River Wissey Lovell Fuller


October 2009

Ron returns to his theme of Global warming and takes a swipe at a few other topics of interest

Global Warming?

The media and politicians continue to bombard us with the tales of looming disasters associated with climate change. Rising sea levels, droughts with failing crops, storms, floods and disappearing ice caps. At the time of writing I heard on the TV that someone who should know was prophesying that sea level could rise by one metre by 2051, just 42 years from now. Best estimates at the moment are that sea level is rising by about 2mm/year, that is a small increase in the average rate at which it has been rising for the last 100years. At that rate it will take 500 years for the level to rise by one metre. Such a step change that was being suggested in the rate is just not believable.

Something very strange seems to be occurring. As reported earlier this year, global temperatures have been falling slowly over the last ten years, current evidence is that 2009 will see a further fall. I await the final figure with interest. As far as the UK is concerned I believe that this summer has been the 87th warmest since records began in 1659, hardly strong evidence of global warming.

According to the Nansen Environmental Sensing Centre in Bergen, Norway, the Arctic sea ice at its minimum this year covered 5.0 million square kilometres, this is greater than last year which, in turn was greater than 2007 when the area of sea ice was 3.8 million sq km. The minimum area of sea ice in 2009 was over 30% greater than in 2007. I am aware that some are talking of contradictory evidence, thinning ice, vanishing glaciers etc but it certainly does seem as though the possibility of arctic ice disappearing in the summer months is receding at the moment.

There was clear evidence of global warming in the final decades of last century, temperatures reached a peak in 1998/1999. This was blamed on the presence of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, primarily carbon dioxide generated by human activity. Over the last ten years, however, carbon dioxide levels have continued to increase but temperatures have been falling. I think it is time that some explanation was offered as to why this is so. Somehow Global Warming seems to have become something of a 'faith', believers shut their eyes to any contradictory evidence. Carbon dioxide concentrations have increased by more than 30% over the last 100years or so. Nevertheless current concentrations are still only of the order of 0.031% and I have difficulty in accepting that an increase in such low levels is capable of producing a major warming effect. I do recognise, however, that if we go on pumping CO2 into the atmosphere it will eventually produce significant warming but I do believe that the whole problem has been greatly hyped and exaggerated. Needless to say I am not alone in this view. A group of leading scientists recently sent a jointly signed letter to President Obama expressing similar views.

I am very angry

Many people have suffered very badly as a result of this recession. Young people are unable to get jobs, quite a few people have lost their jobs and some have even lost their homes. A few lost so much money that they committed suicide. The public purse is very depleted and seriously in debt. We will all suffer one way or another with high taxes and reduced public services. It is going to take a long time before we are able to get out of this hole yet those responsible for the whole mess are not suffering at all, in fact they are going on almost exactly as they did before. They are refusing to agree that they should not reward themselves with huge bonuses and they arrogantly insist that they are so important to our national economy that the bonuses are justified and that if they don't get them they will go and work overseas. I do not believe that anyone is indispensable and I have no doubt that there is equal talent waiting in the wings, so let them go.

The government has so far shied away from taking action against these greedy city folk. The G20 heads of government are discussing possible action but agreement seems unlikely, The British and Americans are most likely to object to limiting the size of individual bonuses, they remain totally wedded to liberal capitalism, the Germans and the French show more sense. Lord Turner, head of the Financial Services Authority did propose an international tax on financial trading in order to cut the profits, thereby restricting the money available for bonuses, a good idea but difficult to implement. He also went so far as to say that much of the trading carried out in the City brought no social benefit, something that many of us have said before, but it is significant that the head of he FSA, a man with considerable experience in the City, should say it.

I am not totally convinced that the City trading is as good for the economy as is claimed either. We are told that they bring billions to the exchequer, but how many hundreds of billions has the exchequer had to pay to bail them out? What has been the net input?

