Sunday, October 13, 2019

Andrew Neil's interview with Extinction Rebellion's Zion Lights

The opposition are crowing at what they regard as a total victory for their Andrew Neil's BBC "victory" over Zion Lights, a speaker for Extinction rebellion. Their claims are of "deconstruction", "hysteria", "alarmist" and much related sneering. This is all par for the course. There is a huge volume of reflex criticism from the denial side of the conflict, and we do not have to concern ourselves with the noise, we only have to seek out the signal.

So let's have a look at the interview itself. You can watch it here, with the end cut off (where Zion makes stronger points and is invited back) :

In the first place, It is a David and Goliath situation. Andrew Neil is a big beast with decades of media experience behind him, and Zion Lights is a newcomer, and a woman. Some of us have a distinct impression that Neil is much harder on women and non-right wingers, although this needs confirmation by academic work on his Interruption Rates. I counted 8 minor interruptions by Neil here, which is less than I would have expected. On the other hand, Neil was firing his questions in bursts, and Zion was given no time to answer.

He challenges first on the "6 billion [of humans] may die" which has been made by Roger Hallam, one of the founders of #XR.

It looks at first as if Roger's claim of 6 billion deaths from climate change alone is unsupported by evidence.

There is an estimate that 6 billion people may be threatened [not killed] by Dengue fever in a warming world. Dengue is a mosquito borne viral illness which at present affects 4 million a year, and kills 22,000 a year.

Kofi Annan's think-tank claimed in 2009 that 300,000 people are dying a year in present times due to global warming, but it would take 20,000 years at this rate to reach 6 billion.

However, Hans Joachim Schnellnhuber, Director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate change Research estimated in 2009 that the carrying capacity of Earth would be reduced to 1 billion humans in a 4 degrees C world. 

We we could arrive at this temperature in 80 years time, in 2100.

So Roger Hallam's 6 billion figure is not wrong, especially if we factor in a global nuclear war. Increased regional wars are a probable result of global heating (there is evidence that the present war in Syria may have been pushed forwards by a climate related long period of drought). If one of these wars goes nuclear, which is well possible it we have people like Trump in power,  6 billion deaths, and even eventual human extinction, is a possibility.

It should be noted that nuclear deterrence is not infallible, and should therefore be abandoned.

Surreal statistical calculations aside, the effects of global heating are bad enough. Zion manages to mention migration, coastal flooding, wildfires and weather extremes before Neil launches his second attack, on weather extremes.

Neil says that 100 years ago, weather disasters caused 500,000 deaths a year, and that now they cause only 20,000 a year. He is being completely disingenuous here. 100 years ago, homes were less substantial, and extreme weather warning systems were almost non-existent. Poor effort, Andrew.

Neil moves on to sea level rise. He quotes a median projected rise of 500 cm by the IP CC, and claims that this is "manageable". This betrays his ignorance. 30% of the world's food crops are grown on alluvial soil in low lying river deltas, which form just 3% of Earth land area. Neil is well wide of the mark to assert this is manageable.

Next point: XR demands that we go carbon neutral by 2025.  Can't be done, can it?

My response to this argument about whether the target should be 2025, 3030, or 2050 is this :


I leave the discussion of targets to academics. The job of politicians, of our representatives in Parliament and Government is that they should be implementing the Green New Deal in all its fullness and glory. Just do it. Create jobs, save energy, stimulate the Green economy, just do it. Get moving. Stop wasting time arguing about what is feasible and when.

Next, Neil hoists up the opposition's favourite  Straw Man: "You want to ration meat, confiscate our cars, stop us cooking on gas and all the rest of it".

This is so wrong.

We need to be starting a careful, national debate on what steps we need to take. The matter needs to be discussed in depth in a Citizen's Assembly. This kind of attempt at political point scoring is so pathetic and amateurish on the part of Neil. It is one of the reasons that creates the drive for direct action, because the BBC is so useless.

Finally. Finally. Neil makes his own unsupported claim:
"I'm not arguing about the consequences of Climate Change".

This is news to me. I have been watching his tweets and his broadcasts, and he has been firmly in the climate denier camp for years. It may be now that he is easing himself into the Lukewarmer camp that says "Yes, climate change is happening, but it will not be all that bad".

In conclusion, Zion did well, but the 6 Billion Deaths figure needs to be abandoned unless put in the context of a global nuclear war, and Andrew Neil's case that climate change is a pussy cat (if that is what he is arguing) simply does not hold water.

(This post was updated 15/10/2019)

Thursday, October 03, 2019

#NationalPoetryDay Harry, Meghan - and Diana

Today being #NationalPoetryDay, and also the day after Prince Harry decided to sue the Mail on Sunday for its slobberingly fawning yet covertly aggressive Royal coverage, I am putting this one up again, which I made on the occasion of the wedding last year. I was of course gunning for the position of Poet Laureate, but am still waiting for my barrel of sack.

You don't have to be a Royalist to hold that the Mail on Sunday deserves a good kicking.

Lines on the Royal Wedding  of Harry and Meghan

It's so hard to see how our great Press will manage
To rise to the challenge of the new Royal Marriage.
How can they best and appropriately carry
The heart-swelling romance of Meghan and Harry?

Compared to previous Marriages
Is this more Travelodge than Claridge's?
Will they dive in the Royal Garage
And mobilise the Golden Carriage?
Or will they just, for Meghan Markle
Grab a motor from the car pool?
Readers are screaming to be told: Who'll park all
The cars and horses of the Royals?
And do the princelings suffer boils?

