Baby, it’s warm outside

February 7, 2010

I have been meaning to write about climate change for a while now but I have been a bit wary about it. This is because of the complexity of the subject, which raises questions about the nature of science. The scientific method is built on the foundation of debate among scientists, who test a hypothesis, and then submit their results to the scrutiny of other experts in their field. This peer review allows other scientists to examine the data, experiments and the findings. While there are still controversies in some areas it is clear that the vast majority of scientists agree about the fundamental elements of climate change. Of course they could be wrong. When Wenger proposed the theory of plate tectonics he was ridiculed. Now though his theory is widely accepted. And we should be sceptical of some of the more outrageous claims that have been made. For example we have recently seen the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and their false claim in a 2007 report that Himalayan glaciers would disappear as early as 2035. This type of scaremongering just gives ammunition to the sceptics. These doom-laden predictions remind me of Thomas Malthus, who argued human population would expand exponentially, while food production could increase only linearly by bringing new land into cultivation. He was wrong. Population growth was checked – people tend to have fewer children as they become richer. Malthus also failed to foresee the developments in agricultural technology, which made land more productive and reduced the pressure on biodiversity. But, although these models may sometimes be flawed, the best scientific consensus does accept anthropogenic global warming (AGW). The idea that so many scientists would be engaged in a conspiracy does strike me as far-fetched

I am sceptical of a lot of environmentalists. though I think there is a pseudo-religious and misanthropic air to many of their pronouncements. Their agenda goes is not just about saving the planet. I heard an interesting thought experiment the other day on the radio. 200 radical environmentalists were told to imagine the following scenario:

Imagine I am the carbon fairy and I wave a magic wand. We can get rid of all the carbon in the atmosphere, take it down to two hundred fifty parts per million and I will ensure with my little magic wand that we do not go above two degrees of global warming. However, by waving my magic wand I will be interfering with the laws of physics not with people – they will be as selfish, they will be as desiring of status. The cars will get bigger, the houses will get bigger, the planes will fly all over the place but there will be no climate change. Would you ask the fairy to wave its magic wand?

About 2 people of the 200 raised their hands.

What are the solutions?  Call me a cynic but I have very little faith in political solutions. Nations are not suddenly going to forget their national interests. Political scientist Bruce Bueno de Mesquita’s description of the Kyoto Agreement is illustrative. Of course The USA didn’t sign up. Perfect! They became the scapegoat for all the world’s environmental ills. 137 countries did sign up – to do nothing! Of the remaining 38 countries the vast majority did not live up the terms of the agreement. Not even Japan, the host nation was able to meet its targets. Countries will only sign an agreement when they have little change to make. The Copenhagen summit also failed to produce a legally binding treaty and ended in mutual recriminations. It’s just so difficult to balance the right of newly industrialising countries, who have until now polluted very little with the most industrialised societies, who have been at it for nearly 300 years.

I probably believe more in techno-fixes but they also bring problems with them. Environmentalists like to pick their science. They agree with scientists about global warming but like to ignore other areas of science. In particular I am thinking of nuclear power and GM foods. They are obviously controversial but I feel that harnessing science is our best option for saving the planet. Nuclear power is necessary to meet our energy demands; I can see no alternative. Even radical environmentalists like George Monbiot are coming round to this view. It is not perfect but life is often about choosing the least bad option. Genetic engineering is the key to crop and land management. We need a new agricultural revolution.

I do believe global warming has taken place and will continue to take place. I think that we will have to live with it. What we really have to is avoid the more catastrophic outcomes. I think that given human creativity and ingenuity there are a lot of possible solutions that, just like in the time of Malthus, we cannot imagine now. We must avoid the temptation to indulge in short-term feel good solutions. It is said that ecology ought to be a compulsory subject for all economists but I feel that economics should be obligatory for economists.  We need to carefully analyse the costs and the benefits of any policy. This is our best hope.

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Football chants

February 7, 2010

The other day when love rat John Terry turned up at Turf Moor, Burnley fans greeted him with a chorus of:

Chelsea, wherever you may be.

Don’t leave your wife with John Terry.

I thought I would look on the internet to find other famous football chants. You may not know that there is actually a chant laureate. The winning entry by a Mr. Hurst was:

His name is Angel,

And he’s a show boy,

An Alice band keeps up his hair,

Juan Pablo from Col-om-bi-air

He came to Villa,

To be a winner,

He succeeded overnight,

Our very own Angel Delight

Just hear the Villa roar,

With each Juan Pablo score,

We’ve got him on a four-year deal,

But we still want more

At the Villa, at Aston Villa,

The greatest club west of Manila,

At the Villa, at Aston Vi-lla,

Football and passion

All ranges of fashion,

At the Villa, we have it all,

La-la, Aston Vil-la-la,

Aston Vil-la-la-la,

Vil-la-la-la

It prompted Andrew Motion, the former poet laureate, who chaired the judging panel, to claim that “we felt we were tapping into was a huge reservoir of folk poetry.” Judge for yourself:

Two Andy Gorams, there’s only two Andy Gorams Celtic fans on Andy Goram after it was revealed the keeper was diagnosed with schizophrenia.

