Lack of Environment

A blog on the politics and psychology underlying the denial of all our environmental problems

Archive for the ‘insanity’ Category

George Monbiot is as incisive as ever

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I admit it, even though I am (or would like to be) socially conservative, George Monbiot is one of my heroes. His long track record of illuminating the stupidity of climate change scepticism was one of the reasons I decided to pursue the subject in my MA research.

In his most recent offering on his blog (and in the Guardian on 20 August), George has brillianly highlighted the astounding double standards at the heart of current UK energy policy:

“The government is introducing a special veto for local people to prevent the construction of wind turbines… [Whereas the] government’s new planning guidance makes [Fracking] developments almost impossible to refuse… If local voters don’t like it, they can go to hell…

It has taken me 20 years and an MA in Environmental Politics to work out why I was so uncomfortable being involved in the extractive industries (i.e. mineral exploitation). George achieved this in little more than a few minutes:

Extracting resources, like war, is the real deal: what politicians seem to consider a proper, manly pursuit. Conserving energy or using gas from waste or sustaining fish stocks are treated as the concerns of sissies and hippies: even if, in hard economic terms, they make more sense.

Past performance is not a predictor of future results

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As it says on my About page,  “The driver of an accelerating car about to hit a brick wall might well say ‘so far so good’ – but that does not mean that the wall is not there!” — John Dryzek (2005: 70).

“So far so good… No! Wait!… Oh shi…”

This is the almost-ubiquitous advice of stockbrokers but, sadly, it is almost universally ignored.

As ccgwebmaster recently observed wryly in a comment on this very blog:

I have never died before. Does this mean I can presume upon my immortality?

I would therefore like to take this opportunity to make a few suggestions to all those who think concern for the environment is a false alarm, a new religion, or an excuse to curtail your freedom or tax you more heavily:
1. Grow up.
2. Go back to school.
3. Open your eyes and look out the window.
4. Stop cherry-picking data that reinforces your prejudice.
5. Stop ignoring all the data that contradicts your misperception of reality.
6. Read this Wikipedia article on the New World Order – it might just open up your mind.
7. Read this Skeptical Science article on the History of Climate Science – it might just resolve your confusion.

You know we’re in trouble when…

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The Sunday Telegraph starts advocating polices that will accelerate anthropogenic climate disruption (ACD).

Two days ago, one of Britain’s oldest and most-respected broadsheet newspapers decided to shred the last few bits of credibility it might have had by publishing an anonymous editorial piece calling for the Climate Change Act 2008 to be repealed.

I am therefore sorry but, I just had to post this response:

Thank goodness the Sunday Telegraph is not a widely-read newspaper.  This kind of advocacy for policies that will accelerate anthropogenic climate disruption is short-sighted to say the least.

If you don’t like our countryside being despoiled by windfarms, new sets of National Grid power lines, and new nuclear plants…  What you should be advocating is greater subsidies for households that install solar PV panels on their roofs, which will reduce UK demand for centrally-generated electricity of all kinds.

Oh and, by the way, shale gas is not low-carbon intensity:  Because of the methane release it involves, it is extremely high-carbon intensity.  Now we know we need to reduce our global CO2 emissions and that further delay will mean greater ultimate cost (i.e. Sir John Beddington, today)… the international push to extract shale gas – and all other unconventional hydrocarbons –  is completely irrational.

If anyone is curious, the pronouncements of the UK Government’s Chief Scientist, Sir John Beddington, to which I referred above, can be seen and heard in this video on the BBC website.  This was a fascinating development, coming, as it did, on the same day that the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF) announced that it was willing to enter into discussions with the Royal Society – to try and resolve the fact that the two organisations hold diametrically-opposed views regarding the validity of the scientific consensus that ACD is already happening.

This prompted me to send the GWPF’s Director, social anthropologist Benny Peiser, the following email:

Dear Dr Peiser,

I note, with genuine interest, your acceptance of the offer by the Royal Society to put the GWPF in touch with mainstream climate scientists.

I note also the public statement by the Sir John Beddington – who says evidence of anthropogenic climate disruption is now unequivocal and further delay in reducing emissions will mean harder and more expensive policy changes in future.

