A new green prosperityUnited Kingdom
Letters: Perspectives on climate change
Your leading article of 31 August rightly points to the urgent need for greater political will to be injected into the forthcoming climate negotiations. Generating new commitment would be made much easier if the economic and social benefits of shifting to a green economy were highlighted more often.
For example, EU leaders have cited cost as the reason for refusing to move beyond the EU's target of 20 per cent emission reductions by 2020. Yet, according to recent reports, following reduced emissions in the recession, the extra cost of moving to 30 per cent would now be less than 0.1 per cent of EU GDP. With rising oil prices, and the full costs of environmental damage factored in, it quickly becomes clear that investment in a green economy saves far more money than it costs.
However, even a 30 per cent cut is nowhere near enough to give us a fighting chance of avoiding the worst of climate change. That's why we need a completely different approach to the challenge, bringing to it the kind of urgency and single-mindedness we have only traditionally mustered in the face of more conventional threats to our security. For example, the Green Party has long called for the introduction of a Green New Deal, based on a massive investment in energy efficiency and renewables, creating hundreds of thousands of new jobs in the process.
With conservation measures, we keep our energy use (and costs) to a minimum without sacrificing quality of life. With renewables we get energy security and a much higher number of jobs per unit of power generated.
Sustainable jobs, warmer homes, an end to fuel poverty, much better public transport, stability in energy prices, a more stable economy – there are plenty of gains from a green economy, but we need political leaders with the vision and courage to grasp them.
Caroline Lucas MP (Brighton Pavilion, Green), House of Commons
Computer models are not proof
Fraser Devlin accidentally puts his finger on one reason why the causes of climate change are still unresolved, when he likens global warming to a meteorite threatening to collide with Earth (letter, 1 September). Astronomers would have discovered his approaching meteorite, probably using optical telescopes, and they would then independently check both its existence and trajectory using other remote-sensing techniques.
The approaching "catastrophe" of man-made climate change, projected solely by computer models, is not subject to any such experimental verification. I can do no better than a member of the Oxburgh "Climategate" inquiry, Professor Michael Kelly, who wrote: "I take real exception to having simulation runs described as experiments. It does a disservice to centuries of real experimentation and allows simulations output to be considered as real data."
We need to conserve our resources to cope with natural climate change, which will ultimately come upon us with or without human intervention.
Dr John Etherington, Llanhowell, Pembrokeshire
Why we hate Tony Blair
John Rentoul's blinkered attempt to analyse the British public's hatred of Tony Blair (Opinion, 1 April) misses out one huge collection of people from his extensive list of caricatures: those ordinary, non-political people who knew the Iraq conflict was wrong, misguided and corrupt from the start and kept to that view.
Those of us with functioning brains who knew the whole WMD story was ridiculous, who objected to being lied to about it and who marched in our hundreds of thousands were dismissed as idiots. The trouble is, we were right, and remain right to this day.
Making a public spectacle of ourselves is not something that comes naturally to us. We prefer to leave that sort of thing to motor-gob students and people with free time on their hands. We did not, in general, start to support the war once it started – it is very possible vigorously to support our armed forces while being bitterly opposed to the conflict they have been sent to.
We were lied to, our armed forces were misused as political cannon fodder and over 100,000 innocent civilians have died, and we resent it.
It is a shame that the hypothetical "open mind" that Blair's biographer, Mr Rentoul, so desperately wants to see wasn't occupying 10 Downing Street at the time this calamitous decision was made. It is almost certain that 7/7 would not have happened if it had.
Paul Harper, London E15
Andy McSmith (1 September) refers to a "curious error" in the Blair book, a mention of "a son-in-law" of Saddam "who fled abroad, exposed the Iraqi government's interest in developing weapons of mass destruction, and then went back to Iraq, where he was shot dead".
As McSmith says, there were two sons-in-law, both of whom defected, returned and were murdered. What McSmith appears to have overlooked is that Hussein Kamal, the brother-in-law Blair is referring to, stated: "I ordered destruction of all chemical weapons. All weapons – biological, chemical, missile, nuclear – were destroyed. Nothing was left." Bush, Blair, Powell and Cheney all cited Kamal as a reliable source for asserting that Iraq had not disarmed, and could not be disarmed by inspections. The "curious error" relates to one of the central lies in the neo-con war dossier. The text of Kamal's debriefing in August 1995 by an UNSCOM team headed by Rolf Ekeus can be found at www.casi.org.uk/info/unscom950822.pdf.
