In an interview with music magazine, Blender, Alicia Keys has revealed what we'd been suspecting all along: gangsta rap is actually an elaborate
Sunday, 28 February 2010
Friday, 26 February 2010
It's a shit day when you think it might be better to be French, but reading today's Evening Standard, that's the conclusion I've drawn. Issues of race and integration continue to cloud daily news coverage, as Britain's all-embracing approach to 'multiculturalism', and discriminatory attitude to racial equality, lurches towards an inevitable disintegration of common sense.
First of all there was the good news:
Police Commander and President of the National Black Police Association, Ali Dizaei, was today found guilty, by a jury, of 'misconduct in public office' and 'perverting the course of justice'. As a result he has been sentenced to two years in prison. This might sound like bad news, but should he have been found not guilty, his claims that he had been singled out because of his colour, would have been to some degree vindicated. This would have been bad news.
On his arrest, the National Black Police Association (NBPA), released a statement which declared: "It is outrageous that the CPS [Criminal Prosecution Service], for the second time in four years, has commenced prosecution against the president of the National Black Police Association, Commander Ali Dizaei. This has not happened to any other senior police officer in the history of the MPS [Metropolitan Police Service] or the CPS." In response to the accusations levelled against Dizaei, the NBPA called for black Londoners to boycott recruitment for the Metropolitan Police and Dizaei himself launched a case of racial discrimination against the force.
The NBPA and Commander Dizaei now both look rather silly, while the Metropolitan Police Service has been vindicated in its assertion that Ali Dizaei was not fit to wear a uniform. Dizaei was not accused because he was black, he was accused because he was guilty; the fact that a jury has confirmed this is a blow to those who would seek to falsely and frequently claim 'racial discrimination' in an attempt to silence their critics.
The second piece of good news comes in the form of Adam Afriyie, Conservative MP for Windsor. He also happens to be black, but as he points out, this isn't important. Having grown up on a council estate in Peckham, he is now a multi-millionaire, as well as the Shadow Science Minister. When questioned about why he is reluctant to discuss his position as the Tory's first black MP, he replies: 'I consider myself post-racial...I don't see myself as a black man. I refuse to be defined by my colour or pigeon-holed in that way'. Discussing the 12 black and Asian candidates who are standing for the Tories, in winnable seats, at the next election, he says: 'If my role has been to encourage that trend, then I'm proud to have played a part. But it's the merits of the candidates that count, not their colour. If there'd been all-black shortlists, I'd never have stood'.
Adam Afriyie MP is everything Ali Dizaei is not. Where Ali Dizaei defines himself by his colour, choosing to play the race card in answer to his critics, Adam Afriyie transcends his, proving what can be achieved by anyone of any colour in this country.
Afriyie also attacks the notion that black people should warrant special treatment; his assertion that "If there'd been all-black shortlists, I'd never have stood", strikes at the heart of the 'Diversity agenda' which infects this country. In an echo of George Orwell's famous critique of communism, that "all animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others", the establishment has declared that equality is paramount, therefore we must discriminate in favour of black people, or women, or those of a minority sexual persuasion etc. You are not first a person, judged on merit. No. You are first a black man; then a person judged on merit. Such a notion is not only criminal, it is insulting to those who who would wish to transcend the pigment of their skin and be judged as a person, along with all other people. The Diversity agenda perversely acts to reinforce racism, encouraging a person's colour to be considered as an important and note-worthy factor.
Those, like Afriyie, who refuse to be defined by race, are the true heroes of the struggle for equality. Dizaei's proven guilt is a blow for all those who believe a man's colour should render him immune from legitimate criticism.
Now onto the bad news.
Sir Mota Singh QC, Britain's first Asian judge (now retired), has said in an interview with BBC Asian Network that he believes Sikh children should be allowed to wear their ceremonial daggers to school. He argues that it is their religious right. The ridiculousness of this statement is undermined only by the sad fact that the British press have considered it to carry enough weight to bother publishing it. Unfortunately this is actually a pressing issue. Last year a Sikh boy was withdrawn from a school in Barnet because the school had banned him from carrying his kirpan (dagger).
In a similar vain, a bus company today 'had a word' with one of its Muslim drivers for pulling over to pray mid-journey. According to reports, 'The driver of the No 24 in Gospel Oak stopped without warning, left his cab and rolled out a jacket as an improvised prayer mat in the vehicle's aisle. Removing his shoes, he knelt to face Mecca and began chanting during a prayer session that held up the bus for more than five minutes. Passengers were unable to get on or off the vehicle'.
Now, if our society is going to continue in a smooth and workable fashion, some decisions must be taken. Do we live in a country where someone should be able to carry a knife to school or stop a bus mid-journey in order to fulfil their daily prayer quota, or do we not? It is no use continuing as we are, muddling through on a case-by-case basis; firm legislation needs to be put in place, to ensure that everyone knows what is acceptable and what is not.
