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Accounting for climate change

The run-up to the annual Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (or climate change summit, as it is more commonly known) sees plenty of reports, news stories and stunts designed to focus attention on the issue. The Paris event, due to start at the end of this month, is no exception.

Believing the impossible

In Alice through the Looking Glass, the White Queen famously said that she could believe six impossible things before breakfast. It often seems as though some people are following her example. Many things may be eminently desirable, but wishing for them is not the same as achieving them. Believing that a particular wrong or injustice can be completely eliminated often does no good. In too many cases, the best can be the enemy of the good.

Energy security will trump emissions reduction

Between now and mid-December, when the Paris climate change summit ends, global warming, sea level rise, extreme weather events, emissions controls and even ocean ‘acidification’ are all likely to figure regularly in the media. Studies will be released, commitments made and links – some extremely tenuous – will be made between continued use of fossil fuels and a range of negative impacts. Similarly, sceptical voice will be raised (though probably not at the BBC) in attempts to question the validity of many of these stories.

Independence and scientific integrity

This week, a well-respected academic has come in for criticism for writing an article at the behest of a large multinational company (Harvard professor failed to disclose connection). The main problem was that the company was Monsanto, regularly vilified by activists for what they consider to be a range of sins, including farmer exploitation and attempted dominance of the agricultural supply chain. The academic is Calestous Juma, director of the Science, Technology and Globalization Project and Professor of the Practice of International Development at Harvard.

Safety of low dose radiation: letter in The Times, 7 October 2015

It’s clear from Chernobyl, which has turned into an unlikely wildlife refuge, that low doses of radiation do no harm

Sir, Your report (Oct 6) on how wildlife is thriving in the Chernobyl exclusion zone illustrates that we have an excessively cautious approach to the hazards of nuclear radiation. Not only is wildlife flourishing when not having to compete with humans for land, but older residents who refused to move out after the 1986 disaster are dying now of old age rather than from the effects of radiation.

Do diesels have a future?

The scandal engulfing the Volkswagen group - and very probably other major car manufacturers - is a serious one, but essentially about ethics and customer trust. To deliberately falsify the outcome of emissions tests is fraudulent and will have long-running consequences but it is not necessarily, as some commentators have suggested, the beginning of the end for diesel as a mainstream fuel.

Minister disingenuous over closure of Longannet

EWING is being disingenuous when he blames Westminster for the closure of Longannet, writes Jack Ponton While it is standard practice for politicians to blame their opponents for all embarrassing events, it is disingenuous of the Scottish Government energy minister Fergus Ewing to attribute all responsibility for the impending closure of Longannet to the present Westminster government, and particularly so to imply some responsibility for the early closure of the Renewables Obligation Certificate subsidy scheme.

SNP government ‘antagonistic’ to scientific advice

by Scott MacNab

THE SNP government’s “antagonism” to scientific advice is deterring the country’s top experts from working with ministers, leading scientists have warned.

It emerged yesterday that the government has been unable to fill the role of chief scientific adviser (CSA) after a recruitment drive earlier this year. It is now to be re-advertised, with applications also being sought for roles on Scottish Science Advisory Council (SSAC).

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