Then there's the guest list for this Marriage.-
We have to expect a deafening barrage
Of calls for the list to include Mr Farage.
It's the Will of the People. Do untold damage
To the Monarchy if Farage is left off the list,
He might end up being right royally pissed.
To shun Mr Farage would be more than a trifle
It could force him to go on the streets with his rifle.

And then there's the issue of how we see Meghan?
What if it turns out that she's some kind of pagan?
Or even (God save us) a gluten-free vegan?
That clearly would mean that she can't be a Royal.
So our truth-loving hacks must burn midnight oil
To find every fact that a web search will bring
That could tarnish the name of a possible King;
They must get themselves ready, professionally to fling
Not just a few clods of muddy brown soil,
In the general direction of this would-be New Royal
But a sky-darkening deluge of malodorous slurry
At the partner that Harry has chosen to marry.

This is the traditional monarchist manner
Our journalists follow.
                                                Just think of Diana.

(c) Richard Lawson Dolberrow 03/05/2018

Friday, September 13, 2019

The Collected Lies (and loose words) of Boris Johnson

The output of some fantasists and liars are often underestimated simply because they can be so numerous that they are ignored. This blog post is an attempt to draw together a brief list of some of  Mr Johnson'e oeuvre, not just  for the education and delight of interested parties, but also so that we can all form judgments about all of his claims and statements.

1989-94   EU plans one-size eurocoffins,
                EU plans to introduce banana police,
                EU plans to ban prawn crisps - all untrue

1988 Edward II and Piers Gaveston cavorted in the Rose Palace  - Sacked from Times

1989 Drunken Liverpool fans were responsible for Hillsborough - forced to apologise.

1999 I will not pursue a political career

2004 I did not have an affair with Petronella Wyatt - Result - sacked as Shadow Arts Minister

2008 There will be manned ticket offices in every underground station. He closed them.

2012 I will eradicate rough sleeping - Rough sleeping doubled during his Mayorship.

2012 Police numbers will increase - they did not

1990 I was just humoring an old pal - when he agreed to give Darius Guppy the contact details of a man that Guppy wished to have beaten up.

2014 Nazanin Zhagari-Ratcliffe was teaching people journalism - Nazanin's jail sentence was lengthened. No apology given.

2016 Obama deliberately moved a bust of Winston Churchill out of the Oval Office because he dislikes him - Obama moved it to a better position.

2106 We give £350 million a week to the EU.  The figure is £190-285 million a week. The Office of National Statistics called this "a clear abuse of official statistics".

2016 "Last time I looked the government was trying to accelerate Turkish membership of the EU".
"I didn't make any remarks about Turkey".

2019 Johnson lied to the Queen over proroguing Parliament.
He told the Queen he wanted to suspend Parliament in order to develop a new agenda.
A Scottish Judge found that the "true reason for the prorogation is to reduce the time available for Parliamentary scrutiny of Brexit at a time when such scrutiny would appear to be a matter of considerable importance".

So there we have it. 16 incidents where Johnson either lied or said things which were untrue, ranging from the venal to the massive (deceiving the Queen).

Clearly he is not fit to be Prime Minister.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Extinction - Long story short

Forest cleared for crops © Lanthilda |

I support my local Extinction Rebellion group - Mendip XR - and hundreds of thousands of people, ordinary and extraordinary, likewise support XR.

But why is it called "Extinction" Rebellion?

Extinction of species is a normal part of life on this planet, but it is now happening at a completely abnormal rate.

Over the last 50 years, the biomass (a measure of the total weight of a species ) of wild animals has dropped by 80%.
Over the last 50 years, natural ecosystems have lost 50% of their area.
One million species, about 10% of the total species on the planet, are at risk of extinction. [source]

Unless we humans change our ways, it is inevitable that in the end the only species surviving on this planet will be us humans, animals we keep for food, and pests that we cannot get rid of like rats and cockroaches.

Therefore we have to change our ways.

The reason for the fall in wild animal numbers is pretty straightforward - it is that we are clearing natural ecosystems to plant cash crops like food and bio-fuels. There are other factors also such as climate change and trophy hunting, but farming is the worst culprit, as we have been seeing this month in the deliberate burning of Amazon rainforest in order to create space for soya beans and other crops.

In the UK we waste about 30-40% of the food we grow, so there is some scope for reduction in impact by reducing waste. It is also the case that a near-vegan diet is more efficient, to the extent that the same area of land devoted to growing vegetable foodstuffs could support about 50% more people  than if it were growing food animals, so again there is scope for reducing the pressure on natural ecosystems if we move towards a near-vegan diet.

In addition, we are already spoiling the ecological balance of the oceans by over-fishing.

These problems exist at a point that the human population stands at 7 Billion. This number is projected to rise to 11 Billion by the year 2100 - a rise of nearly 50%. This expansion will unarguably demand a further destruction of natural ecosystems for farm land.

An essential part of wildlife conservation, and of the Extinction Rebellion, must  therefore include reforms to reduce human population growth. This is a complex and emotive subject, but it must be addressed, and not dismissed as solely a problem caused by consumer capitalism, although that is indeed a very big factor.

The population problem must be addressed through education not coercion, and it involves empowerment of women, provision of contraception services, general medical services, care of the elderly, and bringing the living standards of the poorest nations up to a condition where everyone has enough. More on this topic on this blog.

So extinction is a matter that goes well beyond giving a donation to WWF, and indeed, in getting arrested for closing a road, important though both those actions are.