Letters to the Editor

26 October 2013

9:00 AM

26 October 2013

9:00 AM

Ridley’s wrong

Sir: In last week’s issue the former Northern Rock chairman rejoiced in the ‘good news’ that climate change would not start to damage our planet for another 57 years (‘Carry on warming’, 19 October).

I am not a scientist. As a minister, I rely on the opinion of experts including the government chief scientist, the Meteorological Office and the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). They do not share Lord Ridley’s views.

The latest IPCC scientific analysis from 259 climate experts in 39 countries, reviewed by another 659 experts who dealt with 53,000 individual comments, is clear about the very real threat that dangerous man-made climate change poses to humankind. But if we followed Lord Ridley’s logic, presumably we wouldn’t just stop investing in clean energy but we would also slam the brakes on investing in long-term infrastructure, maybe stop preserving historic monuments, eat up the world’s resources, deplete oceans and hack down forests. Since the full consequences of our actions wouldn’t be felt for 57 years, why worry?

To a Conservative, especially, this is an appalling argument. Margaret Thatcher reminded the 1988 party conference that, ‘It’s we Conservatives who are not merely friends of the earth — we are its guardians and trustees for generations to come… No generation has a freehold on this earth. All we have is a life tenancy — with a full repairing lease. This government intends to meet the terms of that lease in full.’ Have we forgotten her words already?
Rt Hon. Greg Barker, MP
Minister for Energy and Climate Change, London SW1

The real Kenya

Sir: Aidan Hartley refers to Kenya (‘Are you my death?’, 28 September) as ‘an important modern country, with a booming economy and a bright future’ rather than as the typical ‘ill-managed African banana republic’. I would need at least two pages to paint a very different picture of Kenya, but three observations should suffice.

First, nothing has been done to address the ‘historical injustices’ largely related to the aggressive policy of Kikuyu colonisation of the country successfully pursued by the first Kenyatta government from independence in 1963 to 1978, which led directly to the murder and eviction of the Kikuyu from places like Eldoret, capital of the Nandi tribe. The land issue lies at the root of all Kenya’s tribal problems and cannot be satisfactorily solved by anyone, because Kenya’s population is already too large to be sustainable.

Second, the Westgate Mall incident is just the most recent and high-profile example of a total collapse of security, which is now out of control throughout the country and mainly affects the indigenous African population. Hartley described, earlier this year, an attack on him involving serious gunfire from AK47s, at the gate of a neighbouring ranch in Laikipia District. Such occurrences are no longer the exception and confined to frontier areas. They are the ‘new normal’ all over Kenya.

Third, corruption and outright theft of government moneys have been rooted in Kenya’s DNA ever since the first Kenyatta government recommended that serving civil servants should be permitted to engage in private business. Last week the country’s auditor-general revealed that 303 billion Kenyan shillings (£2.244 billion) have gone ‘missing’ from the national accounts: one third of the national budget.

‘An important, modern country… with a bright future’, Mr Hartley? I beg to differ. More accurately, a totally insecure country, ruled by an irredeemably greedy and corrupt elite, riven by deep-seated and irreconcilable tribal animosities.
Edward Hopkins
Nairobi, Kenya

An atheist’s faith

Sir: I am sorry that Matthew Parris (19 October) feels that I do not measure up as an adversary on religious questions, but I am puzzled that he should be so exercised on the question of miracles. Surely as an atheist he accepts, de fide, that even the most baffling cures have a scientific explanation. Equally a Christian believes that ‘nothing is impossible to God’ (Luke i 38). The irascible tone of his piece suggests that, at some level, the phenomenon of faith disturbs him.
Piers Paul Read
London W12

Cut the cutting

Sir: Brendan O’Neill says anyone opposed to circumcision is backward and that a child has no right to be left intact (‘The first cut’, 19 October). He justifies this largely on the grounds that it is an ancient tradition and God decrees it in Genesis.

I consulted a Jewish friend who works in the medical profession. He was circumcised as is the tradition and is unaware of any impairment to his sexual life. He did not have his son circumcised. The reason? ‘No medical procedure is risk free so I chose not to follow tradition.’

Selective quoting of religious texts is often used to justify activities and really cannot suffice in the modern world. According to Genesis, God flooded the world and killed the entire human and animal population other than Noah, his family and certain pairs of animals. It can be scientifically proven this did not occur, so the circumcision text should also be up for discussion. As for traditions, well, these can change. We may still dance round the maypole but we tend not to sacrifice virgins. Circumcision and female genital mutilation simply reduce the pleasure from sexual activity and come from a time when sex was considered to be sinful. I am happy to be intact and would encourage future generations to be so too.
William Arthur
Fowey, Cornwall

Hammer blow

Sir: Tristram Hunt’s words were ill-chosen when he wrote that Ida Copeland’s Spode collection ‘went under the hammer’.
Christopher Bellew
London W6

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  • AlecM

    Davey defers to Mark Walport who in turn defers to the Met Office and the IPCC.

    Fools the lot to them. There has been 16 years of no warming despite 8 increase in atmospheric CO2 content in that time for a reason.

    There is no CO2-AGW because they got the physics wrong…….

  • Mick J

    “But if we followed Lord Ridley’s logic, presumably we wouldn’t just stop
    investing in clean energy but we would also slam the brakes on
    investing in long-term infrastructure, maybe stop preserving historic
    monuments, eat up the world’s resources, deplete oceans and hack down
    forests. Since the full consequences of our actions wouldn’t be felt for
    57 years, why worry?”

    Straw man arguments from straw men.I suppose it works for politicians, in the real world there are those that wonder his confidence in those organisations that told his ilk in AR4 with high confidence that the rate of warming for the current decades would be .2C per decade, this report AR5 after pressure of several studies by sceptical scientists has reduced the warming rate to .12C further moving towards the current measured reality of .05C. With their new found 95% confidence they actually widened downwards the range for climate sensitivity but are no longer able to agree a mean value for climate sensitivity to CO2 doubling. Some confidence but a number sucked up by the politicos and beneficiaries!

    From the “experts”, further comparing old with new, the AR4 claims for what would be happening in 2050 with all its attendant dooms have somewhat been slipped out to 2100 and softened.

    The table of tipping points is also looking damp with maybe some risk of periods of an ice free summer Arctic should an unlikely high emission situation develop.

    Similar for severe storms frequency and intensity, little or no confidence yet that there is a human signature evident and many of the metrics indicate reducing occurrences of drought, hurricanes and tornadoes.

    And hidden away in some of the graphs is just how poorly the models have performed over the decades when compared to reality, it was much clearer in the draft versions of AR5 but cunningly obscured in the final version.

    Some could read that as not quite the panic that there was and time to apply more considered and better still, workable solutions including adaptation which has worked well for humanity in the past and cost effective if further research warrants it.

    Still, they know best…

    • Peter Stroud

      An excellent summary of AR5.