Where does Owen Paterson go from here?

Owen Paterson reveals that he sees himself as St George fighting the environmental lobby dragon, or Green Blob as he has called it. He feels that his sacking is a “kick in the teeth” for several hundred hugely wealthy landowners and the NFU.

Paterson will no doubt continue his personal crusade against science-led policy on climate change, Bovine TB and other things. But from where?

Will he retreat to the backbenches and adopt a Churchillian position of leading the re-armers against the green-appeasers and apologists he sees in the Cabinet, woefully ignoring “The Gathering Storm” of green fascism emanating from Brussels?

Will he become the new chief Exec of the Global Warming Policy Foundation’s military arm, now that the Charity Commission has decided GWPF has been naughty doing political lobbying while masquerading as a charity and has to be split asunder.

Will he be knighted for services against the Environment as a Treasury Operative in deep cover by his handler, the mysterious master operator behind the scenes (code name Gideon).

Or will he resign from the Tory Party and stand for UKIP in the General Election?

Whatever, his mates in the anti-environmental lobby, or the Neoconoids as I have branded them today will no doubt rally around to support their wounded hero. Expect a particularly stinky outpouring of anti-green effluent from the likes of Christopher Booker, James Delingpole, Richard North, Nigel Lawson, Lord Monckton and of course Paterson’s own brorther in Law Viscount Matt Ridley et al, in the pages of the Telegraph and Spectator.

Neoconoid n. A virulent neoconservative agent known to be acutely toxic to all forms of wildlife, nature, the environment and those who care about it. Symptoms include green blobs appearing under Tory MPs skin. It can also produce an intense itching pain in the rectum.

 

 

Posted in anti conservation rhetoric, anti-environmental rhetoric, Neoconoids, Owen Paterson | Tagged , | 4 Comments

Farewell Owen Paterson: your work here is done

Opatz

And so the rumours have finally been confirmed, Owen Paterson has been asked to stow away his wellies for the last time and return to the back benches.

It may seem incredible that Paterson only became Secretary of State against the Environment in September 2012. How much damage can be done by one man in so little time.

What will he be remembered for?

  1. The Farcical Badger Cull – against his own and independent Scientist’s advice.
  2. Emasculating Natural England and the Environment Agency such that they became Defra’s poodles.
  3. Appointing Andrew Sells, housebuilder and treasurer of the Policy Exchange as Chair of Natural England.
  4. The ridiculous attack on “Red Tape”, and moves to deregulate anything that could possibly be deregulated, regardless of the function it played. This led inexorably to the Horse meat scandal.
  5. The hollowing out of Defra, which started under his predecessor but hastened under Paterson.
  6. Blaming the Badgers for not being there to be culled “The Badgers moved the Goalposts”
  7. A front man for Global Biotech Industry pushing GMOs. Calling opponents of GM “wicked” and accusing them of causing children to be blinded. “It’s just disgusting that little children are allowed to go blind and die because of a hang-up by a small number of people about this technology.” This was later found to be totally untrue.
  8. Standing up for the right for farmers to use Neonicotinoids, as evidence piled on evidence of their widespread toxic effects on wildlife.
  9. Being a placeman for the NFU, pushing their facile “UK farmers must grow as much food as possible to feed the world” lunacy.
  10. Being a gung ho supporter of Biodiversity Offsetting, regardless of whether it works or not,or has precisly the opposite effect ie “a licence to trash’. Infamously claiming that you can replace an ancient woodland by planting thousands of trees.
  11. Ignoring Government scientists, preferring instead to peddle the shall we say idiosyncratic views of Viscount Matt Ridley, the Rational Optimist.
  12. Denying the existence of human-induced Climate Change.
  13. I’m sure to have missed some – please let me know.

Are there any redeeming features?

Well – there was a moment during the CAP reform process when Paterson, from a neoliberal perspective, was arguing that farmers should only receive subsidies in return for public goods such as flood prevention, carbon storage and wildlife conservation. Still, the moment past, and instead we got a the worst case of greenwashing in decades of CAP reform, greening.

Paterson also hinted that intensive agriculture might be making a contribution  to flooding in places like the Somerset Levels, before setting the EA to dredge every river.

I for one will miss him – if only because he provided such good topics to write about.

Who will replace him at Defra? It doesn’t really matter. After the summer break, it will be conference time before the troops are called to muster in preparation for the Election. There won’t be any new legislation and it will be just be a case of tying up loose ends.

Is it a coincidence that Paterson’s partner in crime, Matt Ridley, is the nephew of the late Nick Ridley, the last most damaging Environment Secretary?

Posted in corporate lobbying, deregulation, GMOs, Matt Ridley, Neonicotinoids, NFU, Owen Paterson | Tagged , , , , , | 10 Comments

Held to Ransom: Solar Farms – green or greed?

View_of_Rampisham_transmitter_site,_Dorset,_England

Rampisham Down Transmitter Station from Hot Air Balloon

Despite the sun shining upon us for much of the late Spring and Summer, the Solar industry has not had such a happy time of it.

Eric Pickles has decided he doesn’t like solar farms, possibly because of their impact on the landscape, possibly for some other reason. His failure to decide why he doesn’t like them caused his move to block a Suffolk Solar farm to be thrown out by the high court.

The bigger threat to Solar Farms comes from the Government’s proposal to withdraw Renewable Obligations support for 5MW or larger Solar Farms as of April 2015. The Solar industry are lobbying to have the proposal abandoned.

Solar Farm Best Practice for Biodiversity

The Solar Trade Association, perhaps stung by criticism that there are Solar Farms popping up everywhere spoiling the view (or worse) has come up with 1o commitments to best practice. Commitment 2 states that “we will be sensitive to national….conservation areas, and we welcome opportunities to enhance the ecological value of the land”.

To show their sensitive side, the Solar Industry have come up with some best practice guidance for biodiversity and solar farms. The BRE National Solar Centre Biodiversity Guidance for Solar Developments, has – I am somewhat surprised to see, been endorsed by a wide range of conservation NGOs. If I had been asked to endorse a piece of industry promotional material, I would have wanted to be very clear that I was happy about what it was saying.

