sea ice in late summer declined substantially in the decade until 2007 and has been stable since then. But in 2010 the area of sea ice which was more than two years old, and was therefore thin ice, was substantially less than ever before.

A reasonable judgment is that there is a 40 per cent chance that the sea-ice area will decline significantly to less than 2.5 million sq km in 2011 and a one in three chance the area will fall to less than 2 million sq km as measured by the Cryosphere Today. The minimum ice area in 2010 was 3 million sq km using Cryosphere Today figures.

Since ice reflects sunlight and water absorbs sunlight, should the ice area decline then the Arctic will warm in late summer. This may well warm the Tundra which will defrost faster than at present. The result will be that the greenhouse gases carbon dioxide and methane will be released into the atmosphere leading to further warming and a runaway greenhouse event and the collapse of civilization.

We believe that should there be a substantial decline in sea-ice area then by marshalling all the resources of humanity and cutting greenhouse-gas emissions substantially and using geo-engineering, then the global climate and civilization can be saved. We need to be ready to start in autumn 2011 if the situation goes badly in late summer 2011.

Stephen Salter,

Emeritus Professor of Engineering Design,

University of Edinburgh

Albert Kallio

Bracknell, Berkshire

John Davies

London WC1

John Nissen

London W4

Nicola Deakin

London WC1

Michael McCarthy reveals his concerns that attempting to provide food for the projected world population of nine billion could result in environmental disaster (Opinion, 28 January). He asks who would question that "human welfare should not always be the primary consideration" and then concludes, "Who is to speak up for the Earth?" Of course, many organisations and individuals already do: Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace and the Green Party, for example. Perhaps more importantly – will enough people listen?

I very much share his concerns. From our current position, it is difficult to see how all those mouths are to be fed, especially if they adopt our environmentally damaging western diet.

It is of paramount importance that people are educated to understand that life on earth, including human life, is utterly reliant upon a viable environment. Consequently, a concern for the environment is also a concern for humanity, because the two are inextricably linked.

Keith O'Neill


Desperate need for public loos

The loss of public lavatories inconveniences everyone, but for some it will have wider harmful consequences (leading article, 10 February). People with ageing bladders, or whose medication requires them to use the lavatory more frequently, will stop leaving the house, potentially leading to isolation and depression.

People with disabilities and chronic health conditions will purposely self-dehydrate. Parents with young children will desert the city and town centres in favour of out-of-town shopping centres. People who have survived bladder and bowel cancer will find managing their condition when away from home harder, and many people will have their movements effectively curtailed by lack of public toilets.

Schemes whereby the council pays shops and services to allow non-customers to use their toilets are innovative, but not a suitable replacement. Not all women feel comfortable entering pubs alone, and for others, whose faith prohibits alcohol, pubs are not an option. Tourist spots and parks require more traditional toilet facilities, and a reliable infrastructure is required for non-office based workers, such as taxi, van and lorry drivers.

The closure of public conveniences may seem like a financial saving but there are wider, potentially harmful, effects: increased expenditure on continence management failing bladders and bowels is likely, as is increased demand for mental-health and home-care services to combat the stigma of incontinence and the depression of not being able to leave the house.

Public toilets are an integral part of our society. We need to be improving provision, not taking it away.

Jo-Anne Bichard & Gail Knight

New Dynamics of Ageing TACT3, Royal College of Art,

London SW7

Does no one dare take on Rupert?

I am sure that Richard Ingrams is right in thinking that Ed Miliband's new strategy director misjudges the public mood in telling elected MPs to take a softly-softly approach to Rupert Murdoch and his evil empire ("Labour's strategy has to be more robust than this", 5 February). It is doubtful that most readers of The Sun and News of the World could care less who owns those papers and it is hard to imagine them rushing to defend News Corp against an attack by Labour. On the contrary, there must be millions of people, including Sun and NoW readers, not to mention cricket lovers, who cannot afford the subscription to Sky Sports, and who are angry and frustrated at the way that Murdoch's business has been allowed, even encouraged, to grow by successive governments.

It is puzzling that so many politicians of all parties appear to be frightened of the man. After all, now that the Blair years are thankfully behind us, Labour owes him nothing and it is unlikely that the Tories would have done any worse than they did in the 2010 general election had News Corp supported Labour or taken a neutral stance.

A microcosm of public opinion was shown at the local hustings prior to last May's election. I asked which party, if elected to form the next government, would have the guts to stand up to Murdoch and, inter alia, would bring back Test cricket to free-to-air television. Needless to say, none of the candidates had a satisfactory answer, but it was interesting that this was the only question that drew widespread applause from the audience.

