Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Is the USA on the way to becoming a fascist dictatorship?

It is clear from events in Charlottesville, and the way that Trump initially shied away from condemning the fascist terrorist,   that the USA is slowly creeping towards fascism. Trump is showing 10 out of 14 symptoms of real fascism. If he starts closing down the free press, he is within 3 points of qualifying as a bona fide fascist dictator.

Will he go all the way? It is hard to believe that the population of the US would allow this to happen. Despite all their faults, they are a freedom loving people - or so they say, constantly. Is it possible that they could fall for fascism? Is it possible that the world could fall for fascism a second time in 90 years? IN the 1930s fascism was a new phenomenon. Surely we have enough intelligence to learn from the Second World War?

It is possible that Trump will become a dictator, but only if we the US people choose to allow it to happen. It is decision time for them, and also for us. What do we have to do? There are a mass of things we should do to help stem the drift to the right, but I guess the first thing is to write to our MPs demanding that Trump's state visit to the UK be cancelled, backing up Vince Cable's call for same.

Friday, August 04, 2017

Is the natural variation of climate correlated with solar cycles? And is the future cool?

Global climate is the result of these five variables: Solar variation,  ocean currents, volcanoes, aerosols (i.e. the amount of tiny dust particles in the atmosphere), and finally the greenhouse effect, which is the only variable that humanity has changed and can change.

The favourite argument of the climate change deniers at the moment is this "It is all due to natural variation and climate cycles. Climate always has changed, always will change, it has nothing to do with what we are doing".

At the end of June 2017, Lubecke and Weiss published an interesting article in the Open Atmospheric Science Journal  titled Harmonic Analysis of Worldwide Temperature Proxies for 2000 Years which puts some flesh on the "natural variation" meme. Their work is welcome, because it is easier to discuss a defined proposal than it is to discuss vague assertions.

Lubecke and Weiss analysed a 2000 year earth temperature line, and found that a combination of three sine waves (of year lengths ~1000, ~460, and 190)  matched the temperature record.

Fig 1
Click to enlarge
The upper figure shows the temperature record in blue, and the regular waves in red. The upper red line is created by combining the three sine waves in the lower figure, which they attribute to solar cycles.

As it stands, there is a pretty close correlation between these three putative solar cycles and the earth temperature record over the last 2000 years.

It is up to professional climatologists to look critically at the technicalities of this paper - whether their selection of temperature reconstructions is valid, whether their maths is solid, and whether the cycles they have induced do in fact match records of incoming solar energy.

For now, for the sake of argument, I am going to take their paper at face value, and accept it as evidence  that solar variation is a significant driver of earth climate. It is worth discussing, because the climate change deniers are going to hail it, as is their wont, as the final nail in the coffin of climate alarmism.

Let us look more closely at the later section of the chart. We began burning fossil carbon significantly around 1850. Figure 2 shows the section of Lubecke-Weiss graph after 1500 AD.

Figure 2
We see a peak in 1940, both in their wave construction and in T, but after the 1970s the blue temperature line and the red solar line part company, with T going up and solar going down.
This deviation is well known. Here is a graph from the IPCC on solar activity and temperature (apologies for the fact that the colours are reversed):

Fig 3

It confirms the deviation of T and solar activity in the last few decades, which is consistent with the physics of the situation as the increase in CO2 kicks in.

But the deviation is only recent. What if Lubecke and Weiss are right in their projections, and solar activity does indeed fall to something comparable to the Maunder Minimum of the 17th century? There is other work, on the "solar dynamo" that suggests that this is an accurate prediction.

Feuler and Rahmstorf addressed this question in 2010. They found that a decrease in solar activity on the level of the Maunder Minimum would reduce T by only 0.3*C by 2100, an insignificant reduction of the 3*C increase which continued burning of fossil carbon will impose on the same time scale.

So the "Natural Variation"  and the "Cooling Sun" memes are not an answer to incoming ecological crisis. There is no reasonable alternative but to leave fossil carbon in the ground, and to obtain our energy instead from our solar income.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Weston Hospital A&E closed at night. Politicians' minds closed 24/7

Weston General Hospital A&E is closed at night from 10pm to 8am. Indefinitely.

They have had huge difficulty recruiting staff, including A&E docs, so they have had to use locums, who with the best will in the world cannot be efficient as they keep having to ask how things work in Weston. The Care Quality Commission, (the NHS version of Ofsted) declared the A&E unsafe, so the Hospital Board closed it.