John Spencer, London SW18
John Rentoul asks where all the Blair rage comes from, and then blames it on the media. Whatever he means by "the media class", could it just be that they have simply seen through the charm that still seems to mesmerise Mr Rentoul? If nothing else, Blair does have a winning manner.
Nor does the real rage stem from the fact that he tested the notion of truth to destruction in his notorious sexing-up of the dossier. Its root lies in the fact that he acquiesced in the US decision to override the UN and go it alone, colluding in unauthorised and even illegal vigilante action on the global stage which has set back the cause of international politics by decades, not to mention stirring up a hornets' nest in the Middle East.
It's not enough that he was sincere. It is possible to be sincerely wrong.
Simon Prentis, London NW3
Pace John Rentoul, one does not have to "hate"' Blair to have concluded that he was rather fantasist than statesman. An aggressive war against Iraq, one which has cost tens of thousands of lives and left the country in far worse a state than before the war, was launched on mendacious grounds.
The justification that the price was a small one to pay for getting rid of Saddam is rather undermined by your reporting that Blair engaged in secret trade negotiations with Mugabe, a figure who would run Saddam pretty close in any Evil Dictator stakes. Attempts by Blair apologists to rewrite history only serve to bring his tragic flaws into closer focus.
Michael Rosenthal, Banbury, Oxfordshire
John Rentoul denies once again that Blair lied to take this country to war. Allow me to correct him.
In February 2003 Blair said that war could be avoided if Saddam granted weapons inspectors unconditional access ("I hope, even now, Iraq can be disarmed peacefully, with or without Saddam.") He did, to the inspectors' satisfaction, and we invaded anyway.
Furthermore, the infamous Downing Street Memo proves that Blair had decided to invade at least as early as July 2002: "The intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy."
Laurie Marks, Cambridge
Being at a loss as to the origins of "Blair rage", John Rentoul presents the condition as an irrational disorder bordering on the perverse.
Both in terms of the Blair government's attacks on civil liberties, debasement of parliamentary democracy and government by disingenuous soundbite, and in terms of an at best questionably legal foreign policy in Iraq, criticism is both legitimate and rational.
The rage is generated by witnessing Blair's hubris and self-righteousness, masked by the protective skin of "good faith", in the face of terrible consequences for tens of thousands of people.
Ian Partridge, Bradford
Labour can move on with Balls
Splendid article by Steve Richards ("Its time to move on from new Labour", 31 August). New Labour is a centre-right group formed by Blair from the then-existing Labour Party, and Richards seems to be supporting Ed Miliband for leader on the basis that Ed is nearer to the centre than his brother David. But why not take this opportunity to remake the Labour Party (of which I am a long-standing member) by choosing Ed Balls?
Balls is a keen advocate of John Maynard Keynes, whose economic wisdom has been amply demonstrated over many years. My own vote, when my slip arrives shortly, will certainly go to Balls, and I urge fellow members to do likewise, and help us restore our traditional values.
John Brisbourne, Dorking, Surrey
I welcome Steve Richards's thoughtful piece on the Labour leadership. Independent thinkers rightly resist being shoe-horned into a narrow choice and that unfortunately is how the Labour leadership contest appears.
In a democracy, other candidates should be given the same opportunities to present their case. Ed Balls is a case in point.
His focus on the economy is crucial. Based on Keynesianism, it offers a sound basis for facilitating economic growth, lowering unemployment and removing the threat of recession.
Faced with the prospects of Osbornism, people understandably have the jitters. The Con-Lib coalition needs to be held properly to account for its ill-conceived policies, and this should first and foremost be the economy, from which all else will flow.
Professor Elizabeth Chell, Lyndhurst, Hampshire
Steve Richards says that Ed Balls is a follower of John Maynard Keynes. If only! Keynes argued that governments should increase taxes during the good economic years in anticipation of the next recession. In fact, Gordon Brown, Ed Balls and the rest did precisely the opposite, and we are going to spend the next 10 years suffering the consequences of their profligacy.
Professor Michael W Eysenck, London SW20
Putting Ulster up for sale
Ulster-born from a strong Protestant background but now a convinced secularist, I applaud Mary Dejevsky's proposal that Northern Ireland's transfer to the Republic would make "cultural, demographic and geographic sense" ("Sell Ulster and earn a peace bonus," 27 August).
It is time to ignore the phoney Protestant Unionist "majority" claim. Ireland consists of 32 counties, whose citizens were not consulted when the border was created. Even the nine-county province of Ulster was divided to ensure a built-in majority favouring Unionism.
