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Scientific Alliance Newsletter

11.08.2007
Climate of Intolerance   As it’s August, we have a shorter newsletter than usual this week.  Climate of intolerance Newsweek has used climate change as its cover story this week, under the title “The truth about denial”. The gist of the argument is that there is a well-funded “denial industry” which seeks to undermine the sound scientific basis for the prevailing concerns about human-induced climate change. Parallels are drawn with the tobacco industry lobby and, of course, all this is said to be taking place in the name of private profit.   This is the latest example of a deeply...
04.08.2007
- Planes, the environment and personal choice - Who pays for new transport links? - Climate (un)certainties - Soil Association takes a dim view of international airfreight Planes, the environment and personal choice Air travel has become a particular focus of environmentalist criticism, partly because it is believed that jet engine exhaust gases high in the atmosphere may have a proportionally greater effect on climate change than low level emissions, and partly because of the continued strong growth of the aviation sector. This, of course, is in addition to the natural concerns of people...
28.07.2007
- Urban development and congestion - The future of the railways - Weather, infrastructure and climate - Economic solar power on the horizon? - Friend or FoE? Urban development and congestion In a week where the Government has promised a major investment in new housing, the key problem of lack of proper infrastructure planning is highlighted once again. It is not just that there are too few homes available, but that they are becoming increasingly unaffordable to a significant  proportion of young people, because house building (for a number of reasons) has been allowed to fall well behind...
21.07.2007
- Back-pedalling on bio-fuels? - Goodbye to set-aside - Approved by default - No role for biotech in food security? - Risk versus benefits Back-pedalling on bio-fuels? Bio-fuels have had a roller-coaster ride in the past couple of years. From a situation where few people outside Brazil had even heard of their existence, they suddenly became fashionable and an undeniable “good thing”. Converting plants into motor fuel seemed to have an ideal mix of benefits, both reducing net carbon dioxide emissions and providing a renewable alternative to mineral oil. Governments thought they were on to...
14.07.2007
- Spud they don't like - Should we worry about milk from clones? - Ruminants, methane and climate change - The Sun and climate change Spud they don’t like This week, it has been reported on the Indymedia website that the only current GM potato field trial in the UK was destroyed over the weekend. The trial was of blight-resistant potatoes, and run by NIAB (the National Institute for Agricultural Botany) in Cambridge. Part of the message, from “Digger” reads “The potato plants were already flowering, spreading genetic contagion into the surrounding countryside. Public concern and...
07.07.2007
New PM, new science minister With Gordon Brown finally moving next door, everyone is looking for clues as to how government policy will evolve. Science has probably not been top of everyone’s mind, given the security issues the new PM was immediately landed with. Nevertheless, changes which could affect science policy have already been made and all those interested in the future of British science have their collective fingers crossed.   It was Mr Brown who was behind the formation of the Cambridge-MIT Institute (CMI), designed to help one of our centres of scientific excellence learn...
30.06.2007
- Weather or climate? - Empty political gesture of the month - Public transport - Air travel: fuel efficiency or noise levels? Weather or climate? Undoubtedly, 2007 has so far brought some fairly extreme weather. The UK had some exceptionally warm weather in April (after last year’s miserable, cold spring) but is now suffering an unseasonably wet June. All signs of climate change, some might say, before telling us that we can expect much more of the same unless we drastically reduce our carbon emissions. But is this weather really so unusual, or are we just sensitised to changes because...
16.06.2007
- Nanotechnology and public engagement - Transport subsidies and the environment - EU organic regulation - The Heiligendamm testament Nanotechnology and public engagement Nanotechnology is fashionable and, like most new technologies, has had its potential over-hyped by many. One area where the potential may or may not ultimately be fulfilled is thin-film photovoltaics. Conventional solar cells are a very expensive means to generate electricity, despite continued efficiency increases. They also use considerable quantities of pure silicon, which was until recently in relatively short supply...
02.06.2007
The politics of organic food This week the Soil Association, the UK’s leading organic farming campaigning and accreditation organisation, published a consultation paper on the air freighting of organic produce. One option proposed is a withdrawal of the Soil Association’s approval for organic status for such imports. And the reason? You’ve guessed: climate change. The Association is concerned about the contribution air travel makes to greenhouse gas emissions, and does not think that the organic movement should be associated with this. In many ways, this is an entirely natural (I use the...
26.05.2007
-Energy white paper -New planning rules -Road charging Energy white paper The  energy white paper, published this week, seems to complete the government’s change of heart on nuclear power. Four years ago, this option was effectively ruled out of the equation. More recently, there have been more favourable noises, plus the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management’s report (which seems to chart an acceptable way forward via rewarding communities prepared to host waste facilities) and now a white paper which clearly makes the case for nuclear as an important part of the mix. This may have...

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