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Scientific Alliance Newsletter

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...
02.03.2007
- The myth of sustainability - Green fuel - The IPCC: maintaining the pressure - Climate change documentary - A guide to scientific uncertainty The myth of sustainability Sustainability is a term which we hear constantly, but most of us would be hard put to define. In 1987, the Brundtland report (Our Common Future) introduced a definition of sustainable development as development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Few would argue with the sentiment The usual formulation is that there are three dimensions...
23.02.2007
- The pros and cons of organic agriculture - Accounting for carbon - Road pricing - The Chilling Stars The pros and cons of organic agriculture In recent days, a number of rather unexpected headlines have appeared in the press. For example, according to the Times “Buying organic food ‘can harm the planet’”. The Daily Mail’s take on the same story is “Going organic could cost the Earth”. Perhaps David Miliband’s comment of a few months ago that buying organic was a “lifestyle choice” has started a critical trend? In fact, the stories are based on a report commissioned by Defra from the...
16.02.2007
- Europen car emission standards - A step backwards for nuclear power? - Green crimes - Criticism of the Scientific Alliance European car emission standards There has been much wrangling in Brussels over proposed new targets for reduction of CO2 emissions. The net result is a proposal to set a binding goal of 130g CO2/km as the average for all new cars sold by 2012. This is higher than the figure of 120g CO2/km proposed by the environment commissioner and, as such, represents a partial success for the industrial lobby. Interestingly, car manufacturers have received strong support from...
09.02.2007
- Climate change: what are the facts and where is the balance? - Food production and the environment - GM animal produce to be labelled? Climate change: what are the facts and where is the balance? The IPPC’s Summary for Policymakers of the Working Group 1 report (physical basis of climate change) was formally launched on 2nd February in Paris. There were few changes from the widely-leaked draft, but a number of figures were added, bringing the total document length to a still-slim 21 pages. Rarely can quite so much global media attention have been focussed on such a short report. There...
02.02.2007
- Climate change: is the science really settled? - Renewable energy - The high price of tortillas - Bove for president? Climate change: is the science really settled? Today, the IPCC releases its latest report on the science of climate change. At least, that’s what the headlines will say. In fact, this is the first stage of a staggered publication of the organisation’s Fourth Assessment Report (FAR), which supersedes the third report, published in 2001. But this first tranche is not, as might be expected, the full weighty document, in which all available evidence is evaluated and...

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