The BRENSC guidance says a lot of good things about enhancing agricultural land that has lost its value for biodiversity, when building  Solar Farms. So far so uncontroversial. It’s what it says about existing high biodiversity sites that is more interesting. For instance should a Solar Farm ever be built on a  Special Protection Area (Birds Directive)? The STA says SPAs are “very unlikely to be appropriate” for Solar Farm development, though even this is caveated with “depending on the designated feature”.  I can’t really think of any SPA designated feature where a Solar Farm would be appropriate. Since the qualifying features for which SPAs are designated are wild bird populations, none to my knowledge benefit from having large glass panels on posts stuck in their habitats, along with the artificial lights, security fencing, buildings, tracks and all the other infrastructure of Solar farms.

For SACs and SSSIs it only says “unlikely to be suitable”. Why differentiate between SPAs and all other designations? Are birds more likely to be upset by having a Solar Farm built in their Special Protection Area? Would bats find it easier to navigate through the array of panels than birds? Would habitats benefit from having thousands of glass roofs and metal posts stuck into them? No,  I think it’s more likely that the RSPB drove a harder bargain when negotiating about whether their logo would appear on the booklet, than the other NGOs.

For Section 41 species and habitats – these are the Priority Habitats and Species or Habitats and Species of Principal Importance, basically the UK habitats and species which are highest priority for conservation,  the guidance says that the presence of these features “should guide the appropriateness of solar developments to avoid harm to these interests”.

For SNCIs (Local Wildlife Sites) and undesignated semi-natural grasslands it says that an ecologist should be consulted “to avoid damage to such sites.” This is confusing though because all undesignated semi-natural grasslands would already qualify as Habitats of Principal Importance, as do many SNCIs.

I think this is all exceptionally weak and mealy mouthed. For an industry that seeks at every opportunity to portray itself as “green by default” it should be setting a high standard when it comes to impact on wildlife. The guidance should be unambiguous and say that solar farms should never be developed on sites with statutory protection, or on priority habitats unless it can be shown that there will be no impact on their natural value. For SNCIs there should be a strong presumption against development of Solar Farms, indeed many local authorities already have similar policies for other forms of development, within their local plans.

How can all these NGOs sign up to an industry document that states in black and white that SSSIs are only “unlikely to be suitable” for Solar Farms – come on NGOs. How would they have reacted to a proposal from, eg, the House Builders Federation, to sign up to industry guidance on housing that stated that SSSIs were “unlikely to be suitable” to housing development?

Return To Rampisham (Ransom)

The Solar Trade Association which produced the biodiversity guidance has amongst its membership British Solar Renewables, which you will recall, proposes developing a Solar Farm on Rampisham (locally known as Ransom) Down in Dorset. Rampisham  was designated as a SSSI on account of its large area of unimproved acid grassland. Indeed BSR were recently part of the Solar Trade Association’s publicity event “Independence Day” and held an open day at their Crossways Solar Farm here in Dorset.

I might be misunderstanding this, but if BSR are a member of the Solar Trade Association, and the STA requires its members to abide by the 10 commitments, which includes being sensitive to national conservation  areas (such as SSSIs) then isn’t BSR in direct breach of this code of practice?

That’s the trouble with voluntary codes of practice; they are just voluntary – will anyone police them?

British Solar Renewables’ first Solar Farm is on its founder, Angus MacDonald’s, family Farm, Higher Hill Farm, on the hills above the Somerset Levels. This array is just about 5MW in size, and would have cost around £5M to build, perhaps a bit less. It earnt BSR nearly £500,000 last year in electricity production and solar subsidy. So for this farm at least, the return is 10% per annum – pretty good by anyone’s standards.

In 10 years the Solar farm has paid for itself, and for the remainder of its active life it is generating clear profit. You can see why BSR were so enthusiastic to install a much larger array at Rampisham, to such an extent that they were happy to ignore or deny the environmental impact. Although MacDonald won Best Cider Orchard at the Bath and West Show this year, the remainder of Higher Hill Farm appears (from Google Earth) to be in intensive maize production. Perhaps this Maize is sold into the “ecofriendly” biogas market at a large profit. And of course it’s just another area of Maize contributing to the problems of the Somerset Levels.

Current proposals for Rampisham indicate a 24MW output, which should generate an income of nearly £2.5M a year. Even if BSR paid through the nose for Rampisham, the electricity and subsidy will still have paid for the land and construction costs and be in straight profit in 12-15 years. With the guillotine potentially coming down on subsidies for large (>5MW) Solar Farms next April, you can see why BSR are so keen to get their planning permission for Rampisham as quick as possible (despite the fact that it is now a SSSI).

Now that Rampisham is an SSSI, BSR are trying to persuade the local planning authority that their Solar Farm won’t damage the SSSI interest features, because they will space the panels out a bit more, tip them up so they create less shadow, and put some clear glass in the panels to let the light through. They are even doing some experiments to see just how biodiversity friendly these new panels are.

holey panelsjpeg

the new grass-friendly holey solar panels are still very opaque (this view from underneath, from a BSR report)

 

Now you or I might think it blindingly obvious that if you cover a large area of unimproved grassland with what are effectively a combination of roofs and windows, it might alter the floristic composition of the grassland. But no, BSR’s planning consultants argue that there is no evidence to support NE’s view that the Panels will have an adverse impact on the SSSI grassland.  It’s true, in the same way as there is no scientific evidence based on experiment, that unimproved grasslands would suffer any damage from being covered in custard, or used for the UK annual lawnmower-racing championships. Or having alien spacecraft land on them.

BSR have set up a “test plot” to test their new holey panel and have already been monitoring them for a whole 39 days.  They have erected three arrays, each with 40 solar panels (10 x 4). Then they are going to monitor the light, moisture and so on under and around the panels. They will also monitor the vegetation under the panels and nearby in unshaded areas. Given that the grassland on the site is quite varied over the whole site, I would have thought a proper experimental set up would have reflected this and included a number of replicates on different grassland types, covering slope, aspect, soil depth etc. 4o replicates perhaps? 3 seems wholly insufficient.

In 39 days of continuous recording they have found that the soil moisture under the panels is 47% higher than in the open,  while soil temperature is 16% less under the panels. In other words under the panels it is cooler and damper. They have also been monitoring sunlight in the frequencies that plants use. They have found that shade directly under the panels receives 20% of the light compared to an unshaded spot, 34% at the back edge of the panels,  and 88% between the panel rows.

So let’s just summarise their findings. Under the new holey panels, it’s

  • much damper,
  • quite a bit cooler 
  • much darker

than in the open. And this is during the critical time of year for plant growth, the late spring and early summer.

Now if I were thinking, what would happen to a grassland that became 4 times shadier than it had been, nearly half as much again damper, and 20% cooler, I might think it would turn into something very different. Much more bryophyte growth for starters, and I would expect it to get grassier, with fewer herbs.

