8 November 2021: Covid, good and bad news; Inventive refugees; Your neural rights; Funny sights; AWG; & Other stuff.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Dawn%2BBox%2BDay%2B2015.JPG
Night’s candles are burnt out, and jocund day stands tiptoe on the misty mountain tops
Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable Christopher Howse: A Pilgrim in Spain

Covid  

The good news: New antivirals will deal the final blow to Covid-19, finally allowing the return to normality. Covid is fast becoming a treatable, uninteresting, even run-of-the-mill, virus. The New York magazine certainly sees light at the end of the tunnel, on the back of antiviral developments from the (much-maligned) Big Pharma.

But, meanwhile, a cautionary note: While the Lancet has speculated that Spain might have achieved herd immunity thanks to high vaccination rates, in next-door Portugal – where vaccination rates are even higher – new cases are almost twice as high.

And . . . The Netherlands and Belgium have reimposed a number of social distancing measures.

The UK: In a word . . . The plot has been lost, says this observer

Cosas de España/Galiza  

Say what you like, you have to give these guys top marks for ingenuity . . .

Do you have any idea what your ‘neural rights’ are? If not, you’ll be as surprised as I was to hear that Spain is working on a digital rights bill which includes a section on them. The context is the challenge of technology to the very essence of our privacy – what we’re thinking. More here.

As I drove down the hill this morning, I came upon some roadworks and an inevitable speed-reduction sign. This told us to reduce our speed to 40. Which made laugh, as the normal speed limit is 30. So, I accelerated . . .

And I saw a strange thing as I was walking across the bridge into town – a man in his 30s who wasn’t wearing a suit too small for him, with its trousers clinging to his calves and ending 5cm above his ankles. A throwback, obviously.

Lenox stepping out . . .

France

Talking of throwbacks . . . The (very)Conservative MP, Jacob Rees Mogg, suggests that: The French are always grumpy in October; the anniversaries of Trafalgar and Agincourt upset them. Which seems a bit of a stretch.

Social Media

If you’re a keen user of social media, you’ll know how it can pollute your whole life and way of thinking. People such as the fitness guru Joe Wicks can’t perform so much as a burp without belching it out to their 4m followers. It’s an illness.

The Way of the World

Bloody ‘ell . . . Male fertility is declining and one of the things most affecting it is endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs). These can interfere with the hormones that run our bodies and are used in plastic and thousands of products, including cosmetics, toys, clothes, soft furnishings, pesticides and the linings of tinned foods, posing an existential risk. We’re poisoning ourselves out of existence, and our consumer capitalist democracies seem incapable of stopping it. It should fill us with rage and fear. More here.

https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2021/nov/06/simon-reeve-tv-presenter-father-journey

More trivially  . . . The leading British supermarkets are giving their employees the option of wearing badges which tell you which pronouns they want used – He/Him/His, She/Her/Hers or ‘They/Them/Their. Since this is all about ignoring age-old convention and respecting personal choice of identity, I wonder if these companies – if they employed me – would  object to ‘Your Majesty’. After all, it’s not very different from the Spanish Usted, short for exactly that.

AGW/Quotes of the Day

Two interesting/challenging articles below:-

1. Hydrogen, not Cop26, will get us to net zero.

2. Hypocritical eco-zealots should concentrate on solutions, not moral point-scoring. 

Spanish 

In the Pilates class this morning, we were instructed to lie on our backs, with our feet on top of a large rubber ball and our hands behind our heads. Then we were told to open out our fingers. Which rather confused me until I recalled that Spanish uses the same word – dedos – for both fingers and toes.

Finally  . . .

Spam emails – for me at least – seem to be rocketing up again. One – asking me if I’ve yet got my ‘settlement cheque’ has arrived at least 15 times in the last 24 hours. Maybe there’s a discount available for this particular bit of malware. Another – about a well-endowed African chap – is also a regular. I guess this will continue to happen until emails cease to be free.

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THE ARTICLES  

1. Hydrogen, not Cop26, will get us to net zero. The ‘magic molecule’ can produce both heat and energy, yet the [British] Government has barely invested in this technology: Liam Halligan, The Telegraph

Cop26 moves into its second week, as the hectoring, hypocrisy and virtue-signalling drag on.

Practically our entire political and media class is convinced the world faces meltdown unless we lower our carbon emissions – reaching “net zero” by 2050. Meanwhile, millions of ordinary people look at this Glasgow gabfest and frown.

Yes, there is broad understanding here in the UK we need to wean ourselves off fossil fuels such as coal and oil and pollute less, for the sake of our children and grandchildren. But the silent majority are thinking: “Fine, yes, but how much will it cost me and my family?”