I should therefore be very grateful to know how much longer you think the GWPF is going to continue to insist that the science is uncertain and that calls for action are politically motivated.  For example, how long will it be before the GWPF accepts that we need to decarbonise our power generation systems – by implementing a revenue-neutral Fee and Dividend system as proposed by Dr James Hansen and many others.

Yours very sincerely,

Martin Lack

No answer as yet.

Climate denier guilty of syntax avoidance

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Regular and longer-term subscribers to this blog may recall some of my exchanges with Doug Swallow (a.k.a. jdouglashuahin) who claims to be a US citizen resident in SE Asia somewhere. Whoever or wheresoever he may be, English is clearly not his mother tongue; and rationality is clearly not his strong suit.

Anyone who is not familiar with Doug Swallow, should take a quick trip to the Climate Asylum blog of Barry Bickmore, Professor of Geological Sciences at the Brigham Young University in Utah, where Doug’s entirely repetitious modus operandi is played out in one single (lengthy) exchange:

http://bbickmore.wordpress.com/2012/05/29/the-monckton-files-cracked/

Those of you who need no such reminder may wish to cast a quick eye over the exchange of comments leading up to those appended below, over on Peter Sinclair’s Climate Denial Crock of the Week blog (search for “jdouglashuahin”). However, even if you cannot be bothered to do that, the following is pretty self-explanatory…

———

Doug:
charleszeller: To revisit this site is like making a trip through the graveyard with the ghost of Martin Lack howling like a banshee and, as usual, saying nothing and that is about like the video that I wasted 11 minutes watching a guy trying to sell books and no where addressing my challenge about providing an experiment that shows that the amount of a trace gas, CO2, at .037-9% of the total atmosphere and that naturally decreases with altitude to where at 18,000′ there is only 50% of the atmosphere there is at sea-level present, nor have I seen any link or information coming from you about this experiment ever having been done let alone an answer to the point about the mathematical derivation of CO2 forcing.

Me:
The reason I do not generally say much to you anymore, Doug, is that I have previously said it all (and so have you). Furthermore, as many others have said, the fact that you go from website to website endlessly repeating the same questions and cutting-and-pasting the same spurious information tends to suggest you are being paid to waste the time of people who are trying to clear the fog of misinformation peddled by the fossil fuel industry (i.e. as was the well-documented tactic of the tobacco industry before it). Either that, or you are not paying attention to the rebuttals you receive, or you are simply incapable of understanding their implications.

Whichever is the case, your repetitive request (reminiscent of [most-recently] Matt Ridley on the GWPF website) to be given the results of laboratory experiment that proves that CO2 is the primary cause of warming presupposes that the vast majority of relevantly-qualified scientists (who have concluded that it is) are either being stupid, illogical, or mendacious. Unfortunately, such a presupposition can only be made by people who believe in a scientific conspiracy or believe that they are cleverer than the climate scientists themselves. This is not only highly improbable; it is not consistent with all the available evidence (i.e. of both historical industry-led misinformation campaigns and of theoretically-deduced science validated by empirical observation and computer modelling).

However, I am already repeating myself so I will simply conclude by apologising for my earlier impolite remarks (which were prompted – but not justified – by your unfounded, illogical and disparaging remarks about my blog). Goodbye.

Me:
Dear Peter, Can you confirm whether this contribution from Doug is the longest-ever single sentence comment your site has received? Credit where credit is due it; it is a pretty impressive piece of syntax avoidance.

Peter (greenman3610):
I hope he took a breath during that.

———

I admit that, in the above, some of my own sentences are quite long, but, they do at least make sense. However, if this were not so sad (and/or evidence of criminal insanity and/or intellectual incapacity), it would be funny.

Climate Science – Room 101

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A warmer atmosphere can hold more moisture and – as atmospheric physicists have been warning us for over 50 years now – this will result in more frequent and more extreme weather events of all kinds.

A recent opinion poll in the USA suggested that people who were skeptical of scientists are being convinced by the evidence of their own eyes. About time too, people; welcome to reality!

From 350.org:

A big (possibly historic) winter storm just hit the Northeast of the United States — and climate change played a role in making it stronger.

