Extinction Rebellion Whatever one’s views on the accuracy of climate predictions, there is no denying that it is wise to reduce our emissions of potential warming gases, in particular carbon dioxide. The protest by the ‘rebellion’ was intended to generate more government action and public support for increased efforts to cut CO2 output. Public sympathy was already there but public support for new laws that could impinge on their lives in a way that would inconvenience them, cost more and make their lives less comfortable, may be harder to come by. In the sense that the protest made people more aware of the urgency it could be seen as a success and a praiseworthy scheme. The demand that they were making, that emissions should be reduced to zero in five years, was quite ridiculous, however, and undermined their credibility. To reduce emissions to zero would require all cars, trucks, buses, tractors and trains to be electric. All homes and buildings would have to be heated by electricity and/or solar power. All this electricity would have to be generated by ‘clean’ means, renewables and nuclear. There could be no aeroplanes, it is difficult to even imagine electric aeroplanes, the one possibility would be for hydrogen fuel, that would be technically feasible but it would require specially designed aircraft and I’m not sure that I would want to fly in one, perhaps we will go back to airships. Imports and exports would be difficult without ships, hydrogen fuelled ships are, of course, another possibility, but suitable ships would need to be built. Vehicles could use hydrogen fuel, perhaps in conjunction with fuel cells, but it begs the question of where does all the hydrogen come from. All the existing diesel, cars, trucks etc would have to be scrapped, others would have to be extensively modified. Much of industry would be seriously affected if all heat for processes had to be provided by electricity. To do everything necessary within five years is clearly impossible. Not only were the demands of the rebels ridiculous but one has to ask if it was necessary to block the roads for such a long time, they had already made their point quite forcibly. Any longer could have alienated the very people that they wanted to support them. Nevertheless, they certainly did succeed in making the public more aware and they forced our politicians to declare a ‘climate emergency’ as well as stating a new aim of zero emissions by 2050. Thirty years does sound a little more feasible but still a very tall order. Truth, I would guess, is that the politicians recognised the underlying support for the rebels and knew that they had to make some response, but their response does not amount to any change of plan. The government had already taken some firm action in introducing a law to prevent the manufacture of fossil fuelled cars after 2030, and had set a target of cutting UK CO2 emissions by 80% of the 1990 amount by 2050. That’s not so very different from the new target of zero by 2050. If they manage the 80% figure that will be an amazing achievement. Government plans were already close to what the rebels could seriously hope for. In terms of the impact that the rebels had on government action, It was largely a waste of time. In my view the rebels went too far, blocking the roads for too long and inconveniencing too many people. It would have been more justified if the UK was a major contributor to global emissions of CO2. In fact, my approximate sums using published statistics suggests that UK contributes 1.25% of total global emissions of CO2, if we cut our emissions to zero it would make little or no difference to the climate change threat. UK emissions per capita are already lower than most developed nations and almost half of the US figure, add the size of the US population and one can see how insignificant our emissions are in comparison. If the rebels really want to do something useful they should go and block the roads in New York or Delhi. In the UK they were pushing against an open door. If reducing the emissions to zero within five years is impossible from a practical standpoint, think of the political difficulties. Imagine the reaction if the government declared that in six moths time a ban will be introduced on the use of fossil fuelled vehicles for anything other than essential use, essential users will be required to apply to the Ministry of Climate for their ration coupons. This ration will be phased out to zero by 2025. Similarly individuals and goods intended for overseas and internal flights will require prior permission from the Ministry, all flights will be banned after 2025. The use of oil, coal and gas for heating purposes will be prohibited after 2025. Goods exported or imported using fossil fuelled ships will be subject to a climate levy of 20% rising to 10,000% by the end of 2025. The use of fossil fuelled ships after 2025 will be prohibited. Of course, for this to be fully effective all the politicians in all the world will need to have introduced similar rules. It all seems ridiculous but, if, as the rebels and others claim, we need to cut emissions drastically within 12years to avoid a runaway global warming due to the release of methane gas and reduced ability of the oceans to absorb CO2, then I fear we are doomed because I cannot see a world where Donald Trump is refusing to take any action and Russia’s economy is so dependent on selling gas, ever achieving the cuts claimed to be necessary in the required time span.. Maybe plans to extract CO2 from the atmosphere can be made to work, but if it cannot be made to work on a global scale before the world has gone past the ‘tipping point’ it could be too late. Let us hope the experts have erred well on the side of caution.
