As I was scraping the ice of the car this morning, I had time
to reflect on the horrors of global warming.
Readers will remember the pre-Christmas deluge that was also blamed
on the heating up of the planet caused by human emissions of carbon
Surely, you might ask, the warm wet weather of the autumn and
the cold dry weather of the New Year can't both be blamed on global
But you would be wrong!
To explain how global warming can make the weather both hotter
and colder the domesayers say that the enhanced greenhouse effect
leads to greater variability in weather patterns.
Heads they win, tails we lose.
Old Grumpy is a long-time sceptic about human induced global warming;
preferring instead the old fashioned idea that it is the sun which
is the main determinator of the Earth's climate.
Satellite measurements of lower atmosphere temperatures actually
show a slight cooling over the past 20 years, in line with the
predictions of those - many of the very same people who now forecast
a cataclysmic heating - who, during the 1970s, were warning of
a coming ice age.
I have a feeling that the shroud-wavers have had their day.
There are two main reasons for this; firstly, the election of
George W Bush.
If you search "global warming skeptics" on the Internet
you will find any number of prominent American scientist intent
on picking holes in the received wisdom about carbon dioxide forcing,
as it is called in the trade.
Soon-to-be President Bush is said to lean towards this side of
And, without American support, any emission control measures are
doomed to failure. Secondly, last autumn's fuel protests here
in the UK have demonstrated an unwillingness to pay extra taxes
even for so noble a cause as saving the planet.
Deprived of the opportunity to grandstand at international conferences
like Kyoto, because of American intransigence, and unable to use
global warming as an excuse to extract even larger taxes, you
can expect politicians like John Prescott and Michael Meacher
to show a marked cooling to this idea over the coming months and
Old Grumpy was interested to read the County Council's official
line on the cracks which have appeared in the new county hall.
The cracking is blamed on the cold weather and a council spokesman
told the Western Telegraph: "This imperceptible movement
was accommodated by a joint designed for this very purpose. The
only actual effect was some cracking in the interior plasterboard
finish and damage to a few glass panels above the reception area".
There are two problems with this.
Firstly the movement cannot be described as "imperceptible"
(dictionary definition "that cannot be perceived") if
it has led to noticeable cracking of a glass panel.
And secondly expansion joints are designed so that any cracking
that does occur is confined to the joint and does not affect the
structure e.g. glass panels.
There are rumours in County Hall that the cracks are caused by
settlement - not an unusual phenomena in a new building - but
the explanation I prefer is that the foundations have been undermined
by my army of moles burrowing away deep inside the bowels of the
Over Christmas I read a mighty tome by Professor Roy Porter
on the Enlightenment.
This was the great period of European thought which, in Britain,
started with Isaac Newton and stretched for over 100 years through
such great names as John Locke, Jeremy Bentham, Adam Smith, David
Hulme and Joseph Priestley.
The basic idea of the Enlightenment was that all problems were
capable of solution by the application of rational analysis.
It shows how far we have come since then that the most widely
read parts of the daily press are the astrology pages.
This is a period of British history which has always interested
me, so I was somewhat surprised to encounter, several times, the
name of someone I had never heard of: Thomas Day.
Day, it appears, was a thoroughly modern man in some respects
and an incurable reactionary in others.
For instance, he seems to have believed in Roussau's vision of
women as submissive creatures designed to produce children and
tend to their husband's needs.
With this in mind he selected a twelve year old blond girl from
an orphanage in Shrewsbury to transform into the perfect wife.
To avoid scandal he took her to France where he tried to instil
in her a Roussauvian contempt "for luxury, dress, title and
frivolity". This proved ineffectual and he eventually decided
she had a weak mind and abandoned her.
It seems that Day's rather unenlightened ideas about women did
not prevent him from being an early animal-libber.
In Professor Porter's words: "Believing that the breaking-in
they received was both cruel and unnecessary - treat an animal
well and it would need no severity - he tried out his theory on
He had no more success, however, that he did with Roussau's theories
on how to train a wife.
The horse bolted, throwing him from the saddle, and the humanitarian
died from his injuries".
A lesson to us all - don't you think?
Another book I read over Christmas was my ancient, battered
edition of "Logic and its Limits" by Patrick Shaw.
Now we all like to believe that we think logically, but Professor
Shaw's slim volume demonstrates how difficult this can be.
One almost insurmountable problem is what logicians call the "systematic
ambiguity" of language.
Take this passage quoted in the book: "Everyone has some
god. Everyone worships something. If it is not the God of Christianity,
or some other religion then it is his country, or family, or dog,
or even the car".
As Shaw points out, this argument is flawed because it uses the
word worship in two different senses.
This technique of "the sliding definition" is one much
beloved by politicians who start off talking about one thing and
end up talking about something entirely different, hoping that
we won't notice the join.
One typical example is the claim that 3 million British jobs depend
on our exports to Europe (true) which is transformed in the course
of a single sentence to 3 million jobs depending on our membership
of the European Union.
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