Needless to say, in 39 days they haven’t found any change in botanical composition of the grassland under the panels, or indeed between the panels. But then they have only monitored the vegetation plots once, so they wouldn’t find any change anyway.

I was very surprised that these monitoring plots will be excluded from grazing. Why? Surely grazing is a critical element of grassland management, whether under panels or in the open. At the very least plots should be monitored grazed and ungrazed. How would livestock react to the panels? They might prefer grazing under the panels, or they might prefer grazing away from the panels, or they might not differentiate between the two. Who knows? Would sheep not take shelter under panels in the rain? Would they preferentially poo there? There are many impacts which would result from placing solar panels on unimproved grassland, far beyond how much light gets through them. None of these are being assessed in this experiment.

Despite all these limitations, BSR ecological adviser John Feltwell has felt the need to carry out a technical assessment to  review the results of the monitoring programme set up by BSR. Presumably he thinks this review will lend the experiment scientific credibility. He has decided that the experiment is not only very scientific, but is already showing results. After 39 days.

His scientific review rapidly heads off into the long grass though.

A baseline condition predicted to occur on site, in the absence of solar development, would be that the site would be overrun by Bracken, a succession process that has already started.”

This remember is supposed to be a technical assessment of the experiment. Feltwell seems keener to tell Natural England the site will only get managed if BSR get their Solar Farm. Indeed he is only repeating what BSR owner Angus MacDonald said at the SSSI confirmation hearing.

Now one could argue, from an ecological perspective, that, in the absence of any grazing, the site would eventually develop into Oak and Beech woodland on the plateau with some Ash woodland on the slopes. One could argue that, with the reintroduction of extinct megafauna, Rampisham Down could develop into a dynamic mosaic of mature woodland, woodland glades and rides naturally maintained by passing elephants. Or one could argue that Rampisham Down could continue to be managed as a Downland (a clue in the name) through the grazing of domestic livestock, as it has been for millennia.

From an ecological perspective, one would not normally include externalities such as Solar Farms being built, nor nuclear waste facilities, rocket launching stations or Theme Parks.

Remember the data which showed the area under the panels getting darker, cooler and wetter?

Feltwell dismisses the findings of the first 39 days of monitoring, on account of

1. It being too sunny – “the normal weather at Rampisham is generally cloudy” he states. Actually Rampisham is one of the sunniest spots in the whole country (over 1600 hours a year), which is exactly why BSR want to build a massive Solar Farm there.

2. Recordings were made around Midsummers day when incident light onto the unshaded areas was at its greatest. In other words the days were too long.

While this is true, it doesn’t deflect from the reality that at the height of summer, when the plants are growing and flowering, they will be in the dense shade of the panels and they will be cooler and darker than otherwise. In any case it was quite within BSR’s powers to set up the experiment to run at another time of year,  – or over perhaps a whole year, or even several years, before pontificating about what the results might mean.

Regardless, Dr Feltwell concludes that based on 39 days of physical data, which he has ignored,

“there is evidence there is a trend towards evidence indicating less harm to the suite of plants that comprise the notified SSSI flora than might otherwise have been found with traditional panels.”

This is of course arrant nonsense. Not only does it make no grammatical sense, but it makes no ecological sense. There has been no measurement of change in the floristics of the grassland under the panel, near the panel or flying past the panel on the back of an aerial pig. There is only one data point. Where is the trend?

Even if after several years of monitoring it had been found that there was a difference between the grassland under the holey panels compared with the traditional ones, this also has no bearing on the important question – will erecting hundreds and thousands of solar panels on an SSSI grassland cause it damage? If it is just a little bit less damaged as a result of the new improved flower-friendly panels, it is still damaged.

What is even more extraordinary is that former Director of Kew gardens Professor Ghillean Prance, puts his name to a foreword to this travesty. Prance states that “Rampisham Down is a severely damaged area of grassland.” and that Solar Farms “increase biodiversity rather than diminish it.” It’s a pity Prance didn’t turn up to the SSSI confirmation hearing – I would have enjoyed debating these points with him. Prance is a very devout christian and feels a strong ethical duty to protect the environment, a duty derived from his faith. I guess those ethics don’t extend to unimproved acid grassland.

Perhaps Prance is a purist re-wilder; and that all unimproved grasslands, heathlands, lowland raised mires, fens and blanket bogs are severely damaged habitats; and that only Holocene Forest is the real undamaged habitat of Britain. Or perhaps he believes that the Holocene Forest was also severely damaged habitat, on account of the Elephants and Rhinos that were hunted to extinction in the Pleistocene preventing them from returning at the end of the last Ice Age.  I think we should hear what Prof Prance really thinks. We know the bible is his “final authority“. What does it have to say about unimproved acid grassland?

I sense that the ecological consultants tasked with jumping through these hoops, Landmark, are squirming with embarrassment at all this. They were asked to undertake a literature review of the evidence that solar panel shading causes damage to grasslands. Naturally there was no literature to review – and sensibly they concluded there was no evidence that making solar panels a bit more transparent would make any difference to their impact on the grassland.

They were also asked to investigate opportunities to enhance the Rampisham grasslands. They suggested a move from sheep grazing to cattle grazing. I think this is absolutely right, Rampisham has been only sheep grazed for years and the sward has reacted to that grazing. Cattle would open up the sward and create bare ground for flowers to seed into. Unfortunately cattle and solar panels do not mix. Cattle like to rub against any upright fixture in an area where they graze. They would have no trouble rubbing against the panels and probably break quite a few. This is why The Solar Trade Association guidelines promote sheep grazing, not cattle.

SSSIs under Threat

Rampisham is one of two key cases live at the moment which, depending on how each of them conclude, will affect the future of all SSSIs in England. The other one is Lodge Hill in Kent. Both sites are under threat from development, and the key question is how the balance between protecting nature and promoting economic growth in the National Planning Policy Framework will be interpreted.

The NPPF enshrines the Mitigation Hierarchy, whose first commandment is “thou shalt avoid doing damage to very important wildlife sites.” If that damage is unavoidable, because there is nowhere else for that Solar Farm or that housing development to go, then move onto the next test, mitigation. In both the Lodge Hill and Rampisham Down cases, they can both be built elsewhere.

The other key issue is “does the benefit of the development outweigh the harm?” This is of course an “apples and pears” argument, as the benefits, in terms of economy (jobs, company profits) and environmental ones (CO2 reduction) are not even remotely comparable with the loss of biodiversity (tangible and intangible values, including intrinsic value) and landscape (tangible and intangible values).

