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Scientific Alliance Newsletter

12.05.2007
- Government support for micro-generation - How green is Brown? - Fear of flying - Bio-fuels Government support for micro-generation The government talks about its ambitious targets for emissions reductions, and the role of individual householders in this. However, the incentive for people to invest in micro-generation schemes has not been very great. A miserly £12.5million was allocated last year in grants for installing wind turbines, photo-voltaic panels and the like, and the monthly allocation was regularly all used on the day it was released. Although the budget for the scheme has...
05.05.2007
Cutting carbon dioxide emissions means compromises for the green movement This week sees the publication of the IPCC Working Group 3 report on climate change mitigation. This takes as given the work already published by WG1 (the scientific basis) and WG2 (impacts and adaptation) and proposes ways in which the extent of climatic changes can be reduced. In our view, the major role ascribed to carbon dioxide by the IPCC remains an unproven hypothesis, and the extent to which emission reductions can influence future temperatures therefore equally uncertain. Nevertheless, it is interesting to...
28.04.2007
- Chinese response to climate change - Free market approach to energy effiency - GM approvals by default in the EU - St George's mushroom - Greening the European Parliament? Chinese response to climate change If we accept that atmospheric carbon dioxide levels are a key driver of climate change, then it is clear that any mitigation response must have the commitment of all major economies if it is to reduce emissions significantly and have any hope of slowing the warming trend. The Kyoto protocol is acknowledged to be more in the nature of a demonstration project than a truly effective...
21.04.2007
- The future of farming - Climate change at the UN Security Council - Ecocide or rates? - Kilimanjaro's ice The future of farming This week saw Professor Bill McKevley, head of the Scottish Agricultural College, raising the issue of competition between food and non-food crops in a world with an increasing – and increasingly prosperous – population. In an article in the Scotsman and an interview on Radio 4’s Today programme, he laid out the facts which are well known by some but probably not appreciated by the general public. The following points seem to be irrefutable:     * The world’s...
14.04.2007
The uses and limitations of modelling The current received wisdom on climate change is based on two key assumptions: that the global climate system is sufficiently well understood to be used as the basis of a predictive tool, and that computer modelling can encapsulate this understanding comprehensively enough to be this tool. If either assumption is incorrect, the whole basis of climate change policy is called into question. We have covered some of the unanswered questions on climate science previously, but here are a few thoughts on modelling. First, one of the interesting games which...
05.04.2007
How theories develop Science progresses by setting up hypotheses and testing them by experiment or observation. Those which are found wanting are replaced by alternatives, or modified in some way and re-tested. That is the theory but, in practice, scientists are also human and become wedded to their pet ideas, even when rational analysis would suggest they may not be valid. This natural human behaviour is compounded when a hypothesis becomes an accepted theory in the eyes of a majority of scientists. Once an apparent consensus has been established, there are all sorts of barriers to those...
31.03.2007
-Energy sources of the future -Cooperation on drought-resistant -This is real pollution... -Return of the 5-year freeze? Energy sources of the future Last week, as the European Union was about to mark its first half century, the International Herald Tribune published the results of a survey of people’s expectations for the next 50 years. Much of this focussed, not unexpectedly, on issues such as the future of the euro (expected to be the standard European currency in 2057), enlargement (significant numbers of respondents expecting Turkey and even Russia to be members by then) and even the...
24.03.2007
- Reality kicks in - Flights of fancy? - Technology and climate control - Microbial climate control? Reality kicks in Last week, the government published its draft Climate Change Bill – the first attempt to make carbon emissions reduction targets statutory –  to a euphoric reception. As we said then, now comes the hard part. This week, there was an opportunity for Gordon Brown to use his last (barring last-minute surprises) Budget speech to keep the momentum going and demonstrate the Labour party’s commitment to environmental issues. Not surprisingly, few commentators expressed much...
17.03.2007
- Putting our money where their mouth is: the government's Climate Change Bill - The reality behind the targets - Will an extra thousand railway carriages solve anything? - Double standards Putting our money where their mouth is: the government’s Climate Change Bill The government has this week published its draft Climate Change Bill. There is now a period of public consultation lasting until 11th June. The Scientific Alliance will be responding, and we encourage as many readers as possible to send their own comments. The text of the Bill and the consultation documents are available at...
09.03.2007
- Sustainable development in government - The Great Global Warming Swindle - Urban pollution Sustainable development in government Having raised some questions about the concept of sustainability last week, we now have an opportunity to see the difficulties of sustainable development in practice, in this case in the public sector. This week, the Sustainable Development Commission – the government-appointed independent advisory body and watchdog, chaired by Jonathon Porritt – issued its fifth Sustainable Development in Government report. And the results do not look good. Eleven out of the...

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