It is not a case of suppressing freedom of religious expression; it is simply about ensuring that a set of laws are in place which allow us all to exist peacefully together. The 1905 French law on the Separation of the Churches and State states: 'The Republic neither recognizes, nor salaries, nor subsidizes any religion'. As such, all religious symbols are banned from the French state education system. There are no exceptions. After all, why should religion be elevated to a position of special dispensation from the laws which govern us lowly non-believers. Why is it any more legitimate for someone to claim they should be allowed to do such-and-such because their holy wad of paper tells them to, than it is for me to say I want to carry a gun because I've decided to. Ironically of course, that's exactly what's happened in America, where the right to bare arms has been virtually deified. The respect which religion is afforded is outrageous. Thankfully the Anglican church, in its typically English-tea-and-crumpets way, doesn't kick up a fuss about its supposed rights and status. It is Islam, Judaism, Catholicism, Sikhism, and perhaps to a lesser extent, Hinduism, which are the culprits here. The respect and special treatment which they demand for the largely imbecilic scribblings of their holy texts is the driving force behind a whole raft of human misery. To take one brief example, one of the principal factors in the ongoing dispute over Palestine and Israel, is the belief, by certain groups of Jews, that Abraham promised them the land around Hebron, in the West Bank. As a result of this perceived 'religious right', they are continuing to occupy the West Bank and expand their settlements, with an unashamed view to fully 'Jewifying' the area. For them, there is no room for debate, or discussion, or negotiation, or compromise. It has been promised to them, by God.
Thankfully, I don't live in Israel, so while the insanity there vaguely troubles me, I don't have to deal with it on a day-to-day basis. What I do have to deal with on a day-to-day basis, however, is catching the bus and one day sending my (possible) future children to school. I would like to board that bus in the knowledge that it will go from 'A' to 'B' without taking a lengthy detour down Prayer Mat Street. I would also like to send those possible future children to school safe in the knowledge that none of the other children are carrying knifes. Just a personal preference you know, maybe I'm fussy, I don't know. Anyway, it would seem to me, that the way to ensure the smooth running of our country is to establish a concrete set of laws which dictate what is acceptable and what is not. Religion should receive no dispensation. I personally believe in compulsory voting, an initiative which would undoubtedly be rejected by a minority of Muslims who consider democracy to contravene the word of God. Well I'm sorry, if you don't want to live in, and contribute to, a liberal democratic country, where homosexuality is legal, men and women are equal, and capital punishment is banned, then go and live in Saudi Arabia, under Shari'a law, where all your dreams will come true. I find the notion that someone would choose to live in a country whose laws contradict one's own dearly held beliefs, baffling in the extreme. If you can't accept it the way it is, then leave.
There is a widespread deception that we live in a multicultural society. We don't. We live in a plurality of mono-cultures, each of which fail to integrate or assimilate into the mainstream. Perhaps this is because there is no mainstream within which to assimilate. If our government is incapable of passing a law which outlaws the carrying of knives in public by those of a particular religious persuasion, then surely 'the mainstream' must be an incredibly impotent, fragmented, and worthless entity. We need a universal code by which we can all live, and as a democratic, liberal, and secular individual I believe that code should allow every citizen to go about their business without suffering the negative influences of other people's religion.
Perhaps it would surprise you to know that Trevor Phillips, head of the Commission for Racial Equality (he's also black, but that shouldn't matter), has called for the government to reject its support for multiculturalism, claiming it was out of date and legitimised "separateness" between communities, and instead should "assert a core of Britishness". When a newspaper described the Notting Hill Carnival as "the triumph of multiculturalism", Mr Phillips pointed out that "carnival can hardly be said to represent the everyday culture of most of London's communities." In response to this comment, Ken Livingston, then mayor of London, accused Trevor Phillips of trying to "move the race agenda away from a celebration of multiculturalism" and "pandering to the right" so much so that "soon he'll be joining the BNP" - which really just goes to show what a misguided fruitcake Ken Livingston is.
If the Commission for Racial Equality is arguing that the multicultural dream is falling flat on its face, then perhaps someone should sit up and take notice. The problem is, no one in power has got the backbone to stand up and say what needs to be said about our confused and disintegrating society, for fear of being labelled a foaming-at-the-mouth Nazi by some tool like Ken Livingston.
Mark Thomas spent a year trawling the country in an attempt to gauge the Nation's annoyances and aggravations. It worked like this: before a show, Mark asked everybody to hand in policy suggestions; he would then discuss them on stage, and through the complicated and exact process of 'who shouts loudest', the favourite policy of the night was selected. The result of this pilgrimage? The People's Manifesto. It consists of 50 policies which (possibly) represent the collective feelings of our island. The publisher of The People's Manifesto is offering the chance for one reader to take up the gauntlet laid down by the book; they are willing to pay for one reader to stand for Parliament in the next general election and run a campaign based on the ethos and ideals of The People's Manifesto. If you have the good fortune to be a member of said reader's prospective constituency, I urge you vote for them.
From the perfectly sensible to the slightly outlandish, here are a few of my favourite polices, not all of which made the cut, but which Mark nonetheless details in his introduction to The People's Manifesto.