Social Inequality On more than one occasion I have had a rant in these columns about the inequalities that exist in this country. Theresa May was well aware of the injustice of it and saw the political advantage at the time of the election of promising to tackle the “burning injustice” of social inequality, of course it was just words. The Social Mobility Commission recently produced its sixth state of the nation report. The report was the first of the new members of the Commission that were appointed after the mass resignation of the members last year due to the lack of progress by the government. The conclusion revealed in the report were; Inequality is “entrenched from birth to work” in UK society. Children from well-off backgrounds are overwhelmingly more likely to obtain top jobs than their working-class peers. Social mobility is stagnant’ The number of children in poverty has increased by half a million since 2012. When those from a working-class background succeeded in entering the professions their earnings were 17% lower than those from well off backgrounds. Not surprisingly working-class women in professional jobs earned 35% less than men from better off backgrounds.
The Commission called on the government to take urgent action to close the privilege gap. They called for additional funding for older teenagers in education and free childcare for low income families. I wonder how long it will be before the new commissioners resign over frustration following their inability to get any action that will actually have some impact on social inequality in this country. The class structure that bedevils British society seems to be able to resist all outcries of injustice. I wonder why?
Consent to Examine Social Media and Phone Records The police are asking victims of alleged rape to give this consent with the threat that failure to do so could result in no charges being brought against the alleged rapist, this, they claim is necessary in order to avoid subsequent collapse of a prosecution when previously undisclosed private exchanges are introduced by the defence. I am forced to ask how does this undisclosed evidence arise if the victim has not given their consent? If it is evidence held by the accused that he fails to disclose until the trial is in progress then the police should be demanding to see his social media and phone records in advance. To ask the woman to allow her private communications, which might include private photographs and embarrassing words that have nothing to do with the rape, to be inspected by the police and lawyers is an intolerable invasion of privacy. As some women have protested, it is like a strip search. The woman has to suffer the prospect of policemen sniggering amongst themselves, and the strong possibility would exist that she is acquainted with a member of the local police. Every time thereafter that she passed a local policeman in the street she would blush at the thought. It may be true that only a very limited number of police and CPS lawyers might be permitted to examine her records, but she will be left with the thought that her personal life has gone viral. It is totally unacceptable. Rapes were successfully prosecuted before there was social media. If the idea of demanding to see the accuser’s records is to seek evidence that the woman has a record of malevolent mendacity there must be witnesses that could testify to that effect. If the idea is to undermine the character of the accuser by producing evidence of promiscuity then that is grossly unfair, even if the woman is a known prostitute she might still have been raped. If the object is to demonstrate previous consensual relationships that is equally unfair, whatever the history - ‘no means no’. Of course, there is need to ensure, as far as one can, that the accuser is honest and truthful. It seems to me that the CPS go overboard in their efforts in this respect, I was amazed to learn that only 2% of rape accusations actually result in a charge by the police. I find it very hard to believe that 98% of women who allege rape are lying. We know that it is difficult to prove rape but such a low percentage is very worrying. It must be difficult for a woman to go through the embarrassment and discomfort of bringing a rape accusation and there is no doubt that many must be deterred despite their anger and sense of injustice, with that in mind one questions just what percentage of actual rapes result in a charge, the odds are stacked very highly in favour of the rapist. He must know that it is unlikely the victim will actually report him and he has the consolation that even if she does it is 50 to one against him being charged. It doesn’t stop there, although he may be charged, he is not necessarily going to be convicted. Ministry of Justice and Home Office research suggest that there are approximately 100,000 rapes a year and 1,000 convictions. What is our justice system saying to men? ‘Alright lads don’t worry there’s not much chance you’ll get into trouble.’ Although the foregoing refers to rape of women it is important to remember that there are instances of men being raped, but the numbers are far fewer, of course.