Unusually warm ocean surface temperatures put more energy and more moisture in the storm, making a mess of roads and power grids.

This graph shows how climate change is making big storms more likely.

Still not convinced?  How about this from James Hansen (et al) last July [PDF]:

The greatest barrier to public recognition of human-made climate change is probably the natural
variability of local climate. How can a person discern long-term climate change, given the
notorious variability of local weather and climate from day to day and year to year?…

Hansen et al (2012) Figure 2

Hansen et al (2012) Figure 2

We illustrate variability of seasonal temperature in units of standard deviation (σ), including
comparison with the normal distribution (“bell curve”) that the lay public may appreciate. The
probability distribution (frequency of occurrence) of local summer-mean temperature anomalies
was close to the normal distribution in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s in both hemispheres (Fig. 2).
However, in each subsequent decade the distribution shifted toward more positive anomalies,
with the positive tail (hot outliers) of the distribution shifting the most.

Figure 2. Temperature anomaly distribution: The frequency of occurrence (vertical axis) of local
temperature anomalies (relative to 1951-1980 mean) in units of local standard deviation
(horizontal axis). Area under each curve is unity. Image credit: NASA/GISS…

Yet the distribution of seasonal temperature anomalies (Fig. 2) also reveals that a significant
portion (about 15 percent) of the anomalies are still negative, corresponding to summer-mean
temperatures cooler than the average 1951-1980 climate. Thus people should not be surprised by
the occasional season that is unusually cool. Cool anomalies as extreme as -2σ still occur,
because the anomaly distribution has broadened as well as moved to the right. In other words,
our climate now encompasses greater extremes.

What then should we learn from all this analysis of historical weather data?

We should not be surprised by the storm that has just hit the NE of the USA.

Written by Martin Lack

10 February 2013 at 00:02

24 hours to ban Bayer’s bee poison

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It is nearly 50 years since Rachel Carson wrote here seminal book Silent Spring. Why are we humans so stupid that we do not learn even the most basic of lessons? It is time to put the environmental protection before commercial profit.

This email from Avaaz was sent to me almost 24 hours ago so, if you live in the EU, please sign the petition immedaitely. The politicians clearly want to do the right thing; please help ensure that big business (in this case Bayer) do not persuade them to fail to learn from the past.

——

Dear friends,

Bees around the world are dying off and Europe’s food watchdog just said certain pesticides are part of the problem.We’ve got 48 hours before key meetings — let’s get a 2-million-person swarm to save the bees.Click to take urgent action now:

Sign the petition

Quietly, globally, billions of bees are dying, threatening our crops and food. But in 48 hours the European Union could move to ban the most poisonous pesticides, and pave the way to a global ban that would save bees from extinction.

Four EU countries have begun banning these poisons, and some bee populations are already recovering. Days ago the official European food safety watchdog stated for the first time that certain pesticides are fatally harming bees. Now legal experts and European politicians are calling for an immediate ban. But Bayer and other giant pesticide producers are lobbying hard to keep them on the market. If we build a huge swarm of public outrage now, we can push the European Commission to put our health and our environment before the profit of a few.

We know our voices count! Last year, our 1.2 million strong petition forced US authorities to open a formal consultation on pesticides — now if we reach 2 million, we can persuade the EU to get rid of these crazy poisons and pave the way for a ban worldwide. Sign the urgent petition and send this to everyone — Avaaz and leading MEPs will deliver our message ahead of this week’s key meeting in Brussels:

http://www.avaaz.org/en/hours_to_save_the_bees/?bSkdncb&v=21422

Bees don’t just make honey, they are vital to life on earth, every year pollinating 90% of plants and crops — with an estimated $40bn value and over one-third of the food supply in many countries. Without immediate action to save bees, many of our favourite fruits, vegetables, and nuts could vanish from our shelves.

Recent years have seen a steep and disturbing global decline in bee populations — some bee species are already extinct and some US species are at just 4% of their previous numbers. Scientists have been scrambling for answers and now the European Food Safety Authority is saying that toxic chemicals called neonicotinoid pesticides could be responsible for the bee deaths. France, Italy, Slovenia and even Germany, where the main manufacturer Bayer is based, have banned one of these bee-killing pesticides. But Bayer continues to export its poison across the world.

