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Scientific Alliance Newsletter

12.12.2008
- Reality bites in Poznan and Brussels - The consequences of alarmism Reality bites in Poznan and Brussels As this newsletter goes out, the UN climate change conference in Poznan goes to the wire. Starting on 1st December with government negotiators and a wide range of NGOs present, the final two days are given over to the high-level part of the meeting, attended by ministers and top officials from all 186 participating nations. 10,000 people have attended this conference, with the aim of cobbling together a way forward which would result in a post-Kyoto (after 2012) package of mitigation...
05.12.2008
- The impossibility of objectivity - The next bubble? - Mutation breeding The impossibility of objectivity Too often, disagreements on any issue – including scientific ones – are a dialogue of the deaf.  It is rare indeed for two people with radically opposed views to be prepared to listen or accept that there may be nuggets of truth in their opponent's arguments. This does not just apply to activists with a firm belief in a particular cause, it is also characteristic of professional scientists who we might naively expect to behave better. The reason for this is simple. We all have...
28.11.2008
Newsletter 28th November 2008 This newsletter commented on the judgement in the judicial review case brought by Ms Georgina Downs of the UK Pesticides Campaign. Ms Downs has pointed out that, as the evidence itself is not in the public domain, the comments made are inaccurate. We have apologised to Ms Downs for any inaccuracies and withdrawn the newsletter from the public domain. Any recipients should not circulate it further and should not quote from it.
21.11.2008
The climate change debate Like climate science, the debate about climate change is complex. Like the science – and despite the protestations of the IPCC, the scientific establishment in most countries and a great number of highly reputable scientists worldwide – the outcome of the debate is far from clear. The problem is that, just because so many people see it as such a crucial issue, many of them want to close down discussion and get on with tackling the problem. In their view, dissenting voices may reduce the commitment of politicians to taking urgent action, not least because public...
14.11.2008
- Eco-fundamentalism - Energy outlook Eco-fundamentalism Like any movement which inspires belief in its values, environmentalism also fosters a proportion of fundamentalists. One who attracted some media attention in the UK this week was a lady called Joan Pick, who has taken energy saving about as far as its possible to go in a modern society, and then a bit further. Hailed as an "eco-heroine", the 67 year old has avoided all use of energy she considers unnecessary for the last 36 years. Her car has stayed in the garage since 1972. Since then she has only been in a motorised vehicle...
07.11.2008
- Does Bt cotton improve the lot of Indian farmers? Does Bt cotton improve the lot of Indian farmers? According to a recently published report from the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), the answer is yes, but readers of the Mail on Sunday will have seen exactly the opposite message. IFPRI, in a report entitled Bt cotton and farmer suicides in India – reviewing the evidence, concludes that there has neither been an upsurge in farmer suicides a link between suicide and the introduction of Bt cotton. For the great majority of farmers, incomes have increased. The Mail...
01.11.2008
- How many planets do we need? - Could organic farming feed Africa? How many planets do we need? Continuing the recent theme of environmental economics, a key annual study – the WWF One World report – has just been published. This is based around two key indices: the Living Planet Index and Humanity's Ecological Footprint. The footprint in particular has been estimated since 1961, and has shown an inexorable rise. By this measure, the human race was exploiting the Earth's resources fully by the late 1980s, and in 2005 (the latest figure available) had exceeded this by about 30%. To use...
25.10.2008
- Environmental economics - The value of soil - Costs and benefits of crop protection Environmental economics Last week, we considered the prioritisation of environmental issues in the current financial crisis. Much has been made by others of the importance of environmental goals relative to financial ones, and economic analyses have been produced to justify this stance. But how much credence can we give to these? Assessing the worth of ecosystems is in itself a worthwhile goal; how else is expenditure on environmental projects to be prioritised against alternative uses of the money?...
18.10.2008
Life is about priorities... Life is about priorities… The public is confused about climate change. Surveys generally suggest that a large proportion accept that it is a real and present danger and that humankind is largely responsible. But we are nowhere near a blanket acceptance that this is fact. More worryingly still for policymakers, the percentage of the population willing to pay more in green taxes or change their lifestyle significantly is always smaller than the number who claim to accept anthropogenic global warming as a fact. Governments are on the horns of a dilemma. They...
04.10.2008
- Good and bad news for UK energy users - Public acceptance of nuclear power Good and bad news for UK energy users The good news is that EDF's planned takeover of British Energy now seems set to go ahead. Hard work from all parties appears to have overcome the objection of some major shareholders which caused the original bid to be rejected earlier this summer. This gives one of the world's most experienced developers and operators of nuclear power stations a strong position in a country in dire need of nuclear new build to replace a mish-mash of ageing stations and provide a substantial...

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