It is also very debatable how much real wealth that they do generate, it seems to me that they are just playing with money generated by others. Where does the money come from that goes into the coffers of these multi-millionaires? Surely it must have come from the pockets of others. What benefit do most people get from these multi-millionaires? Arguments that their wealth trickles down are very dubious, we have seen the gap between the rich and the rest getting progressively wider over many years.

The whole situation demonstrates a failure by our politicians and the failure of unfettered capitalism.

Car Scrappage Scheme

The government seems to be quite pleased with the success of the scrappage scheme. It seems to be helping to achieve the main aim of stimulating new car sales. Unfortunately there are several aspects of the scheme that are cause for concern:

The majority of new cars currently being bought are imported small cars so, whilst there has been some stimulation of the British industry much of the stimulation is for the foreign motor industries. Another worrying aspect is that it is encouraging the scrapping of perfectly viable cars. For some reason the government insisted that cars scrapped under the scheme should have a current MoT certificate so, rather than getting rid of useless old bangers, we are sending serviceable vehicles for scrap unnecessarily. This must have consequences in relation to ecological considerations. Only a proportion of the scrap car is recyclable and every new car that replaces a scrapped one uses a considerable amount of energy and material resources in the manufacturing process. Finally, and most importantly from my point of view as a classic car enthusiast, the scheme has resulted in a number of very old cars being crushed that could have been saved. The Americans, who proposed the scheme in the first place, were wise enough to limit the scheme to cars of no more than 25 years old, thereby ensuring that no classic or potentially classic cars get crushed because of the scheme. Why our government did not follow the Americans in this respect is a mystery, they seem to follow the Americans in almost every other way.

University Places

We have seen the usual increase in the number of high grades at A level. I have complained before about the way in which A levels have been steadily devalued, it is a great shame for the youngsters who work so hard. The consequence of so many high grades is an excess of students seeking university places and increased difficulty for the university in differentiating between applicants. The demand by students for university places is partly fuelled by government urging and government propaganda. The ministers have justified their aim to produce so many graduates, and the imposition of fees supported by student loans, by claiming that, in a working lifetime, a graduate will, on average, earn so many tens of thousands more than a non-graduate. On past experience that may be true, but that experience is based on graduates that have had a lifetime of earning and who would have graduated thirty or more years ago, in those days the percentage of workforce that were graduates was probably no more than 12%. In the 1950s the proportion was less than 5%. No doubt those graduates from those days benefited considerably from their degrees, but when 40% or more of the population are graduates can we expect the same situation to prevail? No doubt those who study some subjects such as medicine, engineering and science will continue to benefit through their working life, but will the same apply to those who study less vocational courses or any of those numerous mickey mouse courses that have emerged in the last twenty years? Unfortunately it may not be just that the promise of higher earnings does not come to pass, but these students will be likely to start their working life with a debt of around £20,000.


As a non-smoker I do have some sympathy with smokers, in recent years they have been made to feel like pariahs in society. Most are addicts and, as addicts, it is very difficult for them to stop, I know, I did manage to do it many years ago. For some I believe that it is beyond their ability to face the torment without help. It should be recognised that some smokers will never stop. Nowadays smokers are unable to indulge their habit with a drink in comfort and you can see them sitting outside the pubs, often in the cold and invariably on hard seats. Some, however, have given up their pub and now drink and smoke at home and many pubs are closing as a consequence. There can be little doubt that smoking is bad for one's health but there are many smokers that do live to quite a good age and the evidence of the risks of passive smoking is somewhat tenuous. Why could we not have had some pubs that were for smokers, non-smokers could use them, or not.

