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Archive for the ‘Climate change’ Category

Thursday
Jun 30,2011

The BBC is reporting that:

“Both reactors at the Torness nuclear power station have been shut down after huge numbers of jellyfish were found in the sea water entering the plant.”

The report continues:

“It is not known why there are so many jellyfish in the area.

Water temperatures along the east coast of Scotland have been relatively normal, but it is thought higher than average temperatures elsewhere in the North Sea may be a factor.

Operations at nuclear power plants in Japan have been disrupted by large numbers of jellyfish in recent years.”

I am sure many people will be disturbed by the idea of plagues of jellyfish around our shores, but when they start clogging up the inflow of cooling water into nuclear power stations it is time to get worried.

Climate change is real.  It is happening and some of its effects are not what you might expect.

Monday
Jun 13,2011

It is estimated that in twenty-five years time two-thirds of the world’s population will live in areas of significant water stress and shortage.  This will be one of the factors – along with climate change, rising sea level and the loss of arable land – that will drive major population migration and feed into global insecurity.

A year ago there were reports that East African nations were struggling to contain an escalating crisis over control of the waters of the river Nile.  According to the Guardian:

“The nine countries through which the world’s longest river flows have long been at loggerheads over access to the vital waters, which the British colonial powers effectively handed wholesale to Egypt in a 1929 agreement.

Egypt has always insisted on jealously guarding its historic rights to the 55.5bn cubic metres of water that it takes from the river each year and has vetoed neighbouring countries’ rights to build dams or irrigation projects upstream which might affect the river’s flow.”

Now, India has been accused of “water terrorism” against Pakistan:

“India is rapidly moving towards its target of making Pakistan totally barren by building dams on three major rivers including Chenab, Jhelum and Indus flowing into Pakistan from the Indian side of the border. These dams are being built in blatant violation of international laws and Indus Water Treaty singed between the two countries to ensure equitable distribution of water resources. Pakistan has, long been challenging these moves of the Indian authorities and the issue had been referred to international arbitration on various occasions. Both Islamabad and New Delhi have held several rounds of talks to resolve the matter but no tangible results could be achieved. Realising the nefarious designs of the Indian leadership, political parties in Pakistan term New Delhi actions as ‘water terrorism’. Recent talks on Baglihar Dam between the two sides remained unfruitful and Pakistan is understood to have decided to seek international arbitration once again to secure its share of the water.
Yesterday, a report published in all national newspapers has raised alarm bell when an Indian engineer, Jee Parbharkar, speaking at a seminar organised by The Federation of Association of South and Central Asian Countries (FIESCA) in Nepal, said if all on-going dam projects on rivers originating from Kashmir were completed in time, India would be in a position to stop water flow to Pakistan completely by 2020. He further claimed that by 2020, India would be producing such a quantity of hydel power that it would be able to export it to neighbouring countries including Pakistan. Pakistani delegate to the seminar, Sultan Mahmood said that India has already started producing electricity from four big and 16 small dams while the work on third dam is in full swing near Kargal Valley. In this dam, 45 per cent of Indus water would be diverted to its reservoir through a tunnel.
Such a situation is not acceptable under any circumstances and it is about time that our leadership takes the matter seriously and move all international forums available to raise this sensitive issue. Indifference of concerned authorities had already damaged Pakistan’s cause and if nothing is done fast, Pakistan soon would be a barren state.”

Monday
May 16,2011

No doubt the constitutional experts know the answer to this …

Obviously, this is all hypothetical.  But just suppose a LibDem minister was accused – plausibly – of trying to pervert the course of justice, who would make the decision that they could no longer continue as a member of the Government?  Would it be the Prime Minister or would he have to ask the Deputy Prime Minister’s permission?

As I say, I’m just asking  ……..

Wednesday
Jan 12,2011

In House of Lords Question Time earlier today Baroness Neville-Jones, the Minister of State for Security, was asked what discussions the Government have had with the police about the use of undercover operations in relation to environmental protest groups.  Her initial answer was:

“My Lords, decisions on intelligence gathering are operational matters for chief officers working within the relevant legal framework. The Government do not discuss with the police the use of undercover operations in relation to environmental protest groups. The Home Office has spoken to Nottinghamshire Police about the next steps in this case, which has been referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission. It is talking to ACPO and HMIC about which body is in the best position to undertake a review of the wider lessons to be learnt.”