If you would like to object to the proposal at Rampisham Down please make a comment to West Dorset District Council here  BY THE FIRST OF AUGUST.

I have submitted a response using the online form, which should be published in the next couple of days so you can see what I have said.

More Dorset Solar Farms

Two more Dorset solar farms have been proposed recently, including one at Manor Farm, Verwood, directly adjacent to the 28ha Homeland Solar Farm,  which has already been built. Homeland was where the proposed environmental benefit was to create a wildflower meadow on former heathland, next to a heathland SSSI, SAC and SPA. At least Good Energy revised their proposals to mention heathland – though only in passing. The main emphasis is still on “wildflower meadow” creation, though the photo show a cornfield mix. I guess I’m being pedantic again  – splitting hairs over things like the difference between heathlands, wildflower meadows and arable weeds. Still, overall I think there will be a benefit for wildlife, given that it was previously arable land.

Manor Farm Solar Farm, right next door, would be on former intensive dairy land so it seems almost certain there will be an environmental benefit. The two new proposals together cover 102ha of farmland, or 240 acres in old money. The Manor Farm ecological management plan notes that wildflower seed will be sown in areas that are not shaded by the panels, and just a grass mix is sown under the panels

“wildflower mixtures will be sown between the panels, rather than underneath panels, to ensure they receive adequate levels of sunlight to facilitate growth and establishment”. It still bothers me that on an area that was heathland until relatively recently, there is this insistence on creating wildflower meadow. Manor Farm does include a pitifully small area heathland creation (0.25ha).

I think we need as many solar panels as we can possibly install – on roofs. There must be millions of hectares of roofs in this country – almost all of them could have panels. Economies of scale would mean that large roofs would be cheapest to put panels on – big warehouses, factories, shopping malls.

I would even be happy to see some solar farms be developed, and contribute to habitat creation – but keep them away from our few surviving valuable wildlife sites please.

 

Photo of Rampisham Down from Wikimedia Commons  “View of Rampisham transmitter site, Dorset, England” by Foxmeadows – Photo from hotair ballon arround 2005. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Posted in biodiversity, British Solar Renewables, Rampisham Down, Solar Farms, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 23 Comments

Paterson refuses top Scientists’ briefings on Climate Change: where does he get his views from?

It was a massive shock – to no-one at all – that Owen Paterson has refused to take a briefing on climate change from the Chief Scientists of the Met Office, Department of Climate Change or even Defra. This amazing piece of information was gleaned via a Freedom of Information request by Friends of the Earth.

Yesterday FoE dumped a load of wellies abandoned at Glastonbury Festival, on the doorstep of Nobel House, Defra’s headquarters, in a symbolic gesture indicating that Paterson should be “given the boot”.

This refusal to be briefed happened specifically in the days preceding the publication of the IPCC 5th assessment “summary for policymakers” report last September.

On the 29th September Paterson spoke at a Tory Party Conference Fringe Event.

He said

“People get very emotional about this subject and I think we should just accept that the climate has been changing for centuries.

“I think the relief of this latest report is that it shows a really quite modest increase, half of which has already happened. They are talking one to two and a half degrees.

“Remember that for humans, the biggest cause of death is cold in winter, far bigger than heat in summer. It would also lead to longer growing seasons and you could extend growing a little further north into some of the colder areas.

“I actually see this report as something we need to take seriously but I am rather relieved that it is not as catastrophic in its forecast as we had been led to believe early on and what it is saying is something we can adapt to over time and we are very good as a race at adapting,” he said.

Now it is possible that Paterson thought all this up himself, in the absence of briefings from Chief Scientists at DECC, DEFRA and the Met Office. However, there is another possibility. This piece of writing was published on the 17th September.

Warming of up to 1.2 degrees Celsius over the next 70 years (0.8 degrees have already occurred), most of which is predicted to happen in cold areas in winter and at night, would extend the range of farming further north, improve crop yields, slightly increase rainfall (especially in arid areas), enhance forest growth and cut winter deaths (which far exceed summer deaths in most places). Increased carbon dioxide levels also have caused and will continue to cause an increase in the growth rates of crops and the greening of the Earth—because plants grow faster and need less water when carbon dioxide concentrations are higher.

Spot the similarities:

  • Longer growing seasons
  • extend crop growing area further north
  • fewer winter deaths
  • winter deaths far exceed summer deaths

So, who could this author be – is it Paterson ghost-writing someone else’s blog?

No – it’s his brother in Law, Viscount Matt Ridley, described by Conservative Home with prescience as Paterson’s personal Think Tank. As Mark Wallace said in that article, having Ridley around to explain complicated things like Science

“gives him a handy route to overcome flawed analyses sometimes presented to him by civil servants.” 

That’s one way of putting it.

Another way is that Paterson turns to his clever brother-in-law for advice because they both deny human-driven climate change is real or a problem; and it’s easier to listen to someone you agree with, than have to listen to pesky Chief Scientists telling you stuff you don’t want to hear. I can picture Paterson sitting there with his fingers in his ears going “La La La can’t hear you”. Paterson’s views coincide exactly with Ridley on other matters, including GMOs and Fracking. Coincidence?

Let’s not forget Aristocrat and Eton/Oxbridge educated Ridley was chairman of  the Northern Rock board when it failed in such a spectacular fashion that it helped trigger the worst British economic recession in nearly a hundred years and led directly to the dismantling of the State that his brother in law and mates are presiding over.

Paid £315,000 a year for his Northern Rock chair post, he was lambasted for being asleep at the wheel while Northern Rock went on a massive borrowing spree just when global money markets collapsed. Curious why Northern Rock took on a scientist as their chair? His daddy, the 4th Viscount, was chair of Northern Rock from 1987 to 1992.

 

 

 

Posted in climate change, Eton, Matt Ridley, neoliberalism, Owen Paterson | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Sells brings Cross to NE Board. Goodbye Doug Hulyer

The white smoke has appeared from the Natural England papal chimney – we now know who the new Natural England Chief Executive is – James Cross. He has arrived fresh from being the second CEO of the Marine Management Organisation (MMO). Before that he was Assistant Chief Inspector of Courts for England and Wales.