Dr John Coad

Harpenden, Hertfordshire

Nothing wrong with religion

Tom Sutcliffe suggests (8 February) that the phrase Mr Cameron was looking for in his recent speech on multiculturalism was not "muscular liberalism" but "muscular secularism".

Mr Sutcliffe's correspondence of "incendiary preachers in mosques" with "creationist science" – a belief about the origins of the earth which, no matter how egregious, has never to my knowledge included the advocacy of any kind of violence – as religious extremisms of the same order is highly inappropriate. But given such an erroneous premise, it is not surprising that he sees secularism as the only solution.

A public space expressly defined by exclusion of religious language, practice and expression is an impoverished vision for our common life, a cut-price and second-rate civic culture in which more than one baby would be thrown out with a very modest amount of bathwater. Worse than that, it is an obvious non sequitur to suggest that it would do anything to tackle the kind of security threat posed by Islamic terrorism. If anything, it is Britain's growing secularity which creates a sense of exclusion among Muslims and not, as Mr Sutcliffe would have it, the limited constitutional privileges afforded to the Church of England.

Paul Bickley

Senior Researcher, Theos – the public theology think tank, London SW1

Tom Sutcliffe's advocacy of a "muscular secularism" might be plausible if we were starting with a blank page. But as our nation's background has the historical and cultural DNA of Christianity running through it, how does he propose to implement this? Our lives are regulated to a considerable degree by this religious heritage, and it would take some great unknitting of our existing laws and customs to create this secular state.

I doubt Muslims would feel any better if Church of England bishops were denied access to the House of Lords. Muslims are in the same "disenfranchised" club as all the other major non-Christian faiths, and the Roman Catholic Church, which is the largest Christian denomination in the world.

Bob Ganley


Watch and learn

If, as is probable, John Wells's granddaughter doesn't speak as the characters in EastEnders do, what a challenge it is for her to set about observing and analysing the differences (Letters, 11 February). All praise to the inspired English teacher who recognises that the "communication skills" of the EastEnders are far from "inadequate". These characters are able to say everything they want to say, colourfully and fluently. They are totally comprehensible both to each other and to those of us who don't "speak badly".

Gloria Cigman


If the "study of the language on EastEnders" is carried out in the analytical way that I, as a former English teacher, assume it will be, there is no reason why John Wells's granddaughter should not reach the same conclusions as her grandfather has; letting her do it for herself is the best education.

Christina Jones

Retford, Nottinghamshire

How is it, bearing in mind where it is supposedly set, you never, ever hear the F-word on EastEnders?

Ted Frith

Selsdon, Surrey

Perspectives on events in Egypt

This revolution is not about Islam

Katherine Butler's "Europe's betrayal of the Arab awakening" (10 February) is realistic, to the point and summarises the hypocrisy and the lack of political, economic and social vision of both European and American politicians.

As a British Egyptian who has lived in this country for more than half of my life, I am disappointed and saddened that the West has disowned the Egyptian people at a turning point in their history. Scaremongering about the Muslim Brotherhood is naive and superficial. This revolution is not about Islam or about ideology, it is about those who have suffered for decades from oppression and humiliation by the very people who are supposed to look after them, who have instead looted them of their honour, dignity and their economic future. I am sure that the Egyptian people will eventually win their struggle and that Egypt will never go back to how it was.

But I wish European and American governments would take off their masks of hypocrisy; this would give them a clearer vision of the realities of the Middle East.

Dr Kalthoum Mourad

Weybridge, Surrey

We preach, the Middle East teaches

While we in the West preach democracy, in the Middle East, they are teaching us the real meaning of it; Egyptians are on the streets in massive numbers saying "enough is enough" with one voice. They are sending a message to all of humanity, especially those living under the injustice of any kind: if Egyptians can do it, so can we.

Abubakar N. Kasim

Toronto, Ontario

EU misunderstands 'democracy'

The new EU "instrument" appears to have the sole purpose of ensuring free elections by September 2011. But elections, free or otherwise, do not make a democracy. The rule of law and respect for human rights go hand in hand with elections to make a democracy.

If, after many years of supporting corrupt regimes to shore up the West's interests, the peaceful Egyptian revolution of 2011 leads to a government contrary to the interests of the West, they will have no one to blame but themselves.

Robert Laver

London SE21

US expertise in regime change

The US has considerable expertise in destabilising democratic regimes around the world. Perhaps this same expertise could be utilised to support the democratic forces demanding change in Egypt?

Steve Poole


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