Later, however, I asked:

“Can the noble Baroness confirm that all such operations would require RIPA authorisation, and what level of authorisation is required? Can she also tell us whether there is an expectation that such operations would be subject to regular internal review at a senior level regarding whether they were still appropriate and proportionate in the light of circumstances?”

This elicited the following response:

“RIPA—the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act—specifies how that should be done. The authorisation has to be by a senior officer. There has to be a regular instruction and record kept and there are various other procedures in the Act which are designed to manage and control the operation. I do not think that it is the framework that is lacking.”

So the message was clear: the Government sees no need to change the rules governing such operations.

Footnote:

It is interesting how Baroness Neville-Jones seems to try the patience of the House.  The answer to another supplementary question was interrupted by cries – from the Government benches – of  “Too long”.  This was recorded by Hansard as follows:

Baroness Neville-Jones: My noble and learned friend makes a very important point. As I mentioned, governance in this area is a very important element. I must say that the police agree. The chief constable of West Midlands himself has said that the line is not to be crossed between infiltration to gather intelligence and the agent provocateur. He is quite right.

As to the codes of practice, the legal framework is provided for by regulations contained in the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act. There is also a code of conduct and practice, which has been published by the Home Office under the previous Government, on how covert human intelligence sources should operate. The independent Office of Surveillance Commissioners has also provided procedural and interpretational advice.

Noble Lords: Too long!

Baroness Neville-Jones: I am telling the House what I think that it would like to know: what the governance arrangements are.”

This follows an earlier incident on 21st December when the House was so dissatisfied with her answer to points made in debate that it agreed by 156 votes to 112 to adjourn “to allow the noble Baroness the Minister to seek further advice so that the House may be allowed to hear the response that she should have given to noble Lords”

Tuesday
Jan 11,2011

Lord Marland, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, had a moment of honesty this afternoon in Lords’ Question Time.

He had been asked by Lord Tony Berkeley about the financial impact on consumers of the changes proposed to the United Kingdom’s private electricity networks and survived six supplementaries, when he was finally floored by Lord Dale Campbell-Savours

Here is the exchange:

“Lord Campbell-Savours: My Lords, will the Minister ask his officials to reopen the file on rising block tariffs and the benefits that that would bring to consumers?

Lord Marland: I do enjoy these questions, my Lords. I have never been the smartest tool in the box—

Noble Lords: No!

Lord Marland: Thank you. I appreciate the response from the Opposition Benches—I fished for that compliment beautifully. The answer is no. [Laughter.]”

Saturday
Aug 21,2010

The BBC reports today on the loading of the first nuclear fuel at the Bushehr reactor in Iran tell us that the international community can be reassured on the basis that (1) the nuclear fuel rods are all being supplied by Russia and (2) the spent rods and waste will go back to Russia.

At the risk of sounding like an unreconstructed cold warrior, I have to confess to not finding this at all reassuring.

Why does Russia want to do this and what do they expect to get out of it?

And as for the waste, the work I have been doing in recent months on the safeguards (or lack of them) at reprocessing plants hardly makes any of this sound any better.

Please somebody persuade me that this is good news ….

Friday
Jul 30,2010

I have already explained that I really don’t mind.

However, just in case you really really want to cast your vote for this blog in the Total Politics annual beauty parade, this is what you have to do:

The rules are:
1. You must vote for your ten favourite blogs and rank them from 1 (your favourite) to 10 (your tenth favourite).
2. Your votes must be ranked from 1 to 10. Any votes which do not have rankings will not be counted.
3. You MUST include at least FIVE blogs in your list, but please list ten if you can. If you include fewer than five, your vote will not count.
4. Email your vote to toptenblogs@totalpolitics.com
5. Only vote once.
6. Only blogs based in the UK, run by UK residents or based on UK politics are eligible. No blog will be excluded from voting.
7. Anonymous votes left in the comments will not count. You must give a name.
8. All votes must be received by midnight on 31 July 2010. Any votes received after that date will not count.