A basic requirement for any union is agreement by the parties concerned. Would a referendum show that a majority in mainland Britain wish to continue the expensive and embarrassing union with an artificially created statelet? Highly unlikely.
W J McIlroy, Hove
Mary Dejevsky suggests that Her Majesty's Government should consider making refugees of its own citizens merely because they happen to reside in one part of the kingdom as opposed to another; that 18 miles of sea distance from the British mainland marks a fault-line between first-class and second-class subjects of Her Majesty. What Ms Dejevsky proposes is nothing short of a sophisticated process of ethnic cleansing of the "Ulster Protestants" from the British state.
Ms Dejevsky mentions both Claudy and Bloody Sunday; the "Ulster Protestants" were not the perpetrators of either incident.
The British government at the stroke of a pen can indeed cede the territory and crown buildings of Northern Ireland to the government of the Republic of Ireland. What it cannot do is cede the British unionists who reside upon the territory to a foreign constitution in which they have no interest and no allegiance to uphold. The Irish government unmistakably knows this to be so. Apparently Ms Dejevsky does not.
M W Woods, Bangor, Co Down
Mary Dejevsky's article took my breath away.
Rather than Britain "selling Ulster to the Republic", is not the reverse solution morally and legally correct? Britain, after some hundred years of colonialism in Ireland, creating the maelstrom which still exists in Ulster, should in fact compensate Ireland as a whole in such an unlikely handback transaction.
Michael Keyes, Garryvoe, Co Cork
Pensions funded by taxation
Peter English has an odd definition of "unfunded" (Letters, 28 August) in stating that all UK pensions are unfunded because they all rely on the ability of the "fund", or the public purse, to survive and to generate future income. One might as well aver that Norway's Oil Fund of $500bn for less than five million people, and indeed savings of any sort, are of no benefit because "they all require an act of faith in the future".
If one accepts that both private and public sectors depend on each other, and that a reasonable degree of equity should obtain in their respective benefits, the "differing levels of guarantee" enjoyed by those in schemes paid for by future taxpayers or by future corporate profits, compared with those in schemes wholly dependent on their own savings, do indeed introduce a "moral high ground" element into the debate.
John Birkett, St Andrews, Fife
The most central contribution The Independent could make to the ongoing well-being of Britain, its citizens and its Government, would be to forbid the use within your pages of the phrase "tax burden".
This is not a trifling point. We have been immured for decades in an increasingly selfish society whose attitude to taxation is entirely negative. Tax is not a burden. It is the measure of a civilised society. Tax is a contribution.
Noel Kite, New Radnor, Powys
From London to Glasgow by rail
John Jefkins' figures (Letters, 26 August) are wholly misleading. He seems unaware that the journey from London to Glasgow on HS2 would take more than the three hours at which people switch from trains to planes. Also that the 7,000 people a day flying between London and Glasgow, a declining figure, is a small proportion of the 145,000 passengers who would have to travel daily on HS2 to make it financially viable. At 400kmh, HS2 trains will emit a third more carbon than cars and almost as much as planes.
In terms of profitability it is more realistic to look at the experience of High Speed 1, the Channel Tunnel link. It was forecast to carry 21 million passengers a year by 2005; it actually carries 7.5 million and is being sold off at a fraction of what it cost to build because the Government wants to off-load its losses.
Shirley Judges, Little Kingshill, Buckinghamshire
While I support John Jefkins in his call for a purpose-built high-speed line, his reference to "today's slow trains" between London and Glasgow is misleading.
There is now an hourly service of 125mph trains from Euston covering the 400 miles in as little as 4hr 10min – time that can be used to read, work, sleep or watch the scenery, in contrast to the fragmented and wasteful three hours or so between city centres for those misguided enough to use air.
My personal experience suggests that more people are coming back to rail for such long-distance journeys, particularly since aircraft were grounded by the wrong kind of ash.
Keith Farr, Cholsey, Oxfordshire
Joe Walmswell (letter, 1 September) protests that his University Challenge team should not have been expected to answer questions about 1960s rock music. He should take heart. In 1975, during the warm-up for a University Challenge match, one of the practice questions my team had asked of it was about the real names of American boxers from – as I recall – the 1930s and 1940s . After we had failed to come up with any, Bamber Gascoigne remarked that nobody had got any part of it right for some years, and tore up the question card.
Andrew Ruddle, Weybridge, Surrey
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