Cross has sat on a number of Defra Management Boards as well as his MMO role. As this biog from the MMO website says Cross excels in “business diagnostic and turnaround skills.” He is particularly proud of his work with the Northern Ireland Coroner’s service following the Good Friday Agreement; and also his investigation into a tragic case where a defendant was released from custody by mistake at Leeds Crown Court when an arrest warrant was already in place for them, and they went on to commit a murder that same day. It’s worth noting that the Justice Minister that Cross worked to as Assistant Chief Inspector of Courts was Maria Eagle, now Shadow Secretary of State for the Environment. Before his 5 years at the Courts Inspectorate, Cross spent 4 years developing his management skills at HM Revenue and Customs.

Hopefully with that background he will be quite interested in Natural England’s legal role and regulatory functions.

However, the marine environment is unlikely to welcome Cross to Natural England, since he has resided over 4 years of inaction, delay and “unhelpfully moving the goalposts” according to a very critical report from the Environmental Audit Committee over the implementation of the Marine Act for Marine Conservation Zones. Only 27 Marine Conservation Zones have so far been declared, and even these don’t have management plans yet.

The committee’s chairwoman, Joan Walley, said: “Marine conservation zones can protect our seas from over-fishing and give species and habitats space to recover, ultimately benefiting people whose livelihoods depend on healthy seas.

“But the Government has been too slow in creating these zones, and it has failed to get coastal communities and fishermen on board.

“It is now well over four years since the launch of the programme, yet only 27 of the 127 sites recommended by independent project groups have been designated.

“The Government must stop trying to water down its pledge to protect our seas and move much more quickly to establish further protection zones and ensure they can be enforced.”

Now it may be that Cross was working away feverishly in the background to get more of a commitment for MCZ’s out of the Government, and actually if it hadn’t been for his superhuman efforts there would only have been 3 MCZs declared up until now. That is quite possible, given the appalling record on the environment from the Coalition. I guess we will have to wait and see on that one.

In other Natural England Board news, NE has announced new appointments to its Non-Exec Board. First of all it’s worth noting who has left the Board – Doug Hulyer – a great conservationist with a depth of knowledge of the sector second to none, who has achieved a huge amount both at NE and as an HLF trustee. He was also an English Nature board member since 2002 so he knows how the organisation has changed and understands its history. He will be seriously missed.

A whole load of Non-exec directors are up for reappointment or for leaving in September and it remains to be seen who will stay on. David Hill, chair of biodiversity offsetting vehicle The Environment Bank has been on the Board since 2006 and I would be surprised if he stayed on; Professor David McDonald of the Oxford university Wildcru and badger expert may well have been given his marching orders as another 2006 appointee; the others were appointed in 2009 or 2011 so may well stay on for another stint.

New appointments include

  • Andy Clements BTO Chief Executive. This is an excellent choice (though his knowledge of wildlife beyond birds may not be as strong or deep as Doug Hulyer’s);
  • Simon Lyster – another strong voice for nature and ex Trustfinder General for The Wildlife Trusts.
  • Teresa Dent Chief Exec of the Game Conservancy – clearly a nod to the huntin shootin and fishin brigade. Not good news for Hen Harriers.
  • Julia Aglionby, Chief Exec of the Foundation for Common Land. This is an interesting appointment as FCL are relatively new and still finding their role. But I hear good things about FCL and I think she will bring a different perspective for the uplands and commons issues that NE has to address.
  • John Varley of Clinton Estates. Varley has held a number of senior non-exec roles including on the Lawton panel and the forestry panel. Varley has first hand experience of the tricky balance between conservation and recreation as a trustee of the East Devon Pebblebed Heaths conservation trust.

 

Does it matter who these Non-Exec appointments are? How much influence do they really have?

I have written at length about the new Chair Andrew Sells. Bear in mind the Board appoint the Chief Exec (with a final sign off by the Secretary of State). And they set the tone for the staff, particularly the Exec Board Directors. And they decide on policy. And they decide whether SSSIs get confirmed or not. And they have a great deal of influence in the wider sectors, through their networks of contacts.

NE non-exec board members can be apostles for nature conservation broadly and NE specifically, or they can be apostates, and everything in between. So getting the right board is absolutely critical. At least the new appointments could not be said to be Defra place-men and women, which must be good news.

Who knows, perhaps Mr Sells read my advisory post to him?

 

Posted in Andrew Sells, Natural England, Uncategorized | Tagged | 7 Comments

Farmers flout TB rules and campaign against loopholes which let TB spread

You really would think that Britain’s farmers would all be on-side supporting whatever actions are needed to reduce the scourge of Bovine TB, wouldn’t you?

‘Fraid not.

Last week I explored Defra’s latest proposals to reduce the spread of bTB from cattle to cattle. One of the proposals was to remove the loophole which allowed cattle farmers to apply for partial de-restriction of their holdings. This means that a farmer with a TB reactor in their herd can still move cattle off their farm either to market, or onto other farm holdings. Unsurprisingly Defra report that

there is evidence that holdings that have been partially de-restricted have a disproportionate number of further TB breakdowns“.

Who would have thought it?

The main reason for this is that the standard test for bTB is not that accurate – about 60%.

You wouldn’t think that this would be a particularly controversial proposal, given the obvious loophole it creates. Think again. The Tenant Farmers Association is objecting to the proposal. They say it will drive cattle farmers out of business. TFA chairman Stephen Wyrill railed against the new proposals. While he agreed the Government should continue to kill badgers, when it comes to more controls on cattle he said “such measures must respect the need for trade to continue within an appropriate risk based system.”

In other words trade is more important than disease control, when it comes to tackling the disease in cattle.

Meanwhile in Cornwall two brothers have been fined (only £6000) for illegally destroying and replacing cattle ear tags (which are used by a vet to label cattle who have a positive TB test reaction), in order to claim TB compensation on an uninfected but injured animal. The judge lambasted one of the farmers for his “old-fashioned views, anger, contempt and disdain for vets and inspectors”. The inspectors found a further 24 cattle whose tags had “disappeared” so there was no way of knowing whether they had TB or not.

With farming organisations like the TFA actively campaigning against the closure of loopholes that even Defra can see are allowing bTB to spread, and individuals like the Collins brothers who are actively abusing the TB control system, is it any wonder that they need a scapegoat like the badger to blame.

Posted in badgers, bovine TB, farming | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

How the Beaver got its name.

Following saturday’s blog on Beavers, I was curious to know how the Beaver got its name.

Apparently it has a very long history. A long extinct language has been reconstructed from existing languages,  called Proto Indo European. This language is thought to have been spoken around 5500 years ago.

The word babhrús still exists in the ancient Indian language Sanskrit. This over time became Beaver.