So I’m not asking you to do it, but I really won’t mind if you do……

Thursday
Jul 22,2010

I have already explained that I really don’t mind.

However, just in case you really really want to cast your vote for this blog in the Total Politics annual beauty parade, this is what you have to do:

The rules are:
1. You must vote for your ten favourite blogs and rank them from 1 (your favourite) to 10 (your tenth favourite).
2. Your votes must be ranked from 1 to 10. Any votes which do not have rankings will not be counted.
3. You MUST include at least FIVE blogs in your list, but please list ten if you can. If you include fewer than five, your vote will not count.
4. Email your vote to
toptenblogs@totalpolitics.com
5. Only vote once.
6. Only blogs based in the UK, run by UK residents or based on UK politics are eligible. No blog will be excluded from voting.
7. Anonymous votes left in the comments will not count. You must give a name.
8. All votes must be received by midnight on 31 July 2010. Any votes received after that date will not count.

So I’m not asking you to do it, but I really won’t mind if you do……

Wednesday
Jul 7,2010

Val Shawcross AM, the Labour Group’s transport spokesperson on the London Assembly, has put forward an eminently sensible response to the Mayor of London’s interminable consultation on his favoured pet scheme of the abolition of the Western half of the Congestion Charge Zone.  She has proposed that the current Zone be split into two separate Zones – each with their own charge.

Her proposal would turn the western extension into a separate zone with its own rules, operating times and charging structure.  West London residents would not have to pay to drive in the new zone but would lose the discount they currently enjoy for driving into central London.

She quotes Transport for London figures that show that the Mayor’s proposals would produce a 15 per cent increase in traffic levels as a direct consequence of removing the western extension zone and up to £70m of revenue lost every year.

When Mayor Ken Livingstone first proposed extending the Congestion Charge Zone to the West, I tried to persuade him to create two separate Zones then, so it is good to see Val Shawcross reviving the idea now.

It always seemed barmy to me to allow the residents of Kensington and Chelsea – some of whom are extremely wealthy – to drive in the original Congestion Charge Zone with a residents’ discount when they had previously had to pay the full Congestion Charge.  It was in effect a subsidy to the already well-off.  And, as I suggested to the then Mayor, hardly an egalitarian thing to do.

The present Mayor now wants to stop the residents of the Western Zone getting this subsidy.  I would support that if it were not for the loss of revenue that will make TfL’s budget problems even more difficult.

Val Shawcross is now offering the sensible way forward: the well-off residents in K&C etc will only get a resident’s discount when they drive in their own part of the Zone, but would have to  pay the normal Congestion Charge when they drive in the other part of the Zone.

So her proposal is fairer, generates a lot more revenue for TfL to invest in the capital’s transport system, and would also further reduce congestion and improve air quality.

It is such a good idea, maybe the current Mayor will pinch it.

Monday
Jul 5,2010

I am not looking for any recognition, as you know these things don’t matter to me at all and I am profoundly disinterested in where this blog comes in the annual Total Politics ranking of political blogs, so I really am not asking for you to vote for me or my blog ……..

but ……..

should you be so inclined (and I repeat I really, really don’t mind one way or the other), this is what you have to do:

The rules are:
1. You must vote for your ten favourite blogs and rank them from 1 (your favourite) to 10 (your tenth favourite).
2. Your votes must be ranked from 1 to 10. Any votes which do not have rankings will not be counted.
3. You MUST include at least FIVE blogs in your list, but please list ten if you can. If you include fewer than five, your vote will not count.
4. Email your vote to toptenblogs@totalpolitics.com
5. Only vote once.
6. Only blogs based in the UK, run by UK residents or based on UK politics are eligible. No blog will be excluded from voting.
7. Anonymous votes left in the comments will not count. You must give a name.
8. All votes must be received by midnight on 31 July 2010. Any votes received after that date will not count.

So I’m not asking you to do it, but I really won’t mind if you do……