- Noel Edmonds should be publicly beheaded, and his severed head placed in one of 22 identical sealed boxes.
- 4x4 drivers should be forced to drive everywhere off-road; even to Sainsbury's.
- The Olympics are too costly and will really cripple our economy for little return. Why not give them to the French?
- Everything in supermarkets should be stacked in alphabetical order.
- Stop the taxpayer subsidising the Murdoch empire and institute the Sky test on benefit claimants, so if you suck on the teat of Murdoch, no benefits for you.
- We should abolish all criminal laws in this country and replace them with two offences: being out of order; being bang out of order.
- Those in favour of ID cards should be banned from having curtains.
- We should adopt an opt-out system for organ donation.
- The Daily Mail should be forced to print on the front of every edition: 'This is a fictionalised account of the news and any resemblance to the truth is entirely coincidental'.
The people have spoken, and it would appear they are with brain.
Monday, 22 February 2010
Monday, 15 February 2010
Friday, 12 February 2010
The current state of maternity leave legislation in the UK is open to a culture of abuse. There is a sense that none of the major political parties are willing to address the issue, as any development which could be perceived as adverse risks alienating the female electorate.
As it stands, mothers-to-be are entitled to (amongst other things):
- 26 weeks 'ordinary' maternity leave regardless of how long they have been with their employer, after which they are entitled to return to the same job. This leave can begin 11 weeks before their expected week of childbirth.
- A further 26 weeks 'additional' maternity leave regardless of how long they have been with their employer, after which they are entitled to return to the same job, unless that’s not 'reasonably practicable', in which case the right is to return to an appropriate similar job.
- Out of this total of 52 weeks maternity leave, 39 weeks are paid, providing they have worked for their employer for 26 weeks by the 25th week of their pregnancy, i.e. they must have worked for the company for one whole week before they get pregnant if they wish to receive maternity pay from said company. Maternity pay is paid at 90% of their earnings for the first 6 weeks followed by a flat rate, which is increased by a few pounds every tax year. From April 2009 to April 2010 it is £123.06 per week.
Now, let it be said I have nothing against the concept of maternity pay or maternity leave. If we expect couples to have children, and want women to have the ability to develop careers, then maternity leave and pay are essential; it is the way in which the issue is managed and legislated, rather than the issue itself, with which I have a problem.
Thankfully it was announced at the end of January that, as of April 2011, n
Thursday, 11 February 2010
Survival International, the charity for Tribal Peoples, has appealed to Avatar director James Cameron on behalf of the Dongria Kondh Tribe of Orissa, India. The Dongria Kondh are struggling to defend their land against a mining company bent on destroying their sacred mountain. British FTSE-100 company 'Vedanta Resources' is determined to mine their sacred mountain’s rich seam of bauxite (aluminium ore). Watch the video below...
Take money from the banks and give to the poor, visit the website to find out more - http://www.robinhoodtax.co.uk/
Here's nobel-prize winner, former chief economist at the World Bank, and former chief economic advisor to Bill Clinton, Joseph Stiglitz, talking about why the Robin Hood Tax is a good thing - http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/markets/article-23804049-joseph-stiglitz-robin-hood-who-wants-to-tax-the-rich-for-the-poor.do
Tuesday, 9 February 2010
Friday, 5 February 2010
It would appear I am way behind the times in only just discovering the delights of rent-a-gob columnist, feminist icon, and all round idiot, Julie Burchill.
Highlights from her inane twitterings include: 'A thing I thought I'd miss about being married, but don't, is not being able to commit adultery' and 'Israel is the only country I would fucking die for'.
You can create your own Julie Burchill articles using 'The Julie Burchill Random Recycler'. A recent concoction of mine reads: 'On leaving my husband for a girlie some six years ago, I must have put enough toot up my admittedly sizeable snout to stun the entire Colombian armed forces and first had my face printed in the papers throwing twenty-pound notes at a tramp. Now there's a big idea to get your head around.'
Posted by David at 21:31
In light of Melanie Phillips' repeat appearances on Question Time, which normally result in some form of renal diatribe, I have lodged a petition with 10 Downing Street in an effort to have her banned. It will of course not be accepted, but the contents of the petition are as follows:
Posted by David at 17:56
Just dragging this hilarious story up from the archives.
MP for Brent, Dawn Butler, who is, as she will regularly remind you, 'one of only two black women in parliament', revealed that she had received a gushing letter of support from President Obama.
It read: "Having met Dawn Butler MP I can see why she is one of only two black women in parliament. She is bright, intelligent and determined. I say to the people of Brent you should have the audacity of hope and when someone asks you can she do it, you respond yes we can. Barack Obama”
Presumably the hilarity of the phrase, 'when someone asks you can she do it, you respond yes we can', was lost on Dawn Butler.
Ms Butler said: “For Obama to be impressed with me as one of only two black female politicians humbles me greatly".
The letter was then posted on the MP's website.
There were, however, two clues that all was not as it seemed. Firstly the letter was printed on House of Commons headed notepaper, and secondly Barack (or Barak according to the letter) was spelt wrong.
