Monday, October 22, 2007

There's climate. And the weather. And how it gets referred to.

I liked his book. Seems a nice guy. But Leo Hickman has dropped a notch in my estimation here: And now for the weather

From the BBC pitching English grads to 'analyse' environmental data, to Al Gore being called a climate science student, I am seeing a worrying trend.

And that is some precautionary advocates getting a little out of their depth on the science side and paying the price.

Trouble is, they take a lot with them. Their past good works for one. And the task those trying to stay on a very objective course with roughly the same aim, but different methodologies.

I won't be posting as this looks like a really t'is/tisn't flame war in the making. I just hope the rebuttal doesn't end up with the now wearily familiar 'so ok it's not all accurate, but his heart's in the right place'.

Slow suicide. Or fast. It's just which method we choose.

Scientists have a new way to reshape nature, but none can predict the cost

As creative souls who are driven (through ego, desire for reward, etc) to 'make' things, it seems we have reached a rather tricky point in our race's 'development'.

The planet can no longer absorb all of us and what we do to pollute it.

Hence there are some big questions to ask, though I don't see many in a position to do anything about them even going near.

From climate change to health issues to food production, technology assuredly can buy us more time by squeezing gallons out of pint pots.

But unless we accept that there is a finite limit to which we are inexorably heading, I'd suggest most I read about and see debated with great passion here is soon going to be academic.

I'd just like to see a few priorities rearranged is all.

Compostable bioplastics - the future?

An interesting article from the Baltimore Sun, reporting on the emergence of the first biodegradable bioplastics which can actually be composted.

There appear to be a number of criticisms, not least of which is cost (three times conventional petroleum based plastics) but also that manufacture produces CO2 (as does conventional plastics manufacture?). There are also concerns from some that GM bacteria are used in some of the processes (plus GM feed crops too, in some cases), and there seem to be some unanswered questions around recycling. However, they do not produce any of the toxins involved in the production of PVC's, PET's and Polystyrenes etc.

I reckon that these warrant further watching and investigation, they do seem to provide some potential advantages for the future. There are some concern factors that will also need to be taken into account, but, as crude oil prices continue to rise (which is inevitable) the cost of conventional plastics will rise accordingly. There will come a time when bioplastics will surely become the materials of choice, if only because of the biodegradability factor.

Surveys say...

... very little, really.

Brighton's best? Well maybe...

Named by whom? And on what basis?

I know it's all terribly fun and all playing greenupmanship (as your piece ably shares) once sufficient dosh is tucked away, but it's coming to something when we don't even bother to worry much about which pointless green survey is getting touted today to tell us... nothing much really.

I'm guessing that it's the carrier bag ban thing. Which, if I am to believe the latest Volkswagen TV ad, is what we now measure the efficacy of buying new 'green' cars upon.

A simple guide to climate change

This simple to understand overview of the current scientific understanding of climate change comes from the Royal Society. It responds to eight of the common contentious arguments in simple terms, explaining where the known scientific evidence lies.

"Our scientific understanding of climate change is sufficiently sound to make us highly confident that greenhouse gas emissions are causing global warming."

Well worth spending a little time exploring.

How green is my...well... anything?

Supermarkets fail to be “truly green”

Attracted by that headline, I have to now question the value of such surveys, especially under the rather vague catch-all banner of 'green' or indeed what makes one so... or not.

In just one week I think I was sent at least three. And while the protagonists were similar, their rankings bounced around so much as to make comparisons less than helpful.

Of course it is down to methodologies, but what consumer has the time or inclination to delve too deeply.

Which, like the plethora of existing and proposed labelling schemes, makes one question what value these things have save to create a bit of revenue for those who play with such things, those who write about them (myself included) and a a few box-tickers somewhere.

Not sure if my kids or the planet gain much, though.

Especially now, having seen the latest Volkswagen Bluemotion car TVC, our future brand new car purchases are apparently to be pitched in terms of the number of plastic bag equivalents driving one will 'save' a year. Do what???!

ps: I never did get told how much actual plastic (in weight/volume/Fairy Liquid bottles), the seeming 200+/- that 'we' use each year equates tot warrant the peculiar devotion this 'product' excites in seaside councils and Islington-residing journalists.

Guardian - A molehill of mange

While they may once have had some minor value, all polls and surveys are hardly worth the keyboard strokes that go into their creation, publishing or subsequent discussion.

For a start there are so many. And second they all contradict each other.

Last week my little website got 3 separate surveys on 'green' supermarkets. In one Tesco was top. In the next it was bottom.

I asked for methodology and got little the wiser. So I ignore them all, save on my blog where I made roughly this point.

So, in addition to the vast armies employed to create and analyse this dross, I can add myself as one more who profited slightly for their pointless existence.

Just the facts, Ma'am

It's essential that we can all see the whole picture

I think you are being unfair to those concerned with simple accuracy in the conveyance of information (especially when expecting folk to make key decisions upon it), but well said... written!

What you share has particular resonance in my main area of interests these days, the environment.

Cherry picking facts that are convenient to the agenda/message of the author is rife, and as far as I can make out serving no one (including that author) well.

You can sort of expect an advertiser to try and paint the best picture, but even here the extremes have been taken to silly levels, as the ASA weekly testifies.

But when it comes to the media, from scientific data to surveys to just about anything I am presented, usually with a sexed up headline, as 'fact', I simply don't believe it unless I can see all the source data that lead to the - often wildly unrepresentative - conclusion.

And let's not get onto our political establishment.

So, as a minor medium myself, it amazes me to see press releases I have rejected until I get follow-up substantiation (which seldom happens), dutifully cut and pasted in pretty major organs.

As you say, 'just the facts, ma'am'.