It is often said that smokers are a burden on the NHS and there have been suggestions that they should be refused treatment for smoking induced illnesses, at least until they have stopped smoking. Whilst it is no justification for cutting back on anti-smoking advertising, it should be remembered that smokers contribute over £10bn pounds to the exchequer whereas it is estimated that smokers only place an additional cost on the NHS of £1.4bn. If we can stop all people smoking, a situation that we might hope will be achieved eventually, the NHS will find it even more difficult to source the necessary funding. Similar arguments might be put in relation to alcohol, but it is difficult to see any mitigating arguments in relation to the effect of obesity on the NHS.


So we now know that the UK population exceeds 61,000,000. In my view that is bad news, I think that parts of our island are already too overcrowded. Even more depressing I find is that we have a fairly high birth rate and one in four births are to the ethnic minority. I understand that ethnic minorities already account for more than 10% of our population and it is clear that we are already set to reach at least 25%. The implication of their higher birth rate than the indigenous UK population is that, if they continue to maintain that higher birth rate, they will continue to increase their proportion of the population. Ultimately, of course, if the ratios were to go on in the same way, they would become the majority, but I accept that is a lot of 'ifs'. The prospect may not worry some, but it is something that I would not like to see. It is further evidence, in my view, that government policy towards immigration has been wrong.


We all are aware that there is greater inequality in British society but it is sometimes difficult to produce numerical examples. One set of figures that I came across recently clearly demonstrates the situation in relation to pensioners. In 1978 MPs were paid £6897 p.a. and the state pension was £1014 p.a. In 2009 MPs receive £64766 and the state pension is £4953. If the state pension had kept in line with MPs salaries the state pension would be £9500, and if MPs salaries had kept in line with inflation they would receive £35000. I do not believe that this example is in any way exceptional because, whilst MPs are quite well paid, I do not think that they are particularly well paid in comparison with company Chief Executives and city traders or even junior executives. There are many professions and occupations where the comparison with the state pension would have been even more striking.


James Murdoch recently took the opportunity to attack the BBC describing it as a state controlled broadcaster that was dominating the British media. Others have taken up the cry, complaining about the way in which the BBC has expanded and the cost of the licence. I think that the BBC is rather vulnerable; they have overpaid their executives and leading entertainers; they have used their income to enable them to establish a national network of local radios; they have given us four main TV channels as well as a news channel, C-Beebies et al: Freeview and Freesat and they are making increasing use of the Web with I-player etc. It seems that the BBC is awre of the criticisms and has initiated a procedure to put its house in order.

It is arguable that local radio could be left to commercial radio, it is debatable that we need four BBC channels. There is no doubt in my mind that they have spread themselves too thinly with the result that the quality of their TV programmes has deteriorated. I do not see why the BBC should feel the need to chase audience figures quite so vigorously. Commercial TV can better provide some of the popular light programmes, especially those with audience participation. Despite the BBC's vulnerability to criticism, James Murdoch is wrong, the BBC is not a state controlled organisation, it is governed by a Trust that is wholly independent of the state. James Murdoch is also very wrong to claim that the only way to guarantee unbiased news is through the profit motive. It is quite incredible that he, of all people should say this, his organisation, led by his father, and motivated by profit, has endeavoured to manipulate people and governments through their news organisation. The BBC news programmes are the gold standard and recognised as such throughout the world, that is not something that you can say about The Sun or the News of the World.

I do think that the BBC could reduce the number of TV channels, it could withdraw from some of the local radio work and it could pay less to those high earners. In this way I would hope it could provide more high quality programmes without any further increases in the licence fee. I would not like to see some of the TV licence fee directed towards commercial television. If the BBC is guilty of dumbing down its output through spreading itself too thinly, the commercial sector is far more guilty. We have far too many channels producing large amounts of poor quality programmes and far too many channels chasing a limited amount of advertising revenue. This is another consequence of Mrs Thatcher's idealistic deregulation. I am sure that the commercial sector could improve the quality of its output by reducing the number of channels without casting greedy eyes towards the BBC licence fee. The BBC is a great British institution and needs to be safeguarded from the constant attacks by those with a vested interest in seeing its position undermined.

Ron Watts

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