After being widely ridiculed, it was revealed by Ms Butler’s spokesperson that while the wording of the letter had been a “collaborative effort” approved jointly by Mr Obama and Ms Butler’s office, the request for an endorsement and the initial text had originated from Ms Butler’s office. The letter had apparently been printed in Ms Butler’s office but was signed by Mr Obama on meeting Ms Butler during his visit to the UK last year.
That's the equivalent of me writing my own reference.
The letter was temporarily removed from the MP’s website but was reinstated with the House of Commons insignia removed and Barack Obama's name spelt correctly.
Thursday, 4 February 2010
Today Cherie Blair spared a man jail on the grounds that he is religious.
She said: “I am going to suspend this sentence based on the fact you are a religious person and have not been in trouble before. You are a religious man and you know this is not acceptable behaviour.”
What a moron.
Wednesday, 3 February 2010
In light of both Climate Secretary Ed Miliband's recent interview with the Observer, in which he warned against listening to the 'siren voices' of climate change deniers, and the recent email hack at the University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit, I thought I'd write a note on some of the issues at hand. Apologies for the length, I'll try and make it as interesting and free of jargon as possible.
Let me first set out where I stand. I'm pretty green. I've spoken before about the importance of sustainable living. In the 21st century we are able to live our lives of relative leisure and ease because we are drawing on the wealth of billions of years worth of stored energy in the form of fossil fuels. The harnessing of this energy goldmine has enabled us to develop a civilization more complex and advanced than any other in the history of our planet. Fossil fuels have given us time. Time to think. Time to develop technologies which have taken us to the moon and regrown body parts. However, in a reasonably short space of time we will shift from an era of abundance to an era of scarcity; the combination of massive population growth, an insatiable human appetite for consumption, and the poor use of our limited material resources will soon render our planet barren. There will be no more oil, no more coal, and no more gas, and unless we learn how to live in a sustainable manner, then our civilization will fall.
I've also spoken before about the importance of diversity in our lives. I do not want to live on a mechanical planet devoid of living things, save vast fields of genetically modified wheat, upon which the surviving humans sustain themselves, scratching their chins while they wonder what the point of still being alive is. Between 1970 and 2003 the population of land species declined by nearly a third, and populations of tropical species declined by more than half. In the past thirty years, humanity has destroyed almost half the planet's original forests. Poaching, oil extraction, logging, pollution, over-fishing, poorly managed industrial waste, urban sprawl, unsympathetic farming practices etc. are all having a massively detrimental effect on the environment around us, resulting in the loss of a large number of animal and plant species every year, as well as adversely affecting the health, well-being, and in some cases, cultural heritage, of a large number of people.
In one sense, neither of the above have anything to do with climate change. If it was revealed tomorrow that climate change was indeed an enormous hoax, thought up by a group of self-serving dictators who secretly controlled world leaders like puppets on a string, then both of the points raised above would still stand. We would still be marching haplessly towards societal oblivion, destroying everything that isn't of apparent use along the way. The confusion that people have between possible climate change and other environmental travesties comes as a result of the intertwining nature of all of these issues. For example, while the continued and unchecked use of oil and gas is leading us into the energy supply equivalent of a cul-de-sac, in which we will slowly rot, light candles and twitch our curtains when the neighbours dare leave the tap running, it is also in part to blame for the increasing levels of CO2 in the Earth's atmosphere, a development which the majority of climate scientists believe to be the major trigger for contemporary global warming. Similarly, this warming of the environment, whether induced by human activity or not, is one of the key factors in the on-going destruction of the world's plant and animal species - a study last year suggested that a temperature rise of 4C would kill 85% of the Amazon rainforest. That's not to say that we're not capable or destroying the rainforest through logging and oil extraction alone, it just means that we'll get a little help from a warming planet. Incidentally the destruction of the rainforest also increases the levels of CO2 in the atmosphere;
What all this tells us, is that, even if anthropogenic (human induced) global warming is a big hoax, that's no excuse to carry on as we are. The idea that 'when this whole global warming scandal blows over, I can jump in the old 4x4 and leave the lights on all day' is built on ignorance. Unfortunately, 'climate change' has rather stolen the limelight from other vital environmental issues; the very fact that Ed Miliband is 'the Climate Secretary', rather than 'the Environment Secretary' is telling. There is potentially good reason for this; should some of the global warming predictions prove correct, and should we fail to alter our lifestyles in time, then climate change will prove to be far more calamitous to the human race than either a loss of bio-diversity or an energy shortage. However, I fear that as the battle over global warming plays out, and observers inevitably take sides, it will lead to a complacent attitude towards other environmental concerns, as the separation between climate change, sustainability, and protection of bio-diversity becomes confused.
With that lengthy caveat in place, I'll turn my attention to the sticky issue of global warming. First of all, I think it's worth noting that I'd be delighted if this all turned out to be some big joke. I think it's a point many global warming sceptics overlook; that no one wants global warming to be true. The second major point, is that I don't really have a clue what I'm talking about. I'm not qualified in any way whatsoever to comment on the importance of upper tropospheric humidity, or the weaknesses of based reanalysis products, both of which I'll shortly do. What I do have is a brain, and the ability to read and dissect information, which is what I've done.