He’s blond, he’s slick, his name’s a porno flick. Arsenal fans on Emmanuel Petit.

You should have banked with the Woolwich. Derby fans just after Northern Rock went bust – to the Newcastle fans.

He shoots he scores

He eats your labradors

Valid for any Korean player.

 Park, Park, wherever you may be,

You eat dogs in your home country,

Could be worse, could be Scouse,

Eating rats in your council house.

Continuing the Korean theme.

He’s bald!

He’s sh*t!

He gets a game when no-one’s fit!

Pascal Cygan, Pascal Cygan!

Arsenal fans having a go at one of their own.

Don’t blame it on the Biscan,

Don’t blame it on the Hamann,

Don’t blame it on the Finnan,

Blame it on Traoré

He just can’t, he just can’t, he just can’t control his feet.

Liverpool fans, with the help of The Jacksons,  see the humorous side of their own player Djimi Traoré, notorious for his own goals.

Sign on sign on

With hope in your heart

And you’ll never get a job, a job

You’ll never get a job

Sign on sign

Sung to Liverpool fans to the tune of You’ll Never Walk Alone.

 Deep fry yer pizzas, were gonna deep fry yer pizzas. Scotland fans when in Italy

Eduardo Oh Oh

Eduardo Oh Oh Oh Oh

He’s got such silky skills

He walks like Heather Mills.

A chant sung by Manchester United fans about Arsenal striker Eduardo

Gary Flitcroft’s magic,

He wears a magic hat,

And when he saw that lapdancer,

He said “I’m shagging that!”

Former Blackburn player Flitcroft got the terrace treatment after news of two affairs came out.

Neville Neville, your future’s immense,

Nevile Neville, you play in defence,

Neville Neville, like Jacko you’re bad,

Neville Neville, is the name of your dad.

Sung about Gary Neville to the tune of David Bowie’s Rebel, Rebel.


The words of Yogi Berra

February 7, 2010

 

The Hall of Fame baseball player Lawrence Peter “Yogi” Berra  played for the Yankess. He then went on to to become one of only six managers to lead both American and National League teams to the World Series. He also has a tendency to mangle the English language. He is known as Mr. Malaprop. But I prefer how Joe Garagiola put it: “He doesn’t use the wrong words. He just puts words together in ways nobody else would ever do.” Here is a selection:

This is like deja vu all over again.

Nobody goes there anymore; it’s too crowded.

You can observe a lot just by watching.

I’d find the fellow who lost it, and, if he was poor, I’d return it. — When asked what he would do if he found a million dollars.

Think! How the hell are you gonna think and hit at the same time?

You’ve got to be very careful if you don’t know where you’re going, because you might not get there.

I knew I was going to take the wrong train, so I left early.

If you can’t imitate him, don’t copy him.

You better cut the pizza in four pieces because I’m not hungry enough to eat six.

Baseball is 90% mental — the other half is physical.

It was impossible to get a conversation going; everybody was talking too much.

Do you mean now? — When asked for the time.

It ain’t the heat; it’s the humility.

I didn’t really say everything I said.

Half the lies they tell about me aren’t true.

I’m not going to buy my kids an encyclopedia. Let them walk to school like I did.

It ain’t over till it’s over.

He hits from both sides of the plate. He’s amphibious.

It gets late early out there.


My media week 06/02/10

February 7, 2010

Here are a couple of features on banking:

Many of you are probably with John Lanchester, who did a famous piece about finavce in the London Review of Books a few years ago now he has a book called Whoops  with a cast of characters, which includes “banksters, snoozing regulators, complacent politicians, predatory lenders, credit-drunk spendthrifts, and innocent bystanders” This week Lanchester was at the RSA talking about his book.

And BBC’s Analysis programme looked at the idea of separating casino and deposit banking with contributions from Niall Ferguson, Nigel Lawson and John Kay. There is also a transcript. This is a strange metaphor since casinos tend to be very solid businesses.

Baggini’s Philosophy Monthly looks at the debate surrounding the growth of the well-being agenda, and talks about evolution with the winner of the Lakatos prize for the philosophy of Science, Samir Okasha.

The Daily Mash had this Cab Drivers Install Signs Confirming They Speak Racist