The word has a number of meanings. It has become the word for bronze-brown, which may reflect the amazing colours that can be found in beaver pelts. Another meaning for the word is Ichneumon. When I saw this I wondered what Beavers had to do with parasitic wasps. So I was surprised to read that Ichneumon is the ancient Greek name of a mythical beast. This beast was the legendary deadly enemy of the dragon. The Ichneumon (which in Greek means tracker), on seeing a dragon, covers itself in mud (to create armour), covers its nostrils with its tail, at which point it attacks and kills the dragon. The story has obvious similarities with the mongoose/snake story retold by Rudyard Kipling as Rikki Tikki Tavi . The Romans called the Ichneumon Calcatrix, which became the legendary Cockatrice.

It seems to me that our ancestors with their limited zoological knowledge combined the behaviour of the Beaver with the Mongoose to create the legendary Ichneumon. Either way, the Beaver held a very important place in the spriritual world of these prehistoric societies.

That may explain why it elicits such strong reactions (for and against) in these modern times.

Posted in Beavers, Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

Angling Trust calls for Beavers to be shot: Defra Evicts Beavers from Otter

beaver

As some of you may know  a Beaver family has been spotted on the River Otter in East Devon.  A lone Beaver was seen last Summer, and this year, it appears that there is a family. How did that happen? Nobody knows.

Should we welcome the reappearance, after a few centuries of this native mammal, this ecosystem engineer? I would say yes, this is fantastic news. Beavers didn’t become extinct in England because their habitat disappeared, they were hunted to extinction, like that other welcome returner, the Red Kite.

Why would Beavers on the Otter be a problem? Do they eat fish, competing with the local anglers? No, Beavers are vegetarian.

Is the landowner, Mr David Lawrence, concerned about the Beavers? No he welcomes them.

Mr Lawrence seemed relaxed about the idea of having wild beavers breeding on his land: “We might have to go in one day and clear some of the felled trees so they won’t be a nuisance downstream in Tipton if it floods. But it’s all very interesting – my wife has just started a holiday business with a safari tent and this will give people something extra to look at.”

But wait:  The Angling Trust says its members need more beavers “like we need a hole in the head” and maintains that its members have the “right” to shoot them as an invasive species. Mark Lloyd, the body’s chief executive, said: “The release of these beavers has not been formally sanctioned and they should be removed.”

The Angling Trust has been err Angling to have Beavers exterminated for the past two years. I think their argument is that beaver dams stop fish from reaching their spawning grounds, which begs the question, how did the fish manage for the previous 200,000 years of Eurasian Beaver existence, or indeed their evolutionary precursors.

I find it hilarious that Anglers, of all people, using the “unapproved introductions are wrong” argument against an extinct native species, when they have been responsible for repeated and continuing introductions of native and non-native species of fish to the UK’s waterways and waterbodies. Where did the Zanders, the Mirror Carp, the Wels and all the other exotic fish, with their exotic diseases come from?

My knowledge of the angling fraternity (via my late Angler brother Simon and his expert friends) suggests the Angling Trust do not speak on behalf of the Angling community. I suspect most Anglers would be delighted to know that Beavers had returned to the British countryside, and would even be thrilled to see one; certainly, compared to that other watery returner and ravenous fish-killer, the Otter.

Defra take another angle – “Beavers have not been an established part of our wildlife for the last 500 years. Our landscape and habitats have changed since then and we need to assess the impact they could have.”

Sorry? Defra are suggesting that a once ubiquitous native mammal, which was hunted to extinction, might not fit into our modern landscape and habitats. Surely that’s a problem with our perception of landscape, not an argument for removing a native mammal. As for habitats, look at the equivalent habitats in Europe with beavers and compare them with the UK habitats without, then tell me we will be better off without them, making their pesky dams, chopping down trees that might belong to someone, holding water back to reduce peak flood flows.

The point is that Beavers create habitats and public environmental goods that we have missed for the last 500 years; habitats that support a whole range of other species. Is it better to create a pond with a Hy-mac, or have a beaver create one?

One argument used against the re-introduction of Beavers is that they carry a parasitic tapeworm Echinococcus Multilocularis (EM) which might spread to other wildlife, or even humans. The tapeworm is carried by a wide range of other wildlife and is widespread across the Northern Hemisphere. Beavers introduced in formal programmes for example on the Tay have been screened for it but it can be very difficult to find. Beaver experts believe it is highly unlikely that the animals introduced in Devon are carriers.  As the Indy article stated,

Roison Campbell-Palmer, who is part of a Royal Zoological Society of Scotland team running a five-year long trial to reintroduce beavers to the Scottish Highlands, added that there was only “a very small chance” that the animals Devon had been imported from high-risk EM areas, while other environmentalists point to a 2012 Defra report which found the risk of transmission of the parasite to UK wildlife was “very low”.

Asked by the Shadow Secretary of State for the Environment Maria Eagle, what plans Defra have for controlling the Beavers of the Otter, Defra Minister George Eustice said last week that

“We intend to recapture and rehome the wild beavers in Devon and are currently working out plans for the best way to do so. All decisions will be made with the welfare of the beavers in mind. There are no plans to cull beavers.”

If you’re wondering why Labour asked a question of the Government about controlling the Otter Beavers, as opposed to what their view of an unsanctioned introduction was, then look no further than the Angling Trust’s blog, by former Labour MP and Angling Trust Campaign Chief Martin Salter. Angling is Britain’s most popular past-time and no doubt a rather larger proportion of anglers will vote Labour than Tory.

And so, once again, following my previous blog about the power of the Kennel Club, we see recreational interests with political clout take precedence over nature, the wishes of the public and landowners.

Photo – many thanks to Peter Cooper for spotting the wrong photo and providing the right one!

 

 

Posted in angling, Beavers | Tagged , , , | 18 Comments

Kennel Club challenges Corporation of London over Burnham Beeches Dog Control

I recently wrote about Dogs and nature. Dogs undoubtedly have a fantastic social value, but also a large environmental footprint, not least in areas valuable for their nature. This causes some interesting tensions to arise, as dog-lovers also tend to be interested in nature, and to care about animals, wild and domestic.