It’s all very well our Government banning new petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2030, but electric vehicles are still far more expensive to buy than conventional models.

As household energy bills spiral, will perfectly serviceable gas boilers be replaced with heat pumps, the installation bills of which can run into the tens of thousands – and which also cost more to run?

Amid the Cop26 posturing, millions of voters, broadly supportive of the “cleaner earth” agenda, are wondering how much of the burden of transitioning to a low-carbon, low-emission economy will fall on them, when they’re already struggling to make ends meet.

Yet government estimates of the bill, let alone who it will pay, remain vague and non-committal. Little wonder, as the Cop26 rhetoric heats up, there are increasingly vocal cost concerns among the general public.

In 2019, Theresa May passed legislation requiring future British governments to hit “net zero” by 2050. That means not only reducing our use of fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas, but offsetting emissions from those we do use with carbon capture, tree planting and other carbon-reduction strategies.

Many smart people remain sceptical of the entire net zero agenda. And while sea levels and global temperatures are clearly rising, there is still a legitimate debate about the extent to which that’s caused by human activity, and carbon emissions in particular, or long-term variations in weather patterns.

Yet it is surely right we anyway take steps to use fewer fossil fuels. Coal and oil are not only dirty and expensive to extract but often in geopolitically tricky parts of the world, causing conflict. And – here’s the clincher – we use huge amounts of these fuels and eventually, within decades rather than centuries, they’ll run out.

Around two-fifths of all electricity used worldwide is still generated using coal. China burnt 82.3 exajoules of coal last year, with India using 17.6 – the two emerging giants accounting for two thirds of global coal use – while the US burnt 9.2 exajoules.

Here in the UK, for all our self-flagellation and media finger-pointing, coal use has collapsed, generating a quarter of our electricity in 2015, but under 2pc now. Last year, Britain burnt just 0.19 exajoules of coal, around one tenth of 1pc of global use. Not bad for the world’s fifth biggest economy.

The big picture, though, is that coal consumption continues to climb. Even during 2020, despite widespread Covid lockdowns, and Western efforts to use less, global coal use was still 5pc higher than in 2010.

Consider also that worldwide oil consumption last week nudged back above 100m barrels a day – a level last seen prior to the pandemic. A barrel of oil is around 158 litres or 280 pints.

So, according to my reckoning, if you put 100m barrels of oil into pint glasses and stacked them, the glasses tower would be more than 11 times the distance to the moon. That’s how much crude we use every single day. And there’s no sign of oil demand falling, or even ceasing to grow, anytime soon.

So the world still uses mind-blowing amounts of fossil fuels – which are dirty, cause pollution and, as they inevitably run out, accessing them will cause intense international conflict. For all kinds of reasons, it makes sense to use less.

The key to that, though, isn’t the Cop26 method – namely chest-beating and emoting about the sins of other people in far-flung countries, having flown in by private jet.

The only way to shift away from mankind’s still overwhelming reliance on fossil fuels is to be technologically savvy.

We need to build on the considerable advances made in renewable technology – harnessing wind and solar in a way that’s
cost-effective. We must find ways to store renewable energy so that, given variable supply, it can help provide constant “baseload” electricity, effectively replacing fossil fuels.

We should be harnessing atomic technology, developing even safer ways to store the radioactive waste resulting from nuclear fission – that is, splitting uranium atoms.

Then there’s the incredible exciting progress the UK Atomic Energy Authority has recently made with nuclear fusion, which generates none of the toxic waste and could play a big role in the transition away from fossil fuels.

Big strides have been made with battery technology – key to the electric vehicle revolution ministers are determined to bring to the UK. I’m sceptical – in that car batteries rely on “rare earth” elements that are hard to access (and largely found in China and other “difficult” countries). And batteries powerful enough to drive trucks, ships and other heavy machinery would be impossibly heavy themselves.

The technology that really interests me is the so-called magic molecule – hydrogen – which can be burnt to produce both heat and energy. Yet it’s a technology the UK Government has barely invested in. And a recent, long-delayed strategy paper promotes the use of “blue hydrogen” – made using natural gas or other fossil fuels – which misses the point.

The real holy grail is “green hydrogen” – produced by splitting water via electrolysis, with the electrolysis itself powered by renewable energy. Such hydrogen can be used in fuel cells or converted to so-called green ammonia and transported in tankers. The fuel is potent enough to power cars, buses, ships and planes – and the only emission is water.

Then, “net zero” – or, at least, a world that uses very little fossil fuel – becomes a real possibility. No preaching or virtue-signalling required. Just human ingenuity, endeavour and appropriate financial incentives ­– the way we’ve solved pretty much all our problems for centuries.

