Cold, crazy and cooking

According to last weekend’s papers, this is the coldest start to a UK winter for more than 30 years. Of course this is no indication that the global warming crew are in any way mistaken. If, on the other hand, it were the mildest start to a winter for 30 years, it would be clear evidence that warming is continuing apace, and probably getting worse.

So what hope of getting the climate change facts coolly examined in an independent sort of way? Not much, in this country. The Government surrounds itself with advisers who are all of the same persuasion, whether they have any actual expertise or not. So, sadly, do the other political parties; so you can’t vote against global warming. Political strategies are so strongly linked to it that they would be difficult to unravel. The media, with a few honourable exceptions, don’t question it. Any number of businesses have reduced carbon footprint as part of their mission statement, and they are doing very well, thank you.

The whole policy approach to transport, a major issue in the UK, is bound up with the assumption that carbon dioxide causes global warming and threatens our very existence. (It handily disregards the fact that even if that were true, taking every car in Britain off the road would make no difference.) The influential magazine Local Transport Today is extremely revealing of this head-in-the-sand attitude. Recent headlines have included ‘Use motor taxes to subsidise public transport and cut CO2’; Speed limits and smarter choices – the route to lower CO2 emissions?; A dislike of cars motivates some people’s climate campaigning; Lighter, less powerful cars could be key to a low carbon transport system; and, critically, CO2 reductions must be core to all transport packages, says DfT.

So people who should be working out the best way to organise transport in the UK are spending all their time worrying about something that may not be true and, if it were, should be disregarded because we can have no effect on it – certainly as far as transport is concerned. It hardly fills you with respect for the Government – a commodity that is in short supply in these credit crunch days.

This misconceived obsession with carbon dioxide can affect the whole area of road safety. Environmentalists have recently tried too insist on legislation to introduce tyres that reduce noise and CO2 emissions – although they would also reduce safety. And I am informed by an influential motoring journalist that unofficial police figures indicate that over 70% of serious injury and fatal accidents involve tyre failures in one way or another.

The same people who would like us to use such tyres are often behind the spread of road humps and speed cameras. In the last ten years traffic police in England and Wales have fallen by 1500, largely because of an increased reliance on speed cameras – despite the fact that exceeding the speed limit is responsible for only a very small percentage of road accidents. AA experts recently said the trend of replacing police by cameras should be reversed “to make our roads safer” – and occasionally a council will work up the courage to think for itself and take a wider, more balanced view. Swindon Borough Council is the most recent to take such a step by quitting the local camera partnership because “it skews road safety too heavily towards tackling speeding”. Walsall is also reviewing its speed cameras with a view to removing “unnecessary” ones.

In Manchester the electorate saw through a Government plan to introduce road charging for reasons linked to climate change and roundly rejected it. Nevertheless, the Government is pressing ahead with technology trials for national road pricing – a cynical move which brought a breath of fresh air from the Tory side. Transport spokesman Theresa Villiers said: “It’s crazy for Labour to be spending millions of taxpayers’ money on trial for local road pricing schemes. They should scrap the trials now.” In Birmingham the number of people entering the city centre by car in the morning peak has fallen by 32% since 1995, so why should road charges be necessary?

Meanwhile a Norwich Green Party councillor advised us to vote for his party because “it’s the one party that takes sustainable transport policy seriously…the party that cares about the Earth and our place on it”. Such self-righteous arrogance, apparently, is what makes the world go round nowadays.

One journalist who can be relied upon not to follow the party line on climate change is Christopher Booker. He points out that the organisation run by Dr James Hansen, Al Gore’s chief scientific ally, recently announced that October 2008 was one of the hottest on record. This absurd finding was eventually found to be caused by the fact that certain temperature records allocated to October were in fact for September. A spokesman for the organisation explained that it “did not have the resources to exercise proper quality control over the data it was supplied with”. Like Booker, I find this an astonishing admission. The implications – and more surprising facts – can be found by clicking here.

Some people, of course, accuse Booker of “bias” and “logical fallacies”. If you are not sure, try the Scientific Alliance for a measured view of the climate change debate. It warns of the danger of eco-fundamentalism and acknowledges the difficulty of moving from an entrenched position. It also warns that “if, as is very likely, the hell and damnation messages of climate change – the ‘slow cooking’ of the Earth, the swamping of Pacific island states by rapidly rising sea level, the ‘runaway’ and ‘irreversible’ warming as tipping points are passed – are found to be gross and irresponsible exaggeration, then public opinion will rapidly turn against the messengers”.

Father Christmas fears

While on the subject of absurdity, I see that certain teachers are refusing to tell pupils about Father Christmas because of “fears that they could offend people from other faiths”. Other faiths? Is Father Christmas a faith now? Or do they think Father Christmas was born in a manger and greeted by shepherds, only to be crucified and rise again on the third day?

In the circumstances, not telling pupils about him may be a good idea. Why not give them a practical task, like trying to find Christmas stamps with a religious theme? After failing elsewhere, I tried the main post office in Norwich a few days ago, only to be told that they had run out – although lots of people had been asking for them. Next step, I guess, is for the Post Office to issue statistics that far more people used pantomime stamps than religious ones. And so the secularisation of England continues.