 
As I wrote before, Burnham Beeches is a fabulously valuable site for nature on the outskirts of London. It is also a mecca for dog-walkers, including professional dog walkers. The Corporation of London, who own and manage Burnham Beeches, have become increasingly concerned about the impact of dog-walking on the nature of the Beeches, specifically the 50 Tonnes of dog poo and 30 tonnes of dog wee deposited every year from dogs. Also, CoL has re-introduced livestock to the Beeches for the benefit of the species and habitat there, and they have experienced problems of stock being disturbed by out of control dogs. The Corporation have spent years trying to use voluntary approaches to limit the impact of dog walkers at Burnham Beeches. They have used signage, introduced dog bins, increased the number of wardens and carried out surveys. All those voluntary avenues have been used and the problem has not gone away. With a recent change in the law which enabled Dog Control Orders to be applied to private land such as Burnham Beeches, The Corporation has decided to take the regulatory path.

 
Last year the CoL surveyed the opinions of visitors to Burnham Beeches, including how they felt about dog-walking. They put forward a number of proposals to the public, concerning the introduction of restrictions on what dog-walkers could do, and asked for the public’s views. The public were supportive of introducing some restrictions, and the comments received were taken on board by CoL who amended the proposals.
These amended proposals are now out for public consultation – here is the link.

 
The proposals would enable Burnham Beeches staff to require dog-walkers to put their dogs on a lead in part of the site, and to ensure that dog-walkers have their dogs under close control (off the lead) on the remaining 220 acres (this is 3 times the area that a typical dog walker at BB requires and more than sufficient to ensure the mental health and well being of even the largest dog). It would also enable staff to require dog-walkers to pick up their dog’s poo (only about 30% do at the moment); and require people to limit the number of dogs walked per individual to four, so as to try and control the increasing number of professional dog walkers who walk more dogs than they can control.

 
Please do respond to the consultation and provide comments back to Burnham Beeches – this applies whether you use the site or not. I think what CoL are proposing at Burnham is sensible and measured and what happens at Burnham will have a bearing on whether other sites in a similar situation can effectively use Dog Control Orders to limit the impact of dog-walking. Please give them your support, if you agree with what they are proposing.
Not surprisingly the proposals have met with stiff opposition, from the Kennel Club. The KC is an interesting beast – it is literally a Mayfair gentleman’s club – it was founded in 1873 by 13 gentlemen who were concerned that the new fashion for dog shows and dog field trials was becoming a free for all. It was mostly interested in pedigree dog breeds until very recently. It now styles itself as representing all responsible dog-owners. It still has its Mayfair club headquarters in Clarges Street Mayfair.

Does the Kennel Club really represent all responsible dog-owners? They came in for severe criticism for supporting the breeding of pedigree dogs that were so inbred as to have major health problems. This led to the BBC stopping the broadcasting of Cruft’s dog show. Under severe public pressure, KC has brought in an accredited breeder scheme, though there have been accusations that the KC is judge and jury for breeders, since the KC is essentially a dog breeders club. Perhaps KC are trying to reinvent themselves as the “champions of the normal dog-owning public” to draw attention away from this unsavoury history.

The KC has issued a press release. The KC is against the proposal to introduce Dog Control Orders at Burnham Beeches. Their arguments are:

 

  • Restricting dog-walking (especially off-lead) at Burnham Beeches will displace dog-walking to less suitable places elsewhere – they mention “recreation grounds and playing fields” – which will be a bad thing.
  • Restricting off-lead dog-walking to areas that are grazed by livestock will be dangerous for dog-walkers.
  • Restricting off-lead dog-walking to areas with unsuitable terrain will make it difficult for older and disabled dog-walkers.
  • Dogs need regular off-lead exercise. Restricting the area available to them will threaten dog welfare.
  • Restricting the number of dogs walked by any one person to four is at odds with Defra guidance who advise that six dogs can safely be walked at a time.
  • The KC agree with encouraging dog-walkers to pick up after their dogs (but not to require it).
  • The KC quoted a local professional dog trainer Lorraine Gibbons who was worried about elderly and disabled dog-walkers “it is unrealistic to expect them to travel miles to other suitably large open areas for their dogs to get off-lead exercise”.
  • Gibbons goes on to suggest that the DCO will cause environmental damage by forcing dog-walkers to use their cars more.

The KC arguments seem, to me, to be based on their belief that there is a fundamental human right for dog-walkers to walk their dogs where they liked, on or off the lead, regardless of the impact of their behaviour on anyone or anything else.
They clearly feel a sense of entitlement. That they use elderly and disabled dog walkers to bolster their arguments does them no favours and smacks of opportunism even exploitation. They are all for responsible dog-walking but only on their terms.

 

They use veiled threats – that controlling dog-walking at Burnham Beeches will displace dog-walking to playing fields and recreation areas. Now why would that be a problem? Presumably because dog owners might not pick up their dog’s poo, or because there might be a danger that a dog attacked a child for example. As if that was ok at Burnham Beeches, or anywhere else.
Their attitude to livestock is very informative. They apparently support better practice for dog-walking and livestock; yet they clearly regard off-lead dog-walking as a higher priority than livestock grazing at Burnham Beeches. Guidance is clear, that dogs must be kept under control around livestock – livestock take precedence, not dogs.

In a briefing the Kennel Club have produced to help their members lobby against the Dog Control Order, they make a breathtaking claim  – that “the Kennel Club strongly opposes Schedule 2 as it is more extensive and restrictive than any other dog control order, national law or local bylaw in the UK, including on sites with much higher levels of nature conservation designation than Burnham Beeches. “

Just for the record, Burnham Beeches is a Site of Special Scientific Interest, a National Nature Reserve and a Special Area of Conservation under the EU Habitats Directive. It is simply not possible for a site to have any higher level of nature conservation designation. Perhaps the Kennel Club have got this Burnham Beeches mixed up with another site of the same name? Or perhaps the Kennel Club have absolutely no idea what they are talking about.

The Kennel Club goes on, in its briefing, to say

In addition, Burnham Beeches site is primarily designated for its ancient trees, which the Kennel Club does not believe are threatened by off-lead dogs. On other more sensitive sites, restrictions are timed to coincide with the nesting season, and not year round as proposed in Burnham Beeches. The Kennel Club would support targeted and proportionate restrictions.”

Now leaving aside whether trees have nesting seasons or not, Burnham Beeches SSSI is designated for its mature woodland, scrub and heath, including veteran trees. The Special Area of Conservation, whose considerably stronger protection drives the decision making process at Burnham, is designated for its Atlantic acidophilous Beech Forests.

The current, extremely brief, Conservation Objectives include maintaining or restoring “the supporting processes on which qualifying natural habitat and habitats of qualifying species rely.” Healthy soils devoid of nitrate, phospate and veterinary pesticides from dog excreta would, to my mind, fall into this category.