Now the issue is coming to a boil. EU parliamentarians are stepping up their pressure on the European Commission and key governments to push new legislation to ban the deadly pesticides, and we can offer them the public support they need to counter the powerful pesticide lobby. Sign the urgent petition to Europe’s leaders, then forward this email widely:

http://www.avaaz.org/en/hours_to_save_the_bees/?bSkdncb&v=21422

Our world is beset with threats to what makes it habitable, and to what fills it with wonder. The Avaaz community comes together to defend both — large or small. Whether winning a battle to keep the International Whaling Commission from sanctioning the murder of these giants, or saving bees, the tiny creatures upon which so much depends, we will come together and stand up for the world we all want.

With hope,

Luis, Ari, Alice, Iain, Ricken, David, Alaphia, and the Avaaz team

SOURCES

Pesticides pose danger to bees (European Voice)
http://www.europeanvoice.com/article/2013/january/pesticides-pose-danger-to-bees/76158.aspx

Crop pesticides are ‘killing our bees’ – says MEP (Public Service Europe)
http://www.publicserviceeurope.com/article/3007/crop-pesticides-are-killing-our-bees-says-mep#ixzz2JGICse6a

Death knell for nerve agent pesticides in move to save bees (Independent)
http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/nature/death-knell-for-nerve-agent-pesticides-in-move-to-save-bees-8454443.html

Give Bees a Chance! (The Greens European Free Alliance)
http://www.greens-efa.eu/give-bees-a-chance-9012.html

Studies fault Bayer in bee die-off (Christian Science Monitor)
http://www.csmonitor.com/Science/2012/0406/Studies-fault-Bayer-in-bee-die-off

Written by Martin Lack

30 January 2013 at 10:15

The Sceptics’ Creed

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For this spoof of the Anglican version of the Nicene Creed I apologise to all those who lack a sense of humour:

———-

[All stand]

We believe in some gods,
like Professor Ian Plimer,
writer of ‘Heaven and Earth’,
of all that is mean and not green.

We believe in some lords; John Christy
and in Richard Lindzen.
Endlessly they are proven wrong and yet still,
from their shite we recite,
true lies from sad guys,
opinions, not facts,
of one thing we are certain,
through them all truths were made.

For us and for our salvation
they came down from science:
by the power of our human folly,
they became embedded in ideology,
and made their plan.

For our sake they were crucified by climate scientists;
they suffered ‘death’ and were ‘buried’.
On the third day they rose again
in accordance with the sceptics;
they returned to their jobs,
and are seated in academic tenure.

They will come again in future to fudge the reason and the facts,
and their soapbox will have no end.

We believe in the wholly spurious, our god, the slither of doubt,
which precedes our judgement of evidence.
With the money and the vice it is worshiped and glorified.
It is supported through the profits…
We believe in one wholly cynical and irrational church.
We acknowledge one purpose; for the pursuance of greed.
We look for the perpetuation of growth,
and the life of the World to shun.

Amen.

[Please be seated]

Copyright © Martin Lack 2013

End ecocide in Europe (and the World)

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I am not sure what good it will do unless the whole World decides to stop self-harming as well but…

Image credit : End Ecocide in Europe

If you live in the EU please sign-up here to help stop ecocide in Europe (thanks Pendantry).

———————————-

One way to stop Ecocide in Europe would be to stop Hydraulic Fracturing from going ahead in your neighbourhood.  The best way to do this would be to form or join a local protest group:  See the Frack-Off website for details.

As a hydrogeologist who has spent many years working on Landfill sites, I am well acquainted with methane; and how it is better to burn it than to let it escape into the atmosphere.  Therefore, even if you discount all the immediate environmental hazards associated with fracking, you should be very concerned about the uncontrolled releases of methane that will occur if fracking becomes common practice.  As per my recent blog post, Stephen Leahy explains why here.

Meanwhile, on the subject of those immediate environmental risks, here is the inside story from someone who was, until comparatively recently, directly involved; environmental scientist Jessica Ernst (thanks Christine).

———————————-

Ultimately, of course, ecocide will only be avoided if we stop doing the things that are causing it.  And the main thing we are doing that is causing it – is growing in numbers in the absence of predators; consuming exponentially-increasing amounts of food and water; and producing exponentially-increasing amounts of waste.  This is no idle piece of misanthropic rhetoric – it is a cold hard fact.

Louise Gray published a short article on the Telegraph website yesterday, in which she cites Sir David Attenborough as having described humans as a plague on the Earth that need to be controlled by limiting population growth.  This has attracted an  an awful lot of attention and comment; most of it negative; and some of it very unpleasant.  What I find most astonishing is the inability of so many admittedly-self-selected people to appreciate the difference between ideology and science.   Furthermore, despite little evidence of scientific training in many of their comments, they seem content to accuse Attenborough of being a bad scientist; a bad person; and of peddling bad ideology.  All this reality inversion prompted this comment from me:

Absolutely stupendous amounts of Dunning-Kruger Effect in evidence here:  Despite the fact that only 49% of the population can be better-than-average at doing anything — and a far smaller percentage are likely to know what they are talking about in this instance — the fallacy of the marketplace of ideas is clearly the intellectual fortress to which the ideologically-prejudiced retreat when confronted with the scientific realities of Nature.

A few hours earlier I had found it necessary to respond to a particularly stupid assertion (that every human could be given 1000 square feet and there would still be room for plenty more) by saying this:

You need to look up the terms “ecological carrying capacity” and “overpopulation” in a reputable scientific dictionary.  The latter is dependent on the former – which is specific to local conditions – so even one person per square mile makes a desert overpopulated.

If you think that a seven-fold increase in the human population since the Industrial Revolution is not a problem – especially as we are running out of the “cheap” energy that facilitated it – you are picking a fight with basic biological science: Populations of any species are limited by food supply and by predation.  Humans have no predators but, having ignored (or disputed) the warnings for decades, we are now beginning to see people fighting over access to clean water and food; or at very least complaining about the price of life’s essentials – hence the Arab Spring.

The writing is very much on the wall.  We ignore it (or dispute the fact that it is there) at our peril.

We have the cure for our ailing planet…

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…so can we please use it?

Here reproduced in full, with the kind permission of the author, is international environmental journalist Stephen Leahy’s prescription to save us all from unintended ecocide – it’s called renewable energy.

I think it's time to take evasive action!

I think it’s time to take evasive action!


————–

For an Ailing Planet, the Cure Already Exists

UXBRIDGE, Canada, Jun 1 2012 (IPS) – The planet’s climate recently reached a new milestone of 400 parts per million (ppm) of carbon dioxide in the Arctic.

The last time Earth saw similar levels of climate-heating carbon dioxide (CO2) was three million years ago during the Pliocene era, where Arctic temperatures were 10 to 14 degrees C higher and global temperatures four degrees C hotter.

Research stations in Alaska, Greenland, Norway, Iceland and even Mongolia all broke the 400 ppm barrier for the first time this spring, scientists reported in a release Thursday.  A global average of 400 ppm up from the present 392 ppm is still some years off.

If today’s CO2 levels don’t decline – or worse, increase – the planet will inevitably reach those warmer temperatures, but it won’t take a thousand years.  Without major cuts in fossil fuel emissions, a child born today could live in a plus-four-degree C superheated world by their late middle age, IPS previously reported.  Such temperatures will make much of the planet unliveable.

In a four-degree warmer world, climate adaptation means “put your feet up and die” for many people in the world, said Chris West of the University of Oxford’s UK Climate Impacts Programme in 2009.

This week the International Energy Agency reported that the nations of the world’s CO2 emissions increased 3.2 percent in 2011 compared to 2010.  This is precisely the wrong direction: emissions need to decline three percent per year to have any hope of a stable climate.

By 2050, in a world with more people, carbon emissions must be half of today’s levels.

Impossible?  No.  A number of different energy analyses show how it can be done.

Dutch energy consulting firm Ecofys published a technical study in 2010 called “The Energy Report” that demonstrates how the world could reach 100 percent renewable energy by 2050.

Greenpeace has a plan called “Energy [R]evolution“.  Even the International Energy Agency has one: it’s called the “450 Scenario“.

There is no lack of technical knowledge about how to cut emissions and still keep the lights on.  Some countries have already started.

Germany, a modern industrialised country, generated more than 30 percent of its energy from solar power one bright sunny day last week. Instead of using 20 or more climate-wrecking coal plants, Germany used the energy from more than one million solar panels on houses, buildings, along sides of highways – even those ugly highway sound barriers have solar panels.

Although hardly known for sunny weather, Germany has more solar panels than all the rest of the world combined.  It gets four percent of its total annual electricity needs from solar.  Germany could increase its solar output by a factor of five or 10, experts say, especially with recent drops in the cost of solar panels.

The difference in Germany is leadership. Hermann Scheer, a minister of economics in the German government, created the now famous feed-in tariff in 2000 that launched Germany’s renewable energy revolution.

The outspoken Scheer had to both champion and defend this policy for many years to prevent successive governments from gutting it.  He died suddenly in 2010.  Other German politicians, supported by environmental groups and the public, have continued to push for more.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel reversed her support for nuclear power following huge public protests following the catastrophe at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plants in 2011.  Germany will close its 17 nuclear plants by 2022. Renewables and energy efficiency are to replace that lost energy under an ambitious plan called “Agora Energiewende“.

If successful, as much as 40 percent of Germany’s energy will come from renewables by 2022.

German energy prices have risen and large power users, as well as the politically powerful energy sector, oppose Merkel’s plan.  The chancellor will need strong public support even though Germany’s renewable energy sector now employs more people than its vaunted automobile industry.

Globally, the renewable energy sector now employs close to five million workers, more than doubling the number of jobs from 2006-2010, according to a study released Thursday by the International Labour Organization (ILO).

The transformation to a greener economy could generate 15 to 60 million additional jobs globally over the next two decades and lift tens of millions of workers out of poverty, concluded the study, “Working towards sustainable development”.

Only 10 to 15 industries are responsible for 70 to 80 percent of CO2 emissions in the industrialised countries, the report discovered.  And those industries employ just eight to 12 percent of the workforce.  Even with policies forcing major reductions in emissions, only a fraction would lose their jobs.

“Environmental sustainability is not a job killer, as it is sometimes claimed,” said ILO Director-General Juan Somavia.  “On the contrary, if properly managed, it can lead to more and better jobs, poverty reduction and social inclusion.”

(Copyright 2012 Stephen Leahy)
———-

By way of explanation, I should perhaps just say that this (re-posting of Stephen Leahy’s article) was inspired (if that is the right word) by the insanity of yet another anonymous idiot (called ‘jdey123′ on the Met Office blog) commenting that current snowfall in the UK is the return to the weather of his/her youth.  To which I responded as follows:

What we are now experiencing is not the return to the weather of anyone’s youth.  This is because the last time atmospheric CO2 exceeded 400 ppm was three million years ago.

Unless we stop adding to the CO2 in the biosphere (and start removing it) excess atmospheric CO2 will eventually lead to the Antarctic becoming ice-free once more (800 ppm 35 million years ago). Such a transition may well take hundreds of years but we should not delude ourselves that it will not happen; or that now doing nothing is a survivable option (for significant proportion of all life on Earth).

As a geologist, I know that climate change may well be natural. However, what is now happening is predominantly unnatural. The only people who dispute this are those with a short-sighted vested interest in the continuance of business as usual and/or an ideologically-impaired ability to accept what atmospheric physicists have been telling us for over 50 years.

For more background information on this subject, please visit:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbon_dioxide_in_Earth’s_atmosphere

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eocene

Reality dawns on people ignoring scientists

with 9 comments

I would hereby like to draw together two separate pieces of research published last week:

1. Why Climate Deniers Have No Scientific Credibility – In One Pie Chart (Desmogblog); and

2. AP-GfK Poll: Science doubters say world is warming (Associated Press).

debate is over

Need I say more? Sadly, yes, because – with people like Lord Lawson and Benny Peiser influencing the policy of the current Chancellor of the exchequer, George Osborne – reality seems no nearer to dawning on the people with the power to change the way things are done.

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