Weston General is the smallest District General Hospital in the UK, with a very poor ratio of beds to target population, and a long history of being underfunded worse than bigger neighboring hospitals.

The Hospital Board and the Clinical Commissioning Group have endless consultations "to find out what the local population wants". In truth, the local population wants an impossibility. It wants an adequately funded NHS and local health service, and it also wants a Conservative Government.

It can have one or the other, but not both.

For Weston Hospital to be made well again, we need to see the back of the Tories. That is a necessary, but not sufficient condition of recovery.

We also need an ecological approach to the problem of health care, one that takes the widest view of the problem. This should be applied throughout the country, but we could start here in Weston, since it is experiencing such acute problems.

Sorting out the health service is immensely complex. There is no one single magic bullet, not even adequate funding to the NHS, although that again is necessary.

What is needed it a whole new approach that produces a healthy population.

A healthy population is one that has the following conditions met :

  1. More equality between rich and poor
  2. Good housing for all
  3. Full employment
  4. Much less pollution of air, water and food
  5. Greater fitness for all especially everyday fitness from walking and cycling
  6. Better food and eating habits
  7. Knowledge, both about health, about managing illness, and also on how to use the NHS efficiently.
  8. A medical profession that is a bit less dominated by patented pharmaceuticals and a bit more open to non-pill treatments such as ecological medicine.
  9. A change in medical education that encourages new docs to go into under supplied specialties like A&E and dermatology

A full-on drive in the Weston area engaging the whole population, local authorities and all citizen groups could turn the situation around. A health revolution in sleepy old Weston, with everyone changing their habits while at the same time demanding adequate funding for our local service.

So there we have it. Nine areas to look at. Each area demands an enormous amount of change away from the present position and assumptions, but the change itself is not at all impossible. 

Such a drive doesn't even require the removal of the Conservative Party from power. That can wait, It does however require the removal of the conservative mind set that infests almost all political thinking in the UK generally and Weston in particular.  

Changing the general mindset in thinking about health, and shifting away from meeting demand towards reducing demand is well-nigh impossible. It is pretty certain that it will not even get discussed at any level.

So, if you have an accident or an emergency of a moderate level of seriousness in Weston at night, you are going to have a longer wait before receiving treatment. 

Which means that a few of us will die.

So sad.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Transport, buses and airports. We live in a false economy.

Yesterday night North Somerset Green Party organised a public meeting on transport. It was well-attended (~35).  The CEO of First Direct in the West of England spoke about the local bus services. Basically since the Transport Act 1985, they are all privatised with a tiny bit of help from cash-strapped local authorities for non profitable services. The discussion focused on individual experiences of bus transport. There are many problems, and competition means that all companies are only just keeping themselves profitable but at the end, it was clear to me that the basic disorder is that it is another privatisation problem.

Thatcher decreed that bus users should pay for their own transport. As a neo-liberal Tory, she was blind to the fact that buses provide a service to the whole community. If they are full, they are far more efficient at using road space than cars (not if they're empty though - they do about 8mpg, sometimes as little as 3mpg. Aargh).

However, since they have to do without subsidy, bus travel is expensive, so it is actually cheaper (in the short term at least) to use your car, which means that the roads are congested, which means that buses cannot run on time, so more people take their car. Vicious circle.

If instead, buses were supported by taxation, they would be cheaper, more frequent and more extensive, so people would use their cars less, meaning less pollution (especially if buses went onto biogas), less danger to cyclists and walkers, so better for all.

Another example of how neo-liberalistic privatisation is in direct opposition to progress towards sustainability.

The second speaker, Hilary from Cleeve Parish Council, gave information about Bristol Airport, which is making a loss, and therefore wants to expand in order to make a bigger loss grow out of its loss. Expansion means more traffic, bigger car parks, more flights, more noise, and more air pollution; but hey, economic growth is economic growth.

Question: How come it is possible to fly to Majorca for £5 but the airport is making a loss?
Answer - airlines pay little or no taxes on fuel. In other words, they are subsidised. So if they paid fuel taxes, like everyone else, at a rate sufficient to cover air pollution and the global warming effects of high-altitude emissions, flight would be dearer, so less people would fly, so Bristol Airport wouldn't need to expand its car-parks, and more people would holiday in the UK, which would boost the UK economy. This might mean that Bristol Airport would fold, but market forces rule, as any Tory would be the first to tell you.

We live in a false economy.