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Scientific Alliance Newsletter

18.10.2008
Life is about priorities... Life is about priorities… The public is confused about climate change. Surveys generally suggest that a large proportion accept that it is a real and present danger and that humankind is largely responsible. But we are nowhere near a blanket acceptance that this is fact. More worryingly still for policymakers, the percentage of the population willing to pay more in green taxes or change their lifestyle significantly is always smaller than the number who claim to accept anthropogenic global warming as a fact. Governments are on the horns of a dilemma. They...
04.10.2008
- Good and bad news for UK energy users - Public acceptance of nuclear power Good and bad news for UK energy users The good news is that EDF's planned takeover of British Energy now seems set to go ahead. Hard work from all parties appears to have overcome the objection of some major shareholders which caused the original bid to be rejected earlier this summer. This gives one of the world's most experienced developers and operators of nuclear power stations a strong position in a country in dire need of nuclear new build to replace a mish-mash of ageing stations and provide a substantial...
27.09.2008
- The quiet Sun - Green hypocrisy The quiet Sun The debate continues over what the effect of known changes in the Sun's activity have on the Earth. As the primary source of heat and light and energy, it sustains life on the planet, and variations in its output can be expected to influence climate in significant ways. A common example of this is the 11- and 22-year cycles of sunspot activity, during which the number of dark visible spots on the Sun's surface varies between maximum and minimum values (which are different for each cycle). Higher numbers of sunspots are evidence of a more...
20.09.2008
- Carte blanche for environmentalist vandalism - Future energy security and emissions reductions Carte blanche for environmentalist vandalism Last week, we wrote of the reduced tolerance shown by courts to those who had deliberately trashed GM crop trials; an encouraging trend which seemed to redefine what is or is not acceptable in the name of protecting the environment. However, the opposite has now occurred in a case of climate change protestors. Five Greenpeace activists scaled the chimney of E.ON's coal-fired power station in Kingsnorth, Kent last October to try to shut down the...
13.09.2008
- Large Hadron Collider - No more tolerance towards anti-GM protestors - Green activists "are keeping Africa poor" Large Hadron Collider Even those with no interest in science cannot have failed to notice that something significant was going on deep beneath Geneva this week. Years of work and billions of euros had finally brought CERN to the stage where the most powerful particle accelerator in the world was switched on in earnest, in the full glare of media interest. Of course, this is only the first stage, and it will be some time next year before the beams of enormously high-energy...
06.09.2008
- Harmonised rules on pesticide residues - How many planets do we really need? Harmonised rules on pesticide residues EU Regulation 396/2005 came into force on 1st September. Its purpose is simply to introduce standardised Maximum Residue Limits (MRLs) for all produce across all member states. This is a typical piece of tidying-up necessary for a properly functioning single market and, unsurprisingly, it attracted little attention in the general press. However, it has prompted the activists of the Pesticides Action Network and the Dutch Natuur en Milieu to make an appeal to the European...
23.08.2008
- What part can renewables really play in power generation? - Mutant crops What part can renewables really play in power generation? The debate about our future energy security continues. Although there has been a significant fall in the price of oil, this is unlikely to reduce the momentum of the effort to find alternatives for both the medium and long term. Much of the argument we hear relates to transport, a very obvious sector with seemingly inexorable growth. But transport has very specific needs because it cannot be connected continuously to a distributed energy source (with the...
16.08.2008
- Last gasp of the anti-GM movement? Last gasp of the anti-GM movement? This week saw the UK Daily Telegraph publish an interview with Prince Charles which, even by his standards, was pretty extreme (Prince Charles warns GM crops risk causing the biggest ever environmental disaster). To quote from the report: He accused firms of conducting a "gigantic experiment I think with nature and the whole of humanity which has gone seriously wrong. Why else are we facing all these challenges, climate change and everything?". Relying on "gigantic corporations" for food, he said, would result in "...
02.08.2008
- Fuel from waste - Nuclear power: the next generation - Food security debate Fuel from waste Biofuels have had a lot of bad press recently and it is clear that even second-generation cellulosic fuels will never be more than part of the answer to reducing the dependence of motor transport on conventional petrol and diesel. But now INEOS,  the world's third largest chemical company, has announced a development which is difficult to find fault with: it is upscaling  a patented process to convert waste (municipal, agricultural or commercial organic) into ethanol. What is more, it plans to...
19.07.2008
- Things can only get better... - World Population Day Things can only get better… In a rare display of optimism, the Independent on Sunday last week published an article on the forthcoming 2008 State of the Future report, published by the UN Millennium Project. So used are we all to the unremitting gloom of so much reporting on the environment and humankind's future ("even worse than we thought" pretty much sums it up) it comes as something of a jolt to read the headline "We've seen the future… and we may not be doomed". However, the optimism is relative, and the first paragraph makes...

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