2. Hypocritical eco-zealots should concentrate on solutions, not moral point-scoring. From the Greta Thunbergs of the world to Extinction Rebellion, all modern ‘activists’ want to do is virtue-signal and berate humanity: Zoe Strimpel, The Telegraph 

My primary school was a magnet for horrible teachers. Their goal did not seem to be the successful imparting of knowledge: on the contrary, they repeatedly opted for tactics that would stand in the way of learning, preferring to humiliate us, mock us and attack our confidence. They actually kind of seemed to hate us and we became well-versed in the psychology of people who want to punish rather than help.

It is amazingly easy to spot the same psychology in the climate activism movement sweeping the world. Whether the utterly pointless beration and futile yet grandiose promises of world leaders at Cop26, or the relentless and violent obstruction of our lives practised by Extinction Rebellion and their outlandish, counterproductive offshoot Insulate Britain, the aim is to denigrate, not cure. Hypocrisy naturally accompanies all this and it was once again on full display last week as noisily green bigwigs from Boris to Jeff Bezos jetted in to Cop26 on private planes.

Nobody wants Miami or dozens of other coastal cities sunk without a trace. If emissions remain at their current rates and the globe warms by two degrees celsius rather than 1.5C, the tipping point spelled out by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), then forecasts predict that two billion people would be exposed to severe heatwaves, 420 million to extreme heatwaves and 65 million more to deadly heat. No coral reefs would remain. This is not a good picture.

But one can want to avert the consequences of rapid global warming without hating humanity. The truth is – and this has been clear since that worryingly pale zealot Greta Thunberg became the Pope of environmentalism – that the climate activist brigade are far keener on hair-shirtism than on actually getting on with solving the problem. No wonder the actual Pope praised Thunberg in messianic terms as “the great witness” of the Church’s environmental teaching.

Climate activists are just that – activists, in the modern sense. This means that they don’t want to avert climate change, they want to berate, denigrate and control humanity, beating their chests, showing their virtue, wailing at the moon and – crucially – ruining things for everyone else, from the commute to work to the ability to board an affordable plane to go on holiday. More fundamentally, as the birthstriker movement shows (birthstrikers believe having even just one child is morally wrong because it is bad for the environment), the new climate hairshirters seem to want to save the planet for the sake of everything on it besides human beings.

Look at the rhetoric of the movement. Thunberg refers to climate change not even as a “crisis” but as “the climate betrayal” – betrayal of the trees and animals by horrible, culpable humans. Extinction Rebellion – the global movement founded by three British eco-zealots – demands the end, or radical curtailment, of things in moral terms. “We have a moral duty to take action” is its top line and its very first demand is that we “tell the truth”. Sound familiar? Yup. This is about owning up to your sin, if you want to avoid hell.

XR’s second demand is to “reduce greenhouse emissions” – fair enough – but the third, like the first, shows how little this movement is interested in practical attempts to solve the problem. Instead, it’s more about chaos, lawlessness and the weakening of elected power: hence the demand for governments to be led not by their elected leaders, but by the decisions of a Handmaid’s Tale-esque “citizens’ assembly on climate and ecological justice”. I for one certainly wouldn’t want this ragbag of extremists deciding what counts as justice.

Indeed their real motives are all too clear in the wholesale rejection of persuasion and persistence, the bread and butter of liberal democracies. “Traditional strategies like petitioning, lobbying, voting and protest have not worked due to the rooted interests of political and economic forces,” they intone, concluding that all these have failed. Really? Voting has failed and is useless? This is mad and scary stuff.

Reading the XR website, and listening to the impassioned speeches of the growing celebrity crop of global youth activists, one hears a lot about what “the science” says but little about what “the science” can do. Solving the climate crisis would clearly involve huge-scale reversal, requiring massive investment in human ingenuity and geo-engineering. If this bunch of crusaders were keen on solutions, we’d be hearing a lot less about “ecological justice”, the evils of voting and “the rooted interests of political and economic forces” and much more about chemical scrubbers that dissolve CO and pump it underground, carbon-chomping micro-organisms, flocks of radiation-deflecting mirrors in space, CO2-sequestering power stations burning biomass, and throwing everything and more at cheap advanced nuclear fission which would enable the substitution of clean energy for fossil fuels.

But we hear almost nothing about that, either from the Thunbergs of the world or – far more worryingly – from its governments, CEOs or all the people who could actually spur investment in these things and make a real difference. Instead the pull of religious fervour, with all its rules, punishments, avowals and moral point-scoring, has once more triumphed, causing still more delay to the increasingly urgent end-goal: an actual solution.

One comment

  1. The post (primary school was a magnet for horrible teachers) described my 8 years of primary school and 4 years of high school in 1970s and early 80 in a inner city in the US.

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