My own personal feeling about global warming is in many ways similar to my view on organised religion, which is essentially 'how can so many intelligent people devote so much of their lives to studying one particular thing, only to emerge with radically different conclusions?' It's baffling, and makes me feel like I'm perpetually missing out on some sort of special point - a key which will unlock the mystery, proving one side irrevocably right, and condemning the other to eternal obscurity. Unfortunately no such key ever emerges, frustrating my desire to find a concrete answer for everything. As a result of this, I am forced to rely on the opinions of the majority of the people who do spend their lives investigating such things. With regards to climate change, working out what the majority of qualified people actually think is not as easy as one might have hoped, however, I am convinced that the mainstream scientific consensus is broadly in agreement with the theory of anthropogenic climate change - see http://www.skepticalscience.com/global-warming-scientific-consensus.htm and http://www.logicalscience.com/consensus/consensusD1.htm. There's definitely a debate to be had over that statement, but I'm not going to have it now.
The problem lies in the complexity of the issue. If you've ever attempted to argue with an educated Christian over the finer points of theological understanding (I have), you will quickly learn that biblical historicity is a hugely complicated subject. The accuracy of the bible is furiously supported by some, and vehemently denied by others. Between these polarities there is a wealth of academic variation. It is the number of texts, both historical and biblical, combined with the length of time over which the various books of the bible were compiled, which makes it so complex. Motives and biases need to be explored. Interpretation varies. Problems with translation occur. Archeological finds contradict, support, and generally confuse the original conclusions of textual study. As I've already stated, people spend their lives busily coming to diametrically opposed conclusions. The study of climate change has similar problems. First of all there is a wealth of data, not all of which is mutually supporting. There always has been, and always will be, problems with data collection, a fact which provides ample ammunition to both sides of the warming divide. There are many questions to be asked. Is the world warming? If it is warming, is the warming being driven in part by man? How much is man's activity affecting the climate? If climate change is being significantly driven by human actions, which actions are they? Is it the release of CO2 that is the major trigger? If global warming is being driven by increasing levels of CO2 then will the change in temperature prove dangerous? The list goes on. Sceptics have argued all of these points. Some don't believe the Earth is warming at all; others are happy to believe that it is, and accept that this warming is being driven by human activity, specifically the release of CO2, but argue that this warming will not reach dangerous levels. As with many things in life, the science has reached such a point of complexity, that it is almost impossible to be an expert in all of it, resulting in a huge divergence in opinion, and a large dose of confusion.
I don't seek to clarify that confusion in any way. What follows is simply a brief exploration of one small element in the science of climate, which will hopefully shed light on the problems and issues which muddy the wider issue...
Doing some research the other day, I stumbled across something called 'The Skeptics Handbook II'. It was written by Jo Nova, an Australian, who describes herself on her website as "a freelance science presenter & writer, professional speaker and former TV host". According to her website over 200,000 copies of the original Skeptics Handbook have been distributed and it is available in ten languages.
Now for a quick bit of science...on page 6 of the Skeptics Handbook II, it explains what any armchair sceptic will tell you: that water vapour, not CO2, is actually the most important greenhouse gas when it comes to climate change. This is also a point on which any climate scientist would agree. The theory is this: rising CO2 will marginally increase the temperature of the Earth; this small rise in temperature will increase the amount of evaporation from the world's oceans; and the increased humidity which results from this rise in evaporation will lock in more heat, amplifying and accelerating the warming trend. It's quite simple, and it's known as 'positive feedback'. This is an extremely important point. Without the amplification effect of water vapour, you could double the current amount of CO2 in the atmosphere and only observe a rise in temperature of 1C, which would have no major impact. When positive feedbacks, including rising humidity, are taken into account, a doubling of CO2 in the atmosphere would increase global temperature by 3C, causing serious problems (source). In Nova's own words, "without the effects of feedbacks to amplify carbon’s minor warming, there is no disaster".
Nova argues that "the modellers [who] guessed that as the world warmed, more water would evaporate, and the rising humidity would lock in more heat" were wrong. She points out that "water is complex and fickle. Humidity can stay ‘humid’, or turn into low clouds, high clouds, or fall out as rain, hail or snow. And they all have a different effect." She declares that the observations show that in fact humidity is not rising, and therefore cannot be amplifying the warming of the Earth. In support of this point she cites a study by Prof. Garth Paltridge, entitled 'Trends in middle- and upper-level tropospheric humidity from NCEP reanalysis data'. The full study, should you wish to read it, can be found here.
It is an interesting study, and not wholly without merit. In it, Paltridge examines something called 'NCEP reanalysis data'. NCEP stands for 'National Centers for Environmental Protection' and the reanalysis data is a joint project between NCEP and NCAR, which stands for 'National Center for Atmospheric research'. The reanalysis data itself is a continually updating data set representing the state of the Earth's atmosphere, incorporating observations and global climate model output dating back to 1948. NCEP and NCAR are constantly trying to improve the data by adjusting for discrepancies in the measurements and removing anomalies. In the case of the atmospheric humidity data which applies to Paltridge's study, the original measurements were taken by balloon-borne radiosonde instruments.
Paltridge's study is limited for a number of reasons, which he discusses. He cites a 1991 study by Elliott and Gaffen (here), which dismisses any radiosonde humidity measurements prior to 1973, deeming them unusable as a result of instrumental changes and deficiencies. As a result, Paltridge's study only covers the reanalysis data from 1973 to 2007. In light of other criticisms of radiosonde measurements in the Elliott/Gaffen study, Paltridge also limits his examination to particular latitudes and atmospheric pressures (latitudes between 50° S and 50° N, and atmospheric pressures up to up to 500 hPa everywhere, together with the summer season data from 400 hPa, and the data up to 300 hPa in the tropics, if you want to be specific). To put it simply, the radiosonde measuring system isn't accurate enough to measure changes in humidity in locations where humidity is already at comparatively low levels. Thus, Paltridge cannot use data for the highest altitudes, where the atmospheric pressure (hPa) is lowest, because there is not enough humidity. He believes that the data will be more accurate during the summer months (when he uses data up to 400 hPa), and in the tropics (where he uses data up to 300 hPa), because these factors will represent higher basic levels of humidity. Paltridge is honest throughout, and indeed spends a considerable part of his study apologising for the potential inaccuracy of his data. You'll excuse me if I give a few quotes:
"Radiosonde humidity measurements are notoriously unreliable and are usually dismissed out-of-hand as being unsuitable for detecting trends of water vapor in the upper troposphere." - he cites this 2005 study to support this consensus.
"It is of course possible that the observed humidity trends from the NCEP data are simply the result of problems with the instrumentation and operation of the global radiosonde network from which the data are derived. The potential for such problems needs to be examined in detail."
These quotes are not taken out of context, I am not trying to trick you. Read the study for yourself.
For further in-depth criticisms of radiosonde data, please see these reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) - http://www.ipcc.ch/publications_and_data/ar4/wg1/en/ch3s3-4-2-2.html and http://www.ipcc.ch/publications_and_data/ar4/wg1/en/ch3s3-4-1-1.html
Despite these caveats, Paltridge does, quite rightly I feel, argue that "the NCEP data for the middle and upper troposphere should not be “written off”...Since balloon data is the only alternative source of information [as opposed to that taken from satellite measurements] on the past behavior of the middle and upper tropospheric humidity and since that behavior is the dominant control on water vapor feedback, it is important that as much information as possible be retrieved from within the “noise” of the potential errors."
Perhaps unsurprisingly, given our knowledge of Jo Nova's endorsement, what Paltridge found when he examined the NCEP/NCAR data, was that it showed that "the face-value 35-year trend in zonal-average annual-average specific humidity q is significantly negative at all altitudes above 850 hPa (roughly the top of the convective boundary layer) in the tropics and southern midlatitudes and at altitudes above 600 hPa in the northern midlatitudes". In normal language, this means that according to the NCEP/NCAR data, humidity is not increasing at all, but rather decreasing: a 'negative feedback', as opposed to a positive one. The implication of this, is that a fall in humidity could actually compensate for the rise in temperature caused by increased CO2, and thus stabilise the climate. In short, this would be good news.
There are two further brief points to be made regarding the NCEP/NCAR data. The first is that the reanalysis of the humidity data is based on a combination of observations and climate models. This is discussed in depth here - 'The NCEP–NCAR 50-Year Reanalysis: Monthly Means CD-ROM and Documentation'. This report notes that "gridded variables, the most widely used product of the reanalysis, have been classified into three classes"; moisture variables, upon which Paltridge would have relied, fall into the category, 'Type B Variables', which the report describes as being "influenced both by the observations and by the model, and are therefore less reliable [than Type A Variables which "are generally strongly influenced by the available observations"]". A climate model is a complex device used to simulate the interactions of the atmosphere, oceans, land surface, and ice; it is not the same as using empirical evidence. Interestingly, Jo Nova, in The Skeptics Handbook II, describes climate models as relying 'on best guesses, assumptions and estimates' and derides climate researchers for trusting them. The second point is that on both the NCEP reanalysis website and the NCAR reanalysis website a 'problem report' is given, discussing the issues associated with the data. One such issue is titled 'Spurious Moisture Source/Sink', and full details can be found here. In brief, it states that "a poor approximation was used for the humidity diffusion which created spurious moisture sources and sinks"; amongst other things this "can be expected to increase/decrease humidity".
None of the points I have just raised discredit Paltridge's study; he himself is aware of the many problems with using this data, and it would be unscientific to dismiss an accurate and honest study, simply because it does not agree with the scientific consensus. However, it would be equally unscientific to fail to recognise the issues and problems with the data, which Paltridge himself raises, when assessing this study. In essence, his work must be put in perspective.