The KC has produced an audaciously biased online survey for dog-walkers to complete. Have a look at it here and compare the methodology with the visitor survey conducted by the Corporation.

I thought about filling the KC survey it in, but there are no options available that disagree with the KC’s position, only whether you agree with them strongly, or rabidly. No doubt the KC will spin the results of this survey to show how much support they have for opposing the Dog Control Order.

 

The Kennel Club delight in quoting from a letter from Natural England, who have not provided specific support for the Corporation of London’s proposals for Dog Control Orders at Burnham Beeches, because they felt the evidence was not strong enough. Of course the Kennel Club have turned this round and are erroneously claiming that Natural England are not supporting the DCO on doggy grounds.

 

I find Natural England’s position here highly dubious. Natural England has a duty to ensure that SSSIs and Special Areas of Conservation are in favourable condition. Natural England also has a duty to promote responsible access to nature. The Stanford Principle, which puts priority for nature over access, still stands, as far as I know. Natural England appear to have forgotten about this though.

 

NE has cosyed up to the Kennel Club and it appears are now frightened of upsetting them. This again illustrates the political influence the KC wield; and of course the dog-breeding fraternity are closely aligned with the hunting and shooting fraternity. Although NE is not actively supporting the introduction of DCOs at Burnham Beeches, they have introduced them to National Nature Reserves that they manage themselves, including Castle Eden Dene NNR in Newcastle.

Amazingly, Natural England does not consider the impacts of recreational behavior such as dog-walking on the condition of SSSIs or European Sites. So Burnham Beeches is still assessed as in favourable condition despite having 50 tonnes of dog poo deposited on it every year, as are many lowland heathland SSSIs where ground-nesting birds are regularly disturbed from their nests by dogs off leads. So that would explain why NE could find no evidence to support the introduction of DCO – because they are actively not looking for it!

This is typical byzantine logic.

1. NE: Let’s not look for evidence of the impact of recreation on wildlife.
2. Having not looked for it, NE hasn’t found it.
3. Not having found it, NE decide the site is in favourable condition.
4. NE is asked to support actions that will limit the impact of recreation.
5. NE says “we can’t support these proposals, as there is no evidence.”

Is Natural England running scared of the Kennel Club and their powerful political friends?

One of the opponents of the Corporation of London’s proposals is Alex Deane. Deane is Head of Public Affairs at Uber lobbyists Weber Shandwick. He was David Cameron’s first chief of staff, was Director of  Big Brother Watch – an offshoot of the Tax Payers Alliance, which has been widely regarded as an Astroturf outfit; and is a Common Councilman of the City of  London. This means he has been elected as a politician in the City. The City is a very odd place from a democratic perspective, because only a very small number of people can vote in Council elections; Deane was voted in by 236 votes, his opponent got 221. Uniquely, in the City residents (are very few) have votes but so do businesses, the number of votes available dependent on the size of the company.

Deane opposed the DCO proposal from the very beginning, from within the City. He has offered to help the Kennel Club fight the proposal, and we must assume that he is doing exactly that. Expect to see questions in Parliament and a lot more besides – no doubt there will be much lobbying in the background to see of this proposal.

Although all this is happening in a leafy corner of South Buckinghamshire, the ramifications are far wider. If the KC is successful in persuading the Corporation not to introduce the Dog Control Order, this will send a strong message out to other local authorities and statutory bodies, that they will not be able to restrict the activities of the dog-walking public through regulatory means. And once again a powerful politically connected vested interest will hold sway over the rights of society to protect public social and environmental goods such as nature, or even just enjoying a walk on a nature reserve or in the countryside – without a dog.

But there is an alternative. If dog walkers want to exercise their dogs off-lead and not pick up their poo, why don’t they band together and buy land where they can do what they like? Yesterday we went for a walk and I saw a field specifically set aside for dog-walkers staying at the local holiday park.

 

IMG_0197

Highlands Park Dog Meadow ((c) Miles King)

It is managed as a hay meadow with paths around the edge kept mown short. Other people can use it, on the understanding that it is there primarily for dog-walkers. Now there is still plenty of dog poo on the surrounding network of paths, including the coast path, but the holiday park is doing its best to cater for its dog-walkers. I’m not suggesting dog-walkers shouldnt be able to use public spaces or private land, but if they do, then they must abide by the law and show respect for other users, by picking up all their dog poo and keeping their dogs under close control.

 

Posted in corporate lobbying, dog poo, dogs, greenspace, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 21 Comments

Inside the murky world where climate denial, social media and industry propaganda converge

After an unedifying and ultimately pointless dialogue with Richard AE North on the Conservative Home website, relating to the badger cull yesterday (see yesterday’s post), I was drawn to his blog to see what he was fulminating about there.

I discover, not really to my surprise, that he is a comrade in arms of Christopher Booker, that renowned global warming denier, Europhobe and anti-environmentalist. North mentions a recent article by his mate Booker, on global warming, in the Telegraph.

Booker barely strings an article together from a blog written by an American, Steven Goddard (not his real name). Goddard claims that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NOAA, have been deliberately manipulating data from the US historical climatology network, to make previous decades look cooler than they actually were. This is what NOAA say about the USHCN and the data adjustments they have made.

I took a look at Goddard’s blog. Look, but be prepared. It’s the usual hotch potch of pseudo science, supposedly independent and expert critique of climate data, cuttings from old newspapers. Just what you expect from the denialist blogosphere.

I looked into Goddard – he has a BSc in geology but does no research himself. It turns out he has joined Screaming Lord Monckton, yes Christopher Monckton the fake Sheikh and Ukipper, at the Science and Public Policy Institute. The SPPI appears to be an offshoot of  Centre for the study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change, the key players being Robert Ferguson and the Idso family. Ferguson shared a billing with UKIP climate-denial spokesman Roger Helmer where they both spoke to the American Legislative Exchange Council, a lobbying outfit funded by big Oil and big Tobacco donations. ALEC are also funded by the Koch brothers, notorious for their funding of climate denial front organisations.

So what we have is a climate denier blogger, reporting on a climate denier “journalist”, reporting on some made up stuff from another climate denier blogger, who is working for a front organisation, which is a front for another front organisation, ultimately funded by the Oil industry and some extremely dodgy American multibillionaires.

Why does the Telegraph publish this stuff when it is so obviously blatant propaganda?

 

Posted in anti-environmental rhetoric, climate change, corporate lobbying, the far right, Think Tanks, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment