Back in November and December last year, at least three people that I know of wrote to their MPs about my attempts to discover who attended the BBC’s 2006 climate seminar and Maurizio Morabito’s subsequent revelations at Omnologos. It now appears that two of these people got near identical replies using text that appears to have been drafted by the BBC, although the wording gives the impression that it is the MP’s own.

This is the boilerplate text I’m talking about. Note particularly the phrases I’ve emphasised in bold:

"A Freedom of Information (FOI) request was made for material held by the BBC relating to a seminar discussing climate change held in 2006. The BBC tell me that they refused pattendisclosure on the basis that the documents were held for the purposes of journalism, art or literature, and are therefore outside the scope of the BBC’s designation under FOI Act. The Information Tribunal unanimously upheld this in its decision of 8 November 2012.

The seminar was conducted under the Chatham House Rule to enable free and frank discussion, something that the BBC felt necessary for its independent journalism. Further information about the Rule including the publication of lists of attendees can be found here: www.chathamhouse.org/about-us/chathamhouserule.

I am informed that the 2006 seminar was one in a series of seminars looking at a range of global topics. They are used to inform the BBC’s journalism through debate and access to expertise, though the setting of the BBC’s editorial policies is a formal process involving BBC Boards and the BBC Trust. Impartiality is key to the BBC’s reporting and is the subject of continuous scrutiny by the BBC and the BBC Trust.

If you would like to complain about the BBC, I suggest you do so directly to the BBC Trust, at www.bbc.co.uk/complaints/forms/. "

The availability of a form letter reply suggests that a considerable number of people contacted their MPS who, presumably, then contacted the oh-so-helpful folk at the BBC.

Whatever the ethics of busy MPs, or their staff, using a ready-made replies in these circumstances may be, the BBC’s arrogance in taking upon itself the task of drafting constituency correspondence for elected representatives – if this is what happened – would indicate just how hubristic the management culture at our national broadcaster has become.

I would be very interested to hear in the comments from anyone who wrote to their MP about 28Gate and particularly those who received replies using the wording above.

[H/T to Jockdownsouth for this]

Feb 042013

 

LordSternLord Stern, Gordon Brown’s climate alarmist of choice whose 2006 report now seems to be taken seriously only by the kind of warmistas who have long since ceased thinking about what they are saying, has made an appearance at the World Economic Forum in Davos. The National Farmer’s Union website has noticed even if no one else has.

His Lordship was in confessional mood, owning up to underestimating the likely extent of global warming in his report. He now sees this as being ‘on track for something like 4oC’ by the end of the century, rather than the paltry 2oC – 3oC that he forecast in his report seven years ago.

Well! Economists never were famed for the accuracy of their predictions, even when dealing with matters supposedly within their own discipline and level of competence.

If I remember correctly, the Stern Report ran to some 700 pages, the first half of which was devoted to a summary of the current state of climate science. It has always baffled me why anyone, even Gordon Brown, would entrust such a task to an economist. Perhaps Stern’s interest in the subject has waned a bit over the last seven years, because he certainly seems to have missed out on the new consensus that there has been a global warming standstill for at least a decade and a half. In fact since long before he even started work on his report. Now wouldn’t that be something that would really be worth mentioning at a world economic forum?

But fear not, this is a prophet of doom with sense of humour; or perhaps not.

According to the NFU, stern ‘called for forceful action and highlighted "the exciting growth story" of greening the economy’. It’s astonishing that such views haven’t earned him a job as an EU Commissioner by now. He would be at home among others who think that increased regulation and a decades-long commitment to replace cheap, abundant and reliable energy sources with inefficient, erratic and very expensive new technology is the Yellow Brick Road to undreamed of economic success.

All this would be quite amusing if it wasn’t for the enormous influence that the Stern Report has had on public policy.

It’s worth reading the NFU’s short report in full, particularly for the extraordinarily fatuous quotation from IMF chief Christine Legarde with which it ends. Didn’t she also suggest in a pre-Davos interview that banker’s pay should be diverted to the world’s poor? I don’t seem to be able to lay hands of the source at the moment, but in any case, Ms Legarde’s thinking seems to be more in line with that or a synchronised swimming champion (her first claim to fame) than that of her present eminent role.

[Hat tip to Philip Ferguson who is concerned that farm products are now so expensive that they have to be bulked-up with old horse. Another ‘exciting growth story’?]

Nov 292012

 

wind-turbine-2

Am I the only person who’s wondering why the Government has chosen the day when the Leveson Report was published to let Ed Davey launch his energy bill?

Apr 102012

Once upon a time there was something called ‘tax’, which was a system of levies intended to fill the treasury vaults or, in the distant past, the royal coffers. Of course no one ever liked paying taxes very much, not ever, taxesbut at least the concept was easy enough to grasp and to justify. In a well-ordered society there should be funds available to meet the cost of communal needs, like defence forces, administration, health care, education, the police, the judiciary etc., and everyone should contribute.

We may have groaned about having to pay taxes, but at least we could understand why it was necessary. Now, all that seems to have changed. A pending announcement from the government about the much-heralded Green Deal illustrates just how far we have departed from the old concept of taxation. We’ll come to that in a moment, but first let’s look at a couple of stages in the evolution of taxes during the last few decades.

The idea of imposing taxes to change people’s behaviour, rather than merely to fund public services, is not new. Inflating the cost of alcohol in order to curb excess drinking, while at the same time diverting vast amounts from our pockets to the Treasury - for the public good of course - has long been a sure-fire earner for Chancellors of the Exchequer. By the middle of the last century, taxes on tobacco were fulfilling the same role, and the term ‘sin tax’ had entered the vocabulary.

This subterfuge has proved very successful, always providing that our political masters are careful not to reduce our smoking and drinking too much, which would kill the goose which lays the golden eggs. ‘Sin’, as a Bishop once said, ‘is always with us’, and a long succession of cash strapped governments have good reason to give thanks for that it is so.

Then came the age of Blair and Brown, when the electorate was encouraged to passively connive at the world of smoke and mirrors that those two arch deceivers inhabited.

Continue reading »

greenpeace For years I’ve received press releases from Greenpeace and have done little more than glance at them before they are consigned to an archive. Very few, if any, have had a direct bearing on climate change. The activities of the Japanese whaling fleet seemed to be the most popular topic, a controversy that lies beyond the remit of Harmless Sky.

This morning yet anther release arrived, but this caused me some concern as, although it too had nothing to do with climate change, it sounds a rather a scary warning about the path that green political activism might follow in the future. Here is what it had to say:

Greenpeace submitted the first test case European Citizens’ Initiative in December 2010. Please find below and online a concise briefing outlining our position on this engagement tool.

European Citizens’ Initiative – Greenpeace briefing

The Lisbon Treaty, which came into force in December 2009, enshrines the right for one million Europeans to petition the European Commission and require it to draft legislation on the basis of their demands (or justify its refusal to do so). This right is known as the European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI).

In December 2010, Greenpeace and Avaaz submitted a one million signature ECI in accordance with the rules established by EU treaties. The ECI was in response to the first authorisation by the Commission in March 2010 for the cultivation of a genetically modified (GM) crop in Europe in 12 years. This authorisation was in direct breach of a request by all 27 member states for a review of the approval system for GM crops. It also raised serious health and environmental concerns. The ECI therefore called for a moratorium on all new authorisations and a review of the GM approval process.

Now drumming up a million signatures on a petition sounds like a pretty onerous task – or it does until you look at the demography of the EU. With 27 member countries and a population of just over 500 million things seem a little different. To put it bluntly, fooling 1 in 500 of the population all of the time is not likely to pose much of a problem for organisations with the kind of spending power that Greenpeace, WWF or Friends of the Earth now have.

That said, the press release continues like this:

Greenpeace EU director Jorgo Riss said: “The citizens’ initiative is a good idea in principle, but in reality one million euros will go a lot further to lobby the Commission than one million signatures. Data requirements for the citizens’ initiative are far too restrictive, while lobbyists continue to have direct access without disclosing names and addresses, let alone their passport numbers. Over a year ago, one million people from all over Europe signed a one million citizens’ initiative for a moratorium on GM crops and a strengthening of safety assessments. Their voices have been heard, since the Commission has yet to authorise new GM crops.”

(At present, signatories are required to provide their date and place of birth together with other information from their passport or identity papers.)

So it appears that in the opinion of Greenpeace one million euros can buy lobbying on a scale that trumps a procedure requiring the EU  to either legislate or justify not doing so. And the cost is peanuts for exerting influence on a trading block that contributes a significant part of the global economy.

Just how much power over our politicians, our governance, and our lives to these organisations have now?

The whole press release can be found here.

An email from Tony Brown last evening brought a strange snipit of news which he is told is now in the public domain, although I haven’t come across it anywhere yet.

NLambG Apparently, a contact of Tony’s at the Met Office has told him that the resignation of Chris Huhne has brought about a change in governance of that august British institution which incorporates an extraordinary irony. The Met Office’s new ‘owning minister’, who will report to Parliament on the organisation’s performance, governance and business plans, is the Liberal Democrat MP for North Norfolk, Norman Lamb who, though a solicitor by trade, has more than a passing connection with the controversial world of climate science. Continue reading »

 

CCCReport

In the post HEL P! Huhne and £1 per week cost of decarbonisation TonyN mentions an important 360-page document from the Committee on Climate Change: “The Fourth Carbon Budget: Reducing emissions through the 2020s.” After a well-publicised internal struggle between the Treasury and the Department of Energy and Climate Change - which even the BBC could not ignore, see here - the government accepted the CCC report and agreed to tighten up carbon emissions policy until 2027, with unknown, and probably unknowable effects on the economy for decades to come.

TonyN reports with amazement that the official estimate of the cost of their new targets is nowhere to be found in the document upon which the decision was based. Alex Cull found the probable source of the government’s vague estimates of cost in another document from the same body: “The Renewable Energy Review“. See here.

Both these documents, and much else, can be found on the Committee’s website at http://www.theccc.org.uk . It is also worth looking at the DECC press release dealing with Chris Huhne’s announcement of the new carbon budget in parliament. Continue reading »

May 232011

Let’s get something absolutely straight about the climate debate, and the government propaganda that fuels it. Britain’s  Climate Change Act 2008 has not made us the world leader in Co2 reduction legislation. There  cannot be a leader in a one horse race. In a one horse race, there is no one to lead. With a field of one, there is no race in any real meaning of the term. Other competitors have failed to show up on the starting line.

Last week the UK government announced carbon reduction targets for the period 2023-27, in accordance with requirements set out in the Climate Change Act 2008. At the time that this extraordinary piece of legislation was going through parliament, we were repeatedly told that it would make us the world leader in de-carbonisation and the battle against climate change. There may have been some justification for such a claim then, but there is absolutely no justification now. The chaotic collapse of the Copenhagen summit, and the acceptance at Cancun that no global agreement on emission control is even in sight, have changed ‘the environmental’ landscape completely, and seemingly irreversibly.

Yet the government, and of course the rest of the media who regurgitate its press releases without a thought, are still trumpeting the old mantra, except that the tense has changed. No longer are we to become the world leaders, but according to Roger Harrabin’s BBC report on the new carbon budgets this is a “world leading agreement …”. Leading who?  Who is following? Continue reading »

May 162011

While flicking through the Sunday papers yesterday, this headline caught my eye:

Cameron has the makings of a truly great prime minister

and I wondered how anyone could be seriously making such a claim at this time.

The author of the think-piece was Peter Oborne, sometime editor of the Spectator and now a columnist on the Daily Mail, so there could be little doubt about where the author was coming from politically. But in the preamble to his contention, there was an interesting canter through post-war political history.

There have only been two great prime ministers since the Second World War: Attlee and Thatcher. Attlee achieved greatness because in barely five years he established the basis of postwar Britain: the National Health Service, a universal welfare state and a managed economy – all funded by massive personal and corporate taxation.

Attlee’s vision was so powerful that for three decades all prime ministers, whether Conservative or Labour, accepted his fundamental insights about social and financial management. By the mid-1970s, however, it had failed. Not until 1979, and the emergence of Margaret Thatcher, did Britain discover a leader capable of challenging the vicious cycle of decline.

Like Clem Attlee, Thatcher redefined the British state. By cutting taxes, taming the trade unions, and encouraging the market, she unleashed tremendous productive forces. Like Clem Attlee, her vision was so powerful that all prime ministers since have found it hard to escape from her shadow. But the Thatcher settlement could not last forever: by the time Gordon Brown was evicted from office exactly one year ago, the British state was facing a crisis of comparable’ magnitude to the 1970s.

I couldn’t find much to quarrel with there, except that one very important word seemed to be missing: nationalisation. Continue reading »

spencer_cartoon.jpg

Today the US electorate will go to the polls in the mid-term elections.  All the signs are that many intend to us this opportunity to wreak vengeance on a fallen idol. Harmless Sky is not concerned with American or any other variety of party politics, but in this case the outcome of the vote may have far reaching consequences for the climate debate. Already there are dark rumours of Republicans planning investigations by Congressional committees into the science that has led to concern about global warming. And Congressional hearings are not the genteel, and perhaps ineffective, talking shops that House of Commons Select Committee hearings seem to have become in recent years.

Roy Spencer has an excellent scene setter on his blog here:

Global Warming Elitism, Tomorrow’s Election, and The Future

The first part of this article also has resonance for a post that I put up a while back about  A very convenient network.
H/t to Bishop Hill

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For as long as I can remember, a breakthrough in battery technology that will soon provide a small, cheap and light means of storing large amounts of energy has been just around the corner.  Although the demand for better batteries to power laptops has led to some improvement, the state of the technology still falls far short of what the electricity generation industry needs if it is ever going to be possible to iron out the problems created by intermittent supplies from alternatives like wind. Continue reading »

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