As Paltridge points out, the negative trends which he observes "are not supported either by the predictions of climate models or by the few indications from satellite observations". He cites three studies which discuss these satellite measurements and models in relation to a positive trend of humidity in the upper troposphere: Bates JJ, Jackson DL (2001) Trends in upper-tropospheric humidity. Geophys Res Lett 28(9):1695–1698 (unavailable); Minschwaner K, Dessler AE (2004) Water vapor feedback in the tropical upper troposphere: model results and observations. J Climate 5:5–21 (here); Soden BJ, Jackson DL, Ramaswamy V, Schwarzkopf MD, Xianglei H (2005) The radiative signature of upper tropospheric moistening. Science 310:841–844 (here).
Satellite measurements are not without their own problems. Changes in technology and measuring processes make merging together data from different satellites a difficult task. Problems include orbital decay and drift, incorrect calibrations, and various other mind-bending phenomena which I'm too scientifically illiterate to fully grasp. If you want to read about the issues, as well as some of the steps taken to correct them, the IPCC outline them here. Despite these issues, satellite data is considered superior to data taken from radiosonde equipment by the overwhelming majority of scientists. The reasons for this are discussed, in detail, in Chapter 3 of the IPCC's Fourth Assessment Report.
The conclusion that we have surely now reached in our examination of Paltridge's study is, I believe, neatly summarised in Chapter 3.4.1 of said IPCC report: "Within the community that constructs and actively analyses satellite- and radiosonde-based temperature records there is agreement that the uncertainties about long-term change are substantial. Changes in instrumentation and protocols pervade both sonde and satellite records, obfuscating the modest long-term trends. Historically there is no reference network to anchor the record and establish the uncertainties arising from these changes – many of which are both barely documented and poorly understood. Therefore, investigators have to make seemingly reasonable choices of how to handle these sometimes known but often unknown influences. It is difficult to make quantitatively defensible judgments as to which, if any, of the multiple, independently derived estimates is closer to the true climate evolution."
In the interests of making a 'reasonable choice' about which data to trust, and which conclusion to draw, I would suggest that the data, upon which Paltridge's study is based, is so flawed that it can be deemed virtually unusable as a method for identifying trends in the specific humidity of the middle to upper troposphere.
Reaching that half-hearted conclusion, however, was not the purpose of this exercise. I have not in anyway done anything to prove or disprove the theory of anthropogenic global warming. I have merely pointed out the shortcomings in one particular source, referring to one particular area of the global warming debate. What is clear is that it has now taken me 1,739 words, at least four peer-reviewed scientific studies, the IPCC's Fourth Assessment Report, various blogs and websites, and several days, to tell precisely no-one (congratulations if you're still reading), why they should partially refute what Jo Nova has told 200,000 people in 7 words. Those 7 precious words being: "Paltridge found that humidity levels have fallen". This situation epitomises the problem with the climate change debate, but before I move on to discuss such issues I just want to round this critique out.
Along with Paltridge, Nova cites two other studies to back up her assertion that humidity is not providing a positive feedback. She writes: "Lindzen found that as the planet warms it gives off more radiation. Spencer found that as the planet warms, we get fewer high clouds". I don't have the time, nor the will, to do the same for these studies what I did with Paltridge. The point has been demonstrated, that not only is the issue hideously complex when you get down to the real science, but that the confusion is magnified by the idiocy of people like Jo Nova, who think it's OK to state something as fact, when they undoubtedly know (bearing in mind Paltridge points it out himself in the introduction to his study) that it is highly refutable. I chose the Paltridge study to pick apart because it gave the most credence to Nova's argument - the other two appeared more abstract. However, in the interests of completeness, I will briefly, very briefly, address these two remaining studies. Lindzen's study (here) is indeed abstract. It asserts that as the Earth warms, it gives off more radiation, which provides a negative feedback, and helps prevent climate change. It says nothing to negate the role of positive feedbacks such as water vapour, which is, after all, the debate Nova is attempting to wage. In addition to this, Lindzen's study has been thoroughly discredited by various people...http://dotearth.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/01/08/a-rebuttal-to-a-cool-climate-paper/ and http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2010/01/first-published-response-to-lindzen-and-choi/ and even http://wattsupwiththat.com/2009/11/03/spencer-on-lindzen-and-choi-climate-feedback-paper/, the latter being a famous 'sceptic' blog. Lindzen himself has also been savaged by the scientific community for various reasons - http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2007/04/lindzen-in-newsweek/ and http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2006/04/lindzen-point-by-point/...all of which makes for amusing reading. The other study which Nova cites (Spencer et al 2007 - here), was written by one Roy Spencer, whose article criticising Lindzen I just posted up. Once again, the study bears absolutely no relevance to Nova's argument regarding water vapour and humidity. The study concerns the negation of another possible positive feedback: high clouds. High clouds are supposed to increase warming, but Spencer argues that as warming increases there is evidence that high clouds disappear, compensating for the rise in temperature and stabilising the climate. I can find little criticism of this study, or for that matter any comment on it. It may well be accurate, and the behaviour of high clouds may offer a negative feedback, but that does not disprove, or in any way negate, the potential role of increasing humidity as a positive feedback. Indeed, it is widely accepted that a rise in CO2 will kickstart various negative feedbacks, as well as positive ones; an excellent example being the increase in tree size in the tropics - http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2009/feb/18/trees-tropics-climate-change. The growth of the trees is driven by increasing levels of CO2 in the atmosphere, however, the larger the trees grow, the more CO2 they can soak up, thus going some way to regulating CO2 levels. The debate is not over whether negative feedbacks are occurring, but whether they go any way towards balancing the effect of positive feedbacks.
There is one final point to address in relation to Nova's claims that a positive feedback effect is not a likely outcome of rising Earth temperatures. It is a popular sceptic argument to state that the climate of the Earth has drastically fluctuated before, without any input from humans. This is of course correct, and a 'natural' change in climate will undoubtedly occur again in the future. This begs an important question: if humans weren't there pumping out fossil fuels, then what caused the earlier changes in the Earth's climate? The answer depends on which particular change in the Earth's climate you are referring to. There are two excellently supported incidences of rising greenhouse gas levels causing drastic global warming. The first is known as the 'KT Boundary' - a layer of rocks which documents the impact of a huge meteorite 65 million years ago (the same one that wiped out the dinosaurs). When the meteorite struck, it released vast amounts of CO2 from vaporising carbonate-rich rocks, leading to a massive increase in the greenhouse effect - here's a BBC article discussing its impact. The second incidence is known as the 'Late Palaeocene Thermal Maximum', and took place 55 million years ago. This period saw a dramatic period of warming which is believed to have resulted from several massive releases of methane from the sea floor, probably as a result of continental drift, but possibly as a result of volcanic activity. Thanks to http://www.brighton73.freeserve.co.uk/gw/paleo/paleoclimate.htm#ghg_cause for that information. Both of these events demonstrate the impact that rising levels of greenhouse gases, including CO2, could have on the Earth's climate. Other large temperature fluctuations are triggered by Milankovitch cycles - variations in the Earth's orbit that change the amount of energy from the sun that reaches us. But the key point in all of this, which puts rather a large hole in Nova's argument, is that neither the previous releases of greenhouse gases, nor the effects of the Milankovitch cycles, are enough on their own to have caused the vast changes in temperature which have been observed. Both have relied on positive feedback to amplify the changes in temperature which they have caused - without such feedback there would have been no previous fluctuations for the sceptics to point at and say, 'but look, the climate has changed before'. This study, published in the journal 'Nature', points out the importance of increased tropospheric humidity in amplifying a warming effect during the Late Palaeocene Thermal Maximum. The importance of rising levels of atmospheric CO2, another amplifier, as a result of Milankovitch cycles is discussed here. In essence, in order to explain previous changes in the global climate, we must account for positive feedback from a variety of sources. If we argue, like Nova, that temperature rises are not causing a positive feedback loop, then we must find other explanations for previous climate change.
When I was studying for my degree, I would, occasionally, take a quote out of context, or neglect to include critical opinion which contradicted my argument. When your essay title is 'How does Milton’s ‘Lycidas’ draw upon and reform the tradition of pastoral elegy?', and the only person who is going to read it is your tutor, doing this is, at worst, stupid and unscholarly. When you take quotes out of context and fail to represent a fair exploration of the facts in a booklet concerning a phenomena that has the potential to destroy mankind, and what you write will be read by hundreds of thousands of people, you should be charged with some sort of crime.
I did not scour the internet for a sceptical snippet of information which I could dissect and take apart. Jo Nova's handbook was merely the first populist piece, which had the potential to affect people's opinions on climate change, that I came across. I did not spend time combing over it looking for fault. Her argument about humidity and positive/negative feedback was simply the first point I came to which had the potential to rubbish the theory of anthropogenic global warming. Her point appeared to be supported by studies, and if it had turned out to be true, I would have been thoroughly persuaded that human global warming is a scam. If what I have written above has not completely disproven what Nova has argued, it has, at the very least, demonstrated that the issue at hand is far more complex and uncertain than she gives it credit for.
The kind of attitude shown by Nova to the global warming debate is one which is sadly reflected by a large number of writers and scientists on both sides of the divide. Indeed, those who believe in anthropogenic global warming are by no means innocent. The current head of the IPCC, Rajendra Pachauri, recently declared a report for the Indian government, which refuted the IPCC's claim that the Himalayan glaciers would have disappeared by 2035, to be 'voodoo science'. The report was later demonstrated to be correct and the IPCC had to issue a correction to their own assessment. The email hack at the University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit has demonstrated the flaws with both the peer-review process, and certain scientists attitudes to scientific principle. A lot of what the sceptics have said regarding 'Climategate' is nonsense - an excellent demonstration of exactly why it's nonsense can be found here - if you're interested read it, I'm not going to go over the ins and outs. However, some of what has been discovered in the leaked emails is inexcusable. The two most obvious faults are as follows. 1)